Don’t you hate it when your child doesn’t eat the snack you prepared and then begs for a different snack?
Parents struggle with this stress everyday. It leads to catering (which never works), endless food preparation that exhausts us, and as one mom told me, “I don’t have time to do anything else because my entire day is driven by snack requests”.
When I was dealing with this issue with my own son, I came up with a 3-step snack system that helped me make the best snacks – every time.
It’s a foolproof system that I still use everyday. I can make snacks in less than two minutes, and know with complete confidence that my son will love it and that I’ve done a great job with nutrition.
Like most parents, I used to focus solely on what to serve for snacks. What you’ll find out is that the actual food is only one component to creating amazing snacks for kids. I hope my snack system helps you as much as it’s helped me!
Number 1: Include protein, fat and carbs
Protein and healthy fats help kids feel full between meals and snacks. So, it is really important that we provide – but, not force them to eat – these options at every snack.
Here are three of my son’s favorite snacks (see bottom of article for 7 more!):
- Nutzo sandwich on sourdough toast, strawberries, orange slices
- Trader Joe’s pretzel bagel with cream cheese, mandarins
- Organic popcorn, cashews, small piece of dark chocolate
When we allow our kids to pick and choose how much they want to eat from what we’ve served, they will learn – on their own – how to self-regulate their eating.
So many college kids gain weight because they have no practice listening to their bodies’ cues of hunger and fullness because mom or dad always told them what and how much to eat.
Number 2: Make it bigger than you want to
I typically use this Smart Planet bento box for my son’s snacks. Things like popcorn will be put in the main compartment and filled to the top. Fruit may also be put in the main compartment, with a blueberry muffin and a few cubes of cheese in each of the other two smaller compartments.
When kids have enough food to choose from, they can relax and feel comforted that they won’t go hungry, even if they don’t eat a lot. They will feel a sense of abundance, and they will be learn how to self-regulate their eating much more readily.
Plus, as much as we think we know what our kids need, they are really the experts on how hungry they really are.
Please note: kids need to make lot of mistakes with eating before they learn their bodies’ limits. Expecting this will help you understand that it’s a normal part of the process, and something that you don’t need to “fix”.
Number 3: Give more favorites than new foods
Many parents subscribe to the belief that “if kids are hungry, they’ll eat anything.” I have been guilty of using this tactic in the past, however, today, it makes it cringe.
The only sure-fire thing this tactic does is to make kids feel manipulated and totally anxious. They feel threatened by hunger, and then they are left with terrible choices: either eat something they hate or go hungry. Lots of kids choose the latter.
The more nurturing and helpful approach is to let our kids try new foods when they are ready, and to provide them with comforting options along the way.
As promised, here are 7 more complete snack ideas:
- Chocolate peanut butter banana bread, raisins, pear
- Mango Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Popsicle, strawberries, trail mix
- Healthy Rice Crispy Treats, roasted pumpkin seeds, apple slices
- Baked corn tortilla chips with guacamole, baby carrots, cashews
- Cubed cheese and grapes skewers, pretzels
- Vanilla bean muffin, a few Trader Joe’s Nutty Bits, grapes
- Peanut butter and Honey Chewy Granola Bars, fruit
A quick warning: all 3 steps of my snack system must be applied for it to work. Some parents think that they can start with one step and see improvements, which doesn’t work.
Trust me, save yourself the heartache and implement all 3 steps at once.
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