It can be challenging to establish a regular meal routine and keep the house stocked with fresh food when homeschooling. If your family is snacking excessively, here are five ideas to curb all-day grazing.
As homeschoolers, we often face the problem of our kids eating us out of house and home! We wonder how they could possibly still be hungry when day after day, they are constantly running to the kitchen, scavenging the cupboards and pestering us for something to eat.
“Snacks are very important for kids to meet their nutritional needs,” says Michelle Routhenstein of Entirely Nourished. “If they are asking for a snack, the likelihood is that they are listening to their body, and it should be honoured. However, the type of snack and the macronutrient balance is important. When you provide them with a snack, make sure it is well balanced so that they don’t ask for another every 30 minutes. A well-balanced snack is key to avoid the 10–30-minute snack grazing throughout the day.”
Below you will find five tips for parents dealing with kids who just want to snack all day long and may not be finishing their meals because they are so full of snacks. And remember, these tips certainly don’t just apply to children; you can also implement them for yourself (or your spouse) to stop the all-day graze.
create a routine
Kids crave a routine. Growing children should be eating every two to three hours, and by providing a predictable routine, they will know when to expect their next meal or snack. A typical meal routine should include three main meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and one or two snacks, typically between meals.
If your child comes to you looking for a snack, remind them when the next meal will be, but try to remain flexible – if they are hungry earlier than usual, adjust your routine for that day. Snacks are a necessary part of children’s diets but remember that you’re the one in control. Whether you stick to a rigid routine or keep it flexible, taking the guesswork out will help cut down on all-day snacking.
prep available snacks for the day
We love the idea of daily snack boxes. Take a little time in the evening or morning to prepare a daily snack box for each child (and adult!). Try to include a variety of choices: salty, crunchy, soft, healthy, a treat, etc. Keep the snack boxes easily accessible so that each child can help themselves to a snack when they feel they need one.
Once the daily snack boxes are empty, snacking for the day is over. It might take a few days for children to figure this out, but if all their snacks are gone by 10 am, they will quickly learn how to pace themselves throughout the day. Include your child in the preparation to help them feel even more in control of their available snacks.
create well-balanced meals
For breakfast, lunch, and dinner, do your best to create full, well-balanced meals. Children are likely to remain full for longer and feel satisfied after a well-balanced meal. Even if you have fussy eaters, do your best to provide food from all food groups to help present well-balanced plates. Proteins and fats are the best options to keep children full for longer. Try not to reserve certain foods only for snacks – if they are “special” snacks, they may request them more frequently throughout the day. If snacks are just mini-meals, they might not seem as enticing, but they will help keep them full until their next meal.
Brenda Zane, a Mayo Clinic Certified Health and Wellness Coach says, “If your kids want snacks all day, it might mean they’re eating too many “empty” calorie snacks (i.e. fruit snacks, juice, chips) which then leave them hungry again an hour later. If you’re working toward just a couple of snacks during the day, the key is to sneak in fibre and protein. That will keep them full longer and won’t give them up and down moods from blood sugar fluctuations. Some simple ideas would be a good, old-fashioned standby like peanut butter on celery, a hearty trail mix (with less chocolate chips and more nuts!), roasted chickpeas (so many fun flavour combos to create!) or some chia pudding.”
provide enough activities to stay busy
Are you a bored eater? I sure am! And many kids likely are too. When kids aren’t sure what to do with themselves, it’s easy to wind up in the kitchen looking for something to eat, even when they don’t feel hungry. Providing enough activities to keep your children busy will keep them engaged, and time will seem to pass quickly. Remember to keep a routine so they have a snack or meal-time provided before too much time has passed but stay flexible – it’s not worth breaking up engaging play or learning time for a snack break if it’s not necessary.
Dehydration can present itself as hunger. Make sure to offer your children water throughout the day to make sure they are staying hydrated. If they come to you for a snack, offer them a glass of water first – they may find they aren’t feeling as hungry anymore after a good drink. If you stay on top of water consumption – especially if your children are spending a big portion of their day outside playing in the sun – dehydration is less likely to occur. Children are less likely to recognise that what they perceive to be hunger is really just their body needing water.