veggie toddler - a young child learning how to walk and eat vegetables, not necessarily a wobbly vegetarian.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Take Back The Snack

Kids need snacks. Parents need to redefine what constitutes a snack. Don’t stop the snacking, just change the snack.  A reaction to an article featured in the Dining section of the New York Times.

Jennifer Steinhauer’s article, “Snack Time Never Ends,” tells us to end the reign of the snacks. She complains that “when it comes to American boys and girls, snacks seem both mandatory and constant.” Steinhauer then goes on to blame snack machines and the endless opportunities to eat snacks as the culprit secretly plotting against the family dinner and driving our children away from healthy food forever.

Steinhauer informs us that snack time seems to be out of control. Sure maybe so, but it is because parents have given in to junk food, not the snack. Sure kids may be over-scheduled these days but apples and bananas are just as easy to grab and eat on the go as are sodas and cookies.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids eat three meals a day as well as two or three snacks. The academy also tells us that kids actually need to eat snacks because their tiny stomachs cannot retain enough at meal times to last with energy until the next mealtime. Snacking is good. It gives us energy between meals when we start to feel sluggish and therefore puts us in a better mood to continue with whatever task is at hand.

Let’s be honest here, adults need snacks too. Isn’t it better to not over-eat during meal time but consume an appropriate portion of lunch and then have a healthy snack at 3:00 pm to keep you going until dinner? Whether you are a toddler on the playground, a first-grader at school or an adult at the office, we all get sluggish between meals and we all appreciate the opportunity to counteract our dropping energy. Just don’t cure your snack-attack with a cupcake. Why not reach for an orange instead?.

Steinhauer argues that snacks are interfering with mealtime. If she is waiting to offer snacks to her kids until they are starving and standing in front of a vending machine when its very close to dinner time, she may be right. Why not offer a piece of fruit or yoghurt before the child reaches a full sugar-low and simply walk on past the vending machine? If the parent can’t say no to junk food, why should we expect our kids to? It’s not the snack that is ruining mealtime. It is the parent.

Steinhauer describes the act of giving kids snacks as a bad habit akin to letting your toddler sleep in your bed. If a parent should find himself in a pattern of behavior that is less than ideal, why not change it? So you let your 2-year old sleep with you one too many times and now she demands it every night. Guess what, it’s time for the parent to be the adult and break the unwanted cycle. Just because you let your guard down and give in to a junk food snack request one too many times doesn’t mean you don’t have the authority to put your foot down at the next snack time.

If you give up on your child’s behavior or habits as unchangeable, where does that leave your child? Sleeping in your bed and eating junk food for the rest of her life. It’s called parenting. As parents we are expected to guide our children to make positive and healthy choices in life whether it involves sleeping or snacking. If we don’t set standards, who will?

Parents need to take back the snack and give our kids healthy food again!

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