A Parent’s Guide to…. snacks

  • ‘When I miss my breakfast I end up snacking on something before it’s time for lunch’ 
  • ‘I often find my kids asking for snacks after school’ 
  • ‘When I’m relaxing in the evenings, watching TV, it can be difficult to stop myself looking for a sweet treat’  

These are thoughts we all have when asked about our snacking habits, and are common discussion topics had on our BeeZee Families programmes.  

When we have missed a meal, are waiting for our next main meal, or are just a little bored in the evenings – the temptation to reach for something quick, simple and often sweet is difficult to resist. If we leave it all down to willpower to resist this temptation, then we will often, unfortunately, fail – especially if it’s at the end of a long day or we are already feeling twangs of hungerThis has become even more difficult in the last few months as we find ourselves stuck inside, surrounded by snacks, more often than ever. 

Giving in to the temptation of snacking can often lead to high intakes of sugar, salt and saturated fats – the trademark nutrients of the highly processed snacks that line the aisles of our local supermarkets. In addition, many processed snacks are energy dense (high in calories). This can be the difference between us going to bed every night in a state of energy balance (where the energy we take in is EQUAL to the energy we use up, so we can maintain our weight) or energy imbalance (where the energy we take in is MORE than the energy we use up, leading to weight gain) 

Thankfully, we have come up with some helpful tips and advice to help both you and your children cut down on snacks and/or replace current, less healthy snacks with healthier ones. 

BeeZee’s Snacking Tips: 

How many snacks can I have?

Guideline recommendations are currently set at a maximum of 2 snacks per day. This can vary depending on how active you are, but we should be highly vigilant about sticking to this recommendation whenever our daily energy expenditure is reduced – perhaps like now in the lockdown scenario!  

But I'm still hungry after 2 snacks...

If we ever find ourselves going over our 2 per day maximum, then we may need to re-evaluate our portion sizes at mealtime along with what our meals are made up of. Try to include more high fibre fruits and vegetables – foods which provide feeling of fullness. 

How do I know if a snack is healthy or unhealthy?

Many packaged foods have traffic light labels which tell us if the product is high in fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar. For those snacks which don’t have one there are a number of free apps that can be downloaded (Change4Life Food Scanner and FoodSwitchUK) and used to decode the products. Aim for products with mostly green traffic lights and avoid those with red. *Check out our label reading guide here* 

Are there benefits to snacking?

Snacking is often associated with highly processed, unhealthy foods and given a bad name in the media, but when snacks are chosen mindfully and with careful planning, they can have a place within our lifestyles. Healthy snacking can help provide additional vitamins and minerals required for growth and development in teenagers, along with providing an additional window for increasing fruit and vegetable consumption among picky eaters. 

 

If you are still feeling unsure about whether you should be reaching for a snack or not, here are three questions we ask our participants to think about first:  

  1. Is it small? – We need to be mindful of the size of our snacks, recommendations are currently set at staying beneath 100 calories per snack for children – this could be a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts or a small portion of unsalted popcorn. 
  2. Is it healthy? – Healthy snacks are usually ones which are low in sugar and salt, and high in fibre. 
  3. Is it ‘filling-a-hole’? – Will this snack help you reach your next main meal or give the energy needed to take part in an after-school club? If you’re having it because you’re bored or looking for a pick-me-up‘, then it should be avoided. 

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