Child Nutrition - Snacks vs Treats

Have you considered whether the snack you’re giving your child is actually a treat, rather than a snack? Registered Dietitian Dr. Connie Schneider helps us distinguish the difference.

Dr. Connie says, “Children need to eat every few hours so they can concentrate, have the energy to play and to hold them over to the next meal. That’s where snacks come in.”

Snacks can be your child’s building blocks for a nutritious diet and a healthy body.  Healthy snack items for children include: fruits, vegetables, whole grain crackers and breads, smoothies, ready-to-eat cereals, cheese and yogurt, and small sandwiches.

Choosing healthy snacks means shopping smart. Be cautious of the health claims on food packages. And check food labels to ensure the snacks are nutrient- rich.

Avoid snacks with the following ingredients
-hydrogenated oils
-high-fructose corn syrup

Avoid items with the words hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup. Keep a list of daily snacks on your refrigerator door. Then designate areas in your fridge, cabinet and on your counter where snacks will be kept.

Make sure to have a specific time set up for a between-meal snack.  And be sure to serve appropriate portion sizes. Remember, this is not a meal.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, you should plan for 3 meals and 1 or 2 snacks each day. Preschoolers often do not eat enough at a meal to stay full until the next mealtime.

Snacking can easily be associated with foods high in sugar, salt, and fat – full of calories, but lacking in nutrients.  Make a clear distinction between snacks and treats for your child.

Treats should be limited to special occasions, such as: birthday parties, holidays, and report card days and they should be rare. Do not purchase treats until you plan to serve them!

Of course, everyone deserves a treat once in a while. When serving treats, pair it with something nutritious like a cookie with a glass of milk.

Dr. Connie says, “The key is parents set the example of nutritious snacks to help children set healthy lifelong eating habits.”

Healthy snack ideas

Fruit: cut into chunks or wedges. Add dips such as peanut butter or yogurt.

Vegetables: cooked or raw. Add dips such as peanut butter or low-fat cream cheese.

Cheese: try cheese in low fat varieties in the form of cubes, sticks, or slices. Combine with crackers, bagels, or breads.

Yogurt, pretzels, popcorn, & ready-to-eat cereals

Tomato or vegetable soup with whole grain crackers

Mini sandwiches: use whole wheat breads, pitas or tortillas. Add peanut butter, cheese, meats, cream cheese, fruits or veggies.

Smoothies: combine a variety frozen fruits with yogurt or milk.


Snacks versus Treats: Encouraging Healthy Habits – More for

25 Healthy Snacks for Kids - American Dietetic Association

Follow a Meal and Snack Schedule – U.S. Department of Agriculture -




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