Do your kids ever do that really annoying thing? You've finished lunch all of 3 seconds ago and they start nagging for snacks! It's enough to drive you crazy! Sometimes it's because they've decided that lunch was in fact poisonous but more often than not, they're just bored and they equate snack with "treat".
Inside: How to structure your kid’s “healthy eating food routine” which will put an end to nagging for snacks.
Snacks are one of the elements that can make or break your great intentions to feed your children a healthy diet.
Healthy Snacks Help Turn Your Kid into a Healthy Eater
If you provide your kids with healthy snacks, it doesn’t really matter what they eat at meal times. You already know that they’ve eaten lots of healthy food. Healthy snacks can remove the pressure you feel as a parent to get your kids to eat their vegetables.
Snacks done wrong, or not healthily, have the opposite effect. Kids nag for snacks and it’s so easy to fall into the trap of letting them help themselves to biscuits. The whole packet of biscuits!
When kids eat unhealthy, calorie laden foods for snacks, they won’t be hungry for dinner, they haven’t eaten lots of healthy food during the day and they sure aren’t going to eat that moutatin of broccoli that you’ve optimistically piled on their plate.
Needless to say, that is the route to stressed parents, resistant kids and feudal meal times.
It’s a really easy trap to fall into.
I remember when my first son was little (before I embarked on “healthy healthy eating for kids”, back then it was just “yep, of course my kids eat healthily”.) We’d meet up with all our baby friends in the afternoon. True Brits, we’d have a cup of tea, out would come the biscuits, politely passed around and then left on the table for everyone to help themselves.
I’m not sure what it was about my son, he always seemed to be the first to dive right in and gobble them all up. I looked on horrified, powerless to stop him.
I didn’t know how to enforce any restrictions.
I didn’t know how to allow him to only eat one biscuit rather than the whole packet.
I didn’t know how to teach him to eat healthily.
A Healthy Eating Routine
Now I understand much more about children and healthy eating. I’ll let you into the secret. It’s actually really simple.
You have a routine. Ours, is breakfast, snack, lunch, snack and then dinner. You can make your routine fit in with your daily schedule. Whatever works for you, but it should fall in along those lines. Eating opportunities every 2-3 hours (young children especially aren’t good at going for long periods without food.)
During those times, you offer lots of healthy food options. A healthy breakfast, fruit or a healthy snack, vegetables, soup, salad for a healthy lunch, another healthy snack and then a healthy dinner.
You just offer the food. No pushing, no bribery, no “just one bite”.
You just offer the food.
If your kids aren’t hungry or don’t want to eat, don’t sweat it. It doesn’t matter. There is another healthy eating time just around the corner.
A couple of hours isn’t that long to wait for something to eat.
Hunger is the Best Sauce
Here’s the icing on the cake. If they are hungry, they will eat. OK, that statement isn’t entirely true. There are times when my stubborn son refuses to eat, even though he is hungry. He either waits for the next meal, or gets himself a carrot from the fridge.
On Thursdays my two oldest sons, Galen and Dante, do jujitsu after school. I take an extra snack for them as dinner will be a little late and I don’t want them to be hungry. Occasionally I take a chocolate biscuit as a treat. Do they eat it? Of course they do!
(Just goes to show that children, like adults will eat treats even when they aren’t hungry.)
Normally I take a pear. They often don’t eat it. That’s fine. They clearly aren’t hungry.
I know they are more likely to eat their dinner.
Don’t Be Pushed into Offering Treats
If you have decided that apple and yoghurt is for afternoon snack, don’t let them persuade you into chocolate cookies. Of course treats are allowed from time to time, but you get to decide how often.
I have to confess, I am a little sneaky. If my kids have eaten lots of healthy things at lunch time, I’m more likely to offer a treat at snack time. If they have ignored all those lovely healthy vegetables, they’ll get a healthier snack.
But they don’t know that.
Vary the Healthy Food You Offer
Mix up the food you offer. A variety of things that you know they’ll eat and new, exciting food that no doubt, they’ll reject the first billion times or so.
Keep Going with Your Healthy Food Routine
To begin with, it make take a little getting used to. You probably need to be stricter right up front.
Once you and your kids are in the “healthy food routine groove” it will come naturally. They won’t bother to ask for snacks because they’ll know it’s not snack time.
Seriously, it works a charm.
Now my children don’t nag for snacks. When snack time is approaching, they ask what is for snack. “Frozen yoghurt” I reply. They just up and down in excitement. This is our new favourite healthy snack. Just frozen fruit and yoghurt.
I am a happy mom and my children are happy children who love healthy food. They still huddle and clamour and love treats but they don’t start nagging for snacks the minute that dinner is finished.