Children take more snack breaks than they did two decades ago. At each snack attack, children probably eat the same amount of food and get the same number of calories as they always have - but the higher number of snack breaks adds up to more calories a day.
Youths of all ages from 2 through the teen years snack more often. With 13 to 14 percent of children and adolescents overweight, we can blame eating between meals for part of the trend.
And yet, snacks serve a purpose in children's diets. For some children, it's impossible to consume enough calories in meals. The task for parents and others who care for kids: offer healthy snacks that children like.
WEIGHT LOSS Snacks Advice for Parents
If you go into the pantry and see chips, cookies and sodas, experts say, that's what you eat! Parents should bring better food choices into the home.
Those food choices should include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, even though that might mean extra trips to the food store. The extra time and effort are worth it to help your child develop good eating habits for the long term.
WEIGHT LOSS Parental Eating Habits
Also, make sure your own eating habits are nutritious. Parents who follow good eating habits themselves are more likely to have children who eat healthy.
WEIGHT LOSS Let Kids Make Food Choices
"It's important to give kids control. You can't say, 'You have to eat an apple today.' You can say, 'Have fruit today; choose what you want,'" says children's nutritionist Keith-Thomas Ayoob, Ed.D., R.D., an American Dietetic Association spokesman.
Your children probably won't give up a daily soda-and-chips routine without protest. Still, the sooner you start, the easier it will be.
"It's easier to influence the eating habits of a 3-4 year old than a teenager," Dr. Ayoob says.
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