The idea of snacks and snacking has changed a lot in the last 75 years or so. One thing I want want to bring to light is the way we have come to view snacks because snacks are a such big part of our lives, and a huge part of kids’ lives. In general, we have forgotten what an actual snack is, and more often than not, eat treats instead of snacks. So, treat vs. snack – what’s the difference?
I think of treats as anything eaten at a party. So, when you go to a party, especially a kids party, there could be cookies, ice cream, candy, chips, popcorn, soda, cake, brownies… I could keep thinking of more but you get the idea. We don’t go to parties every day so we shouldn’t be snacking on foods like chips or brownies every day either. Neither should kids. There’s a time and a place for everything. Treats happen on occasion(s).
Snacking happens every day. I like to think of snacks as mini-meals. Think about what you might eat for a balanced breakfast or lunch and scale it back. For snacks, you always want to have balance of carbs, fat and protein. So you might have a little cheese with baby carrots, a little full-fat yogurt with a banana, or the classic peanut butter and apple. These are great snack options for adults but especially important for kiddos because it keeps their sugar and ultra-processed food intake down.
Snacking Smarter for Kids and Adults
As adults, the first thing we need to do is check our own snacking habits. Do we eat more treats than snacks during the week? If so, trying to incorporate a snack instead of a treat once a week is a great start. Start small and work your way up. Doing this as a family, makes this behavior change easier too. Family units are all in this together and when parents model healthy eating habits, kids eventually will too.
As parents, we’re in charge of what our kids eat. At home we can make slow and steady behavior changes to shift the way we snack throughout the day. Instead of giving our kids cookies during that 4PM lull, we could try making a smoothie with them. Start with once a week and work your way up til it becomes a routine healthy habit.
As teachers, we can’t control what our students ultimately choose for a snack but could have some say in the types of foods we see our kids choose for lunch or snack. A simple comment about how delicious the apples look would be a great conversation starter. A+ for eating the apple with some nut or seed butter with your students and encouraging them to try it too!
Role modeling is the best way to help our kids learn the difference between snacks and treats. There’s a time and a place for everything and wand When we make healthy snack choices, kids will inevitably follow along. We’re not only doing something good for the kids but we’re also doing something good for us. It’s a win, all around! For a deeper dive into treats and snacks for kids and the way food is marketed to them, a really good read is Kid Food by Bettina Elias Siegel.
Are you a parent or a teacher? I’m really interested to know what’s your experience with snacking vs. treating with your kids/students. Let me know in the comments. ~Until next time, lots of love – D.