After-school snacking is an important part of every child's diet. At the end of a busy and often stressful day at school, taking time to sit back, relax and refuel is essential. For you to feel that this snack is not "spoiling" your child's dinner, there are a few things you can do.
Think of the snack not as something that will spoil dinner, but rather as part of dinner, and then readjust what and how much you plan to serve -- both for the snack and for the meal. This will help you look at their daily diet more holistically. Kids need a certain amount of nutrients and calories each day, and meals and snacks added together should provide that amount. Therefore, snacks should be part of the bigger plan. If the snacks kids are eating are nutritious, healthy foods, then they don't need to eat so much at dinnertime to meet their daily nutritional requirements. And, if the snacks are wholesome foods, you don't need to be concerned that empty-calorie foods are crowding out what they really need.
How can you begin to help your kids make this transition to healthy snacking? If, for example, you are serving chicken, rice, a cooked vegetable, salad and bread for dinner but the kids aren't hungry because they have filled up on chips and sports drinks after school, you can adjust as follows:
- Don't purchase or bring snack foods into the house that you consider "unhealthy" and think may spoil your children's appetites.
- For snacks you will feel comfortable offering, choose some of the foods you were planning for dinner (or similar foods). Perhaps you can suggest some whole-grain muffins (drop the bread from the dinner menu), a glass of milk (expect them to eat less chicken) and/or pieces of fresh fruit such as watermelon, grapes or apples (your kids won't need to eat both a salad and a vegetable.).