The importance of mini-meals (snacks) for mini-people

Snacks, or as we like to call them “mid-meals” play an important role in the nutritional intake of toddlers and children. High nutrition requirements, combined with small stomach capacities means that toddlers and children require “top-ups” between their main meals to support energy and nutrient intakes. Mid-meals are particularly important for toddlers and children who are underweight or those considered to be fussy eaters.

For many adults, the term “snack” is often associated with the eating of food considered “junk”. It’s the biscuits, crisps, processed bars, sweets and chocolate types of food that many people reach for during snack time. In an effort to increase intake at main meals, many parents restrict their children from having afternoon and/or morning tea. Whilst in theory this makes sense, it is seldomly helpful to the child and their overall nutritional intake. For toddlers and young children, midmeals have a role of supporting endurance, mood and concentration at main meals. Mid meals act as a stepping stone to main meals and should be considered an important part of young children’s daily nutrition. In most cases, mid-meals actually help toddlers and young children to eat better at main meals (and who doesn’t want a good mood at mealtimes!)

Top tips for mid meals:

-          Provide foods from the core food groups. This means fruits, vegetables, dairy (or dairy alternatives that have calcium added), grain and cereal products and lean meat, poultry, nuts, eggs and legumes.

-          Avoid foods considered “junk” and remember that toddlers and young children need 0-1 servings of these daily.

-          Space mid meals to be about 2-3 hours away from main meals

-          Encourage a mealtime routine for mid meals. This might be packing up toys and washing hands before moving to a designated eating area

-       Keep the serving size and eating time smaller and shorter than main meals. About 10-15 minutes should be adequate timing.

-          Serve parts of the main meal (in a smaller volume) at mid-meal time. This could be 1-2 meat or fish balls, some pre-cooked ravioli, roasted vegetables something such as dumpling.

Mid meal ideas:

-          Diced and roasted sweet potato, pumpkin and/or potato. These can be made in advance and kept in the fridge to serve cold

-          Wholegrain bread or raisin bread spread with ricotta cheese or nut spread

-          Mini meatballs or fish-balls. Cook extra the night before and place in the refrigerator until it’s time for mid-meal

-          Cheese and biscuits.

-          Fruit- fresh, tinned or dried varieties.

-          Fresh or dried apple slices topped with creamed cheese or nut spread

-          Savoury muffin made with grated vegetables and cheese. These can be frozen and defrosted when needed.

-          Shredded chicken

-          Boiled egg served with or without mayonnaise

-          Vegetable based dip such as hommos, bean or salsa serve with vegetable sticks, crackers, olives and/or cheese

-          Yoghurt or custard. Make your own custard and avoid adding sugar.

-          Wholegrain cereal such as Mini Weets; Weetbix Bites, Sultana Bran Buds or Cheerios serve with out without milk

If you’re worried about your child’s eating patterns; are unsure of “how much is enough” or need ideas and tips for mid-meals Contact us for individualised advise.