The importance of a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack in children is confirmed by the Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital, a point of reference in Italy for the education of the youngest.
A moment of nutrition for the 6-17 age group, once mistreated because associated with unhealthy choices, returns to the fore: the mid-morning snack. Considered essential for proper development in this delicate age group, a mid-morning snack presupposes varied choices, sweet but also savory, based on fruit, yogurt, biscuits, bread and cheese, ice cream and, finally, packaged snacks. These last, characterized by portioning, were born about 50 years ago as a food habit linked to the typical homemade cakes based on shortcrust pastry, sponge cake or puff pastry, and in the last ten years they have evolved, adapting to the new nutritional guidelines that provide for a smaller quantity of saturated fats and sugars.
The main Italian food trade association, Italian Food Union, has drawn up a handbook on snacks for children and young people in collaboration with the platform "At the health school" of the Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital in Rome, proposing 28 combinations in the name of balance, to help parents make conscious choices, based on the age of their children. Because “making a snack” is an all-Italian way of saying (and doing) that requires a mid-morning snack, preferably based on fruit. «Objective of this habit – he affirms Mario Piccialuti, General Director of the Italian Food Union – is to break hunger before lunch, to avoid arriving at this appointment too hungry and thus consuming a high number of calories, with consequent problems related to glycemic peaks . Therefore, it has nothing to do with snacks, which are instead a “consumption with no temporal collocation”, often based on foods so rich in saturated fats and compound sugars.
In an age group as complex as that between 6 and 17, it is essential to raise awareness of the consumption of 5 meals a day, made up of a breakfast, a morning snack, a lunch, a second afternoon snack and finally dinner, all balanced. from the point of view of nutrients and calories. "Every age has a different caloric need for a snack too – explains Dr. Giuseppe Morino, Pediatrician and Dietitian of the Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital. They range from 80 Kcal for 6-8 year olds, to 140 Kcal for 15 and 17 year olds. In general, this mid-morning snack should provide 5% of the total calories and in any case not exceed 10%. Contemplating an adequate presence of carbohydrates, proteins, lipids and fibers, so that it is sufficiently satiating .
According to the Okkio alla Salute survey, in fact, promoted by the National Institute of Health, 55% of children does not have a proper diet: one in two children adopts an inappropriate lifestyle, deficient, as well as from a nutritional point of view, also from the point of view of physical activity, judged to be insufficient. To this we must add the lockdown period, which has contributed to the onset of eating disorders and obesity among the youngest.
All Italian companies spend an average of 25 to 50 million euros each year on research and development, to offer sustainable snacks, which have taste and are correct from a nutritional point of view. In addition to attention to the composition, which shows a decreased intake of saturated fats and sugars, it has been implemented a communication plan for parents, who are the actors of this choice: "They are the purchasing decision makers – specified Piccialuti – and this is why the information is dedicated to them. Where the responsibility of choice falls on children and young people, we have decided not to be present: we are no longer in distributors within compulsory schools ". Green light therefore to fruit, yogurt and biscuits, without forgetting that once or twice a week, packaged snacks can be a valid alternative.