Thinking about snacks as mini meals is a mistake.  A big one.  It teaches kids bad snacking habits.

Don’t get me wrong, the mini-meal ideal would be a wonderful thing.  It would provide a delicious and healthy snack. But honestly, who gives their kids snack mini-meals that look like this?  Half fruits and vegetables?

For that matter, who gives their kids meals that look like this?  Maybe that’s the problem.

Or maybe the problem is that when parents think about the snack as a mini-meal they draw from the wrong kinds of meals: pizza, bagels, cereal.

Or maybe the problem is that parents draw from the wrong meals, breakfast and lunch instead of dinner, even though dinner is where the veggies typically show up.

In fairness to nutritionists, their call for the mini-meal snack comes from their desire to move people away from truly crappy snacks.

(And it probably gets pretty boring repeating the mantra: Kids should snack primarily on fruits and vegetables!)

Right now, kids are most likely to snack on desserts and sugary beverages but according to research the fastest growing snack categories are salty snacks and candy.  Read Snacking and the Nutrition Zone Mentality.

Parents who try to do better often end up serving what I call “Do No Harm” Snacks.

And parents who go for the mini-meal often end up serving…pizza?  A slice from Pizza Hut delivers:

  • Roughly 200 calories (depending upon the size of the pie and the style of the crust).
  • 8-10 grams of fat, much of it saturated (thanks to the cheese).
  • More than 500 mg of sodium.
  • 10 grams of protein.

Hardly a healthy snacking habit.

Even if you choose nutritious mini-meals you will still be fostering the wrong habits.

Because you will most likely reinforce (rather than expand) your children’s food preferences, train their taste buds away from fruits and vegetables, serve your kids more calories than they need in between meals.

Check out the 20 Best Snacks for Kids from Recommendations include:

  • Cheese
  • Quesadillas
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Noodles
  • Whole Grain Cereal
  • Hummus Sandwich
  • Eggs
  • Peanut Butter

Kids don’t need more of these kinds of foods in their diets.  They already eat enough of them. More importantly, most of these mini-meals pack too much of a punch.  Did you know that a Kids Meal Cheese Quesadilla from Qdoba has 400 calories and more than 22 grams of saturated fat? As a snack?

You don’t need fancy recipes or elaborate ideas to keep your kids snacking right.

You just need to think about developing your kids’ habits.

If you continually rotate (and constantly rotating is the key) through a selection of fruits, vegetables, cheese and processed snack foods like crackers and cereal bars in proportion to their healthful benefits – fruits/veggies most often, sandwiches, noodles and other mini-meals less often, and processed snacks least often – not only will you improve the overall quality of your children’s diets, but you will also see loads of other benefits.  Read 10 Ways Improving Your Kids’ Snacking Will Improve YOUR Life!

Don’t just think of a healthy snack as a healthy stand-in between meals.  Used correctly, snacks can actually teach your kids to eat right.  It’s all about teaching habits.

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~