Photo: M.Al-Qatam (flickr)
If your kids are anything like my kids, they love grazing the pantry for snacks. After school, before dinner, and before bed are all optimal times for snacking in our household (if we allowed the kids to snack when they wanted to).
A Dysfunctional Eating Pattern
Recent news on childhood obesity is not good and snacking plays an important role in this epidemic.
A recent issue of the journal Health Affairs contained findings from an interesting study by Barry Popkin, a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. The study found that American children are developing a “dysfunctional eating pattern” of eating three snacks a day plus three meals per day.
This habit, along with inactivity, contributes to the growing rate of children who are obese. Susan Dentzer, editor of Health Affairs, posed an interesting question “Is this child abuse?”
Teaching The Art of Healthy Snacking
As parents, we must educate our kids on the art of healthy snacking.
In an effort to teach my own kids how to make healthy eating decisions, we have opted not to give the word “snacks” a negative connotation in our household. My husband and I made the decision to ensure that we have mostly good and just a few not-so-good snacks available.
The best way I have found to help my kids eat healthy is to make an attempt to plan our meals and snacks. Our current food system does not allow for an easy way to get healthy, affordable snacks/meals. Incorporating the healthy snacks into the kids’ routine has been a gradual process.
What my husband and I have found is that you do not want to force your kids into eating only healthy foods. This can be a real turn off to the kids if they are use to having some junk food in their diet. When they are not around you, they may make some very bad eating choices just to spite your efforts in keeping them healthy.
The more beneficial approach is to provide options – choices that still give them the ability to decide what they would like to eat, but to limit the choices to primarily healthy, with a few (very few) unhealthy items.
We also spend a great deal of time talking with our kids about why they should choose the healthier item over the selection that is not so healthy.
This is the same approach used with adults. It is hard for most adults to cut out something that they love completely. So, gradually make the positive changes and it will eventually become a way of life.
4 Steps To Healthier Snacking
Parents have the power to take these necessary steps:
- Cut back on the number of snacks your child is eating per day. Make sure that your snack selection includes fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Eliminate juices. Unless the juice/juice box is 100% real juice than it is really providing wasted calories.
- Limit TV time. Kids have to get back to playing out side and not playing video games and watching TV.
- Join in with your kids in this effort. Do what you are telling them to do? Who knows, you may also improve your health in the process.
Excellent Snack Choices For Kids
- An apple a day is said to keep the doctor away.
- Individually packaged veggies that they can easily grab out of the refrigerator.
- Sweet potato chips
- Yogurt (from Earth Eats: How To Make Your Own Yogurt At Home)
Read More: The 20 Best Snacks For Kids (parents.com)