As we head into the dog days of summer, I’ve noticed a theme popping up more than usual: snacks!
Less structure (like summer break, the end of camp, vacation) somehow always means more snacking – despite your best efforts.
If you’ve been noticing endless echos for “SNACKS!!” and more cries of “I want a snack,” “when is the next snack,” “can you make me a snack?” it’s not just you.
(It’s happening at my house, too.)
Let’s get a handle on this summer soundtrack and find a plan for how to handle the endless requests for snacks.
In this article we’ll explore different ways to handle (and even capitalize on) snack requests from your picky eater.
Why Does My Picky Eater Love Snacks?
The short is that snacks are easy! They’re engineered to be tasty and craveable.
Picky eaters, in particular, appreciate the “sameness” and reliability of snacks. They always know what to expect.
Finally, snacks just aren’t a big production like mealtime. They can eat on-the-go or eat without needing to pull away from whatever activity they were engaged in before.
Are Snacks Actually a Problem for Picky Eaters?
I know that sometimes it’s exciting to hear that your child wants to eat! Especially if your child is a super picky eater. When you’re just so elated that they’re actually showing interest in food, it can be easy to accommodate their request.
But giving in to every demand for a snack and letting your child graze throughout the day on the things that sound good to them can backfire.
When this happens, you may start to notice that their hunger only seems to appear between mealtimes and that even though they never seem to want what’s on the dinner menu, they’re always game for the snack that comes after.
Snacks, Picky Eaters, and Hunger
Here’s the thing: when kids munch on snacks throughout the day (even when we grownups munch on snacks throughout the day), they’re always in that weird limbo stage between hunger and fullness. They’re never really hungry enough for something “real” yet always seeming to want more of something “easy” (ie something less nutritious).
This is where snacks get tricky!
Add to that the fact that mealtime foods tend to be harder and less appealing for picky eaters than snack foods and snacks are even higher up on the food pedestal.
Do Kids Need Snacks?
Many kids do need or benefit from snacks between meals, especially during the summer when they tend to be more active.
A good rule of thumb is to offer a snack or meal every 2-3 hours for younger kids. Older kids can more reliably request snacks as needed.
How to Handle Your Child’s Snack Requests
Even with the structure of offering a snack or meal (what I like to call an eating opportunity or eating window every 2-3 hours), you might still feel like you need more support, structure, and tools in your box for handling your child’s requests.
Here are some snacktime strategies you can try:
- Make sure snacks are filling. They should contain a mix of macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat) and ideally some fiber as well (to make sure they stay full).
- Set the snack schedule that works for your family and your child and stick to it. .This might mean adjusting your “regular” mealtime schedule to accommodate new summer activities and appetites.
- Have a set list of “snack options” so everyone is on the same page about what flies and what doesn’t
- Create a daily snack selection with all of your child’s options for the day so they can make their own selection during snack time
- Make a snack menu with your child
- Capitalize on snack time. If your child is always wanting a snack before dinner, offer a nutritious pre-meal snack tray that might even include new foods.
The Best Snacks For Picky Eaters
Need Help With Bedtime Snacks?
Curious about how to handle bedtime snacks specifically? I got you! I have an entire post delicate just to bedtime snacks.