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baskets of popcorn with dried fruits

Children’s appetites – and the portions they eat – are generally smaller than adults. This means they need to eat every few hours to keep up their energy levels and get the nutrition they need.

Snacks provide an important contribution towards meeting your child’s daily nutrition requirements.

While chips, biscuits, chocolate bars and other sweets might taste good and give a 'sugar hit', these foods should be seen as ‘occasional’ treats. They are usually high in kilojoules (energy), saturated fats, sugar and salt and they provide very few nutrients.

Giving your children healthy snacks that have lots of nutrients – but not the excessive kilojoules – is essential.

Luckily, children do enjoy healthy snacks, such as fruit, vegetables, dairy and cereal-based options – although it may take a little coaxing and a few firm rules at the start to get them familiar with the new range of snacks.

Healthy snacking for your child - Tips for parents

  • Set limits on the number of sugary snacks allowed – explain that they are treats and not for every day.
  • Offer your child a variety of healthy snacks so they can make their own choice about what they want to eat. This will also get them in the habit of choosing healthy foods.
  • Always have healthy snacks in the home to remove the temptation of choosing unhealthy ones. Plan what you need to buy before you go to the supermarket – you’ll also save money by making less impulse purchases.
  • Don’t give snacks too close to meal times. This can discourage children from eating their main meal and means they may want to have a snack shortly after.
  • Avoid offering soft drinks and other sugary drinks. They can contribute to tooth decay and weight gain, as well as making children feel full. Water and low fat milk are healthier options.
  • Snacks can be a great way to get your child to eat more fruit and vegetables. For more information on getting more fruit and vegetables in to your child’s diet go to - Fruit and Vegetables.
Give more of … Give less of …
  • Fresh or canned fruit – try making fruit kebabs or chopped fruit in a tub.
  • Vegetable sticks (e.g. carrot, cucumber, capsicum) with low fat dips. Hummus with crunchy veg sticks
  • Raisin toast or bread, pikelets, pancakes or scones with a little polyunsaturated or monounsaturated margarine or fruit spread
  • Muffins and crumpets spread thinly with polyunsaturated or monounsaturated spread
  • Rice cakes topped with vegetables and low fat cheese, vegemite or sliced banana
  • Dried fruit and unsalted nuts (not suitable for children under five years)
  • Yoghurt (natural or fruit)
  • Healthy fruit muffin recipe

See: Heart Foundation Recipes - Heart Foundation website (opens new window).