When is a snack a treat?

“I’m hungry. Can I have a snack?


What do you usually offer when you get this request? Is it, in fact, a snack—or is it actually a treat?

When you hear the word “snack,” what comes to mind? For lots of parents it’s hard to think beyond Liga, baby rice cakes and Organix carrot sticks. Whilst these are fine occasionally they are more ‘treats’ than snacks.


it’s easy to confuse snacks with treats because of how they are marketed. Words like ‘fruit sweetened’, ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ often imply that these are good snack choices. But, that box of healthy, natural, organic Gingerbread men contains just, well, Gingerbread men biscuits. They probably have the same amount of sugar and calories as many other biscuits, despite the health claims.

Don’t get me wrong there’s room for treats in both adults’ and kids’ diets. But if every snack for your child is actually a treat, it can set them up for unhealthy eating habits in the future.

Children have smaller tummies than adults, so its important that snacks between meals are full of energy and nutrients. A “snack” is really a mini-meal, made up of real foods like: chopped fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, dairy (cheese and yogurt) and protein (cold meat, hummus and nuts). These foods are full of important nutrients that little bodies require to grow and develop.

When children mostly eat treats instead of snacks they don’t get the energy they need to concentrate and thrive. Treats don’t provide the nutrients that kids need and if little tummies are filled with ‘treats’ there’s less room for more nutritious food.

Here are My Tips for setting up healthy snack habits:

  1. Decide when your family snacks will be and try to stick to these times (you don’t have to be exact). This prevents all day grazing which will affect how well your children eat at mealtimes. For most children 2-3 snacks per day is sufficient and babies under 12 months old generally don’t need snacks as they are still drinking milk between meals
  2. Try to eat snacks sitting at the table most of the time
  3. Include a fruit or a vegetable and at least one other food group
  4. Choose ‘real’ foods most of the time rather than specially marketed baby or kid snacks

5 Quick and Easy Snacks:

  • Apple slices with smooth peanut or almond butter
  • Small pot of natural yogurt and some quartered strawberries
  • Small pot of frozen peas and plain rice cakes
  • Grated cheese or cheese cubes with quartered/halved grapes (pop on a cupcake topper or cocktail stick for novelty value!)
  • Cucumber sticks with hummus (homemade or shop bought)

Find out more about setting up healthy meal and snack behaviours at our new class ‘Happy, Healthy Eating For Young Children’.








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