Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The United States of Snacking

my snack of choice...if, that is, I were a snacker...

I'm not so much a "snacker"... Sure I'll nosh on a handful of nuts, a few olives, maybe a sliver of cheese if I'm having a late dinner or (being totally honest here) if they're readily available, but I don't actively seek out snacks. I'm pretty much a three square meals gal...bare bones. I know, I know, snacks are healthy, they keep your metabolism going, ensure you don't get too hungry and eat like a deranged lumberjack during meal-time.

But I'm still not that into them.

My girlies on the other hand (you knew this was coming) are obsessed with "snacks." In fact, I'm not sure they really even eat meals at all. I think their caloric intake pretty much consists of a steady stream of snacks. All day long.

I am not happy about this.

Now in all fairness, some of this is out of my control. Audrey's school's kindergarten lunch time is (wait for it) 10:30...in the morning(!), and I think this somehow throws off her meal-time clock all day long. She doesn't like breakfast (I know...it's awful, I've tried everything), so her first meal is at 10:30. Then come the snacks. There's the 1:00 snack, the 3:30 snack, the 5:00 snack, dinner (which is pretty much a big snack) and then a small before bed snack.

Snack overload.

We roll pretty healthy, so snacks are usually fruit...my kiddos go through bananas, strawberries and blueberries like it's their job + some protein. We do lots of yogurt too. But still the snack thing is rather disconcerting. There has to be a better way.

To further stress me out, I just read this NYTimes article about the never-ending snack time.

So what do you think? How do you handle snacks? To snack or not to snack?

30 comments:

  1. hmmm, interesting article. my kids rely on snacks far to much, i like to snack but largely when i am kicking around the house...the kids want to eat all day and it drives me bonkers...at age 6, 8 they expect to eat snacks from after-school until dinner and then don't want to eat a meal. arg.

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  2. Hmmmmm...it's a tough one, Jos. I think different people eat differently, too. And you can change as you grow. As kids, we were big grazers, especially on the weekends. My dad gave up on giving us breakfast and lunch and instead just prepared a big plate of fruit, veggies and nuts that would sit out on the coffee table. This way we could run around and play and then snack when we got hungry. We didn't overeat because the food was good but not exciting (no cookies). Kids are little, so it seems like they can never eat much at one sitting. Maybe it's better for them to spread it out a bit.

    As I've gotten older, the snacking has slowly reduced. I eat slightly larger meals instead.

    I tend to think that it isn't so much snacking vs. square meals as it is what you're eating, regardless of when. Kids snacks tend to be not so great, which is what the NYT article seems to be emphasizing. But your girls get nice healthy foods, so they should be okay.

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  3. Oh, and training them to be self reliant is key. The rule in our house always was that meals were provided but if we didn't eat what was available then we had to find an alternative ourselves (and clean up afterwards). I could cook scrambled eggs by the time I was six and I always knew how to make a sandwich. So we weren't putting our parents out constantly.

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  4. I'm a big snacker myself. It just doesn't make sense to me to put a whole lot of effort into a detailed lunch for myself when I can just grab something quick. The problem is that quick usually is also less healthy. I haven't found any fresh, pure foods that are filling and speedy-quick on prep time. Any tips?

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  5. never been a snacker really. love the idea of sitting and snacking on nuts and berries but am too busy to think about snacking. ya know?!
    but I sure eat my meals to make up for that missing snack.

    :)amy

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  6. i really don't think there's anything wrong with children grazing throughout the day. their stomachs just aren't that big. like another poster said, as long as what you are eating is quality, the time of day doesn't seem incredibly important.

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  7. I am an RN in an ER, so I work every shift imaginable. I have had to learn to snack to survive. We are busy, so there is not always time for a MEAL, but I can grab a yogurt or a string cheese. If I do not, then I can eat an entire pizza after 14 hours without food. However, when I am on vacation or a long stretch off, I revert back to 3 squares...
    My kids are much like yours and SNACK ALL DAY! It is exhausting really.

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  8. I am a grazer. I don't tend to eat three meals a day. I guess you could say I eat small meals [snacks really]. But I keep them healthy. My kids are snackers too. but I agree with the other gals, your girlies are eating great food. no need to worry about how many times.

