Snack Smart

It sometimes seems as if we Americans eat everywhere and all the time! We often chide ourselves for between-meal nibbling, sometimes with good reason. To often, people snack mainly on high calorie, high-fat foods and then skimp on meals. Then they come up short on overall nutrition for the day, and perhaps overdo on calories.

Calcium is a case in point. Compared with moderate snackers, research suggests that people who frequently consume a lot of soft drinks and sugary snacks take in less calcium. They're probably substituting these foods for servings from the Milk Group, the best sources of calcium.

Carefully chosen snacks promote good health and add pleasure to life. They can supply needed nutrients, such as vitamins A and C, calcium and fiber, without adding too much fat or too many calories. In fact, in young children, snacks are almost a necessity.

Children need to eat often because they have small stomachs and therefore cannot eat as much as an adult at meals. Young children obtain 20 to 25% of their total energy intake from snacks. Their rapid growth and high energy levels require frequent refueling. Snacks meet this need.

Because snacks play an important role in your child's diet, selection of healthy foods and beverages is essential. If most snacks eaten by your children are on this list: soft drinks, koolaid, doughnuts or pastries, candy, cookies, and chips, then they aren't getting g the nutrition they need with their "fill up". Those snacks are high in salt, sugar, fat, or a combination. Limit these choices to occasional use. Instead offer snacks of foods found in the five food groups on the Food Guide Pyramid.

Milk: milk, yogurt, cheese

Vegetables: raw can be either whole or chunks, plain or dipped. Kids especially like to dip raw veggies.