I recently made a conscious decision to reduce my own and my kids snacks. I didn’t do it because there is something wrong with snacking, I did it because I think that we were eating too much between meals (especially in the afternoon) and weren’t hungry at main meal times, especially dinnertime. This becomes a problem when dinner is usually one of the most nutritious meals of the day and it usually contains the most veggies.
Research shows that there is no perfect formula. No one size fits all when it comes to eating. Some people thrive on three meals a day whilst others prefer meals and a couple of snacks. What works for you?
Here are a few things to remember about snacking:
See snacks as an opportunity
For our family, fruit and dairy are not usually a key feature of our main meals so we focus our snacks on these. Everyone can do with eating more veggies so a veggie based snack is great too. My kids love their grains (bread, pasta and crackers especially) and these form the basis of most of our main meals. Whilst sometimes I make them a baked healthy treat I do use snacks to balance out their eating and tend to have grains as snacks. Base your snacks around the five food groups (wholegrains, veggies, fruit, meat/fish/eggs/beans/nuts meat and dairy). Think of which food group you could eat more of and take the opportunity to include them in your snacks.
Watch the size and timing of snacks
Be careful to keep snacks, snack size. Watch the timing of your snacks so that they are not too close to meal times. If it is almost meal time, is it ok to wait till the next meal. If it is between meals and you feel hungry then enjoy a snack. When it comes to our kids, we want them to come to the table hungry (but not starving) and ready to eat, especially at dinner time which can often be a tricky time.
Remember: enjoying meals and snacks is not the same as grazing. We want our bodies to experience both hunger and fullness. This is important for kids too. Constantly eating doesn’t allow the body to go through the hunger fullness cycle which is important for mindful eating.
The changes I have made to my family recently: smaller snacks and I aim for not snacking within 1.5-2 hours of meal times. If we are having an early dinner or had a late breakfast, we skip the snack, especially when I know meal time is just around the corner. If my kids are famished, I do let them snack on the veggies I am cutting up for dinner (I figure it’s dinner anyway).
Do you have a healthy snack to share? A smoothie, veggie sticks, fruit and plain yoghurt mixed with frozen berries are common in our house.