This season, your kids (and likely you as a parent) are in the house more than ever thanks to revised school schedules, canceled sports seasons, and limited social interactions. That means now more than ever, your kitchen has likely become snack time central, allowing easy access to whatever is stocked in the fridge or pantry. If you’re concerned about your child’s snacking habits or hoping to avoid food boredom as the months of life-at-home wear on, keep reading for some important nutritional tips around snacking at home.
Make a list of ‘approved snacks’
There’s a fine line between letting your child have autonomy in the kitchen and letting them roam freely through your pantry. Research has found that without parental intervention, snacks tend to get sweeter and less healthy. And another study found that when children had many snack options available, they tended to eat more than if they only had a few choices. While you probably don’t want to install a lock on the freezer door to block your fifth grader from getting into the ice cream mid-morning, you can create an ‘approved snack list’ that gets prominently displayed in the kitchen so your child knows exactly what’s snack-able and what’s not. Depending on the age of your child, creating a specific snack station section in the kitchen where healthy options are stacked for easy, anytime access might keep the household running smoother.
Check in on hunger cues
Children struggle to understand their own hunger cues, or more simply put, kids have a hard time knowing when they actually feel hungry, since they’re so used to being told when to eat. With this in mind, avoid having food out in plain sight. One study showed that younger children who are consistently exposed to food may end up struggling with overeating and obesity, and won’t learn to read their own hunger cues. So rather than keeping food set on the counter, put it away in the pantry. Research done at Brigham Young University also showed that the number of calories children eat post-practice tends to far exceed the number of calories they burn while playing. Try to have your child tell you when they are hungry rather than asking if they are ready for a snack.