As well as their main meals, children need small snacks to keep them going during the day. Ideal snacks are those that provide the right balance of protein, carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and dietary fats.
Snacks help kids keep their energy up throughout the day, but should not replace their main meal.
Children need a gap of at least 1 hour without eating to make sure they're hungry for their next meal. To help your child have a good appetite at mealtimes try not to offer snacks right before their main meals.
When preparing snacks for children, try to include a range of foods from the following 4 groups:
- vegetables and fruit
- grain foods (bread, cereals, rice, noodles, pasta)
- milk and milk products
- lean meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds.
As a general rule, the less processed a food is the better. Watch out for added sugar, salt and fat when buying packaged foods.
- Vegetable sticks – keep sealed in your fridge. Try cottage cheese or hummus as a dip.
- Cold cooked vegetable leftovers – try making a few extra potatoes, kūmara and taro at lunch or dinner.
- Fresh fruit – eat whole or slice up and have in cereal, smoothies, or with unsweetened yoghurt.
- Frozen fruit – try chopped up oranges, grapes, nectarines or peaches as a snack or blend frozen bananas to make a healthier version of ice cream.
- Sandwiches – cold meat or cheese and salad filling (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, avocado), banana, egg, peanut butter, marmite and cheese, cottage cheese / hummus and tomato.
- Instead of plain bread you can get creative and try rice cakes, bread rolls, pita bread, crackers, crumpets, and add toppings like tomato, avocado, cheese or tuna.
- Grilled cheese or baked beans on toast.
- Toasted English muffins, fruit bread, wholemeal cheese scones, savoury muffins.
- Cereals – select cereals with reduced fat and sugar.
- Plain popcorn – avoid adding too much salt, sugar or butter and never offer popcorn to children less than 3 years of age.
- Pikelets topped with banana & fresh strawberries or a thin scrape of jam.
- Cheese with plain crackers.
- Smoothies – try banana, blueberry & plain yoghurt or milk.
- Unsweetened yoghurt – mix in fresh fruit to add flavour.
- Cheese & gherkins.
- Boiled egg.
- Birds breakfast – mix of toasted seeds and nuts – avoid giving whole nuts to children under 5 due to the risk of choking.
- Sliced ham or other cold cuts (keep refrigerated).
Snacks to avoid or limit
- Dried fruit or fruit 'nuggets' – these sticky treats coat the teeth in sugar, making them prone to decay. prone to decay. If eating these, always give a piece of cheese afterwards to help remove the fruit from the teeth and follow up with a glass of water.
- Any processed snack that is high in sugar, fat and/or salt – ie, chippies, flavoured crackers, doughnuts and some muesli bars.
- Shop bought fruit smoothies or milk shakes – these tend to be high in sugar. Make your own at home using milk, unsweetened yoghurt and fresh fruit.
- Fruit juice – juice can contain a similar amount of sugar per 100ml as a fizzy drink! If you want to give your child juice, dilute it first 1 part juice to 10 parts water. Using a straw will also help stop the sugar coating the teeth.
- Fizzy drinks have a lot of sugar and should be avoided. Even diet soft drinks are acidic and can erode the teeth.
Fuelled4life NZ Heart Foundation
My Family Food – meal ideas that are tasty, fast, easy and low-cost Health Promotion Agency