Tremendous change begins to happen for middle-school-age preteens, both physically and emotionally. Life can be difficult for kids of this age as they struggle with the changes. Nutritional needs may increase as kids' bodies grow, so snacking is natural. Help your preteen stay healthy and maintain a positive body image by encouraging healthy snacking.
With the increased rate of growth during puberty comes increased calorie requirements. Typically, middle-school-aged children also face increasing independence and time away from parental guidance, leaving more food choices in the hands of the child. Middle-school kids often grab the easiest items they can find to eat. Parents help kids eat right when they provide an example of healthy eating and prepare convenient healthy foods. To encourage healthier snacking, leave snacks in single-serving bags readily available and where kids will see them.
According to the National Academies' Institute of Medicine, preteens require approximately 10 cups of water daily. This can include water found in foods, not just water kids drink alone. Many preteens, left to their own devices, choose sweetened juice, soda or tea over water with meals and for snacks between meals. Parents can help by encouraging preteens to drink water and limiting soda available at home, providing plenty of unsweetened choices like fruit-flavored sparkling water or a cold pitcher of home-brewed fruity herb tea.
Realizing that a problem exists, schools have been encouraged by the federal government to limit the access kids have to foods that have little nutritional value. The federal government define "Foods of Minimal Nutritional Value" for schools and sets guidelines for their use during the school day. As a result, vending machines in schools, including middle schools, replaced unhealthy snacks and sugar-laden drinks with healthier options such as nuts, fruits, seeds, crackers, water and juice.
Preteens might equate healthy with boring, so help keep them interested in healthy snacking by providing a variety of easily grabbed snacks in individual serving sizes. Bags of cut-up fruits, vegetables and cheeses make suitable snacks for home. Keep individual servings of ranch dressing handy for dipping. Ice-cream substitutes can be found in frozen yogurt, fruit-juice pops and frozen bananas. Keep snacks such as prepackaged whole-wheat crackers, pretzels, nuts, rice cakes, trail mix and popcorn ready to toss in backpacks for school days, weekends and traveling. Enlist your preteen in helping you concoct a family trail mix. Toss together nuts, miniature rice crackers, breakfast cereal, pretzel bits, raisins and any other fun nibbler the two of you can think, and season with dip mix powder.