When eliminating snacks was unsuccessful for improving dinnertime, I was back to the drawing board. First, I considered our goals for dinner, and with feeding in general.
- We wanted the kids eating a well balanced diet that was adequate for health and growth. This was critical since our family has experienced chronic constipation, food allergies, and our children are much smaller than same age peers.
- We wanted the entire family to have pleasant mealtime experiences.
Since banning snacks basically created hangry children, I decided it was time for everyone (adults and children) to redefine snacks. Over the past few years, we developed poor snacking habits. The majority of the time, snacks consisted of food with minimal nutritional value. Snacking wasn’t the problem itself, the bigger issue was these foods often became substitutes for meals and the kids weren’t getting adequate nutrition. Keeping this in mind, I tweaked the snack menu.
When our typical afternoon snack time arrived, I started offering several choices that included primarily fruits and vegetables, and other sources of protein such as nuts or dairy. In the beginning, the kids were NOT pleased with these options, and often on their own volition skipped snacks altogether. On many occasions they demanded off menu items. Instead of catering to their whims, I continued offering a variety of options that included items I knew they’d enjoyed before. We have two tiered basket on the counter top that is always full of fruit (often chosen by the kids during shopping trips), and these were consistently offered as snacks. In addition, if someone didn’t eat part of a meal, and it was an item I knew they liked, I put it into lidded containers color coded by child. Leftovers could then be added to the snack menu.
After the weeks trudged on, the kids finally started trying their new snack options and enjoying them. I could not believe it when Sydney chose apples for her snack, and then gobbled them with a huge smile on her face. This was a BIG deal, people. Sydney is a self proclaimed “carnival” (e.g. carnivore) who loves to nosh meat and carbohydrates. Fruit and veggies have never been atop her preferred foods list, yet she decided apples were indeed tasty. While we were shopping, she requested grapes. This was huge for her.
During this process of redefining snacks, our snack menu is somewhat limited. At the same time, our previously enjoyed foods are not “forbidden” either. I want the kids to learn how to enjoy a variety of food and feel satisfied with some of the most nutritious foods, but to also appreciate treats. I enjoy desserts and salty snacks, why shouldn’t they?
Even with better snacking habits underway, improving the kid’s nutritional intake, my second goal was not yet achieved. The kids were often fussy at dinner, claiming to be “very hungry” then refusing to eat anything presented to them. It was not uncommon for one or more children to proclaim something such as “This is DISGUSTING!” (Thank you, Pixar for Inside Out, and adding “disgust” to the children’s emotional vocabulary.) It seemed that the kids took turns having a dinnertime tantrum so we’d experience at least one per night. Even worse, tantrums occurred even when we served favorite meals and despite the fact we told them they didn’t have to eat anything they didn’t want. Dinner was an exasperating experience most nights.
At this point, we were on the cusp of accomplishing both of the feeding goals, but weren’t quite there. Stay with me, I know many others are having similar struggles and are eager to discover what finally made all the difference in the world.
5 thoughts on “Food Revolution: Phase 2 Snacks Redefined”
Way to go for staying the course on this. You’re not alone. Eating is a perpetual problem at your children’s age! We struggled through it three times. The very best thing you can do is what you’re doing. Define what is acceptable to you and stand your ground. You’ve already seen progress with the apples revolution! My guess is they will still turn their noses up at some of what you offer on and off for the next few years, but that is more about their development than it will be about how you’re doing serving up nutritious items. They are control freaks at this age, and this is one way in which they feel in control (whether they are or not). In a few years, you will have kids that will eat what’s served to them, and check this out, NOT complain about it! In our house, if they complain, they are asked to leave the table so that the rest of us may enjoy our meal. They learn the hard way. But when they do, it’s gold! And they might…just might…choose to take a salad in their lunch box. You’re doing great!
Thank you for the affirmations! You hit the nail on the head- it’s all about control. Our complainers have been leaving the table for a while since complaints are tantrums at this age. I made one minor tweak to dinner and guess what- salad on plates with zero complaints!
I did this with our snacks, I let them have apples or peanut butter on thin spelt crackers and that was it for afternoons after school (they had a snack at school but said they were hungry when they came home). Now I got rid of the 2nd (!!) afternoon snack and made dinner an hour early and it has been better. Their afternoon snack at home is fruit, a small bowl of pretzels or crackers, and peanut butter – plain in a spoon or on a thin cracker. This is essentially a whole meal so I don’t mind if they aren’t so hungry for dinner, but I make sure this snack is 2-3 hours before dinner so that they are hungry again.
ALSO I moved bedtime back by an hour, which also seems to help. Sometimes the hanger comes from tiredness + hunger. So they are getting more sleep and eating more at meals.
ALSO also … at meal time, because I moved it back an hour I am now doing dinner by myself and I also have to manage the baby. I started pre-cutting everything and putting many small bowls and plates on the table and let the kids serve themselves. I set them up at the beginning of the meal with things like noodles, sauce, ketchup, etc, but otherwise they can serve themselves. And then at the end of the meal I realize they have eaten quite a bit. Meanwhile I can nurse / bounce the baby. I think this has helped us a lot. Though I think if I had quads instead of twins I may not put food out in lots of bowls and plates but I don’t know!
What you described is very similar to our house! Bedtime is another thing we are addressing as naps are out the door. So many changes!
So many changes yes! And I hate change! I like routine routine routine! And having a new baby is really not helping, either. She hasn’t settled into a routine yet and she is making me crazy, and I feel like I am making her crazy, because she’s tired but it’s time to take the big kids to school and she needs to wait to nap, etc.
My two dropped their nap back in June but they obviously still need it. I was doing 8/8:30 bedtime regardless and they have been so tired. Now they are in bed between 7-7:15 every night and sleeping until 7am, and seem to be a lot more awake, not falling asleep on the couch every night while I make dinner. It is tough to do early bedtime though! But it feels soooo worth it. If THEY go to bed earlier then *I* go to bed earlier, too. 🙂