Have you ever finished cleaning up from a meal with your family only to have your child ask you for a snack immediately after? It’s all too common in today’s homes, and we’re breaking down a few reasons why it happens and tips to teach your kids the difference between snacks and treats.

When you hear the word ‘snack,’ are you imagining cookies, candy, and chips? If so, it might be time to rethink it! We’re all exposed to tons of marketing and media influence every day and that can have a major impact on how we learn about snacks and treats. Stores are eager to offer pre-packaged ‘snacks’ that are often full of sugar or have very few nutrients. Those ‘snacks’ can leave kids feeling unsatisfied and still searching for something. Here’s a strategy to try in your home to help your kids understand the difference between snacks and treats so they can ask for what they need:

A snack is a small portion of nutritious food that we eat between meals when we feel hungry. Snacks choices have more nutrition for our bodies and brains, like carrots, apples, or string cheese.

A treat is a less nutritious option that does not fuel your body and brain as much. Treats are sometimes used to celebrate special occasions and can be enjoyed in smaller amounts, like cupcakes, cookies, or donuts.

Need more examples? Use our Eat More, Eat Some, Eat Less Food Chart or our Healthy Snack Quiz to show kids which food options are always good choices! 

Learning to eat and enjoy nutritious food encourages kids to develop healthy habits for a lifetime. Try to offer children healthy and nutritious meals and snacks to keep their bodies and brains fueled up. Offer treats less often and talk to your kids about why they are less nutritious.

Some children do well with three meals and set snack times. Others will stand at the refrigerator all day and demand treats. That’s life! Teaching kids to ask for snacks when they feel hungry and appreciate treats as an unexpected delight can help empower them to ask for what they need…or what they want.

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