It’s Not Just a Piece of Candy

As a mother of a 2 and 4 year-old, I am quickly learning about how snacks are an integral part of growing up. It seems that snacks are not only available to children for nutrition, but are a necessity for social gatherings and fun.

We recently signed up our 4-year-old daughter for dance class. At the end of her first class she had the biggest smile on her face and I could tell she had fun. Then the teacher said, “Wait –everyone gets a piece of candy for doing such a great job!” A piece of candy for dancing? She got two tootsie rolls and since my younger daughter was with, I told her that she had to give one to her. This resulted in her crying all the way home over candy, when we could have been talking about much fun she had at dance. The teacher may have thought that candy added excitement to her class, but it really took away from the fact that the girls just had a great time dancing!

I realize some may say it’s just a piece of candy. However, it’s not just a piece of candy. Children are being exposed to treats all the time: snacks provided at preschool by parents, lollipops at the local bank, sports drinks after soccer, candy at daycare for behavioral rewards, classroom parties, ice cream parties for reaching a class goal, free samples at the grocery store, and the list goes on and on. And this is on top of the treats that parents provide at home.

It has gotten to the point that snacks are considered treats. And it’s hard not to think this way. Treats tend to be provided with much more excitement and star appeal. Have you looked at the “snack food” aisle at a grocery store lately? There are not very many healthy options. Have you seen the different kinds of fruit snacks (a.k.a. glorified gummy bears)? They take up a good portion of the aisle and almost every cartoon character has its own box! And the number of Pop Tart flavors available is breathtaking.

Children need snacks throughout the day; this goes for adults too! However, it’s all about the kinds of snacks that we consume and provide for our children. When thinking of what snacks to have available, think of what you would serve during a meal, as snacks should be just as nutritious, just in smaller portions. It really comes down to the food groups: fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy, and whole grains. Take the guesswork out of what snacks to have around and you will be surprised at the choices your children make when you make choosing healthy foods the easy choice.

Some tips:
  • Make snacks available to them at their level. Is your fruit bowl on the top of your counter?  Younger children cannot see the bowl, let alone reach it to make it a selection.
  • Have a plastic bin in your fridge towards the bottom full of snacks that are ready to eat, such as cheese sticks, yogurt tubes, reusable drinking containers filled with milk or water, sliced apples, oranges (cut in “smiles”), fruit cups, small bags of baby carrots, cooked noodles, small sandwiches, etc.
  • Choose whole-grain items. There are more and more of these available each week, it seems.
  • Move less healthy snack options to a higher shelf so they are less tempting and eventually just remove them from your home and save them for road trips or special occasions.
  • Avoid pre-portioned snacks, as you are often paying for the packaging (not additional food). You can portion out servings at home in resealable snack bags that your children can decorate with stickers to get them involved in the process.
  • Take your children with you to the grocery store. By allowing them to a part of the selection process within certain parameters it provides them ownership for the snacks that are available at home.
Additional Resources

How do you handle snacks at your house? Do you have ideas to share?

Guest Blogger, Carrie Scheidel


11 thoughts on “It’s Not Just a Piece of Candy

  1. I really enjoyed this post. After sending applesauce last week when my daughter was to bring snack, I kind of felt like the boring Mom even though I knew I wanted to send something healthy. This was a good reminder that snacks are not the same as treats. Thanks for all the helpful tips!

  2. Thanks for the great post! I struggle with this concept for my son who will turn 4 this weekend. I also work to share this information with the youth I teach through curriculum enrichment in the school and in our 4-H Food and Nutrition projects.

  3. For my daughter’s birthday treat at school, we made chocolate dipped strawberries and fresh blueberry chocolate clusters. They were a huge hit! A great treat and a serving of fresh fruit too.

  4. Great article. My sister, who cares for my children before and after school, and I have had this same discussion about how it feels when you go places and your kids are exposed to all kinds of candy, treats, and unhealthy options. Look at restaurant options. My children’s dance teacher does the same thing and on top of it, they have a special dance day where everyone brings items to share. It always ends up being cookies, cupcakes, pizza, chips…and at 7:00 at night. Great, great article

  5. Great article. I have been referencing this article often. I totally agree with this idea and get dismissed quickly by so many adults that think I am overzealous. My husband is a Type 1 diabetic so I do pay more attention I am sure. I have even just asked to not have lemonade or juice served to kids with all of those treats. At any rate, I just really appreciate having some support in this area. My children are 17 and 12, we do it to our teenagers too. 🙂

  6. Am reading this article as trick-or-treat, Halloween Costumes, and the kid’s ‘all full of excitement for bags full of candy’ nears. Of course, Dad will make sure to taste-test and portion down the bountiful supply. 😉

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