Do you have an open pantry policy? If your kids are constantly raiding the fridge for snacks or begging for food between meals then this blog is for you.
Feeding kids outside of planned meal and snack times is an easy habit to fall into. Perhaps you can relate to one of these scenarios:
The time-poor family
You’re working your way through a foot long list of tasks to complete before lunchtime. Before you know it Master 4 is irritable, over-hungry and it’s not quite time for lunch. Let’s be honest, it’s easy to miss a snack time with small children who need to eat regularly (every 2-3 hours). Your dilemma is whether to grab something less nutritionally desirable on the run which will likely spoil their appetite for the next meal or wait it out. We don’t like to see our kids hungry. It’s our job to feed them, right? So we give the food.
Schedule meal and snack times approximately 2-3 hours apart. If there’s a chance you’ll be out, pack some nourishing snacks to take along with you. If you forget a meal or snack and your child is ravenous, bring the next meal forward a little and make the best nutritional choice you can depending on where you are (out, home, at Grandmas). You might need to adjust the timing of meals that come after to compensate.
I see a lot of families who struggle to get their kids to eat at the table. They’re distracted, they wander away, and the food is left for the flies. Then, 10 minutes after the meal has been cleared away little Miss 3 is begging for a biscuit. I know you’ve been there!
If your child is easily distracted at meal times, find ways to make it engaging for her to stay there. Let her help you lay the placemats and cutlery out. Spend 5-10 minutes (or less for babies and toddlers) sharing the meal with her. She will learn more about food and eating from spending 3-5 minutes eating with you than a week of eating solo. Keep meal and snack times short. Kids usually do their best eating in the first 5-10 minutes of each meal or snack.
Kid-sized tables are often not the best option for family meals. They’re usually the right size, but they’re really easy for kids to run away from and parents rarely share this space with their kids to eat because kiddie sized chairs are SO low and not all that comfy for big-people legs! In short, they don’t encourage families to eat together, though they are great for play dough and craft time. Bring your kids up to the family table or be prepared to get down at their level. Take the opportunity to nourish yourself and your child at the same time. You both deserve it.
The “always hungry” or “never hungry” kid
Some kids have big appetites and some have small. Parents of kids with big appetites often try to control their child’s intake to get them to eat less while parents of the child with a small appetite do everything possible to get them to eat more, whenever they can. Both parents are heading for food battles.
Regular, planned, reliable meal times are essential for both the always hungry and never hungry kid. Allow kids to eat as much as they need to feel satisfied at these times by including foods that contain food from 2-3 different food grousp at each meal or snack. This means offering more than a piece of fruit. Teach your child that once they leave the table, the meal or snack time is over. 2-3 hours is not a long time to wait for more food and it teaches kids to tune into their body cues of hunger and satiety. Children can be taught this from a very young age. Doing this helps kids grow to get the bodies they were meant to have.