In preschool, the snack was likely provided and you never had to worry that your little one was getting hungry during the day. When he got older and entered grade school, you might have become responsible for making sure he had a snack in his backpack each day. A nibble during the school day has several benefits that make it worth the extra trouble to grab a snack for him before you head out each morning.
You probably know how sluggish and sleepy you can get when you haven't eaten in several hours. The same is true for kids in school. If they eat breakfast early in the morning, they may not make it to lunchtime without dragging and getting tired. The same is true in the hours between lunch and the end of the school day. A nutritious snack gives your child the energy he needs to play at recess, participate in gym and pay attention in the classroom.
Kids need a wide range of nutrients to help them grow and develop normally. Adding a snack or two to your child's lunchbox helps ensure that he's getting adequate amounts of each. This includes vitamins A and C, protein, carbohydrates, fiber, calcium and iron. Relying solely on meals to cover his needs might leave your child lacking, particularly if he only eats small amounts at one sitting. Snacks can provide about one-fourth of your child's daily nutrient and calorie needs, note Julie M. Martinez and Karla P. Shelnutt with the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service. Forgetting to send a snack to school on a regular basis could mean your child isn't getting what he needs for good overall health.
Hunger can interfere with concentration in the classroom. If your child goes several hours between breakfast and lunch, he may be so hungry as lunchtime nears that he can't focus on what his teacher is talking about or may have trouble getting through his assignments. A snack in the mid-morning can help counteract this by giving his brain and body a boost so he can sit still and concentrate until he can refuel with his lunch meal. A snack in the mid-afternoon provides the same benefits until the final bell rings and your child has to slog through his homework.
Not just any snack will do at school. The trick is to choose one with an appropriate mix of nutrients and calories. The University of Florida recommends packing your child a snack that is less than 250 calories. Choose one that contains carbohydrates for energy as well as protein, healthy fats and vitamins and minerals that fuel his body and brain. String cheese with fruit, vegetables and hummus, trail mix, crackers with peanut butter, granola or cereal bars and yogurt are ideal choices. Water or milk make a healthy accompaniment to these snacks. Avoid cookies, chips, candy and soda, which are low in nutrients and high in sugar and can result in an energy crash not long after they're eaten.
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City: Healthy Alternatives for School Celebrations, Rewards, Fundraisers and Snacks
- National Association for the Education of Young Children: Smart School Snacks
- Center for Science in the Public Interest: Healthy School Snacks
- School Nutrition Association: Smart Snacking at School
- University of Florida: Raising Healthy Children: The Role of Snacking
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images