The title of this post is a partial quote from pediatric nutritionist Ellyn Satter. Here is the entire quote:
“The secret to feeding a healthy family is to love good food, trust yourself, and share that love and trust with your child. When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.”
The quote comes from a blog post titled Constructing Snacks into Mini-Meals on Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson’s blog, seattlemamadoc.com.
I found the article very interesting. Particularly because in our house, snacking is a bit of an issue. In fact, for my kids, snacks seem to be more important than the actual meal.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the only reason my kids eat regular meals, is because otherwise, they won’t be able to have a snack or dessert. It is like they view it as a means to and end. This is what I assume goes through their heads:
“The only way I’m gonna get the snack, is if I eat my lunch. Might as well eat the lunch, so I can get to my snack.”
And apparently, my family is the not the only one with this issue. It is a growing trend in the US.
Over the past 20 years, the amount of calories consumed by children from snacks has increased by 30%. Kids eat a third more calories everyday from snacks! What kids snack on certainly can reflect how their diet is shaped and how they grow. Plain and simple: snacks make us fatter by packing in lots of calories in relatively small bits of food, the definition of “calorie dense” foods. They also discourage our eating of things like fruit and veggies because they fill us all up. One recent study found it was our over-consumption of snacks more than our under-consumption of fruits and veggies that is getting us into trouble.
Dr. Swanson says that there has a huge shift in the way children eat and get their nutrition in the US. She highlights some examples, such as:
- The introduction of processed foods in the 1970’s transformed what we eat from fresh to packaged food
- TV advertising of snacks directed at kids increases their desire for snack foods
- The challenge for busy families to find time to sit down and eat meals together
- Watching TV during meals in households
- Ubiquitous availability (they are everywhere!) and easy access to snack foods
- It is okay to be a little hungry. Dr Grow says, “Teaching kids it’s okay to get a little bit hungry (not ravenous) and work up an appetite for a regular meal” is a healthy way to learn to eat right.
- It’s our worst fear that our kids will starve. It’s almost an instinct to offer and offer and offer food all day. Our kids won’t starve, especially if we offer 3 meals and 2 healthy snacks daily.
- Red/Orange/Yellow packaging is dangerous. These colors are known to make you hungry and eat more. Advertisers know this! Think about leading fast-food chains, junk food, candy bars and soda containers. Red/Orange/Yellow is threat level alert for high-calorie foods that often have little nutritive value.
We’ve written about snacking before on Survivor Pediatrics. In the this post, Dr. Hackell ask: with the national alarm increasing about the rate of obesity in our children (and adults as well), what message are we giving our children about eating when we provide them with a continuous stream of things entering their mouth throughout the day?
Dr. Swanson does offer a possible solution. She mentions the idea of switching the snack for a mini-meal. So, anything that we would feel comfortable eating during a normal meal, but in smaller portions.
I like this idea. Except the part about preparing yet another meal, even if it is mini. Snacks in little packages are just so convenient. But I guess I’ll give it a try and see.
To read the rest of Dr. Swason’s post, click on the link.