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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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March 26, 2010

Children and snacking

©istockphoto.com/nodmitry

I grew up in a household where there were plenty of salty snacks and homemade baked goods. After school and before bed snacking was an everyday habit. By the time I was 13, my habits showed up around my waist, stomach and hips. After wearing a size 16 dress for elementary school graduation, I began learning about healthier eating alternatives that summer.

Today children consume more unhealthy snacks than ever before. Snacking now accounts for more than 27 percent of their daily calorie intake, according to a recent study. The study, conducted at the University of North Carolina, surveyed more than 30,000 children and found that on average they snacked at least three times a day on candy, salty chips and other junk food. Unhealthy snacking added almost 600 calories a day to children's diets — up by 168 calories from 1977 to 2006. For some, those extra 1,176 calories a week could amount to as much as 13 1/2 pounds of body fat a year. The largest increase in caloric intake from snacks was found in children ages 2 to 6.

Researchers offered the following advice to parents:

• Don't let your children snack out of habit. Make sure they are actually hungry.

• Set a good example by snacking on healthy foods yourself.

• Stock the kitchen with healthier snacks that taste good such as yogurt versus chocolate pudding or apples versus cookies.

• Go for the grain. Whole-grain snacks can give your child energy with some staying power.

• Restrict snacking to the kitchen. If your child needs to snack on the go, offer string cheese, yogurt sticks or fruit.

Source:  ABC News Good Morning America, March 12, 2010

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