As a parent or guardian, you know that when the clock strikes snack time, it’s essential to have some healthy, ready-to-eat snack options on hand. But what time is snack time, anyway? And what makes a snack good for your children? You’ve probably heard that protein snacks for kids can be beneficial, but how much protein do kids need?
If you weren’t quite ready for this pop quiz, don’t worry! We’re debunking the myths and misconceptions you might have around protein snacks for kids, and answering all of your snack time FAQs so you can put your mind at ease while filling up those little tummies.
Are Snacks Good for Kids?
The answer to this question really depends on the type of snack your kids are eating, as well as when and how they’re snacking.
Undisciplined overconsumption of foods low in nutrients and high in added sugar and saturated fats can disrupt regular eating patterns and prevent children from getting the nutrients they need to power through the day, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
However, the organization explains that nutritious snacks, eaten at the right intervals and appropriately portioned for your child’s age and size, are beneficial for growing and active bodies. When healthy snacks are thoughtfully and intentionally included in a child’s diet, they can help kids reach their daily nutritional needs, maintain steady energy levels, and avoid distracting tummy grumbles. The three macronutrients — protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates — along with vitamins and minerals are all essential to a balanced diet.
When Should Children Have Snacks?
The general recommendation is to offer a snack a few hours before a meal and/or a few hours after. Avoid having your kids snack within one hour of a meal since this could make them too full to eat at the dinner table.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics notes that younger children need three small meals and at least two snacks each day, whereas bigger kids will need three meals and one snack, or two snacks if they’re especially active or experiencing a growth spurt.
“Kids have smaller tummies and can’t eat as much as we do per meal, so they have to eat more frequently,” Elizabeth Davenport, a Virginia-based dietitian, told The New York Times. “A child constantly asking for snacks is likely just growing and hungry.”
The best thing you can do is establish a regular, predictable snack and meal routine for your children. This way, they won’t operate based on a “scarcity mindset,” fixating on certain snacks, skipping meals, and exhibiting the behaviors of a picky eater. Keep in mind that you may need to study and adapt to your child’s appetite, since kids’ hunger patterns and eating schedules don’t always line up perfectly with the rest of the family’s.
Is It Okay to Give Kids Healthy Treats?
Experts generally advise against using food as a reward, or placing a moral “good” or “bad” judgment on different foods and eating patterns. Rather than describing a midday snack as a special treat or a reward for your child’s good behavior, emphasize the nutritional value in the foods your child eats. Also, encourage them to regulate their snack intake based on their level of hunger at any given time.
“Sit with your child while she’s eating and share the snack yourself,” Jenny McGlothlin, a feeding therapist at the University of Texas Dallas Callier Center, recommended in The New York Times. For instance, you could easily split a full-sized Perfect Bar and share it with your little one while you’re snacking on the go. “This helps her understand that eating is something we enjoy and focus on, so we can listen to our bodies,” McGlothlin explained.
How Much Protein Do Kids Need?
The Food and Nutrition Board explains that children ages one to three should generally get 5% to 20% of their daily caloric intake from protein sources, whereas kids between four and 18 should take in about 10% to 30% of their calories from protein sources.
While studies into the ideal protein quantities are still ongoing, research from the Institute of Medicine of the US National Academies has identified that healthy protein consumption can range from 1.2 to 1.43 grams per kilogram of body weight each day for a six-month-old, to 0.74 to 0.91 grams per kilogram per day for a 10-year-old.
From this data, SFGate has worked out the following daily intake estimates:
- Infancy through 6 months: 9.1 grams
- Seven months to one year: 11 grams
- One to three years: 13 grams
- Four to eight years: 19 grams
- Nine to 13 years: 34 grams
- 14 to 18 years: 46 grams for girls and 53 grams for boys
So, while our classic Peanut Butter Perfect Bar contains 17 grams of protein — too much for a toddler! — our Perfect Kids bars are perfectly portioned for little tummies. At one-third the size of a regular Perfect Bar, they deliver seven grams of protein apiece.
What Are Some Healthy High-Protein Snacks for Kids?
The protein in Perfect Kids comes from organic peanut butter along with a blend of eight superfood ingredients. We also include gluten-free oats for an extra dose of dietary fiber. And, of course, kid-friendly flavors like Peanut Butter Cookie and Chocolate Chip always go down well at snack time!
Beyond our bars, some of the best sources of protein you can use in kid-friendly snacks include:
- Low-fat dairy foods like Greek yogurt and cottage cheese
- Legumes including chickpeas, peas, and peanuts (which are not actually nuts!)
- Nuts and nut butter like cashews and almond butter
- Seeds such as chia seeds and pumpkin seeds
So, a snack that includes any of these ingredients will be high in protein. When making your own protein snacks for kids, don’t forget to include things like fresh fruits and veggies, dried fruits, and whole-grain crackers for a balanced taste, texture, and nutritional profile. Check out our list of two dozen satisfying snacks for kids for some additional creative snack ideas!
What Are the Best Protein Bars for Kids?
Protein snacks for kids should be designed to meet their nutritional needs. But they should also be appealing to children’s taste buds. And, if they’re portable and safe to stash in a bookbag or snack pack, even better!
Our Perfect Kids have that delicious cookie dough texture but they’re made with better-for-you ingredients like organic honey and organic peanut butter — plus a secret superfood blend of cauliflower, sweet potato, broccoli, pumpkin, beet, kale, spinach, and carrot. They’re stored in the fridge but are good-to-go at room temperature for up to seven days. But, believe us, they won’t last that long if there are little hands and hungry tummies around!
Find Perfect Kids in a store near you or order a few boxes today.