The rate of snacking has doubled since the 1970s, with now 25% of our calories coming from snacks (source). As we are simplifying our life, we may have neglected the idea of streamlining when and how we eat.
Note from Rachel: This is a guest post from my friend Cara who writes at Health Home and Happiness. A couple years ago she inspired me to cut snacking from my house as well, and I have loved having less kitchen mess to clean up, less whining and negotiating about food with the kids, and more freedom to leave the house without having to pack snacks for everyone. You can read more about how cutting snacks and eliminating picky eating makes the home more peaceful, and routines simpler to accomplish in the Picky Eating Solution – a free webinar for my readers! Click here to sign up.
Do we want to spend time, effort, and money on preparing, eating, and cleaning up after snacks daily? Is this a habit we want our children to have?
What would we have time for if we added up all the time in a week spent planning for, preparing, and cleaning up after our children’s, and our, snacking habits?
My Family Stopped Snacking and Started Eating
Stopping snacking has many benefits for the family who is focused on mindfullness. I’m going to tell you how we implemented the ‘no snack’ policy in our home further down, but for now, let’s look at the benefits to stopping snacking:
- You’re hungrier for meals, and more likely to eat healthier protein and veggies rather than refined carbohydrates that snacks so often are.
- Your digestive system gets a chance to complete its job, rather than having food in various stages of digestion all day long.
- No more food messes to sweep up all day long, and your car is free of goldfish, hidden sippy cups, and pretzel crumbs!
- Your body is trained to expect food at certain times, and therefore you’re able to do an afternoon of errands, go for a walk to the park, and complete a project around the house without stopping to eat, or packing food to bring along.
- Dishes are always caught up because you only need to do them three times a day.
- You are able to shed that last 10 lbs because it’s easier to stay within your calorie goals when you only eat 3 times a day.
- The kids stop whining about food when they’re bored. They know that you eat at 7, noon, and 6 and that’s that.
- You are able to get the nutrients your body needs to thrive and have energy, without empty-calorie snack foods.
- You’re better able to meal plan and follow recipes for dinner, since you know everyone will be hungry then.
I thought eating frequently was good for you?
There is some controversy about this. As you can see in the study above, in the past 40 years we have doubled the amount of snacking we, in the US, do. We have seen the rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes raise during this same time. We also have seen our kids get PICKY. If you spend time with preschoolers or other young children, you will quickly see that many of them eat little bits all day long, and completely refuse their meals with the family at meal time.
In other cultures, (I’ve read about this in France quite a bit) the children and adults don’t snack at all. Knowing that other cultures have children that grow and thrive without snacking made me want to try it in my own family.
It turns out that hunger is actually something you feel when your body “expects” food, not when you really need to eat. Within a week of eliminating snacking from our home, I found that in both adults and kids, we didn’t get ‘hungry’ unless it was right before meal time.
As the kids grow and their calorie needs change, they eat more or less at meal time so I make sure I have plenty available to fill their calorie needs.
Okay this sounds GREAT. How can I convince my family?
The younger your children are, the easier this will be, and yes even toddlers can get used to eating at set times*. If your children are young, and used to requesting snacks all day long, start by having them sit down at the table for all their snacks. Then set times when snack is, and get them used to the idea of only eating at designated times and places.
Soon they will become more creative, and stop heading to the kitchen at the first sign of boredom. They also will eat better at meals, making it so they can go longer before feeling hungry. When children eat willingly at meals, your dinner table is filled with joy and peace, rather than negotiation and strife over negotiating with children about food.
For older children, you need a bit more of their cooperation to have this work smoothly. Ask them their opinion about stopping snacking, show them how you’ll have more time, energy, and money to do fun things that they love if the snacks stop, and if they are health-motivated, point out the health benefits that will come from getting out of the snack habit and into the habit of eating 3 square meals a day.
*Because school lunch rooms are chaotic, I let my kids finish their lunches when they get home from school, and I do give my toddler a piece of apple or something else small to eat when they are finishing their lunches, but otherwise he doesn’t snack either.
My kids have sensory issues, though..
Yes! I understand that. Sometimes ‘picky eating’ goes beyond just a preference, or not being hungry enough. If kids are on the spectrum and/or if they have sensory issues, they will actually starve themselves to the point of physical harm unless you attack the picky eating from the root. Read more about that in the Gut Flora-Picky Eating Connection, and listen to the webinar for how we solve this problem.
How do I learn more?
- The free Webinar- The Picky Eating Solution has eliminating snacking as the first step. You can learn more by signing up here.
- The Gut-Flora/Picky Eating Connection explains how the microbiome may be contributing to this generation’s picky eating habits.
- Making Room for Healthy Changes talks more about how we structure meal times in our home.
About the author:
Cara lives in Montana with her 3 active kiddos. She enjoys an ‘eat to live’ philosophy, where health-giving food is enjoyed as a way to connect with her family and fuel them for their fun outdoor activities. She loves hiking, skiing, fishing, and exploring the great outdoors with the kids. She blogs at Health Home and Happiness, and writes Grain-Free Meal Plans to simplify your time in the kitchen by providing you with recipes and grocery lists for 3 meals a day, 7 days a week. You can click here for a free 3-day sample menu and check out her blog here.