To Snack or Not to Snack?

by Dana Snook on October 18, 2016

To Snack or Not To Snack?

Snacks, it is one of those topics that carries so much controversy. No adult wants to admit to eating one, but every child learns to need a snack for every event, party, sporting event, grocery store or car trip.

What happens when the snacks are treated more like a babysitter than for actually nourishment?

Just yesterday, as I walked into the grocery store I was confronted by the sweetest employee pushing the “new” snacks for children on us. Now, he meant no harm and was so excited to offer this healthy snack to my daughter. It sort of made my skin crawl. I had to take a shot of this new area they created.


Now, you are probably going to expect the dietitian in me to be so excited by these “healthy” snacks they are giving away to our children, but I have a different opinion. Children do best with eating when they have scheduled meals and snacks that are evenly spaced to allow them to come to the table hungry and leave full. Encouraging your children to snack while walking around, even if it is a healthy alternative will go against these principles.

I’ve heard the argument for years, if I give them a snack it keeps them busy while I shop, drive, or go to this appointment. However, using food to amuse your children only sets them up for emotional eating. Think about it…your child is bored, they don’t know what to do with the emotion of boredom so they ask for a snack. Even though it isn’t snack time you give them the snack and they associate, “When I feel bored, I eat.”

It’s no different when a child is having an emotional moment (AKA tantrum) and you use food to stop the behavior. It’s linking food to their behavior. Your child learns, “Whenever, I feel this strong emotion, I eat.”

This is early stage emotional eating. As any adult client I work with knows, emotional eating is real bear to fix as an adult so setting your children up for a different approach will benefit them long term!


So while I appreciate my local grocery stores thought to encourage healthy snacking, it still brings it back to…does your child actually need a snack while your shopping?

In most cases, the answer is no!

Yes, my daughter happily picked a banana and proceeded to put it in the cart. The next morning, she enjoyed her free banana with her breakfast. No loss there!

Probably my biggest pet peeve are the lollipops EVERYWHERE I go. The bank, the doctors office, restaurants, etc…

To Snack or Not To Snack?

While it’s no argument, they are definitely less nutritious than the fruit my grocery store is offering. It still comes down to instant gratification. I see, I want. Allowing your child to instantly see and eat they aren’t learning to eat for hunger.

Try something different, allow your child to pick out a lollipop (or piece of fruit) and save it until the next scheduled meal or snack time. It’s not restricting the food or the snack, but allowing them to choose it and learn to eat it when they are hungry rather than just because it’s offered.

Children who learn to eat scheduled meals and snacks do much better learning to fill up and become less focused on eating for reasons other than hunger! Believe me, it’s worth it in the long run!

Thank you for reading! What do you think, do you use snacks to keep your children occupied? Do you suffer from emotional eating yourself?


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Anna Sheinman October 18, 2016 at 4:21 pm

Hello Dana,

I agree with no snack policy. Our bodies need time to digest meals and burn fat. Also, most cultures around the world still practice 2-3 meals a day without snacking.
When you eat every 2-3 hours, your body becomes dependent on a constant supply of food. The body will lose its built-in ability to tolerate missing a meal, and the blood sugar will crash. In 2002, the New York Academy of Sciences published a report stating that all-day grazing can put you at risk for type-2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke…

Anna Sheinman


Dana Snook October 18, 2016 at 4:43 pm

When we look at grazing, it typically comes with an underlying poor eating competence and poor ability to manage the contextual skills around eating.It has been shown that having good eating competence lowers you chances of diseases. ou can see more here on the studies to support it…

However, I don’t agree we don’t need snacks. Children especially have higher calorie needs per kilogram of body weight and need snacking to help them to make it from each meal without getting too hungry. Children who go to the table too hungry don’t do well at meal time either. For a lot of adults this is true too. Deprivation leads to overeating. Blood sugar dropping is more likely from the wrong combination of foods or not enough food. It’s important that snacking be treated like a meal, sit down, have a variety and enjoy the food.


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