Healthy Daycare Snacks

Snack Provision

Daycare centers and parents of daycare children are often charged with the task of providing nutritious snacks that are appealing to children aged 2-5 years. By involving children in the selection and preparation of daycare snacks, snack time can become both a fun and educational experience and an opportunity for children to learn about healthy eating, sharing, food preparation, responsibility, and more.

Healthy Snacks

It is a well-known fact that nutritious eating is critical for children's optimal growth, development, and health. However according to the Department of Health and Human Services more than 50% of snacks eaten by children today are deserts, sweets, and salty snacks such as potato chips. National dietary guidelines stipulate that young children's diets should consist of selections from at least two of the following food groups: Grains and Cereal, Fruit and Vegetables, Dairy, and Protein.

Selecting Daycare Snacks

With a growing number of potentially life-threatening food allergies among young children, most daycares are now "nut free" environments, responding to the plethora of peanut allergies rampant today. Other common food allergies include allergic reactions to milk, eggs, tree nuts, fish, and soy. For this reason, many daycares require that all snack foods provided for the group from the outside be prepackaged, allowing for the ingredients to be carefully checked and minimizing the risk of trace allergens on a utensil used to prepare snacks made at home (since even trace amounts of an allergic food can result in an emergency situation).

Alternatively, many daycares provide (or ask parents to provide) "healthy" snacks, which keep sugars and salt to a minimum. Since young children are known to be picky rather than adventurous eaters, coming up with ideas for nutritious snacks which the children will enjoy can present a challenge. Fortunately, there are many free resources (on the Internet and at the library) to help daycare staff, parents, and children generate innovative and tasty treats for daycare snack times.

Daycare Snack Ideas

Keeping in mind that the mere presentation of a snack food can turn it into a winner and a children's favorite (such as cutting up sandwiches into interesting and bite-sized shapes), here are some great snack time ideas for a daycare setting:

•- Cheese sticks

•- Graham crackers

•- Fresh fruit kabobs (fruit on a stick)

•- Canned fruit (applesauce, canned peaches, canned pears, fruit cocktail)

•- Dried fruit (raisins, dried apricots, dried apples banana chips, and more)

•- Rice cakes in all flavors

•- Yogurt

•- Miniature muffins

•- Popcorn

•- Raw vegetable slices or rounds (cut with a fancy knife into mini-designs)

•- Vegetables and dip or Crackers and dip (Kids love to dip, so be creative and come up with your own children's snack time "dip" recipes)

•- Vegetable slices with peanut butter or cheese spread

•- Jello

Daycare Snack Time Tips

To make snack time a hit, here some daycare snack time tips from the experts:

•- Avoid overly spicy or strongly flavored foods

•- Serve small portions, allowing for second helpings when possible

•- Serve a mixture of hot, cold, and room-temperature snack foods

•- When introducing a "new" food, serve it alongside a familiar food

•- Consider other daycare-provided meals for the same day to avoid repetition (i.e. do not serve cheese sticks for snack when the lunch menu features grilled cheese sandwiches)

•- Kids love finger foods

•- Add excitement and interest to snack time by presenting a variety of food flavors, shapes, textures, and colors

•- Ask children for their own unique daycare snack food ideas, allowing and assisting them to shop, prepare, and present their snack food to the other children