Is It a Snack or a Treat…And Why It Matters!
Author: be well™ with Big Y® Registered Dietitian Team
Learn how to make snack time work in your child’s favor.
When kids are feeling hangry mid-day, what are parents to do? Say yes to snacking!
There’s only so much your child’s stomach can hold at once. This is why they may not eat as much at meal time as you hope and why overeating at snack time can leave them feeling full leading up to their next meal.
Handle snack time for what it is: in-between-meal munching essential for kids to keep their energy and attentiveness going. What children reach for during snack time will make a world of difference in how they feel and act.
Although kids may want (and crave) foods higher in sugar and/or fat, these options tend to lack important nutrients that will help them grow. The role of adults is simple: Offer wholesome foods in your cupboard and refrigerator so snacks (versus treats) are the easy solution when hunger visits.
The Difference Between Treats & Snacks
Treats are foods of indulgence, like pastries, candy and added-sugar beverages. These are items typically enjoyed during celebrations, like birthdays, or when participating in special events like attending a baseball game or summer fair.
Some snacky-type foods popular with children tend to land in the treat category when looked at more closely. For example, mini-muffins, snack bars offering plenty of sugar but little protein, fruit snacks and yogurts with toppings like cookie crumbles and mini chocolate candies may be kid-friendly, but they’re not necessarily the most nutritious foods.
Snacks are foods that provide essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein and water without breaking the bank with excessive added sugars, solid fat and/or sodium. Double bonus to making these foods your primary offering? They will help your child meet daily Food Group goals as well.
Common snack foods are mozzarella string cheese, woven wheat crackers, sliced fruit, nuts and seeds, lower-sugar granola bars, 100% pureed fruit pouches and lower-sugar flavored yogurt.
There’s always a time for treats, don’t get us wrong. When treats become everyday foods instead of every-now-and-then foods, though, they push out other nutrient-rich options while adding excess empty calories into your kiddo’s meal plan.
The Perfect Combination
Commit to offering snacks, and help your child meet their nutrition goals, with these tips:
- Offer 2 to 3 different Food Groups:
- One Food Group to provide carbohydrates-
- The brain gets the energy it needs (and craves) with these foods.
- Choose a fruit, vegetable or grain.
- One Food Group to provide protein-
- To help carbohydrates digest slowly over time.
- Choose dairy and dairy-alternative products like soy milk -OR- protein foods such as hard-boiled eggs, jerky, hummus, almonds, sunflower seeds and soy nuts.
- Sprinkle in heart-healthy fats-
- They add flavor and help slow down digestion for an extended-release of energy.
- Choose foods like avocado, olives, nuts, seeds and nut and seed butter.