Ugh! My Kids Want to Eat ALL THE TIME! + 4 Snacks to Make Together for “Math” Class

By Teresa Wagner, RD, LD
April 27, 2020

snackbowl.jpgCOVID-19 has presented us all with new challenges to overcome. As a parent with three kids home 24/7, I’m constantly hearing “I’m hungry, what can I have for a snack?” Or I see the kids roaming into the kitchen rummaging through the pantry and refrigerator. We (obviously!) know as parents that a part of the job is feeding our kids … but it’s starting to catch up with us as to how much and how often they want to eat. To the point where we might just throw our hands up in food exhaustion and say yes to whatever they want. Yes, been there, done that and I didn’t feel good about it. Mom guilt is real.

Sure, short term it’s easier to let kids have whatever they want. But in the long term (aka when we get back to “school” later in the afternoon) not so much. Here is what I know for sure, which makes it easier to make healthy choices for the whole family especially now as we play the roles of parent, teacher and employee all at the same time.

  1. Food is nourishment. Healthy food builds a healthy body, brain and immune system; junk and processed foods do not. It’s incredibly important to remember this when we all need all the immune support we can get.
  2. Poor food choices = poor focus and concentration. I don’t want to make my new position as homeschool coordinator any more difficult or make learning any more challenging for my children.
  3. Poor food choices = poor behavior. I also don’t want to make my parenting job any more difficult. We are all home together most hours of the day now and for sanity sake we need to get along. 

So, when we know better we do better, right? Not always. Here are some tips I’ve implemented in my own house that may help in yours, too.

Set up a Food Schedule – Just like they wouldn’t get snacks 24/7 in their classroom, the same applies at home. For us the kitchen is “open” the following times:

  • Breakfast 8:00
  • Lunch 12:00
  • Snack 3:00
  • Dinner 6:00
  • Snack 8:30

All other times the kitchen is “closed”. This may not be easy to begin with if everyone is used to eating whenever they feel like it, but after a couple days it will naturally fall into routine. Again, kids are capable of following a food schedule while in school. The toughest part of this falls on us, the parents; we need to be disciplined with our time management and have food available during the “open” hours.

Don’t Buy Junky Food – You’re eliminating daily disagreements from the get go if you just don’t buy the junk food in the first place. Only keep in the house foods that are okay to eat most anytime so saying yes is easy.

Prepare A Snack Bowl – A bowl, platter, whatever but keep it handy so when the kids are hungry they can choose whatever they want from the bowl or platter. To cover all the nutrient bases, include a variety of veggies, fruits, fats, and proteins. I have three kids so I have triplicates of everything in the bowl. Again … cut down on the fights from the get go!

What I love about the snack bowl is that it gives the kids autonomy to make their own decisions. It’s really interesting to see what they will pick when it’s up to them. This is a great opportunity to insert some new foods in a no-pressure manner. Pediatric dietitians agree that children are more open to trying new foods when they have the option to eat them or not.

Here are examples of no-work snack foods that are easily put in a big bowl or platter:

  • Veggies: carrots, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, jicama sticks
  • Fruits: apples, clementines, bananas, pears, berries, plums, grapes
  • Fats: pepitas, sunflower seeds, olives, nuts, nut butters
  • Proteins: turkey or beef sticks, deli meat, cheese sticks, hard boiled eggs, summer sausage

Make It A School Lesson –The kitchen is a great “lab” for teaching math, science and developing logical thinking, creativity and direction following skills. Here are some great recipes that you can make together and then keep on hand for the “kitchen’s open” snack breaks.

bananamuffin.jpgPeanut Butter Chocolate Fat Bomb
Chocolate Fruit Bars
Banana Muffins (My kids love it when we add mini chocolate chips to this recipe.)
Peanut Butter Balls

I hope these tips make this time of COVID a little smoother in your house, they certainly have in mine. For even more recipes check out tons of healthy snack ideas here. Please comment below with what’s working in your house, as we can all inspire each other during this hectic time.

Oh and one last thing, you’re doing a great job!

About the author

Teresa is a licensed dietitian at Nutritional Weight & Wellness. As a mother of three children and avid runner, Teresa knows that good nutrition is essential for energy and well-being. She also sees first-hand the impact food choices have on her children’s behavior, moods and happiness. Teresa is a registered and licensed dietitian through the Minnesota Board of Nutrition and Dietetics. She received her B.S. in dietetics from the University of Wisconsin-Stout and completed her dietetic internship at Indiana University School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. She worked as a clinical dietitian for the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis.

View all posts by Teresa Wagner, RD, LD

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