Your kid asking for snacks all day long, but the refusing to eat meals? You may have a grazer on your hands. Learn why all-day grazing may be something you need to curb.
If your kids always seem hungry, it’s so easy to just throw a granola bar their way and go on with your day. I mean, why would you want to spend time prepping a more elaborate snack when you know they won’t eat it anyways? I get it!
It’s easier for you, AND literally I cannot think of one kid who would turn away a granola bar.
So what’s the big deal right?
You’re happy they aren’t bugging you about being hungry any more, AND they aren’t hungry any more….. right???
Or, are they just coming back to you in an hour begging for another snack?
If snacking is leading to more snacking, maybe you need to rethink your snacking strategy.
Grazers aren’t born, they are created!
Kids are hungry, and their hunger can be unpredictable. Some days they are ravenous, while others they barely eat at all. So I totally get where you’re coming from when you offer snacks to keep HANGER at bay.
The biggest problems that comes along with grazing are:
- Munching all day keeps kids at a constant level of semi-fullness.
- Which means they likely won’t be hungry for meals.
- Depending on what you’re offering, snacks may not always offer the best variety or nutritional density.
- Hence your kid constantly coming back for more food hour after hour).
- The snacks you offer may be SO GOOD your child may avoid trying new foods at meals to hold out for better snacks to come!
- Which can prolong picky eating habits!!! YIKES!)
- When snacks are left out, or easy to access, young kids may get accustomed to eating for reasons other than hunger.
- Although it’s completely natural and normal to eat when you’re bored or use food to soothe or celebrate, these habits and connections between food and emotions get carried and used throughout their life.
Grazing may be keeping your child a picky eater! YIKES!!
Most kids older than two years old, need 3 meals and 2 snacks each day. When you have a grazer it can look more like 1 good meal and 4-6 snacks eaten a day.
No wonder you feel like you can never leave the house, OR the kitchen for that matter!
Problems start to wrack up with snacks when:
- You mostly offer sweet or easy snacks.
- Things like granola bars, fruit, fruit snacks, or carbs, carbs, and more carbs.
- These foods are guaranteed to please, but can make meal times more challenging.
- Plus offering the same snacks over and over can cause food jags!
- Aren’t treated as a mini meal.
- Snacks are really just another opportunity to offer your kids food, which means snacks should still offer a variety of food options.
How to turn your all day grazer into a meal time muncher!
Offer a flexible, yet structured meal and snack schedule
Kids thrive with routine. It helps them predict what’s to come next, regulates their daily circadian rhythms, and sets their natural “I’m hungry” cues.
If you’re starting from scratch and feed your kids on a whim, setting a type of meal and snack schedule may feel daunting. It’s OK. I got you covered.
- Most kids age 2+ need to eat something every 2 ½ to 3 hours.
- Kids age 3-4 usually need to eat roughly every 3 – 3 ½ hours.
- School aged kids and older, typically need to eat something every 4 hours. (That included you too, mama!).
Of course, fluctuations, growth spurts, illness, new teeth, and daily distractions or schedule conflicts can throw some of these times off, which is to be expected. Do your best to establish a structured, yet flexible meal schedule your kids can rely on.
Not sure how much food to serve? Check out this post: How much food to serve at snack time
Know & take ownership of your role
If you follow me on Facebook, you may already know about the Division of Responsibility created by Ellyn Satter. If not, you can read more here!
Your roles are to decide when food will be offered, and what food is available at meals and snacks. AND my personal addition to this is HOW food is offered.
So, as you may have guessed, allowing your child to graze or snack randomly throughout the day takes away one of your main roles as a parent.
When this happens, kids take full advantage and make sure to ask for or take whatever food they want whenever they want it.
The only way out of the never ending snacking is by taking back ownership of your roles at meal times! Not sure where to start?
Grab this FREE guide to establishing a solid foundation for raising an intuitive eater!
Take the extra work out of snack prep
Giving kids granola bars works because it’s quick and easy. I don’t blame you! Granola bars and pre-packaged snacks are usually my go-to “throw in the purse” and head out the door in a hurry kinda snack. But, they don’t have to be the only convenient snack you offer.
The best way to always have a variety of snacks on hand is to prep them in advance. Don’t always have time to do that? Me neither!
What works for me is chopping, slicing, or dicing whatever fruit, vegetable, meat, or cheese I’m adding to supper or other meals throughout the day. I’ll put whatever extra food I prepped in containers in the fridge and grab them for easy, filling.
And voila, a bulked up, yet surprisingly convenient snack for you and they kids!
So now that you know why allowing your kids to snack all day isn’t the best strategy to raising a happy, healthy, intuitive eater I’d love to hear which step you’re going to take first the make some changes!