I don’t know about you, but it seems like my kids are hungry ALL. THE. TIME. It’s frustrating, as a parent, to always feel like I’m churning out meals and snacks. But, the truth is, it’s normal for kids to be hungry so often. Young kids need to eat every 2-3 hours to maintain energy levels, while older kids can stretch it out a big longer.
My youngest, who just turned five, is a definite snacker. She always has been, even when she was nursing. It’s just her style. She eats lots of little meals and snacks, every couple of hours. Never a lot of food in any one sitting, but she’s at her best — physically and mentally — when she has a semi-constant source of fuel entering her body. When her energy tank gets too low, she’s a bona fide hot mess.
She’s healthy, naturally on the thin side and eats more than her fair share of fruits and vegetables. So, it’s not her constant desire to eat that’s a problem. It’s being ready to feed her all the time that’s a challenge for me. And, because she’s such a snacker, I have to be careful to not just toss her a bag of crackers every time her hunger bell rings. Sure, that would be easy for me, but it wouldn’t be doing either of us any favors in the long run.
The key is, I need to make sure she’s getting enough protein, healthy fat and fiber to really fill her up and nourish her body in the best way possible.
One thing that has been really helpful is to constantly have a snack sampler ready to go in the fridge. A ‘snack sampler‘ is just my fancy way of saying, a bunch of foods on a plate. The snack sampler saves us every time any one in our family needs an energy boost. Like, when the kids come home from school or camp famished.
Here are a few tips to make a good snack sampler:
Choose foods with vibrant, contrasting colors. We all eat with our eyes, and kids are especially drawn to lots of colorful foods on their plates. The more colorful foods on our sampler, the more likely my kids are excited to dive into it.
Group foods into little sections. Kids are still learning about foods, so it helps them to keep things sort of compartmentalized. This is why kids sometimes freak out if different foods on their plates touch each other. It’s too confusing and upsetting. So, when assembling your snack sampler, keep all the grapes together in one bunch, the peppers in another bunch, and so on and so forth.
Balance food groups. I always like to aim for at least three different food groups. Such as, a fruit, a vegetable and a healthy fat or protein.
Fill it out with a basic favorite. It always helps if there is a guaranteed favorite on the plate. Crackers and nuts fill that spot in our home, but yours may be baby carrots or something else.
Now I’d like to hear from you: In what way does your family snack smarter?