Nutritious winter snack: How to get that right mix for children

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By Sweety Das

As the year slowly rumbles to a close, one simply cannot miss the festive cheer coupled with a nip in the air, which undeniably heralds the onset of winter. And along with all the festivities and change in weather comes a general tendency to feel hungrier and be tempted to enjoy some winter snacks. This presents adults and children alike with an opportunity to gorge on lip-smacking preparations and have their fill, albeit with a few challenges. Chilly nights and shorter days in winter often means a lack of energy and motivation for most people. But when winter eating is done right and the right foods are consumed in the appropriate season and occasions, one can extract every bit of nutrition and wholesomeness from them. So, wondering why are snacks important for a child?

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It is a known fact that we feel hungrier during winter and it's no different with kids. As per some consumer reports, children between the ages of 1-10 snack over four times a day and with the festivities round the corner, deciding on healthy yet tasty snacking options for kids is a task for most parents. Given that snacking is a very important aspect in a child's daily diet, we will take you through the What, Why & When of wholesome and delightful snacking for your kid.

Why is snacking important for kids?

School snacks for kids are a much debated topic. Kids need to "refuel" and healthy snacks can boost energy in between meals. Research shows that kids who have healthy eating patterns are more likely to perform better academically. Apart from this, nutritious snacking helps to fill in the missing food groups and include "nutrients of concern" (e.g.: calcium, iron, potassium, fibre, etc.). Therefore, nutritious after-school snacks are especially important so kids can endure the long gap between lunches and the evening meal or dinner without going overboard on calories.

When should kids snack?

Usually kids have one mid-morning and one after-school snack. However, changing times the frequency has increased. The number of snacks a kid should have would ideally depend on their physical activity or if they are going through a growth spurt. Consult your pediatrician for more information.

What should kids snack on?

Experiencing a 'snack-a-demic'? It's a pretty big responsibility to be completely in control of your child's diet. Unplanned, last minute snacking can be detrimental to your kid's health, affect his/her appetite and can also disrupt their natural instinctive hunger and satiation. Owing to busy schedules, parents can plan and portion snacks in advance. A balanced, filling snack can also taste great with a little bit of effort.

Try giving your kids a snack containing a combination of –

• Whole grains (cereals, pulses and millets) – They contain complex carbohydrates, the main energy source for body, especially brain and muscles, B vitamins and fibre

• Milk & milk products – It provides protein considered as the building block of body; and calcium, which is important for muscles and bones

• Fresh fruits and vegetables are rich in fibre, phytonutrients, vitamins & minerals and antioxidants

However, there is no 'one shoe fits all' approach towards snacking. It needs to often be modified according to the season. These few tips on winter snacking for children should prove helpful during the winters-

Foods to 'warm' up – Certain dry fruits like dates and seeds like sesame (til) are usually warming. Ladoos, bars made with the combination of dates, sesame (til) seeds, herbs like basil (tulsi), dry ginger powder with generous amount of ghee and naturally sweetened with honey; can help provide warmth and nourishment to the body

Gorge on seasonal picks to boost immune system – Root vegetables like carrot, potato, onions, garlic, radish, yams, sweet potatoes, beets, turnips, etc., and hearty winter greens like palak, methi, sarson, muli, pudina, etc. are good source of vitamins and minerals that act as antioxidants. They help to boost the immune system which is essential for kids as they are prone to common cold & flu due to seasonal changes

Go wholegrain – Children can also snack on nutritious theplas or cheelas made with a combination of whole cereal or millets like bajra, makai, jowar and seasonal green leafy veggies like methi, green garlic, spinach, etc. These foods provide the much needed energy to the body

So what are you waiting for? Go ahead, enjoy and have a CHILLED OUT time!

(The columnist is Nutritionist, Kellogg India. Views expressed are the author's own.)