A Family Menu for Satisfying Everyone’s HungerExercise and Nutrition
The pandemic has thrust many of us unprepared into the world of homeschooling and telecommuting. Balancing these responsibilities can be overwhelming. Not to mention the nerve-shredding stress we feel at hearing the little ones call out from the kitchen: “There’s nothing to eat!”
So, how do you keep your family eating well during these homebound times? It’s no secret that kids love to snack, and without boundaries or guidelines, snacking and meal times can quickly get out of control.
Try these simple guidelines to keep your peace of mind and everybody’s stomach happy and well-nourished.
The Parents’ Job
As a parent, it’s your responsibility to set snack and meal times. This sounds basic, but we know all too well when our little ones have devoured four morning snacks—and it’s not even 10 a.m.!
The antidote? Set regular snack and meal times. Remember, schools and daycares have daily schedules that children follow. At home, kids are more likely to push boundaries.
If they ask for a snack or complain of hunger outside the times you’ve established for snacks or meals, phrases like “the kitchen/pantry is closed” or “snack/meal times will be in 30 minutes” can do the trick. You might want to use a visual aid, like a big clock or timer.
Another key responsibility is determining what snacks and meals your kids will eat. Your children can choose what to eat, especially with snacks, but you’re the one who “sets the menu.”
For example, in my home I offer my kids a range of healthy snacks that balance complex carbs, healthy fats and proteins.
Some of my go-to snacks include:
- Small tangerine with string cheese
- Cashews and berries
- Hummus and crackers
- Apple slices and nut butter
Try to avoid asking, “What do you want for a snack?”
If your kids are like mine, fish crackers and gummies will top the hit parade. Instead, let them exercise their decision-making skills. Let them choose from a list of snack of choices you’ve assembled, not them.
For example, ask your child, “Which type of fruit do you want? Strawberries or apple slices?”
For older children, you might want to reserve a fridge drawer or pantry shelf strictly for healthy snacks that they can grab during snack time.
The Kids’ Job
Now that you’ve established regular nutritious snack and meal times, your children get to decide “if” they want to partake and “how much” they want to eat.
In other words, you’re letting your children listen to their own hunger and fullness cues. This vital and natural regulation is part of a child’s development toward learning to internally and intuitively guide their eating.
A word of caution: well-meaning parents often push their children to “take one more bite” or “clear your plates.”
Sure, we’d all like our kids to eat more vegetables, but remember how well those tactics worked when you were a kid? We should try to encourage and support our children’s food choices and habits when it comes to the “family menu.”
They may turn up their noses or complain, but stick to the options provided. The goal is to have the children develop healthy eating habits over time.
Also, you should eat the same nutritious snacks and meals as your kids. Role-modeling plays a crucial part in every child’s development.
If you’re concerned about your child’s health or weight, discuss them with your family pediatrician or a registered dietitian. The suggestions in this blog were derived from the Ellyn Satter Institute.
Have more questions about nutrition? Give our outpatient team of registered dietitians a call at 239-424-3120 to make an appointment! Virtual appointments are available.
Carrie Bloemers, RDN, LDN, is a dietitian and mom to three small boys, including a newborn. As a family they enjoy exploring the outdoors and she keeps their adventures fueled with healthy, nutritious options. At Lee Health she leads our educational opportunities to keep people healthy and out of the hospital.