Snacking on unhealthy foods is a major factor contributing to the increase of child obesity, but can parents satisfy their child’s cravings with healthier snacks?
Yes, according to a new study, “Association of Nutrient-Dense Snack Combinations With Calories and Vegetable Intake,” published in the January 2013 issue of Pediatrics and released online Dec. 17, 2012.
In the study, 201 children in third to sixth grades were randomly given one of four snacks: potato chips, cheese, vegetables, or a combination of cheese and vegetables. Children given only cheese or only vegetables served as a control group to compare the effect of the snack conditions on caloric intake. The children were asked to snack freely until they felt full, while watching a 45-minute cartoon. Children who ate the combination snack consumed 72 percent fewer calories compared to children who ate potato chips, and they needed significantly fewer calories to feel satisfied. Children offered only cheese consumed fewer calories than those who were served potato chips, suggesting that replacing potato chips with cheese can be a sufficient step in decreasing caloric intake.
If children were to eat nutrient-rich cheese and vegetables instead of unhealthy snack foods like potato chips, study authors conclude that children can consume fewer calories when snacking.