As children grow, they need a healthy diet that is highly concentrated in nutrients. According to the Canadian Pediatric Society, children need to eat 3 meals a day and include 1 to 3 snacks.
Healthy snacks are just as essential as meals. Because a child’s stomach is small, 3 meals cannot contain all the nutrients a child needs. Snacks, consumed in the morning, afternoon and in the evening before bedtime, calm hunger between meals and supplement the intake provided by the 3 regular meals.(2, 3)
Food groups to focus on at meals and snacks:
- Vegetables and fruits
- Whole grain foods
- Protein foods, including plant-based protein
- Water for drinking
Tips for balanced meals:(3)
- Prepare meals at home, giving preference to fresh foods instead of highly processed foods.
- Prefer foods with high nutritional value, which are essential for the child’s physical and cerebral activities.
- For meat and dairy products, choose leaner options.
- Incorporate healthy snacks into overall meal planning.(4)
- Choose nutritious foods with no added sugars.
- Include at least 2 food groups per snack.
- Serve a healthy afternoon snack and an easy to digest evening snack if dinner is served early.
(2) Canada’s Food Guide. https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/
(3) Canada’s pediatricians. Caring for kids. Healthy eating for children. https://caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/healthy-living/healthy_eating_for_children
(4) Canada’s pediatricians. Caring for kids. Healthy snacks for children. https://caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/healthy-living/healthy_snacks_for_children