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  9. On the snacking note: I was looking at Food Rules and one was "no food in front of the TV" (which is one of our rules anyway) "except for fruits or vegetables." So for an experiment, while my kids were watching Clifford while I got dinner ready, I sliced an apple, did not peel it, and just put them in front of them. And without a word, they each ate every single bite. Even without prior "snacking while watching" experience--they just automatically put whatever was in front of them in the gullet.
    I'm trying other things they won't eat next!

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  10. I have one kid that would snack every 45 minutes if I let her. The other? a 3 squares kind of eater. I do know that they eat very early lunches at school, so our family dinner time is a little too late for them. Since it can't be moved up due to work schedules, I make a plate of fruit and raw or steamed veg, and I let them snack on that before dinner time. By dinner, they've gotten full servings of veg into themselves, so dinner often focuses on protein and good carbs.

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  11. I don't see anything wrong with snacking, especially if it's healthy food. I think the problem starts when kids (or adults) are regularly snacking on processed food. If the contents of a well-rounded meal are divided into smaller quantities, then that sounds like major success to me!

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  12. i am a grazer by nature. my 3 year old doesn't eat at alllllll unless its breakfast. but he'll eat 3 bowls of oatmeal, a bowl of yogurt, fruit, and OJ. its ridiculous...i cannot for the life of me get him to eat the rest of the day...so, of course, he's starving by breakfast. vicious cycle. then, my 15 month old really likes 3 square meals...and so does my husband. we've got wacky meal habits in this family, i guess!

    tiny twig

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  13. I think kids all go through cycles. My 3 year old daughter has decided she doesn't want meals and prefers snacks instead. She goes to school in the morning and I can maybe convince her to drink a glass of milk, has a snack at school and then comes homes and has 2-3 snacks before dinner (which since she has become extremely picky about her food choices is usually a snack!).
    I don't push it too much. I've talked to her doctor and he said as long as she is healthy and making healthy food choices. And she is, we also go through blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, kiwi, apples, pears, bananas faster than I can keep them in the house. She'll drink milk and her protein is either cheese or bread with peanut butter. I have been getting her to eat salad (I cut strawberries into it).
    I offer her whatever is planned for that meal and we both know that if she chooses not to eat it, her replacement has to be a healthy choice.

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  14. You should do whatever works best for you and your family. If the snacks are healthy then you shouldn't worry. Their habits will change over time. I am loving your blogs, btw.

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  15. I wouldn't worry about the breakfast thing. I never liked breakfast as a kid, but I do eat it now. And I think a big factor in the snacks vs. meal thing is whether they are snacking because they are hungry, or because they are bored and the food is there. If they are eating healthy foods when they are hungry, and not eating when they aren't hungry then it all sounds good to me.

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  16. This sounds like it could even be healthy. I'm always reading that the best way to go is to eat five small "meals" per day.

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  17. My 3 1/2 year old has been snacking since day 1. Seriously, even when I was nursing, he was constantly snacking! And that has continued. We've never sent him to bed hungry- we let him eat when he's hungry. Heading over to read that article now...

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  18. Interesting discussion...particularly since I've been putting together a handout for a cooking lesson I am doing this weekend for 18 children/tweens/teens on (drum roll): healthy snacking! The way I am having them think about snacking includes:
    - Think of snacks as part of your overall diet-- everything you eat in a day. So, for example, if you do not tend to eat fruit at bfast/lunch/dinner, then snacks are a chance for you to get fruit down the hatch;
    - I am also encouraging them to think "rainbow" when choosing snacks: making sure their snack is a couple different colors;
    - Then there's the reminders of short ingredients lists on prepared foods, making sure you recognize all of the ingredients in that list, and the Pollan-inspired "would your grandma have recognized this as a food?" question...

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  19. What works for my family: Serve a light fruit snack in the afternoon, such as grapes. Then when hunger strikes before dinner, a bowl of carrot sticks or red pepper rings. Unless she fills up on carrots because she's starving, my youngest usually still has room for a bit of dinner.

