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Snacks vs. Treats

Many of us have become confused between what is a snack and what is a treat

A snack is a small portion of food eaten between meals. A healthy snack is filling and has lots of beneficial nutrients.
A treat is defined as ‘an event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure.’   Treats are therefore occasional foods, usually very appealing and delicious  but sadly often rating  poorly on the nutrition scale, being high in fat, salt and sugar. Kept to special occasions, these foods are an enjoyable part of a varied diet but when they are eaten as an everyday snack they will start to impact on health and body weight.

Eating snacks is important for young children who have small stomachs and need to eat small amounts throughout the day to meet their energy needs. For those exercising or doing sport, snacks are a way of meeting needs both before and after exercise. For people wanting to increase your weight, adding snacks each day can help.

It won’t have escaped your attention that our food environment has changed over the past decade. All supermarkets now have a ‘snack’ food aisle which is enticing and full of colour. Think of the multi-pack foods available now in small sizes – muesli & cereal bars, chips, biscuits, chocolates, pretzels, lollies. These packages are convenient for lunchboxes and handbags, staying fresh for a long time. However, a lot of these foods are still ‘treats’ – just because it is in a small packet doesn’t make it a healthy snack.   Keep them for special occasions and focus on healthy snacks for everyday.

Healthy Snack Ideas:

  • Fruit
  • Plain popcorn
  • Yoghurt and dairy food
  • Nuts and dried fruit
  • Sandwiches / wraps / rolls / toast
  • Low-fat crackers and hummus
  • Some cereal bars (less than 600kJ per bar)
  • Vegetable sticks with dips (hummus, avocado)
  • Cubes of cheese
  • Edamame beans
  • Soup
  • Noodles with vegetables (if using instant noodles choose baked not fried)
  • Sushi
  • Small baked potato with baked beans
  • Smoothie – try adding a handful of spinach or kale, you’ll be surprised (in a good way)
  • Sticks of celery smeared with peanut butter with raisins on top
  • Banana on a stick – put ½ peeled banana on a stick, smear with peanut butter and roll in chopped nuts, cereal or dried fruit.  Can be served immediately or frozen.


Our thanks to Sarah Hanrahan, Dietitian, New Zealand Nutrition Foundation for writing this article. www.nutritionfoundation.org.nz

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