I belong to a large mom’s group that posts a variety (everything from baby gear tips to restaurants for a date night and anything in between) messages, questions and comments. Someone shared this article in the New York Times about kids and snacks. It is a great read and hits home for many parents – myself included. When does snack time end?
Some days it seems I’m in the kitchen all day preparing meals and then snacks between. And like the writer, I too am faced with all the requests for snacks to bring to occassions. However I don’t mind, most of the time, because it means something healthy will be there. If left to someone else, I don’t know what my kids will snack on. Yes, it’s a control thing for me. Knowing there are dietary restrictions and allergies, I have an arsenal of appropriate snacks. But I also get lots of questions for ideas for snacks and know it’s hard to get creative (that’s pretty much why I wrote my latest book).
However I understand the writer’s frustration with snack time being all day long for some kids. Because of this I have started to limit things I have to eat in my own bag. (No need for nuts and dried fruit and apple slices and cheese and mini sandwiches) . I too want my kids to play and engage, not sit on the sidelines and eat snacks. But I see the triggers. When my kids are at the park and see other kids eating they’ll ask for something. Food is social. Food can also be comforting for kids (adults too), and they’ll ask for a snack if in a new surrounding and are not yet ready to join in a play. It can also be a distraction or help with boredom (especially when they ask for food in the car). So if we’re only out for an hour or so, or if they’ve just eaten, I only bring water.
This brings me to my next point. They won’t starve. I meet so many parents that say “but they’re hungry”. This gets out of hand as some parents give snacks after dinner (and even dessert) or get manipulated into becoming short order cooks because kids don’t want what’s offered for dinner. That’s the way it goes. As my mom would say “like it or lump it”. Sorry if that sounds harsh.
I try not to think of “snack” as a bad word. The connotation of snack has somehow become a bag or box of something eaten on the run, when I like to think of it as a mini meal – fuel to help kids going thru their active lives. If I can find time to cut an apple and spread it with sunflower butter or peel a banana, why can’t another parent. Why always go for prepackaged snacks with additives, preservatives and empty calories? And yes, the billions of dollars spent on marketing unhealthy snacks is appalling. But let’s stand our ground. If eating healthy is something that’s important to your family, teach kids about healthy food choices and bring something healthy, that they like. Go ahead and pass by the vending machine and other offerings. No, it’s true you may not be the most popular parent, and believe me it does sometimes get uncomfortable.
But if you offer a healthy snack then does it really matter if dinner is spoiled? When my kids say “I’m hungry” and I’m in the middle of making dinner, I pull out some carrots, edamame and hummus. If they truly are hungry they’ll eat it. But if they’re bored and just looking for something from the pantry (i.e. crackers, rice cakes etc) they’ll say “Nevermind, I’ll wait for dinner”. And if they fill up on the veggies and don’t eat much at dinner, they had some good food.