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  20. Lately I've been feeling guilty about how I seem to spend all of my time doing laundry or in the kitchen. But what other choice do I really have when I'm getting snacks or meals ready so often? I guess I'll get to spend time with kids when I'm a grandparent.

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  21. Hi!
    Here in Spain we don't have the same schedules: we have a good brekfast when we wake up, then a fruit or light snack in the mid-morning, have a strong lunch quite late for your standards (somewhere between 13.30-15.30) another mid-afternoon snack (at around 18h) and then a light dinner quite late too (between 21-22h). With kids times vary a little, cause they have everything earlier, but the outline it's the same, five meals per day. Núria

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  22. I wish I didn't snack. It was how I was raised though and I can understand the frustrations you feel. Snacks are a big part of our culture, so I imagine it is hard to work around when your kids are in school.

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  23. for me i dont think that grazing throughout the day is the problem...its the content of the food. honestly the meas that i grew up on were far unhealthier than the snacks i serve my kid. id rather have her snack on apples, fruit smoothies, yogurt, carrots, hummus, etc than the hamburger helper, fries, and veggies drenched in velveeta cheese that i had frequently as a kid. blech.

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  24. Our family snacks. We eat breakfast together around 8am then a morning snack around 10am. We eat lunch around 12 noon and after naptime/ schooltime everyone gets a snack, usually around 4pm. I serve dinner at 6pm and no snacks after that. Our snacks are usually muffins (I bake a batch and freeze them individually in plastic wrap), fruit in season, crackers and homemade hummus, goldfish, homemade oatmeal bars, etc. I keep a "snack drawer" in the pantry with packaged snacks in case we will be out and about (we throw them in my purse). The kids know they have to ask before getting something to eat. I think my kids would be HORRIBLE if I didn't let them snack, because they would be starving. Sometimes they go through those frowth spurts and just need more food, but they self regulate really well. They don't overeat and are ranking perfectly on the growth scale. Kids tummies are small and they need snacks, just healthy ones.

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  25. 好熱鬧喔 大家踴躍的留言 讓部落格更有活力.........................

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  26. I agreee with Jessica: "I think a big factor in the snacks vs. meal thing is whether they are snacking because they are hungry, or because they are bored and the food is there. If they are eating healthy foods when they are hungry, and not eating when they aren't hungry then it all sounds good to me."

    Also, I think the idea I have with my kids is that they are eating because they are hungry... sometimes we have had to get up out of bed for a snack and the few times I've not "believed" the request and have offered disliked foods, it is eaten up readily.

    I think I want my girls to know I trust them to know their appetites and I want to trust myself as a parent not to read articles like the NYT article that, although interesting, seems part of the FEAR JOURNALISM TREND that's so prevalent and so boring.

    Maybe because I have much bigger fears, like how am I going to support my kids, or how can I afford bills and etc., that I don't worry too much over stuff like this... it is too easy for me to fret over stuff that doesn't matter a whole lot and ignore bigger issues in our lives.

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  27. Same problem here: School lunch is 10:30 for Michael and 11:30 for Leah. They have an early afternoon snack, a late afternoon snack and then [hopefully] some dinner. It drives me crazy because I want them to eat what I cook. Like you, the snacks are fruit and yogurt, so "healthy" but can preschoolers really live off a steady diet of fruit and yogurt???

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  28. i support snacking!!! it means less DEVOURING when you're famished. here are some great snacking ideas by Real Simple. http://rabbitfoodrocks.blogspot.com/2009/07/smarter-snacking.html
    i guess the key is to not have the super unhealthy stuff available... right? then again, i'm not a mom yet, so i don't know!
    i guess if i was a mom, i would allow 2 snacks a day. mid morn and late afternoonish...and it can be used as an incentive..."if you don't eat your broccoli then you can have snack tomorrow." ??

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  29. fascinating discussion. To me, snacks are to meals what naps are to nighttime. So I try to limit snacks/naps so that the meal/nighttime is when the real eating/sleeping happens.
    If I'm not sure if my kids are really hungry or just bored or even thirsty, I offer something unvarnished like plain fruit or veggies. If they're hungry, they eat it.
    My kids are just 4 and 2, not really in the world that NYTimes was referring to yet. So I don't know - maybe this will all change next year when my girl goes to preschool.

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