Did you know that 99.9% of Australian children get at least one too many foods a day? This is an interesting stat, which means that whilst children are offered too many snacks they are either eating food they don’t need (quantity) or not eating food they need (quality= home cooked).
Children are born with a capacity to self-regulate food intake. By offering snacks constantly we may affect their capacity to self-regulate. When this happens children will simply eat more than they need. For most children however, eating extra snacks means that they will not be hungry at mealtime, so they will not eat foods that are less gratifying.
What can we do?
We can preserve the gift of self-regulation children have by making sure we only give food if children are hungry.
How do we do this?
We look at having around 3 hours between meals with toddlers and older children. We offer all meals and snacks at the table. Not in the car, not in the street, not in front of a screen. We make it a real occasion to eat so our child is eating mindfully (and I mean this in the simplest of ways, no need to meditate).
- breakfast 7am
- fruit snack 10am
- Lunch 1pm
- Afternoon snack 4pm
- Dinner 7pm
What happens then?
Ghrelin the hormone hunger will be in tune with the routine you have set up for meals. Kids will be happy to sit down to eat, they will eat well!
What about snacks at school
Some parents I work with sometimes remove morning snack if meals are too close to one another. As for children who attend school, I think a morning snack is justified because lunchtime is rushed. I have written more here about lunchboxes (it comes with a printable to help you make lunchboxes easier).
I hope this makes sense for you. More than about quantity or quality it is about when you feed snacks!