During my travels as a parent, it seemed that during my children’s early childhood and school-age years that snack time was all the time: It was in the car. It was in the stroller. Once, one of my daughters asked for a snack during dinner. Why? Because snacks are usually more fun than meals. To help prevent this at home, rethink what snack time means.
Make mini meals. Instead of offering crackers and hoping you can hold off hunger until the next meal, treat snacks as mini meals. Aim to serve a source of fat, protein and fiber. For example, if you offer your child crackers, add hummus or nut or seed butter (which doubles as fat AND protein) plus a fruit and vegetable.
Stop grazing. Don’t let your little ones graze. Drinking juice from a sippy cup for hours. Nibbling goldfish all morning. This crowds out appetite for varied, healthier calories. Create a set schedule for meals and stick to it. This could look like breakfast at 7 AM, snack at 10 AM, lunch between 12 and 1 PM, snack between 2 and 3 PM, dinner between 5 and 6 PM and a final snack around 7 PM.
Keep it simple. In my practice, I counsel families to make a list of their child’s favorite foods and then draw from that list the items that are age appropriate, tasty, easy to prepare and that will survive in a bag till midday. For the toddler set, finger foods rule. Serve soft items that disintegrate or are swallowed easily, such as cheese, cut fruit or unsweetened apple sauce pouches. For older children who can handle more substantial foods, it can be fun to offer teeny versions of bigger dishes, such as a small grilled cheese or different sliced up fruits and veggies. Be thoughtful about items that might spoil in the heat of a summer’s day, and don’t hesitate to ask friends what works for them.
Most of all, enjoy. Snack time is a fun time. Bon appétit!