Snacking for children - what and how much is allowed?

Sweets and nibbles are extremely popular with children. However, due to the sometimes very high sugar and fat content, the (especially excessive) consumption can quickly lead to health problems. It is often said that the desire for fatty and sweet foods is innate. It comes from times when people's survival depended on the consumption of high-calorie foods.

Snacking for children: the moderate use of sweets

But regardless of how much truth there is in this assumption, it is important that parents teach their children how to use sweets and nibbles in a measured and sensible way from the start.

When it comes to snacking, adults have to set an example
When snacking, adults have to set an example © Grischa Georgiew / Adobe Stock

In this way, eating disorders and obesity can be avoided at an early stage. In Germany and all other industrialized nations, the supply of essential foods is not a problem, and so the consumption of heavily sweetened or salty foods or foods with a stronger flavor is not essential.

Dealing sensibly with sweet, salty and fatty foods

In theory, sweets and snacks can be on a child's menu every day. However, there are a few things to consider. Basically, parents should "teach" their children that sweet, salty and fatty foods such as candy, chips & Co. are something special. They are in no way a substitute for normal food and should not be eaten while watching TV or playing. It is better for the body to consciously focus on food, take time and enjoy. This way, the “snacks” do not become unconscious, routine processes. The desire for salty, fatty or sweet nibbles is also satisfied more sustainably.

Enjoyment in moderation

If children have unrestricted access to the candy cabinet, it is easy to exceed the reasonable level. Since children should be given as few salty snacks and sweets as possible, it is better to set a certain amount of sweet and salty that can be nibbled per day.

This can be, for example

  • a handful of candy
  • a small bag of gummy bears,
  • a scoop of ice cream,
  • some pieces of chocolate or
  • a few cookies

act. What the kids want to snack on, they can then decide for themselves.

The right time

The joint agreements should also include the right "snack time". This way, discussions and arguments are avoided. It is important that these do not overlap with the main meals. After all, the children shouldn't eat their fill of sweets. So there are no snacks or sweets until about two hours before a meal.

Healthy alternatives

But if the hunger before a main meal is so great that it is almost unbearable, parents can alternatively offer their children small portions of vegetables or fruit in order to shorten the waiting time for the meal. Dried fruits, wholegrain biscuits and lightly sweetened milk and quark dishes are also possible if the children like them. Fresh fruit has the advantage that it is also sweet due to the fructose it contains and also contains important vitamins. A double reason to offer children fruit instead of artificially sweetened snacks.

What role do snacks play in parenting?

It happens again and again that parents make food, especially snacks and sweets, part of their upbringing. Everyone has heard sentences like “You get a chocolate bar if you are good”, “You can only get dessert if you eat your vegetables” or “There is no ice cream if your room is not tidy”.

Such parenting methods are fundamentally wrong and can lead to major problems. Because those who motivate, reward, calm down or punish with food can contribute to the development of bad eating habits in the child. In the worst case scenario, you will later develop underweight or overweight and severe eating disorders. Dealing with problems, complicated situations and conflicts should therefore never be associated with refusing or giving snacks or sweets.

A final note: All of the above tips can of course only be implemented if the parents themselves stick to a time and snack plan in an exemplary manner.

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