Picky eater or not, suffice to say, most kids love snacks. There’s nothing wrong with eating healthy snacks of course, the USDA recommends snacks for toddlers and big kids alike.
Yet if your kids are constantly snacking all day, they may be getting more calories than they actually need, not to mention it’s not a good habit to get into. Snacking is meant to bridge the gap between meals, yet kids (and adults) often snack because they’re bored, tired, or dealing with tough emotions.
This is especially true if your kids are home all day or out of school for the holidays, vacation breaks, and during the summer.
Snacking all day is something I often face with my kids on the weekends, especially if we’re stuck in the house because it’s raining or snowing. They may ask for something healthy like a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts, but sometimes it’s hard to know if they’re actually hungry or not.
The good news is that there are ways to prevent kids from snacking all day. Here are 8 to try.
1. Teach Kids About Hunger Cues
My kids may be too young to completely understand how to recognize their hunger and satiety cues, but I still bring it up to prevent them from snacking all day.
I try to remind them that if their stomachs are growling, then they’re hungry. And if not, they have to find something else to do until they really feel that hunger.
I also take into consideration how much time there has been between meals when deciding whether they need a snack or they can wait. If I’m wrong, it’s not a big deal—they’re not going to starve.
2. Keep Them Moving
Studies show when kids are at home and have more opportunities to graze, they gain more weight, even during the summer months when there are more opportunities to be outside playing.
In fact, a June 2014 study in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease suggests kids gain more weight during summer vacation than during the school year. One of reasons is an increase in sedentary behaviors like playing video games or watching TV, according to the study authors.
The key to preventing kids from snacking all day is to make sure they’re active, whether that means putting them in camp, going to the public park or pool, or playing music and having an indoor dance party.
3. Beat Boredom
Like my kids, I bet yours have a room full of toys but still complain they’re bored. It can be frustrating to get your kids engaged in an activity but whether it’s painting, a game of Twister, or putting away the laundry, finding ways to combat boredom can get their minds off food.
4. Stay Hydrated
Hunger can often mistaken for thirst so drinking plenty of water every day can help prevent kids from snacking all day. If your kids snub plain water, add slices of cucumber or strawberries for a healthy hint of flavor instead of allowing sugary drinks which can make them crave more sugar and ask for snacks.
5. Have Regular Meal and Snack Times
When kids are home for vacations, there’s less structure overall which can encourage mindless munching, eating at erratic times throughout the day, or skipping meals, which can cause kids to eat too much at the next meal.
Do your best to stick to a schedule of regular meal and snack times but build in some flexibility if you decide to take an impromptu trip to your favorite ice cream spot, for example.
6. Build Balanced Meals
If your kids’ meals lack nutrition, they may actually be hungry and ask for snacks.
To ensure they’re getting healthy, balanced meals that help promote satiety, keep their blood sugar steady, and give them energy, focus on a combination of protein, fiber and healthy fats. For example, roasted vegetables, beans and some avocado.
7. Put Healthy Snacks On Display
To prevent kids from snacking all day on processed, packaged foods, cut up fruits and vegetables and store them in clear containers in the refrigerator. Or set aside individual portions of smoothie ingredients for a quick and healthy snack. If your kids still snack all day, at least it will be on something healthy.
8. Make Snacks Together
Cooking or preparing a snack with your kids can ensure you have something healthy on hand and help the day go by a bit faster.
Take a trip to the library or the bookstore or look online for healthy, delicious snack recipes. Go shopping together for the ingredients and then make a large batch to last all week.