Nutritious snacks like cheese and vegetables help kids eat less and feel more satisfied

Good-For-You Foods Make Best Snacks for Children

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can see the post here.

STUDY FINDS KIDS EAT LESS WHEN NUTRITIOUS SNACKS ARE SERVED

I’ve never met a parent or grandparent who didn’t want their little ones to eat more good for you foods. That wish stems from a lesson we all learn from our personal battles with food. Simply put, it’s a whole lot easier to start out life with good eating habits than to try to establish them later.

Amen to that.

Now we can turn to snacks as a way to help our children eat better and prevent obesity says a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics. The researchers set out to discover whether different types of snacks for children would make them feel full, yet consume fewer calories. And the winner was cheese with cut-up vegetables!

Some Background on Snacking

Thirty years ago American children ate about one snack a day. Now they eat three. Along with those extra snacks they have put on some extra weight. Nearly one-third of our children are overweight or obese.

Since snacking is part of the culture our children are growing up in, trying to restrict or forbid it is fruitless (pun intended). But changing what kind of snacks we offer them is not. The goal is to select snacks that help meet nutrient requirements without exceeding caloric requirements.

Highlights from the Snack Study

201 children in grades third through sixth were in the study. The participants and their parents were told the children would be asked to watch some cartoons and answer questions about the characters at the end and be given snacks to enjoy while watching. Measurements of body mass index and information about food allergies were obtained.

The children were assigned to one of four “snack food groups” and screened in 24 separate experimental sessions with 5-11 children in each. During the sessions the children were given a bottle of water and identical plates of food. They were told they could eat as much as they wanted of the food provided, and asked how hungry they were in the beginning, middle and end of the 45 minute period.

The snack food options included a plate with either:

  • A tube of plain potato chips and a medium bag of crunchy cheese flavored snacks
  • 6 Laughing Cow cheese wedges and 6 Mini Babybel cheese rounds
  • 2 cups each of raw bite-sized broccoli, baby carrots and bell pepper strips
  • A combination of 6 cheese wedges and 6 cheese rounds and 1 cup of each vegetable

The food on each plate was weighed at the outset and any uneaten food was weighed at the end to determine exactly how much each child ate. No child finished it all. Parents completed a questionnaire designed to measure family mealtime habits and levels of engagement.

Surprising Results About Snacking and Kids

Children who consumed the cheese and vegetable snack ate 72% fewer calories than those eating chips and needed significantly fewer calories to achieve satiety compared to them.

The children eating the combo snack consumed roughly the same number of calories from vegetables as the children who only got vegetables, so they did not replace the vegetables with cheese.

Overweight and obese children and those from low-involvement families had a bigger reduction in calories compared to normal weight children and those from high-involvement families.

Key Conclusions About Snacks to Make for Kids

Offering cheese and vegetables as a snack leads to eating fewer calories than when salty, high-fat chips are served and provide good sources of fiber, calcium and protein.

Eating cheese and vegetables as a snack may encourage healthier eating habits in children, especially in those who are overweight.

A higher level of engagement between children and adults at mealtime is correlated with healthy weight in children.

Don’t you wish someone had given you some mini cheese and baby carrots when you came home from school?

Posted in Calories, Children, Eating Habits, FAMILY GOES STRONG, Food Groups, Meal Patterns, Obesity, Servings Sizes, Snacking, Weight Control and tagged , , , , , , , .

Leave a Reply