Snacks – What’s good for your child is good for you!

We all aim to eat well and follow a healthy diet. Having healthy snacks can keep you satisfied, provide the energy you need to keep going, and help prevent ravenous hunger so you don’t overeat later on.  The more you plan ahead, the easier it is to stick to a healthy diet.  After all, isn’t this why we mums pre-pack healthy snacks for our children? Along the way though, after we’ve given birth and the baby is no longer a part of our body, we seem to forget that tight association between how we care for ourselves and how we care for our child’s health.  In the past, I used to send my daughter to school with a nicely prepared, healthy snack box, while I ravenously gobbling up banana bread for breakfast on the way to work. Why is it that as mums we often short-change and deny ourselves all the good things we do for our kids? A healthy diet, healthy snacks, and the importance of pre-planning are just as crucial for you, as it is for your child.   

Preparing healthy snacks ahead of time doesn’t have to be a complicated affair.  You don’t need to pack a separate box for you and your child. Whatever is good for you is good for your child and vice versa.  Here is a list of things I keep in mind when I pack snacks for my family.

Smart Snack Guidelines:

1. Pick appropriate snacks to suit your needs: Of all the macronutrients that you consume, your body can digest carbohydrates the fastest, followed by protein and then fat.  Knowing this fact can help you plan ahead and choose appropriate snacks for you and your little ones. 

When to reach for carbohydrates: As carbohydrate is digested faster than protein and fat, it can provide you with a fast energy boost to overcome your mid-afternoon slump.  Carbohydrates have developed a bit of a bad rap recently, but do you know that carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of energy? However, not all carbohydrates are created equal.  Simple carbohydrates, common snacks I see at school, like baked treats, juices or breakfast cereal, will give a short-term energy spike follow by a subsequent crash.  To get a steadier energy lift, reach for complex carbohydrates snacks like fresh fruit, granola bars, or homemade trail mix.

When to reach for protein and fat:  Protein and fat take longer to digest, so snacks that contain these macro nutrients will keep you satisfied for longer.  If you know you’ve got a longer gap between two meals, then prepare snacks that contain some protein and fat ahead of time can prevent a family “hanger” meltdown.  For a long family road trip, I like to pre-pack things like raw cashews, roasted salted almonds and beef jerky.  You can also pick up on-the-go snacks like peeled hard boiled-eggs, roasted sunflower seeds, roasted pumpkin kennels, shumai, or milk from the convenience stores.

2. Use the substitution rule rather than subtraction for maximum snack pleasure:

There’s a difference between feeling satisfied and just full.  A good snack should satisfy and give you pleasure, rather than simply filling the void in your stomach.  If I tried to get my daughter to eat a healthy, low sugar, low fat, low salt, snack, she wouldn’t have a bar of it.  Chances are I wouldn’t want to eat it either.  Ihave a sweet tooth and so has my daughter (I’m sure I may be to blame).  We both love brownies which are not particularly healthy for us.  However, rather than subtracting them from our lives, I choose to bake them myself.  This way I can control the quality and the quantity of what go into our brownies and substitute some ingredients to make them healthier. In the recipe below, chickpea was used instead of flour (less processed and more fiber) and honey instead of white sugar (less processed, and less sugar due to higher water content).

3. Snack on food you ‘want’ to eat rather than food you feel you ‘should’ eat:

I don’t know what’s true for you, but I know that I feel most at peace with food when I prioritize healthy eating, balanced with occasional snacks like chocolate and chips.  If you and your kids truly want to eat something, allow yourself to.  When you deny yourself or your child a particular food because it’s labelled ‘bad’ or ‘unhealthy’, you’re glorifying that food by making it more special. This can lead to intense cravings and the final outcome is often binging.  Eating chocolate or chips is not inherently unhealthy, it’s only unhealthy when we binge eat it.  This tends to only happen when we finally “give-in” to the forbidden food we’ve been wanting, but we’ve been denying ourselves.  Imagine giving yourself and your child unconditional permission to eat a cookie every day, chances are by day 10, or even 20 you and your child will feel so sick of cookies you will no longer see cookie as a special indulgent food.

To conclude, what’s good for you is good for the kids, pre-plan so you’re not caught out, and treat snacks as something pleasurable to eat, something the family can look forward to.

This article was written as a contribution to My Healthy Bangkok, a website dedicated to curated health and wellness information in Bangkok

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