Most of our kids, well certainly mine do love crunchy snacks. In fact one of mine would live off crackers if he could! The most popular ones are the beige kind like bread sticks, crisps & crackers. But how do you add more crunchy snacks that are healthy to your childs diet?
Whilst there is nothing wrong with these beige foods, as all food is good food. It’s a good opportunity to work with this knowledge of knowing that if your child prefers crunchy foods then you can find other crunchy foods that are healthy and add to their range of foods. This will also ensure a more balanced snack. This blog will give you lots of ideas on exactly how to do this.
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What is a crunchy snack?
A crunchy snack tends to be hard or crisp and makes a louder sound (typically a good crunch sound) when you bite into it and that is satisfying (1). Also the crunchy foods tend to taste good.
Why do fussy eaters prefer crunchy snacks?
Fussy eaters tend to have sensory preferences in terms of smell, taste, texture, colour (2). They could be under sensitive or overly sensitive to certain sensory properties which will determine their preference.
So if your child is under sensitive then they don’t tend to feel or sense the texture of the food so much as other people and therefore prefer the texture of crunchy foods.
Crunchy foods tend to taste good hence why kids prefer them, particularly if we are just talking about carbohydrate based snacks like crisps, popcorn, crackers, breadsticks, rice crackers and so on. They usually have added salt and maybe sugar which makes them more appealing.
Easy to eat
Crunchy foods typically tend to be easier to eat because they break easily in the mouth and don’t require so much chewing as other foods. Some crunchy foods also dissolve quite quickly in the mouth like bread sticks so are satisfying quick to eat.
Consistency in shape, colour and texture
Particularly ready to eat packaged crunchy snacks like crisps, crackers, bread sticks and the carbohydrate or beige type snacks will always be consistent in shape, colour and texture. So your child gets the same sensory qualities each time and it doesn’t change much. This is great for children who like that consistency and don’t like change.
With the exception of fruit and vegetables, crunchy snacks like breads, cereals, crackers, cheeses, other proteins etc are predictable and don’t tend to vary much in appearance or other characteristics so its predictable and safe for your child to eat knowing that they can expect the same time and time again.
Why do children with ASD like crunchy foods?
Many children with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show sensory seeking behaviours (3). Those with decreased sensory sensitivity tend to seek it out. This can be with food and non food items they may like to bite or chew.
With food, that is crunchy when they bite it or chew it helps them to self regulate, so they often have a preference for these types of foods. There are also other reasons as previously explained above.
So if you have a child who seeks out crunchy foods for whatever reason then there are many ways you can make crunchy snacks that are healthy and help to expand the range of foods in their diet.
Crunchy snacks that are healthy
There are lots of packaged crunchy snacks available to purchase but its also easy to make your own or use some of the bought ones alongside other foods to make a balanced snack.
By making your own snacks and combining with other food groups it ensures your child will be getting more variety and trying new foods alongside their loved crunchy ones.
A healthy snack should consist of 3 food groups (fruit and vegetables, carbohydrate & a protein or dairy). This will has a balance of food groups and ensures your child will be sufficiently full until the next meal.
Here are some ideas for sweet crunchy snacks and savoury crunchy snacks that are healthy.
Sweet crunchy snacks
- Frozen soft fruit on sticks served with yoghurt
(freezing soft fruit makes them hard and crunchy but you will need to wait a bit before eating them) Also just be careful of the size of the fruits depending on the age of your child. You would need to make them smaller than a £1 coin for younger children.
- Dried fruit mix
(but not for under 18 mths, making sure they are not a choking hazard)
- Nuts, dark chocolate trail mix & chopped apple
(whole nuts not suitable for under 5 yrs)
- Cheese, apple and grapes on sticks
Savoury crunchy snacks
- Roasted cauliflower florets, potato wedges and grated cheese
- Roasted chickpeas with Tomato, pepper and chickpea dip
- Steamed edamame beans with crackers and chicken strips
- Sweet potato fries with yoghurt dip
- Celery sticks with cream cheese & rice cakes
- Toasted pitta pocket – filled with cheese & crunchy salad
- Veggie dippers – You can dip into a dip or hummus.
- Rice cakes with peanut butter and cucumber
For more ideas check out my crunchy snacks mini guide which tells you how to make a balanced healthy snack and what are suitable portion sizes.
What portion size do I give for a snack?
The portion size will depend on the age of your child. If they are under 1 year old then there are no guidelines but it is good to be guided by their appetite and let them decide how much they can eat.
For 1 – 4 years there are recommended portion sizes for each food group. If you would like to know what these are along with what makes a healthy snack you check out my healthy kids snack guide (1 – 4 years)
What are healthy snacks to replace junk food?
It’s fine to provide what we refer to as junk food or processed food sometimes but remembering these often contain high amounts of sugar, salt and fat hence not recommended too often.
If you find it hard to get your child not to eat these foods. You could try replacing them with similar textures but more crunchy snacks that are healthy. Here are some example of swaps;
Crisps could be swapped for popcorn (plain popcorn)
Fries/chips – breadsticks (wholegrain, plain, sesame etc)
Cupcakes or iced cakes – wholemeal biscuit or plain biscuits that have less sugar
Crunchy snacks that are healthy are a great way to get more variety into fussy eaters’ diets.
Crunchy snacks are usually preferred because of their taste, ease of eating, consistency in shape, colour or texture and predictability.
By adding in more food groups alongside the typical carbohydrate type foods you will balance it out and include more nutrition. Those crunchy snack ideas provided will help to do this. Win win!
I would love to know which crunchy foods your child loves, whether healthy or not. Please comment below.