Smorgasbord of food -  snacks of bread, cheese, lemons and figs.

How Scandinavians have cracked the snacking culture

Want to find a healthier approach to snacking for your children? Lets explore the Scandinavians regime and its benefits.

My cousin lives in Sweden and when I visit her with the kids, one of the most poignant things I notice almost immediately when visiting the local supermarket is the seemingly lack of snacks. They don’t have rows of sweets, chocolates, crisps or fizzy drinks. They don’t many adverts around marketing these products. They don’t have sweetened yogurts aimed at children with characters all over the packets. In my cousin’s house, they have hardly any typical snacks apart from some bars of dark chocolate.

When my kids were hungry between meals, they had fruit, pickled onions, Swedish crispbread with seeds and cheese. Did they moan at first? Yes, but only the first time they were presented with these snack alternatives, and by the end, they were eating them readily and maintained their hunger more efficiently between meals. Why then do the Scandi countries seem to have cracked the snacking culture?

Snack Culture in Scandinavia

  1. Healthy Eating Habits: Scandinavian countries promote healthy eating habits from a young age. The emphasis is on natural, unprocessed foods, with a focus on nutritional value.
  2. Balanced Diets: Snacks are seen as a part of a balanced diet rather than indulgent treats. There is a cultural understanding of the importance of maintaining energy levels and nutritional balance throughout the day.
  3. Regular Meal Patterns: In Scandinavia, meal patterns are regular and structured, which includes designated times for snacks. This helps prevent overeating and ensures children get the necessary nutrients at consistent intervals.

Typical Scandinavian Snacks for Children

  1. Fruits and Vegetables: Fresh fruits like apples, berries, and pears are popular, along with sliced vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers, and bell peppers. These are often served with a dip like hummus or yogurt-based dressings.
  2. Whole Grain Products: Whole grain bread, crispbread (knäckebröd), and rye bread are common snacks, often served with toppings like cheese, avocado, or cold cuts.
  3. Dairy Products: Yogurt, especially natural or Greek yogurt, and cheese are frequent snack choices. Dairy products are valued for their protein and calcium content.
  4. Nuts and Seeds: Nuts, seeds, and dried fruits are typical snacks, providing a good source of healthy fats, protein, and fibre.
  5. Homemade Treats: In Sweden, for instance, it’s common to have “fika” which is a coffee break that includes a small treat like a cinnamon bun (kanelbulle) or a healthier homemade alternative. These treats are usually enjoyed in moderation.
  6. Sandwiches: Open-faced sandwiches (smørrebrød in Denmark) are a staple. These are made with whole grain bread and topped with ingredients like lean meats, fish (especially salmon and herring), eggs, and fresh vegetables.

Scandinavian Approach to Sugar

While Scandinavian children do consume sweets, there is a cultural practice of moderation. "Lördagsgodis" (Saturday sweets) is a tradition in Sweden where children are allowed to eat sweets only on Saturdays. This practice helps limit sugar intake throughout the week and creates a balanced approach to consuming treats.

Benefits of Scandinavian Snack Practices

  1. Nutrient-Rich: The emphasis on whole, unprocessed foods ensures that snacks are nutrient-rich, supporting overall health and development.
  2. Balanced Energy Levels: Regular snacking on healthy options helps maintain stable energy levels and prevents the spikes and crashes associated with sugary snacks.
  3. Healthy Eating Patterns: By incorporating a variety of food groups into snacks, children develop a palate for diverse tastes and textures, promoting lifelong healthy eating habits.
  4. Moderation and Treats: The practice of moderating treat consumption helps children understand the concept of balance and prevents overindulgence.

In Scandinavian countries, snack time is an opportunity to reinforce healthy eating habits and provide balanced nutrition. The focus on fresh, natural foods and the cultural practices surrounding moderation in treats contribute to the overall well-being of children. By adopting some of these practices, parents and caregivers elsewhere can help foster healthier snack habits and improve the dietary patterns of children, promoting both their physical health and emotional well-being.

So, do I think we can learn anything from the Scandinavian countries and their approach to snacks – yes, absolutely!

Smorgasbord anyone?

Article written by @yourfamilynutritionist. You can read more on Family Health and Nutrition here. 


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