Tamara Duker Freuman is a registered dietitian who recently wrote an article all about snacking and kids. It’s true that when we think of snacks, we think of children and all the products that line the shelves of the grocery store at their eye-level. These snacks and the copious amounts of them that our children are eating have together added an estimated 182 more calories to their day as compared to past decades.
On the one hand, young children have smaller stomachs than we do, and snacking can be a great way to facilitate that. It also gives us more opportunities to expose them to nutritious foods, since studies have shown that children need repeated exposure to the same food before they’ll even consider trying it. On the other, too much snacking, particularly on calorie-dense products, is likely contributing to the obesity and diabetes epidemics now affecting our entire nation, both young and old. Over-snacking may also lead to more food refusal at meals if kids aren’t given ample time for their hunger to return.
Come to think of it, doesn’t that last sentence apply to us all? Have you ever been cooking dinner, grabbing bits and pieces from the meal or some open bag of chips as you go, only to realize that you’re completely full by the time you put the real dinner on the table? I hear people talk about that all the time. So you see, this article may have been about snacking versus grazing in the context of children, but in reality, we’re all vulnerable to this eating pattern.
So what can you do about it? Repeat after me: “there’s no such thing as ‘meal food’ and ‘snack food’.” Children are taught before they reach adolescence to draw a firm line between what is appropriate to eat for a meal, and what is appropriate between meals, but they aren’t born with that concept, and therefore neither are we. Rather than turning to a 100 calorie pack or handing your child a package of corn syrup-sweetened fruit snacks (translation: fortified candy) mid-afternoon because the media tells you that’s what you should be eating between lunch and dinner, what about hard boiled eggs, roasted chickpeas, or veggie- or fruit-packed mini muffins? Think of snacks as exactly what they are – mini-meals – and try to keep that same distribution of protein, calories, and fat that you’d put into a regular meal, just scaled down to be lower in calories.
There’s nothing wrong with the occasional granola bar or bowl of popcorn; it’s more about abolishing our preconceived notion of what we “should” or “should not” be eating at any given time of day. There’s no such thing. It’s about eating food – real food – and embracing every bite.
What are your favorite non-snack snack foods?
Jessica Serdikoff is the chief blogger behind Floptimism, a blog where Jessica shares deliciously inspiring recipes and tales of life as a nutrition student. Follow Floptimism on Facebook and Twitter.