Trading Junk Food for Combination Snacks May Help Kids Feel Full, Eat Fewer Calories

Snacks that combine cheese and vegetables can help children feel full with fewer calories and give them the protein, fiber, and calcium they need, a recent study suggests. Image: iStockphoto.com/Kristina Alshememri

Snacks that combine cheese and vegetables can help children feel full with fewer calories and give them the protein, fiber, and calcium they need, a recent study suggests. Image: iStockphoto.com/Kristina Alshememri

Offering cheese and vegetables may be a winning combination for kids’ snacks, researchers report today in the journal Pediatrics, producing satiety with fewer calories than potato chips.

The availability of such high-calorie snacks as potato chips, cookies, and candy has been proposed as one of the factors contributing to childhood obesity. But studies of various strategies for controlling children’s consumption of such foods have produced mixed results. For example, one study found that children whose parents tightly control their snacking consumed more when their parents weren’t present than children whose parents were less strict about snacks.

To probe strategies that might help parents promote healthful snacking, a team of researchers from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, compared calorie consumption and satiety in 201 children in grades 3 through 6 who were served potato chips, vegetables only, cheese only, or a combination of vegetables and cheese while watching a television program. The researchers found that the group served the combination snack ate 72% fewer calories than the group served chips and felt full after eating fewer calories. These effects were most pronounced among children who were overweight or obese and children whose parents were less involved with them during meals.

The combination group ate the same amount of vegetables as the group served vegetables only, the authors noted, suggesting that the children in the combination group didn’t replace vegetables with cheese. The authors conclude that serving children a variety of nutritious foods at snack time, including foods that boost feelings of satiety, can help them reduce caloric intake while meeting their nutritional needs.

“For parents, eliminating snacking altogether is impractical and in some cases can backfire,” the authors wrote. However, they added, parents could potentially replace some junk food—non–nutrient-dense snacks—with such nutrient-dense snacks as a cheese and vegetable combination “with less fear of backlash” than if they removed junk food altogether.



Categories: Diet, Obesity, Primary Care/Family Medicine

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