Snacking… where’s the line?

By kate on January 23rd, 2008

I’ve been wondering about something lately and don’t really have an answer. Where do you draw the line to make sure that feeding your kids healthy snacks doesn’t turn them into adults with a life-long snacking habit?

As I am out and about with Ruby, visiting with friends, going to play centers, etc., I often see other parents giving their children snacks. It sometimes seems like a steady stream of food. Granted, it’s always something pretty healthy like Cheerios, but I still wonder what kind of habits are being developed.

Giving a toddler snacks is a natural step as they are being weaned. A baby is used to being fed every couple of hours, so they need some sustenance between meals at first. Eventually, though, as Ruby’s growth slowed, she stopped eating as ravenously all the time and I stopped giving her snacks. Now, she rarely has much between meals. An exception is if I know we’re going to have a late dinner, then I’ll give her a snack with her juice after naptime. But I don’t bring food with us when we go out, and she generally doesn’t ask for anything.

I know the other parents I see are nutrition-conscious and trying to do the best for their children. It may be that, at this age, it’s still good for them to have a snack or two a day. I’m not really sure, and parenting books are not unanimous on the subject. But one thing I try to be aware of is creating good habits, and I try to start those as young as possible. I wouldn’t want to have to wean Ruby off snacks after they’ve become an expected part of her day. It’s easier for me to skip them entirely.

Filed under: food, parenting
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5 Responses to “Snacking… where’s the line?”

  1. bz Says:

    it’s actually healthier to graze throughout the day than sit down for “three squares”

    i would hope the snacking would stay as a good thing.

  2. kate Says:

    Says who? I can understand that point of view, but I can also understand the opposite. Do you have any sources?

  3. bz Says:

  4. megan Says:

    I dunno about grazing -v- 3 squares. eating when hungry while not over-eating seems like a good goal.

    each time I come up against an eating question, I go out & I research. then I look at what MC is doing and I try to bring it in line with what is “supposed” to happen. and it doesn’t usually work and/or the power struggles begin.

    so I am learning to follow the baby. I do believe that if I get out of the way, she will self-regulate wrt eating when she’s hungry and to some extent what she should eat. so I figure my job is to be consistent – make food available at regular times, offer a healthy range at each meal, and model positive eating behaviors.

    MC doesn’t snack either. kids have different metabolisms & rhythms and frankly, I just want to stay as far out of the way as I can. my family doesn’t need a new generation of screwed-up eating habits driven by external cues and resentment. my mom actually suggested that we feed MC less (this was while still exclusively breastfeeding). it made her uncomfortable that MC grew fast and was consistently mistaken for being 3 months older than she was.

  5. sara brinton Says:

    This is an area I have a lot of opinions. Recently, I’ve been reading a book by Ellyn Satter called “How to Get your Kid to Eat.” She is a registered dietician who has 40 years experience with child and family nutrition. Her approach to feeding children is based on wisdom and research.

    She suggests that the main goal in feeding your child is for the child to learn how to be internally regulated with their eating. This means being able to recognize and respect hunger and fullness.

    To get to this point, she suggests a division of responsibility between the parent and the young child. It’s the parent’s job to grocery shop, cook, get food on the table, and make mealtime an enjoyable experience. It is the child’s job to decide how much to eat of whatever is on the table. As the child grows, it also becomes the child’s responsibility to obey the parents rules at the table.

    She suggests that most young children (and many adults) need a morning and or afternoon snack. Kids are growing and need to eat every 2-4 hours. But, snacktime should be a scheduled part of the day where the parent provides the food and the child decides how much to eat. Part of the parent’s job is to provide healthy food at snacktime in a manner that is enjoyable for the child. Then there should be no eating in-between meals and snacktime.

    We’re working towards this in our house. We found that Asher was asking almost constantly for snacks and then was not very hungry at meals. So now we have breakfast, a small morning snack, lunch, a afternoon snack, and dinner. In between meals and snacktime, the kitchen is closed. This means no “panhandling” for food (or juice or milk). I know that at least for Asher, if he does not have a good afternoon snack he is ravenous by dinnertime and pretty difficult to live with.

    Here’s a link to Ellyn’s webpage:

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