Healthy Snacking for Children

By Charlie Parker

Snacking tends to get a bad press; especially given the concerns over childhood obesity and the fact that half the sugar children eat is coming from snacks and drinks. But is snacking really that bad? Nutritionist Charlie Parker gives us her thoughts on the subject of kids snacking.

There’s nothing wrong with snacking per se, it’s about choosing the right kind of snacks at having them at the right time. Young children have small tummies and it can be hard to fill up sufficiently at meal times, so snacks can play an important role. They provide energy in-between meals, managing hunger, and avoiding blood sugar dips, all of which help avoid ‘hangry’ children…and as a mum of 3 I know how important it is to avoid this! They can also help children from over eating at meal times and the right snacks can provide a nutritious boost, helping them achieve their recommended daily intake of various nutrients, especially important if they are picky eaters. 

Here are my top tips:

1. Variety & Choice - make it easy for children to choose the right snacks by stocking up on a variety of healthier food and drinks at home. Tempt children to try new foods.
2. Timing - establish a predictable schedule for snacks, timing them well in-between meals so they don’t affect the child appetite at meal times, as rough guide allow about 2-3 hours between snacks and meals. Midmorning and mid afternoon/after school.
3. Portions - offer age appropriate portions
4. Calories – go with snacks that are around 100 calories or less, and stick with 2 a day max.
5. Sugar – look for snacks that are ‘low’ or ‘no added sugar’, or limit the sugar containing snacks to one a day and high sugar snacks to once-in-a-while.
6. Salt - Avoid high salt snacks; look for those with green traffic lights for salt.
7. Fibre - Fill up on fibre with fruit and veg snacks or wholegrain or brown varieties of starchy carbs.
8. 5 a day – aim for snacks to contain a portion of fruit and/or veg.
9. Rewards & Pacifying – avoid using ‘treaty’ snacks as a reward or to pacify a child as this can give the wrong message about food.
10. Kids involvement – get the kids involved in preparing snacks, this can make them a lot more engaged and likely to try new foods

Healthier snack ideas 

- Fruit milk shake – pureed fresh fruit with milk or a dairy free alternative
- Lassie - pureed fresh fruit with dairy or dairy free yogurt 
- Fruit smoothie – limit to 150ml
- Celery peanut butter boats
- Apple and peanut butter stacks
- Cucumber and cheese stacks
- Trial mix – nuts and dried fruit
- Veg sticks with homous or low fat cream cheese
- Wholemeal pitta, corn or rice cakes with low fat cream cheese
- Pitta pocket
- Frozen banana slices
- Fruit dipped in yogurt and frozen
- Fruit or veg kebabs
- Home made flavoured popcorn
- Home made roasted and flavoured nuts, seeds and pulses
- Energy balls
- Home made veg or fruit crisps – sweet potato, parsnip, apple etc
- Sugar free jelly with fruit pieces


About Charlie
Charlie is an experienced nutritionist and mother of three. One of her great passions in children’s nutrition, not only does she know the theory but she’s had many years of putting it into practice working with food companies as well as practical hands on experience with her own children.


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