by Jean Saunders, HSC School Wellness Director
According to researchers at the NPD group, fruit is the favorite snack food of children under six, followed by cookies, milk, crackers and juice.
"Kids younger than ten are motivated to choose foods in large part because they're perceived as fun and they want a treat or reward," said Harry Balzer, NPD vice president and food industry expert.
This comment goes a long way to explain the ways that adult behaviors can influence kids’ snack preferences – too often away from fruit and toward less-healthy snacks. If kids are given candy and cookies as rewards, they’ll begin to prefer those over the fruit they would otherwise naturally choose. If adults are shocked when kids want fruit – and if we comment that junk food is a fun treat – then kids’ interest in fruit is likely to dwindle.
Balzar goes on to say, "Kids account for almost one-third of all consumption of snack-oriented, convenience food products. Among those products, fruit is the top choice consumed by kids, but consumption frequency for fruit declines markedly as children age."
In her article in Food Navigator, Laura Crowley summarizes the NPD study which shows how kids’ snack preferences have changed over time.
As the parent of an eleven year old, I know that it’s up to me to help stack the odds that my son has plenty of fruit and vegetables in his diet. I have to make sure that it’s easy for him to snack on fruit. I’ve made it hard to miss the basket of fruit on the kitchen table and have strategically placed cut-up fruit and veggies in the refrigerator. With his desire for increased independence, it’s important for him to have the opportunities to make choices – and up to me to make sure that he chooses among tasty, healthy options.