I have a love/hate relationship with snack food.
I love it for obvious self-indulgent reasons, but I also detest spending money on “fluff”. I have 3 little ones, two girls who are 6 and 4 and a little boy (who will be one in April!) who eat as though they are 18, 16 and 13, respectively. Thankfully, they are as slim as can be, except for our one year old who we affectionately call “Butter”…all 28 kissable pounds of him!
We tend to eat substantial breakfasts, and we have the luxury to do so most mornings because we homeschool, so running late for the bus is, thankfully not a problem. (Now, getting dressed before we start Math is another issue, but that’s another blog post for another day…) I try to make heartier morning meals so that [in theory] they won’t need snacks while we are in the middle of our lessons. Then, when we do break for lunch, we typically have something lighter – leftovers from a previous dinner, finger foods, or maybe an egg-based meal. I am blessed with great eaters and there are only a few meals that they have wrinkled their noses at, so keep this in mind as you read my suggestions…if your munchkins are picky eaters…well…I address that in a minute, but you can also adapt.
Now, here is where I become a really bad mom. I KNOW that kids really do need snacks, and I am not opposed to snacks – I’m opposed to junk that kids think they are entitled to.
Enter: Tough Love
We only have a few snack rules in our house:
- You have to ask first.
- When snack time is over, its over. You can’t come back 15 minutes later and say that you are still hungry. If you’re done, you’re done (same goes with meals)(Mean? Maybe. Saves my sanity? YOU BETCHA!)
- Snacks are a treat, not a meal. Meaning, I’m not providing you with the quantity of a meal. This is just a little something to break up the day, keep our metabolism going, and tide us over til lunch/dinner.
Now, as I mentioned above, if left to their own devices, they would eat every hour. So here is my solution:
Enter: Tough Love Meets Vegetables
- my kids know that if they are hungry, they can eat as many carrot sticks, celery sticks, olives, cucumbers, and (during our summer garden) cherry tomatoes as they want. By all means, if you spoil your dinner because you ate too many carrots and olives, then I will gladly save you the leftovers because I want my kids to eat as many veggies as they can get! These are snacks that I don’t mind providing, PLUS, although my kids are great eaters, the reality is, once they’re sufficiently full on vegetables, they stop eating. I don’t know about you, but give me a bag of Cool Ranch Doritoes and it doesn’t matter if I’m hungry or not. This is a win/win situation, because if they REALLY are hungry, then they are welcome to all the veggies they can eat. However, sometimes “I’m starving” translates into “I NEED CARBOHYDRATES and SUGAR”.
- I’m no longer spending money on “empty” food – pretzels, chips, crackers, etc. that have ZERO nutritional value and are just a salty, addictive filler.
- If my kids decide to be “picky”, then they can be “picky and hungry” and they can wait until meal time, or grab a glass of milk to hold them over. I know kids have developing taste buds and I shouldn’t stifle their little opinions yada, yada, yada. Let me first say that I do not negotiate with toddlers. And additionally, these are snacks, people. They will not starve or be in therapy in 25 years. They will be ok. I know for certain that when my children have kids of their own and they have slaved over a wonderful meal, only to have their kids complain about it, they will repeat this time honored, well worn phrase: “You don’t have to like it, but you do have to eat it.”
Having veggies washed, cut up and readily available eliminates the constant whining about starvation that sets in at 2 years old. My kids know that if they complain about the slow pace of dinner, I will undoubtedly direct them to our produce drawer in the fridge.
Now, lest you think I am a vegetable pushing ogre, let me assure you that we do have other snack options!Here are a few things that I try to keep on hand:
- fruit. we treat fruit like a “treat” – it’s not a part of our regular meals (although sometimes I slip some into our breakfast) and our kids know it’s sweet – therefore it can be dessert after dinner, and sometimes as a snack.
- dehydrated fruits/fruit leathers and nuts. These can get pricey at the store, but can be ordered in bulk, or, better yet, made at home.
- hummus and veggies or cheese. This delectable garlicky bean dip is wonderful served with veggies and/or cheese for dipping and is more substantial – great after an afternoon of play for a filling mid-day snack.
- Bread and butter. Not the greatest option, but if you’re using a high grade butter (or better yet, raw and cultured) and homemade bread, then it can become slightly addictive…or so I’ve heard…
- left-over breakfast foods (such as pancakes with butter and jam, muffins, breakfast cookies, etc)
- frozen grapes. So, yes, these fall under the “fruit” category, but these are a HIT with the little ones. Simply wash grapes and remove them from the stems. Spread them out on a cookie sheet and freeze them. They’re like mini popsicles and couldn’t be easier. These are PERFECT for hot summer days!
And finally, one last organizational tip that has helped eliminate ME from the snack equation: Make a snack bowl. I have designated a basket in our fridge that holds all snack-related foods. Depending on the items, I may bag them individually, but all of the items I have listed are easy enough to obtain that I am not constantly “making snacks” for my 6 and 4 year old.
And now, for our REGULAR meals this week:
Monday – Cold Quinoa Curry Salad with diced chicken and veggies
Tuesday – Salmon Salad on toasted bread with a green salad
Wednesday – Roasted Chicken with root veggies and steamed broccoli
Thursday – Chicken and Cheese Quesadillas (with leftover chicken) with black beans and rice
Friday – Calzones with mozzerella, basil and roma tomatoes
- popcorn + smoothies
- breakfast for dinner (using these great pancakes from this post)
- fruit/veggie/cheese plates with hummus
- grilled cheese with fresh tomatoes
What snack food items do you keep around your house?
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This post was linked to Women Living Well Wednesdays at Women Living Well, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways at Frugally Sustainable, Real Food Wednesdays at Kelly the Kitchen Kop, Your Green Resource at Live Renewed, Simple Lives Thursday at GNOWFGLINS, Fresh Bites Friday at Real Food Whole Health, Frugal Friday at Life As Mom, Fight Back Fridays at Food Renegade, Monday Mania at Healthy Home Economist, Real Food 101 at Ruth’s Real Food, The Homestead Barn Hop at The Prairie Homestead, Sunday School Blog Carnival at Butter Believer, Mentoring Mamas at Simply Living For Him, Better Mom Mondays at The Better Mom, Seasonal Celebrations at The Natural Mother’s Network, Traditional Tuesdays at Cooking Traditional Food, Fat Tuesdays at Real Food Forager