I’ve been thinking a lot these days about the issue of control in the kitchen.
I’ve always been a believer in Ellyn Satter’s philosophy that parents decide the “when, where and what” of meals and snacks, and the kids decide whether and how much to eat. That translates into three meals a day, plus set snack times in which the parent decides what’s served (although choices might be offered, of course).
My kids are usually ravenous after school and when they were younger (and I was a much better parent) I had a snack ready for them — usually cut-up fruit and something a little more substantial, like baked corn chips with melted cheese, hummus or guacamole, a bowl of cereal, or, if I was really on my game, a homemade, whole-grain-and-fruit muffin.
These days, though, we’re all a lot more rushed, plus my kids are older and more autonomous. They often drop their backpacks and head straight to the pantry, while I yell impotently, “No cookies!” ”Have some fruit with that!” The result is that the nutritional quality of snacks has gone down in my house (although our baseline is still OK — you guys know me well enough by now to know that we’re not stocked up with Flaming Hot Cheetos, Twinkies etc.)
On the weekends, too, there’s more of a push by my kids to just graze at will, which I try to curb given that we still eat three set meals a day — e.g., if we’re going to dinner on at a restaurant, I don’t want everyone snacking up right before we go. Similarly, I’ve also been getting into struggles with my son who has a tendency lately to profess extreme, life-threatening hunger about 30 minutes before dinner is ready, but who has always been skittish about fruits and vegetables. Sometimes he’ll grudgingly take my offer of a few banana or apple slices, but other times he refuses (yet still pesters me at the stove for some carb-heavy snack he’s pulled from the pantry, which makes for a delightful late afternoon.)
All of this pressure from my kids is making me feel much more like a rigid Food Cop than I ever did before, and I’m wondering if by now, when my kids are 8 and 10, I ought to be loosening up the snacking reins.
I took an informal poll on the Lunch Tray’s Facebook page about how snacking goes in your house, and thought I’d ask the whole readership. Let me know your thoughts and feel free to also leave a comment if the poll responses don’t fit your situation.