With so many kids it feels like it is constantly time to eat. I am always bombarded with “What’s for dinner?”, “Can we have a snack?” or “I’m hungry.” It wasn’t until I had children that I even had thoughts like, “Are they eating too much?” “How many calories does my 12 year-old need?” “Why isn’t my toddler eating dinner? Isn’t she hungry?”
I have often worried about how often and how much to feed my children and have even asked my doctor about it. He basically told me that kids know their bodies, they will stop eating when they are full and ask for food when they’re hungry. We of course need to be there to teach them the correct things to eat and to make sure other factors don’t get in the way of their signals.
The American Academy of Pediatrics Handbook
states that toddler/preschool kids need to eat 3 meals and at least 2 snacks a day and school age kids need to eat 3 meals and at least 1
snack a day, this of course depends on growth spurts that may occur and also the timing of the meals. If your child is eating breakfast
at 7am but doesn’t eat lunch until 1 then they may need a morning snack as well as an afternoon snack.
Knowing this information is important, I think all too often we get used to feeding our children too much. As parents we want to nurture & sooth them, to make sure they are happy. Feeding is a major factor in how we care for our children, most of the time when your baby cries you automatically think they are hungry.
I would assume that overfeeding and boredom are just two of the many factors that lead to the problems that America has with obesity. Yes, it is tempting at “feeding time” to just set out a trough and let them have at it but this is not practical. Children need to learn healthy eating habits while they are young because they will carry those habits with them into adulthood.
Here are some healthy habits that you can teach your kids while they are still young.
Keep a schedule:
My kids are really good at “grazing.” This is when they go to the kitchen or pantry and grab something to eat every time they walk past. They aren’t hungry, they just see food and want it. It’s very important to keep a schedule of meal & snack times and to let them know this schedule. I have noticed that when I am not paying attention to how much they are eating that when we get to dinner time most of them aren’t even hungry and it seems like I cooked for nothing.
Quality vs. Quantity: The foods that your kids are eating could be contributing to how often they are hungry. Snacks should be nutrient dense, unprocessed, whole foods. If you feed your children with adequate fuel they won’t burn it off so quickly then be asking for more. Don’t think of a snack as a pre-packaged snack aisle item, think of it as a mini-meal. Not only something to hold them over until meal time but a nutritional addition to their diet.
This is a big factor in overeating in not just kids but adults as well. When we aren’t paying attention to what we are eating or how much it is easy to overindulge. Meal & snack times should be just a time to eat, not TV time, not computer time, just eating. When you actually enjoy your food you will be more fully satisfied, when you don’t realize how much you have eaten it leaves you wanting more.
Be an example: This is the most important factor in feeding children, teach by example. You can’t tell your child “No” while you are in the kitchen grabbing your 4th snack of the day. It is hard to break habits that you might have acquired when you were young but it’s time to break the cycle.
I know it’s hard and it’s a constant uphill battle. All we can do is our best and continue to educate ourselves on this topic. What would you add to this list? What are some of your go-to snacks? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.