5 Ingenious Tricks to Stop Your Family From Snacking All Day Long
With everybody stuck at home during quarantine, many of us are facing kids eating us out of our house and home! We wonder how they could possibly still be hungry when day after day they are constantly running to the kitchen, scavenging the cupboards and pestering us for something to eat.
"Snacks are very important for kids to meet their nutritional needs," says Michelle Routhenstein of Entirely Nourished. "If they are asking for a snack, likelihood is that they are listening to their body and it should be honored. However, the type of snack and the macronutrient balance is important. When you provide them a snack, make sure it is well balanced so that they don't ask for another every 30 minutes. A well balanced snack is key to avoid the 10-30 minute snack grazing throughout the day."
More: 6 Ways to Keep the Kids Active While Social Distancing
Maybe you’re worried that they aren’t finishing their meals because they are so full of snacks. Or perhaps you’re struggling to keep enough food in the pantry with the whole family home. Below you will find five tips for parents who are dealing with kids who just want to snack all day long. These tips certainly don’t just apply to children, you can implement them for yourself (or your spouse) to stop the all-day graze.
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Create a Routine
Kids crave a routine, and quarantine has their whole schedule thrown off. You know they aren’t spending all day at school snacking, so what changes when they are home? Growing children should be eating every 2-3 hours, by providing a predictable routine they will know when to expect the next meal or snack. A typical meal routine should include three main meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and one or two snacks, typically between meals.
If a child comes to you looking for a snack, you just have to remind them when the next meal will be. Stay flexible, if you feel like they are hungry earlier than usual, and adjust your routine for that day. Snacks are a necessary part of children's diets, but remember that you’re the one in control. Whether you stick to a rigid routine or keep it flexible, taking the guesswork out will help cut down on the all day snacking.
Prep Available Snacks for the Day
We love the idea of daily snack boxes. Take a little time in the evening or morning to prepare a daily snack box for each child (and adult!) with their available snacks for the day. Try to include a variety of choices: salty, crunchy, soft, healthy, a treat, etc. Keep the baskets easily accessible so that each child can help themselves to a snack when they feel they need one.
Once the daily snack baskets are empty, snacking for the day is over. It might take a few days for children to figure this out, but if all their snacks are gone by 10am, they will learn pretty quickly how to pace themselves throughout the day. Include them in the preparation to help them feel even more in control of their available snacks.
Check out this example:
Create Well Balanced Meals
For breakfast, lunch, and dinner, do your best to create full well-balanced meals. Children are likely to remain full for longer and feel satisfied after a well-balanced meal. Even if you have picky eaters do your best to provide food from all food groups to help present well balanced plates. Proteins and fats are the best option for keeping children full for longer periods of time. Try not to reserve certain foods only for snacks, if they are “special” snacks they may request them more frequently throughout the day. If snacks are just mini-meals they might not feel as enticing, but they also will help keep them full until the next meal time.
Brenda Zane, a Mayo Clinic Certified Health and Wellness Coach states that "If your kids want snacks all day it might mean they're eating too many "empty" calorie snacks (i.e. fruit snacks, juice, chips) which then leave them hungry again an hour later. If you're working toward just a couple of snacks during the day the key is to sneak in fiber and protein. That will keep them full longer and won't give them up and down moods from blood sugar fluctuations. Some simple ideas would be a good, old-fashioned standby like peanut butter on celery, a hearty trail mix (with less chocolate chips and more nuts!), roasted chickpeas (so many fun flavor combos to create!) or some chia pudding."
Here is an example from a mom on Instagram:
Provide Enough Activities to Stay Busy
Are you a bored eater? I sure am! Which means many kids likely are too. When kids aren’t sure what to do with themselves it’s easy to wind up in the kitchen looking for another thing to eat, even when they don’t feel hungry. By providing enough activities to keep your children busy, they will likely be engaged and not realize how quickly time passes. Remember to keep a routine so that they have a snack or meal time provided before too much time has passed, but stay flexible, it’s not worth breaking up engaging play or learning time for a snack break if your child truly doesn’t need it.
Dehydration can present itself as hunger. Make sure to offer your children water throughout the day to make sure they are staying hydrated. If they come to you for a snack, offer them a glass of water first, they may find that after a good drink they aren’t feeling as hungry any more. If you stay on top of water consumption, especially if your children are spending a big portion of their day outside playing in the sun, dehydration is less likely to occur. Children are less likely to recognize that what they perceive to be hunger is really just their body needing water.
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Jennifer is currently working for a US-wide health care system, Jennifer has worked professionally for 13+ years in the fields of early education and leadership, including in the role of Director with the international edu