Helping children choose healthy snacks

Children are picky eaters. And increasingly, they are raising their little voices to pick the kind of snacks which they love. However, not all choices would be good for them, as parents know. How can parents guide their kids to choose snacks? Here are some aspects of healthy snacking for consideration.

  • Saying no to sweet seductions – sugar is the current villain and rightly so with the increasing number of children having type 2 diabetes. The maximum allowance for sugar intake should be limited to about 3 teaspoons a day of added sugar (physically adding sugar into foods or drinks). Lau took out her measuring spoons to demonstrate and you could see that 3 teaspoons of sugar is quite little. A can of soft drink already has 6 big teaspoons of sugar.
  • Parents should learn to read labels – there may be hidden fats and sugars in your child’s food. She advised parents to look at the kilocalorie on the label. Even if it’s zero fat, you could see that if there’s added sugar, the kilocalorie number will be higher. Choose foods that contain natural ingredients and ask if it is made of natural colouring which are safer for children. If the source is organic, it may mean it has less or no pesticides. Read where the food is produced in. It’s empowering to educate yourself to make informed choices and teach your children how to as well.

Parents and kids (since kids love picking out their own food) can learn to read labels together by accessing this page with information from Malaysia’s Ministry of Health.

  • Look out for “Healthier Choice” labels – Beginning April 2017, the Ministry of Health has launched the Healthier Choice Logo (HCL) to be used by companies on food products that has complied with healthy food guidelines set by the ministry. For instance, in the guideline, cereals cannot exceed a certain amount of fat, salt and sugar and fish must contain a minimum level of omega 3 in order to be considered a healthy choice. You can be sure that foods with the Healthier Choice Logo contain less sugar, salt and fat and it would be healthier for your children as well.

  • Fats or no fats for kids? – Many parents have become so conscious of avoiding fat in their diet that they forget that fats (like omega 3, 6 and 9, and phospholipids) are needed for the healthy development of their kids. A certain amount of fat is needed so children can snack on nuts and seeds for good fat. Phospholipids found in certain yogurts are also good for kids’ healthy cell development. “The occasional deep fried snacks in peanut oil and other blended oils are okay but in small portions,” Lau said.

  • Snacking as a healthy strategy – kids should have healthy snacks so that they don’t overeat during their main meal times. Lau said she’s seeing more obese children as a result of indulging in too large a portion. This is because kids go very hungry without snacks and they do need snacks after vigorous activities or in between meals as they are still growing up. This brings us to the next point.

  • Portion is an important part of healthy eating – “Kids nowadays do eat healthy food, but not healthy portions,” Lau said. Kids who don’t get snacks usually become hungry kids who overeat during the main meals. She wants to caution parents to not only look out for nutrients but to control the portion of their children’s plates.


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