Whether you care for children in a center or in your own home, it is likely that you plan and provide snacks. Child care providers are often challenged to plan for a nutritious snack that is appealing for children ages 2-5. It is well recognized that proper nutrition is crucial for a child' s optimal growth and development. Yet, 50% or more of the snacks eaten by children are sweets, desserts, or salty snacks like potato chips. It is recommended (and often required) that the snack you serve young children in daycare consist of selections from at least two of the following food groups: grains and cereal, fruit and vegetables, dairy, and protein. A selection is also based on portion size. It is important to remember that a child-sized portion is smaller than the adult serving size.
It has been found that on the average, snacks eaten by children include fruit 16% of the time and snacks include a vegetable serving only 1% of the time. When children are served fruits and vegetables, the menu is quite limited. Here are top three favorites in each category: FRUIT= apples, bananas, and oranges. VEGETABLES= corn, green beans, and carrots. Potatoes did not make the list because the survey did not count French fries as a legitimate potato choice.
Young children are not known to be adventurous eaters and are often downright picky. And so the challenge remains - how can you plan for a successful and nutritious snack time?
Keep in mind, there are some basic safety considerations. Upon enrollment, be sure to ask if the child has any food allergies and post this information in a place that would be visible to anyone serving food. Some common food allergies include; eggs, nuts, fish, citrus and milk. Also, you may wish to avoid any food that may present a choking hazard such as whole hot dogs, grapes, nuts, cherries, or hard candy.
Additional Snack Time Tips
- Serve food at appropriate temperature, but avoid serving items as hot as adults may like them.
- Avoid foods that are too spicy or strong flavored.
- When introducing something new, offer a small portion for starters.
- Try adding the new food with something familiar. For example; if you often serve sliced bananas in vanilla pudding, maybe make a substitution with melon or berries.
- Consider the other meals served. If you served grilled cheese for lunch, you may wish to save cheese and crackers for another day.
- Serve food in bite size pieces. Finger foods are always popular.
- Add interest by using a variety of flavors, colors and textures.
- Remember, visual presentation can make food more appealing. Many children will find a sandwich "tastes" better when cut into different shapes with a cookie cutter.
For some very cute snack ideas, you may wish to visit these sites: