Forming healthy habits for our kids is what parenting is all about. And how we train our children to feel about snacking is no exception. In some cultures, snacking is almost entirely prohibited. The French, for instance, commonly only allow their children to snack once a day; whereas, in the U.S. it is common for children to receive around three snacks per day.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. Snacks stave off hunger, and therefore. irritability. Kids are such busy little bees; an occasional snack can help keep their blood sugar levels up. At the same time, it is important for kids to understand that though hunger can be uncomfortable, it can be tolerated until the next meal.
At the end of the day, whether you decide to introduce snacking or not to your child’s eating schedule depend on your personal parenting style and what works best for your child as he or she grows. But, if you do decide to put snacking on the menu, these are the things you need to know.
Have a routine
Seeing snack time as a regulated affair is important for ensuring that casual eating outside of designated mealtimes doesn’t become the norm during adulthood. It is this sort of behavior that leads to obesity and other diet-related illnesses such as diabetes.
Generally, leaving a couple of hours after a meal before a snack is offered is a good idea to promote a healthy appetite at breakfast, lunch and dinner. This also prevents kids from gorging at mealtimes. No eating one hour before bedtime is also best to ensure a good night’s sleep. Just as with adults, small, regular portions are best for a healthy diet.
Location is also key. If you have a designated table where the kids eat, ask them to sit there with clean hands to enjoy their snacks. Find a space in the house where there are few distractions. Snacking on the couch or walking from room to room encourages mindless eating, which leads to regular overeating.
Offer Healthy Snacks
There are tons of ideas out there for healthy snacks. Of course, your choices will largely depend on your child’s preferences and what you have available in your cupboards! Here are a few adaptable ideas to get the creative juices owing:
Chunks of low fat cheese and fruit such as grapes on a pretzel stick make for a totally edible, healthy snack, which is a good source of calcium and one of the recommended five daily servings. (Plus, the fact it’s on a stick makes it more fun!)
Homemade Popsicle Smoothies
Blend bananas, strawberries and some frozen yogurt or low-fat milk and freeze it in a popsicle mold for a handy snack that will instantly cool the kids down as well as providing good sources of vitamin C, potassium and calcium.
Bell peppers, cucumbers and carrot sticks dipped in peanut butter, hummus or cottage cheese will keep the kids hydrated and get them used to a wide range of avors. Little eaters who are encouraged to try new foods make for less anxious adults!
Avoid Unhealthy Snacks
We all make the mistake of forgetting liquids can be as calorific as solids, and that’s certainly the case with carbonated drinks, and even some juice boxes. Check the ingredients, or you’ll pay the price when your kid is bouncing off the walls in the 10 minutes that follow!
When it comes to hydration between meals, stick to water. You might also consider having several snacks to hand which are naturally hydrating too. Watermelon and cucumbers are great examples of this.
If your kids get used to reaching for Hershey Bars every time they feel hungry, they will grow into sugar-fiendish adults. Make sure sweet treats are reserved as a treat only, and be sure to check the sugar content of any foods you plan to include in your snacking ritual.
You could mention this rule to their school or kindergarten teacher, as well. These days, it’s rare for schools to freely dish out sugary snacks, but if the teachers know it’s something you personally want to avoid, you’re one step ahead of the game.
The trouble with fried foods is that lethal combination of sugar and fat which once tasted, is utterly irresistible! Think of a couple of food groups that give your children sustenance, such as dairy and fruit, and create a snack that gives them the goodness from both. The kabobs, mentioned above, are a great example of this.
Spare a thought for snacking when making your grocery shopping list and include a snack planner on your fridge door as a reminder of what you have planned for the coming week. You could also involve the kids in creating new snack ideas by buying key ingredients and experimenting with different avor combinations. There are also heaps of printable templates online to help make a structured snacking system which puts you in control of your child’s health.