Is your child always asking for snacks throughout the day? Does it seem like he or she is always hungry?
Like many parents, you may feel like you are constantly fielding snack requests.
There are 2 main reasons why your child might be hungry and asking for snacks all day long.
Problem # 1: There is too much time between meals and snacks.
Solution: Set a predictable DAILY schedule for all meals and snacks.
Preschoolers and toddlers need to be given a meal or snack every 2 to 3 hours and elementary-age kids every 3 hours.
Instead of giving your child a snack whenever she says she’s hungry, stick to your daily schedule and tell her that the kitchen is closed right now, but it will be time to eat soon.
Important note: If dinner is running late, however, do give your child a small snack to hold her over until the meal is ready. For example: apple slices, a granola bar, carrots, etc.
Having a set schedule will help your kids feel calm and safe. Plus, it teaches them how to tune in to their internal cues of hunger and fullness.
For example, by knowing that a meal/snack is close by, they can learn how to feel their hunger without panic. Also, if they are too full to eat, then they can confidently pass on the meal knowing that they’ll get another opportunity to eat in a couple of hours.
Problem # 2: Snacks and meals are not substantial enough.
Solution # 1: Always include protein, carbohydrates and some fat at every meal and snack.
For example: Apple slices with cheese and pretzels, baked chips with hummus, or trail mix with a fruit smoothie.
If they choose not to eat any protein and fat, they may – or may not – be hungry soon after. However, they will learn through trial and error what their bodies are craving.
Solution # 2: Serve enough familiar food so that your child can fill up.
Familiar food is food that your child already knows and likes to eat. It is NOT a recipe that they tried just one time.
When kids have plenty of familiar food to fill up on, they relax and feel safe, knowing that they won’t starve.
Feel free to include new foods as well. However, always make sure there are more familiar than new foods available.
Studies show that when parents serve both familiar and new foods, kids end up trying the new foods more readily.
Their natural desire to grow and experience new tastes and textures get activated, and they feel safe to reach out and try them because they have the familiar foods to fall back on.
Separately, serving plenty of familiar foods allows your child to tune in to his or her cues of hunger and fullness.
Serving a small amount of food will make some kids will feel anxious and experience a false sense of hunger.
However, serving a larger amount in the center of table (rather than on their plate, which can cause them to feel pressured to overeat) gives them the feeling of abundance.
They will feel comforted knowing that there is plenty of food available and that they can eat as much as they’d like without any pressure.
Sometimes, your child will be hungrier than you expected them to be, while other times, they’ll have a small appetite. Instead of guessing, simply prepare enough food for them to decide.