A Mom Says, Just Leave the Snacks at Home!

A few months ago, I shared on Facebook and Twitter a terrific piece in Parents magazine about how today’s kids are being offered food more often than ever before.  Written by Real Mom Nutrition‘s Sally Kuzemchak, “The Snack Epidemic” reported that:

In the late 1970s, the average kid between the ages of 2 and 6 ate one snack a day between meals, but today kids typically eat almost three . . . .  Obesity experts now believe that the frequency of eating, not just bigger portion sizes, is also to blame for the uptick in calorie intake for kids and grown-ups alike.

Potato chipsI think these findings jibe with the observations of many parents.  Even those of us who get annoyed when our kids are offered junk food by others might admit to engaging in some “over-snacking” ourselves, such as always carrying around a packaged snack (healthy or otherwise) to ward off crankiness or boredom — but not necessarily hunger — when we’re out with our kids.

In light of all that, today I’m sharing this post by blogger Karen Perry, urging parents to take kids to the playground without bringing any snacks along at all!   Radical!  

While Perry believes kids need to work up a healthy appetite before meals, she’s really arguing for a return to a time when kids were less hovered over by parents generally.  (And given that thesis, it’s no surprise that I learned of Perry’s post via Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids, to whom I owe a hat tip.)

What do you think of all this, TLTers?  Do you agree that kids are “over-snacked,” even when the offerings are healthful ones?  Or do you think frequent eating is no big deal?  Let me know in a comment below.

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  1. says

    Thanks for including my piece in this post Bettina! I think we moms start bringing an arsenal of snacks with us everywhere during the toddler years, when embarrassing public meltdowns could be avoided by a well-timed banana. But it’s easy to go overboard and start carrying around way too much. I used to put a small box of raisins in my handbag in the event of real hunger–and sometimes I still throw some apples in there if we’re heading on an outing. But I totally agree that kids should be allowed to work up an appetite and that it’s okay for kids to feel empty-belly hunger too, especially if they’re heading home for a meal. But I would advocate for bringing a water bottle for your child if there’s no water fountain on the playground. :)

    • Bettina Elias Siegel says

      Sally: I think that’s exactly right. It starts in the toddler years when gentle reasoning about building up an appetite for dinner is just not going to cut it! LOL.

      But I find that even now, with an 11- and 14-year old, sometimes it’s hard for my kids to accept the idea that it’s not just OK but actually desirable to be really hungry before a meal, and that no one is going to “die” of hunger if they’re forced to wait it out a bit. For that same reason, it’s hard to stop them from inhaling the basket of chips at a Mexican restaurant, or the bread basket at other places, with an eye toward saving room for the entree.

      In this regard, I did find Karen LeBillon’s French Kids Eat Everything instructive, as she describes how the French abhor between-meal snacking and promote the idea of building up a good appetite before meals.

      At any rate, you know I love to get your insights on this topic, and thank you for commenting here!

  2. says

    I say bring the fruits and vegetables to have at the ready when kids get hungry. Parents should use hunger to their advantage to train young taste buds.

  3. Heather says

    I carry something the kids don’t necessarily like but will eat if they are truly hungry (I remember my mom saying if you aren’t hungry enough to eat raisins you aren’t hungryenough to eat before dinner). What I have noticed is my kids don’t even notice the lack of snacks compared to their peers but the other parents often react as though I am abusing them by not feeding them every hour.

  4. says

    Hi Sally,

    Thanks for the “shout out” on your blog. I am so glad to be even a tiny little a part of Lenore’s movement. I will definitely be checking in on your site regularly and will spread the word. LOVE it!


  5. Emily says

    My husband and I tried something new with our DS10 this year and placed him in a Montessori school in hopes of harnessing his intellect and giving it legs. Hasn’t happened, but that’s another story. What we have seen is him go from a healthy weight to packing a little belly, because They Give These Kids Snacks Every Day! Yes, these 4-6th graders get a “healthy” snack every day between 9-10:30am, assigned and at the discretion of a single parent for each week. I cannot tell you how frustrated I am to learn that, at 10am, my son had a packaged rice krispie treat and a juice box, and had not eaten the healthy, real-food lunch I pack for him every morning. It’s enough to make me fume!

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