High angle view of a little girl raching over the top of a kicthen counter to grab some raspberries. She is looking for something to eat.
11 June 2021

Ask a nutrition scientist: What healthy sweet treats can I give my kids that they will actually like?

11 June 2021

I want my young children to eat healthily but, like most kids, they love sweets, biscuits and cakes and moan when I give them fruit and veg, so I end up giving them ‘naughty’ sweet treats  to keep them quiet. What healthy treats and snacks can I give them that they will actually like?

Anne de la Hunty, a senior scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, says: “If your children  are old enough to understand, it might be helpful to agree with them what sort of snacks and sweet treats they can have, when.

“Offering them a choice from a healthy range of snacks can also help them to feel they have more control. With younger children, it’s good to set expectations and healthy eating patterns from the beginning. It’s also important not to use sweet treats as a reward for good behaviour or a bribe to stop bad behaviour, as this just reinforces the desirability of these foods.

“Treats such as sweets, biscuits, cakes and sugary drinks should be limited in the diet overall but it’s especially important that they’re limited between mealtimes because they can promote tooth decay. Try and limit sweet foods (including dried fruit, and things like cakes or biscuits) to mealtimes and keep things like sweets or sugary drinks to one or two days a week.

“These foods also provide a lot of calories, so think about offering them in smaller portions – if they’re packaged snacks, look out for those that are about 100 kcal per portion or less.

“A couple of snacks a day are fine, and healthy snacks can provide important nutrients. But too many snacks increase the risk they’ll eat more than they need, so it’s best to stick to two snacks a day. Healthy snacks could be plain popcorn, breadsticks with hummus, rice cakes or oatcakes, plain crackers with a piece of cheese or peanut butter on toast, as well as fruit pieces and vegetable sticks.

“Healthier treats could be banana bread, malt loaf, fruit jelly, fruit scones or teacakes  – and you could get your children to help make them. But again, portion size is really important, so ask them how hungry they are. If they’ve been doing a lot of exercise, they may need a larger snack than if they’ve been watching television.”

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