Many children ask for a snack right before bed, particularly if they eat dinner early in the evening and several hours have passed before bedtime. Late-night snacks can have a place in your child's healthy diet as long as they are figured into his daily caloric intake so he is not eating more than he needs. KidsHealth reports that traditional late night snacks, such as potato chips, are high in calories and low in nutrition, which can cause overeating. If you provide nutritious snacks to your child, there is nothing wrong with a snack before bed.
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According to Eileen Behan, author of "Fit Kids: Raising Physically and Emotionally Strong Kids With Real Food," late night snacks are one of the main contributors to overweight and obese adults. Allowing your child to get into the habit of filling up on unhealthy foods just before bed may make overeating a habit that follows him into adulthood. If your child eats dinner early, feeding him a late night snack can help curb hunger through the night, but it is essential to offer low-calorie foods that do not put him over his caloric limit for the day. Teaching your child to eat small and nutritious snacks may help prevent unhealthy overeating as he grows up.
Many foods, particularly spicy or sugary foods, may fill your child up, but may disrupt her sleep, leaving her tired and groggy in the morning. Children who do not get adequate sleep may have a more difficult time learning and engaging in social interactions. Renata Riha reports in her book, "Sleep: Your Questions Answered," that watching what your child eats before bed can result in a deeper, longer and more restful slumber. Avoid foods and drinks with caffeine, such as soda or chocolate, because it will make it more difficult for your child to fall asleep. Fatty foods, such as ice cream or whole milk, can also cause disruptions by causing stomach upset or discomfort.
Benefits of Late Night Snacks
Eating a quick and nutritious snack just before bed can have nutritional benefits for your child. If your child eats little during the day, he may not be getting all of the vitamins and minerals he needs for good health. Offering a healthy snack can boost his intake of many different nutrients and supplement the foods he eats during the day. Late night snacks can also be built into your child's bedtime routine so he sees his snack as a message to begin calming down and preparing for bed.
Healthy Snack Options
Keep a few healthy choices on hand so your child can choose his own late night snack. Fresh fruits and vegetables are low-calorie options that supply nutrients like fiber and potassium. A bowl of fresh berries or a plate of carrot sticks will ease hunger. A bowl of whole grain cereal with skim milk or instant oatmeal with raisins are healthy choices as well. Air-popped popcorn, whole wheat toast or crackers are additional options that are low in calories and high in nutrition.
- KidsHealth: Does Eating Late Make You Gain Weight?
- Fit Kids: Raising Physically and Emotionally Strong Kids With Real Food; Eileen Behan; 2001
- Sleep: Your Questions Answered; Renata Riha; 2007