I have one of those kids, the kind who wants to snack all the freakin’ time. He always eats three regular-sized meals, and yet it seems he is still constantly hungry all day, every day. I have to pack snacks for the car, for the grocery store, for the park….I honestly can’t leave the house without food in my bag. I’ve become a slave to his snack attacks.
Because he has been like this for as long as he’s been alive, I’ve had a few years to think about and research what “healthy snacking” really means. In other cultures, it seems snacking is almost non-existent, while in ours, it’s almost assumed to be necessary for survival. When he was a baby, I always followed his lead, hoping to instill healthy eating habits and self-regulation from the start. I wanted to avoid potentially damaging power struggles over food and hopefully end up with a kid who was willing to eat pretty much anything. When he was a little older, I read some advice about feeding your child that really resonated with me. It went something like, “You decide what and when, and they decide if and how much.” Except there was one problem – I could never enforce the “when” part of the equation. I’ve tried setting consistent snack times and it just doesn’t work for him, or any of us for that matter. The meltdowns and stress it causes just isn’t worth it. But the downside was that I felt like at any moment he could request a snack and I’d have to drop what I was doing and figure out what the heck to feed him next.
I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out a solution that worked for both of us. Every morning I spend 15-20 minutes preparing his snacks for the day. I’ve designated shelves in both the fridge and the pantry that he is able to access himself and bought extra containers that he is able to open and close without my help. Now when I hear, “Mama, I’m hungry!” all I have to do is reply, “you know where your snacks are.” I no longer spend half of my day in the kitchen preparing food on a whim, and he has gained self-sufficiency and a stronger sense of control. The key is making sure I provide healthy food that I’m fine with him eating as much of as he wants. I also try to include some treats, and it only took him a day or two to realize that if he ate his favorite things first, he’d be disappointed later in the day.
Below are some photos of typical “fridge snacks” that he gets to choose from. I try to always include fruit, veggies, and protein, but obviously some days are more well balanced than others. The Wean Green containers (the ones pictured below with the colorful lids) have been working out really well for us.
I’m so glad I figured this out before our new baby arrives next month, since I’ll have even less time (and patience) to deal with snack related whining throughout the day.
I’m so curious to know if this is a problem for other moms, and what you’ve figured out to make things work best for your family.