This is a guest post by Anne London, MS, RD.
Summer snacking problems can be a common frustration for parents. After all, summer is a time for long days at the beach and pool, camps, cookouts and time with friends and family. With it comes less structure and more activity, which can throw the meal schedule into chaos and lead to snacking problems. I’ve got the solutions to the most common snacking problems I see in kids. With these solutions, you will be able to use summer snacking to your advantage!
Remember, snacks help round out the nutrition requirements for children who are young or very active and cannot meet energy needs in three meals (1). Snacks can contribute up to 25% of calories for children, so it is important to try and make them count nutritionally. (1) It is well worth your effort to make snacks a nutritious addition to your child’s summer eating.
Read on for five solutions to 5 summer snacking problems:
Problem #1: Using snacks as rewards: Last week, my six-year-old went to a soccer camp in the morning and was given Starburst candies. Then she went to swim team practice in the afternoon, and was given more candy. From there she went to a tennis clinic where the coach gave each player a lollipop. Seriously? I can almost guarantee high fives all around and an enthusiastic cheer would be way more exciting than candy. These are “reward snacks” that do not add to kid’s nutrition, and can ruin kids’ exercise. I’m all for everything in moderation, but not like this. Our kids really do play for the love of the game, not the love of the snack.
Solution #1: Work together to decrease “reward snacks” including eating one food to get a reward (more broccoli to get ice cream) or participating in an activity to get a reward. Research shows that children learn to love the reward and not like the trigger.
Problem #2: Lack of structure: Summer is often more relaxed and less structured which can lead to all-day-snacking.
Solution #2: Keeping a structured meal and snack schedule in the summer is critical. If kids begin snacking all day long, meals are lost, and hunger and satiety signals become fuzzy. Like all food service operations, your kitchen can have hours of being open and closed. Plan snacks so nobody gets too hungry, but don’t let the snacking go on. Children are supposed to feel hunger, eat to feel satisfied and wait to feel hunger again. Listening to internal hunger cues is crucial, and having structured meals and snacks promotes this.
Problem #3: Bags and Boxes: Your children always want chips, crackers, cookies and nothing else for snacks.
Solution #3: Summer is a great time to experiment with new fruits and vegetables. Try to engage your snackers and get them involved by making yogurt parfaits. Or, take the kids to a farmers market, and let them pick new things to work into snacks. Try to include two food groups together in snacks – more like a “mini-meal”, such as nuts and fruit, veggies and dip, almond butter and apples, which are more nutritious and satisfying than a bag of crackers alone. Here is a list of 51 snack ideas to try with your child.
Problem #4: Active kids are starving: Kids are often more active in the summer. They come in like a pack of wolves with voracious hunger, sniffing out any snacks they can get their hands on in the fridge and pantry.
Solution #4: Be prepared. Be prepared. Be prepared. Have cut raw vegetables and dips ready. This is the best time to serve vegetables – when kids are hungry. Have snacks prepared at eye level in the fridge for easy access. Make snacks visually appealing to entice children.
Problem #5: Drinking your snack: Your kids are thirsty and would rather drink their snack with a sugar-sweetened-beverage.
Solution #5: Offer foods with high water content and avoid sugar sweetened beverages. Get your snacker to help make popsicles with pureed fruit, smoothies, spa water, and fruit kebobs.
Photo Credits: Petite Nutrition
Anne London MS, RD is a pediatric and family registered dietitian who works with children and families to develop healthy eating habits for life through her practice and blog Petite Nutrition. (Photo Credit: IRIS Photography)