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Publication #FAR8062

Healthy Snacking 1

Linda B. Bobroff2

Figure 1. 
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Children have been getting heavier over the past few decades, and many parents, as well as health professionals, are concerned (Ogden, 2002). One of the changes in lifestyle that has accompanied the rise in childhood obesity is an increase in snacking, often accompanied by sedentary behavior like TV-watching (Jahns, 2001).

Does that mean that snacks are not okay or that parents should limit their children's snacking? Definitely not! According to nutrition experts, snacking is important for young people, especially very young children, who often cannot eat enough at three meals to get all the calories and nutrients they need (Insel, 2001).

So how do parents and caregivers provide snacks that will give children the nutrients they need without excess calories that can contribute to obesity? Focus on fresh, nutrient-dense foods that children enjoy from all of the food groups. Here are some fun snack ideas:

• Mix cut-up fresh fruit or berries with plain or flavored low-fat or fat-free yogurt.

• Make a smoothie with fat-free milk, frozen strawberries and a dash of vanilla extract.

• Serve cut-up carrots, celery and other veggies with low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt as a dip.

• Mix cut-up walnuts with raisins or other dried fruit.

• Roll thin slices of turkey breast and serve with a tomato slice on whole grain bread.

The combinations are endless, and children will enjoy finding new tasty ways to get the calories and nutrients they need. By the way, some research suggests that young children don't seem to prefer "cute" snacks to regular ones, so you don't need to serve bunny-shaped sandwiches for your youngsters to eat their healthy snacks (Branen, 2002)!

Listening, learning, and living together: it's the science of life. "Family Album" is a co-production of University of Florida IFAS Extension, the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, and of WUFT-FM. If you'd like to learn more, please visit our website at

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Branen, L., Fletcher, J., & Hilbert, L. (2002). Snack consumption and waste by preschool children served "cute" versus regular snacks. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 34, 279-282.

Insel, P., Turner. R.E., & Ross, D. (2001). Nutrition. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Jahns, L., Siega-Riz, A. M., & Popkin, B. M. The increasing prevalence of snacking among U.S. children from 1977 to 1996. Journal of Pediatrics, 138(4), 493-98.

Ogden, C. L., Flegal, K. M., Carroll, M. D., & Johnson, C. L. (2002). Prevalence and trends in overweight among US children and adolescents, 1999-2000. Journal of the American Medical Association, 288, 1728-1732.



This document is FAR8062, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Broadcast as program 493 in February 2009. Published on EDIS July 2012. Reviewed January 2015. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Linda B. Bobroff, professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.