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Healthy snacking for children

By Cherice Bronte-Tinkew R.D.

Snacking is a big part of a child’s life. It helps to form friendships at school and it’s the most memorable time of a Trini’s life. ‘Remember when we sat down under our grandfather’s tree and eat mango till we belly full? Those were the days.’ This may be after a long day of playing outside.

Cherice Bronte-Tinkew

Nowadays, many children are not fortunate to have memories like this because they have been bombarded by excessive marketing for high sugar, high salt and high fat foods and lack of participation in outdoor sports or physical activity. It’s a battle to keep our children healthy and avoid non-communicable or lifestyle diseases.

How does one prevent the increase of these diseases such as Diabetes Mellitus Type 2 or high blood pressure in children? We must lead by example and provide the best environment for children to play/exercise and eat well. Encourage 60 minutes of physical activity daily through exercise, play or fun activities with the family. There are even follow along videos online to get up and move!

A healthy balanced diet involves the Caribbean Six Food Groups. They are staples, legumes, vegetables, fruits, foods from animals and fats and oils. Food groups are used to create meals and snacks. Children have different growth and development stages so it’s best to introduce as many varieties as possible during different stages to benefit from the nutrients they contain.

Key nutrients for children include:

Iron: helps in creating red blood cells. Sources include chicken, fish, beef, dark green leafy vegetables, peas, and beans. Plant based items will need Vitamin C foods for better absorption.

Fibre: prevents constipation and lowers the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Sources include vegetables, fruits, ground provisions, oats, peas, and beans.

Calcium and Vitamin D: help with bone development. Sources include milk and cheese products, green leafy vegetables, and fish. Don’t forget the sunshine for Vitamin D, too.

Healthy fats: helps in creating hormones, increases brain development and protects organs in the body. Sources include cooking oils, nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut milk.

How much sugar?

Avoid too many simple sugars/added sugars (cane sugar, honey, syrups etc) in their diets. Iced cakes, soft drinks or sweetened juices and milk drinks can include more than double the recommendation for added sugars for children. Fresh fruits and dried fruits are naturally sweet and can be great additions to recipes instead of sugar. The limit for added sugar in children, according to the World Health Organization is less than five teaspoons or 20 grams of sugar per day.

Cherice Bronte-Tinkew is a registered dietician. She is a member of the Board of Nutritionists and Dietitians, and Vice President of the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Nutritionists and Dietitians. Contact on FB/Instagram: JustCherNutrition ; Email: justchernutri@gmail.com

The best way to lead by example is to allow children to help in the kitchen and try recipes together. Try out these recipes.

Pineapple and yogurt popsicles

1 cup of ripe pineapple chunks
½ cup of plain yogurt
2 tablespoons of water

Blend together. Divide into popsicle containers/moulds and freeze overnight. Makes about 4 popsicles.

Simple peanut butter chocolate oat cookies (Can be used as an after-school snack or for breakfast on the go)

2 cups of rolled oats
4 tablespoons of soft or melted peanut butter
½ cup of low-fat milk
1 tablespoon of soybean oil
¼ teaspoon of baking powder
½ cup of chocolate chips
¼ teaspoon vanilla essence

Preheat oven at 180 °C. Combine all ingredients together and let sit for 5 minutes. Grease a baking sheet and form cookies with a heaping tablespoon each. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Makes 10 cookies.