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Last week, I hosted a playgroup at my house at 10 a.m. About
a dozen moms with their children showed up and almost every single one of them
I was holding a sleeping baby on the couch, so I watched in
amazement as one child toddled around with an entire pack of whole graham
crackers (before they left, the mom nicely offered to sweep up the floor since
there were crumbs EVERYWHERE). Another child never let go of his bag of
goldfish crackers. My 2-year-old daughter stepped on an apple slice one child
had dropped in the middle of the playroom floor. There were sippy cups on every
A few families didn't even pause in the family and play room
before heading directly to the kitchen to plunk down at the table and pull out
their bags of snacks.
I could have started a small store with the amount of food
that came into my house that morning.
My girls eat one small snack (something like a muffin or
maybe a few apple slices with peanut butter) after naps, but that's it. I
wouldn't have even thought to bring snacks to an event that was just before lunch.
I'm not a huge stickler about mealtimes and eating, but my
girls basically know there won't be a snack between breakfast and lunch, and
they generally eat what I serve at meal times without complaint because there
won't be other options.
I've personally heard many of these parents tell me about
how their children are picky eaters or refuse to eat what is served at the
meal. After this two-hour snack bonanza, I wasn't a bit surprised. Who would
want lunch if you've just eaten an applesauce pouch, a bag of crackers, veggie
straws and a cup of milk?
We aren't talking about starving to death—I'm just suggesting letting your kids work up an appetite so they can actually enjoy their next meal.
Meal times become a huge struggle because you want you child to eat what you made, but they aren't even hungry, so their willingness to try something new is basically non-existent.
I also don't want my kids to be terrified of being hungry. It's OK to feel a little bit hungry in between meals. We aren't talking about starving to death—I'm just suggesting letting your kids work up an appetite so they can actually enjoy their next meal.
So can we just maybe calm down the snacking? I know the food
industry is pushing snack foods like crazy (and making billions of dollars
doing so), but I'm so tired of all the negative side effects.
It means that food, not playing or socializing, are the main
attraction on outings. If we go to a park, it wouldn't even occur to them to
ask for a snack–they're busy running around and having a good time. But if
every other kid is eating a snack, suddenly my girls want to eat, not play,
even if they aren't actually hungry.
Plus, snacking is expensive and messy. The car seats become a graveyard for
dried-out fruit snacks, your purse holds half a cup of cracker bits, and the
crumbs all over the house are just begging bugs to come join your home. When
you eat a meal at the table, the mess is more contained and can be picked up.
And let's not forget that snacks tend to be heavily packaged and thus terrible
for the environment. They're not usually not that great
for kids either—full of chemicals, preservatives, salt and sugar at worst, and just
nutritionally void at best.
The non-stop snacking also means that I'm put in a lousy
position as a parent. I don't want to bring snacks along every time I leave the
house (I don't want to buy them, I don't want to pack them, I don't want to
discard the packaging, and I don't want to feed them to my kids), but when we
go somewhere with other kids, my children are begging for a snack because they
are literally the ONLY child at the playground not being fed a constant stream
of snack foods in between slide runs.
Invariably a well-intentioned mom offers my child a snack, and my options are either to let my children mooch of someone else's food or
offend everyone by telling my children that we don't snack between meals, so
that they'll be hungry for lunch or dinner when we get home.
Let's save the 24-hour all-you-can-eat buffets for the
cruise ship. There's no reason to have it be a daily occurrence.