Objective There remains a lack of consensus on what distinguishes candy (i.e. features sugar as a principal ingredient, also called sweets or lollies), snack foods, and foods served at meals; therefore, this study examined characteristics elementary-aged children use to distinguish between these food categories. Methods Participants were children aged 5–8 years (N = 41). Children were given 39 cards, each containing an image of a common American food (e.g. ice cream, fruit). Children sorted each card into either a “snack” or “candy” pile followed by a semi-structured one-on-one interview to identify children's perceptions of candy, snack foods, and foods served at meals. Verbatim transcripts were coded using a grounded theory approach to derive major themes. Results All children classified foods such as crackers and dry cereal as snacks; all children classified foods such as skittles and solid chocolate as candy. There was less agreement for “dessert like foods,” such as cookies and ice cream, whereby some children classified these foods as candy and others as snacks. Specifically, more children categorized ice cream and chocolate chip cookies as candy (61% and 63%, respectively), than children who categorized these as snack foods (39% and 36%, respectively). Qualitative interviews revealed 4 overarching themes that distinguished among candy, snack foods, and food served at meals: (1) taste, texture, and type; (2) portion size; (3) perception of health; and (4) time of day. Conclusion Children categorized a variety of foods as both a candy and a snack. Accurate measurement of candy and snack consumption is needed through the use of clear, consistent terminology and comprehensive diet assessment tools. Intervention messaging should clearly distinguish between candy, snack foods, and foods served at meals to improve children's eating behavior.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Nutrition and Dietetics