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Question: I give my daughters snacks to carry to school, usually one pack of banana chips or plantain chips and that is the only snack they get for the day. Is this bad?

Response: The purpose of snacks is to make good any nutritional deficit not obtained from the meals. There is also the question of the timing of snacks relative to meals. Children eat snacks since they USUALLY have small appetites and run an energy and nutrient deficit from only 3 meals or eating episodes daily. For me to recommend suitable snacks, I would need to meet with you and them to assess their current intake to determine any deficits relative to their individual nutritional needs.

For instance, if the meals are short of calcium, then you could try yoghurt, cheese or milk – the quantities would depend on their individual needs. Fresh fruits, high in vitamins A and C such as pawpaw are good since these vitamins are also usually deficient from meals – but not necessarily so if they already take juices and vegetables containing these vitamins. The sugar content of juices would be of concern.  For iron, dried fruits such as raisins and tamarind balls are good but again quantity is important because of calorie intake. These also provide dietary fibre which is good. Also suitable for these requirements are nuts of various types.

The snacks you have named such as banana and plantain chips offer primarily carbohydrate and fat although they may also be a source of dietary fibre and phytonutrients. If calories are the deficits, then the snacks are appropriate but this depends on the salt/sodium content. It might surprise you that these snacks often have much less sodium than we consume daily from regular cooking to which we add salt, such as in boiling the fresh bananas and plantains or seasoning foods. Depending on the size of the snack packs, calories can run from 150 for small one-ounce packets up to 450 calories in the case of the round bun.  Eating and nutrition are very individual, so please seek professional advice.

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