Unit 6 Information for Leaders

To view the individual activities for this unit, click on them in the highlighted orange box to the left

A PDF version of this unit is available here.

Behavior Goal

Children will choose healthy snack foods

Key Messages for Kids

  • Our bodies need healthy snacks to stay energized between meals.
  • Choose healthy snack foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy foods, and lean meats or proteins.
  • Snacks that have a lot of sugar, unhealthy fat, and salt like candy, cookies, and chips are "slow" snacks.

Key Information for Program Staff

Many children enjoy treats at snack time, but they need the nutrition and energy that comes from a healthy snack. Snacks often provide children with up to 25% of their daily calorie needs, so serving healthy and tasty foods and drinks are important! Help children understand that snacks create a bridge between meals - it gives them the energy they need to concentrate on schoolwork and to play.

Snacks should be made from the foods children would enjoy at a meal, and snacks should not always be seen as a treat. Avoid serving snacks that are high in sugar or contain trans fat. When children eat sugary snacks, they may get short term relief from hunger and a quick energy boost, but those good feelings don't last. Similarly, it is unhealthy to choose foods like cookies or brownies because these often contain harmful trans fats. Trans fats are oils that have been chemically treated to make them harder, and more shelf stable so they last longer. Trans fats are harmful to health, so it's important to read food labels to choose products that list 0 grams trans fat, and do not list "partially hydrogenated oil" in the ingredients. Also, look at the nutrition label on canned, boxed, and frozen foods to ensure that sodium (salt) levels are low. Try to serve items with less than 300 mg/serving. Look for hidden salt in prepared snacks such as macaroni and cheese, chili, soup or canned pasta like SpaghettiOs®, and compare different brands and types of bread and deli meat.

Since children often have little control over the types of foods served to them, it is important to praise children when they do make healthy choices. The best way to influence children is to provide them with healthy, tasty snack choices. Show them that eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods at snack time is fun by getting creative with recipes and enlisting kids to help with selecting and preparing snacks! Serve a variety of healthy snacks from different food groups during program time. Striving for variety also means you should also try to incorporate foods that are relevant to the lives of the children you serve. Take time to talk to kids about the healthy foods they eat at home and make sure to incorporate them into your snacks and activities in this unit. Involve children in preparing and serving snacks. As always, help children see how tasty and fun healthy snacks are by eating healthy snacks yourself!

You all will benefit!

To do the activities in this unit, it is important that children understand the difference between GO foods and SLOW foods. Explain to children at the beginning of this unit and at the start of each activity that GO foods are whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk or dairy foods, lean meats, and nuts or seeds. SLOW foods contain few vitamins, minerals and fiber but do contain a lot of sugar, salt and/or unhealthy saturated or trans fats.