I've noticed a phenomena in feeding children that I'd like to call the "Twix'n'Chips test." Here's how it works: when considering a food item for a child's snack, the adult compares the food item to a bag of chips or a piece of candy. The adult then decides that the item is not as bad as either the chips or the candy, and so they allow the item to pass as a healthy snack.
Strangely, the Twix'n'Chips test doesn't usually apply the same way to meals. Adults have largely decided, it seems, that meals should contain meal items and snacks should contain snack items. So for snacks, kids eat mixed-berry fruit leather, which has some vitamins in addition to its enormous sugar content and chewy candy consistency, and Veggie Chips, which have carrot flour somewhere on the ingredient list. Then at meals, parents try to convince kids to eat actual real berries and carrots, and the kids don't.
After a hundred repetitions, the parents can begin to lament that their kids are terrible eaters.
I propose a solution: when assessing if an item is a healthy snack food, adults should apply the exact same rules they apply to deciding if an item is a healthy dinner food. Not "How does this compare to candy?" but "How does this compare to my signature roasted cauliflower with cheese?" And if the item doesn't stack up as a healthy dinner food, it's not healthy.
I'm a pretty big fan of Dina Rose, who has both a blog and a book that are good reading on the topic of nutrition and feeding kids. She breaks down the categories of foods as "really good for you," "not too bad," and "junk." Generally, American parents tend to feed their kids mostly from the middle category, assuming that really good and not too bad foods can and should be grouped together. But if we want our kids to eat and enjoy foods that are really good for them, it makes more sense to group not-too-bad and junk together. So so any given day we are choosing either a piece of chocolate birthday cake or a whole wheat muffin, rather than both with the justification that the muffin's not too bad.