Reducing snacking

Oh, we're done with all that vegetable-steaming and mess, our children are cutlery-wielding, spaghetti-chomping angels... at least some of the time.

Reducing snacking

Postby TeakettleSlim » 03 Jul 2012, 15:59

I've been in the habit of letting Biscuit snack on demand, even now that she's well into toddler-hood (2 1/2 yrs old now). Mostly on fruit, or dried fruit, or cheese. But I started reading the It's Not About Nutrition blog (I highly recommend the blog in general, btw) and am now persuaded that we should probably look to reduce it.

Here's one of the posts that convinced me: http://itsnotaboutnutrition.squarespace ... snack.html

We've only been trying it about a week now, and some days, it's been pretty hard.
Just wondering if any of you have managed to move to fewer snack times, and how you dealt with the situation when the Little One REALLY thinks s/he needs cheese, stat!
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Re: Reducing snacking

Postby TPM » 03 Jul 2012, 16:23

I've only read the first paragraph and don't really agree. I think snacking aka grazing is very healthy, and children (especially toddlers) who are growing so much know how much they need and when. Snacking only becomes a problem if the snacks are unhealthy ie crisps, biscuits, cake etc. If the snacking is effecting mealtime consumption and this is something that bothers you, you could make sure you offer a snack an hour and a half or so before the meal and then no more until mealtime. But ultimately I don't think that snacking on healthy snacks (including carbs and good proteins like breadsticks and hummus) is a bad thing providing the child is fit and active and a healthy weight. One if the reasons I chose to do blw was to maintain the child's ability to know their calorific needs so going against this to such extremes seems totally wrong to me. Plus it is well reported that grazing on 5 or 6 small meals is healthier than eating 3 big ones.

Eta: having another look at it I see it's for "kids who over-eat" and are presumably over weight? I think making an issue out of food where there isn't one there is unhealthy. If your 2.5 yo is fit and healthy and you're offering healthy snacks it's a bit early to be reading scaremongers stuff like that.
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Re: Reducing snacking

Postby KateGladTidings » 03 Jul 2012, 16:29

I'm not convinced you need to, tbh. Do your instincts say it feels right to not give her cheese? If not, then don't bother. Even the blog post said there was evidence against its point, and that the arguments seem kinda murky. So do what feels right. The bit about not letting your kids snack on demand doesn't seem very BLW to me! As long as they're healthy snacks (I.e. Have SOME nutrition in), what's the problem?

Mind you, this is from a woman who just let her 3yo lick out the brownie mix bowl...

X-posted with TPM...
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Re: Reducing snacking

Postby Antje » 03 Jul 2012, 16:33

I'm not a fan of grazing as a regular habit. I believe in regular mealtimes/snacks, sitting down properly. I can't say I have evidence to back it up, only that I like all the articles that support my view, so I know that's not very scientific. Obviously there can be exceptions to this rule, such as yesterday when we were at a funeral and everything was irregular and it just worked out better to have my daughter snack a lot throughout the event. But not on an everyday basis.

I believe kids can learn to expect regular meals & snacks, and will be able to focus and eat better during those meals, and will also be able to focus better on their other activities without thinking about food all the time.
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Re: Reducing snacking

Postby TPM » 03 Jul 2012, 16:43

Antje wrote:I'm not a fan of grazing as a regular habit. I believe in regular mealtimes/snacks, sitting down properly...

...I believe kids can learn to expect regular meals & snacks, and will be able to focus and eat better during those meals, and will also be able to focus better on their other activities without thinking about food all the time.


Although myself and my children snack it isn't done 'on the hoof'. They still have to sit down at the table 9 times out if 10, and appreciate their food and what they're eating.
I have always eaten when I'm hungry and not to excess. I've never been on a diet, never been overweight and never had an eating disorder. Not suggesting any of those things are synonymous with not snacking but I think listening to your body is key to maintains healthy weight.
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Re: Reducing snacking

Postby TeakettleSlim » 03 Jul 2012, 17:10

My understanding (also gleaned from that blog, I can find the link if anyone is I interested) is that the evidence on whether snacking is good for the metabolism or not is actually quite mixed, and depends in large part on what foods are being eaten, and whether you actually take care to reduce calories at mealtimes.

Kind of OT, but my particular desire to reduce cheese consumption comes from the observed fact that over the last year, Biscuit has reduced to almost nil her intake of veggies, despite having always been an enthusiastic BLW baby. She ate almost anything (except beets). I think the change in preference corresponds to us giving her cheese at more and more meals, so she just wants the fat/salt more than anything else, and maybe not because it's what she needs but because we've inadvertently trained her to prefer it. Once a day is no biggie, but we were doing cheesy toast at breakfast, cheese quesadilla or grilled cheese at lunch, cheese slices for a snack, and maybe Mac and cheese or pizza at supper. Not usually all in one day, and of course with plenty of fruit/veg on offer, but at least at one meal and possibly multiple snack times. And of course, as she ate fewer and fewer veg, it became easy to excuse not offering them as consistently. So cutting the cheese (hah hah) is another goal of mine that goes hand in hand with scrutinizing our snacking habits.

It's helpful to hear how everyone has incorporated structured snacking into their routine. Keep the advice coming!
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Re: Reducing snacking

Postby PerpetualMadness » 03 Jul 2012, 17:34

IMHO that blogpost is obnoxious and misguided. Children may have increased their consumption of calories from snacks and meals but that is because most adults are very poor at judging portion sizes (and have often trained their children not to know when they are hungry or full).

It's not true that French children only snack once in the afternoon. They also have a mid morning snack and that afternoon snack is often more like a small meal.

I don't see how having set snack times and refusing to respond to in between requests is in anyway going to help children to learn to regulate their in take.

The key is in regulating what's on offer. Snacks here are fruit, vegetables, breadsticks,... and v occasionally homemade biscuit/cake. Sometimes they need a snack between meals, sometimes they don't, sometimes they need two (often after swimming!).

Both of my children eat balanced and varied diets and will leave any food, cakes and chocolate included, if they aren't hungry. I have no desire to teach them not to do that by dictating to them when they are or aren't hungry.

I'm sure ches will be along shortly to point out that babies/toddlers need more of their calories from fat than adults so eschewing vegetables temporarily is not necessarily a concern so long as you don't respond by no longer offering them.

Hope that helps.
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Re: Reducing snacking

Postby DIMDongMerrily » 03 Jul 2012, 17:37

We have a pretty free/unstructured approach to snacking. Largely because my Mum was so strict about what my brother and I could eat, when we could have it, how much we were allowed, etc.. I ended up severely obese, which then led on to crash dieting, and then bulimia. I'm still a big mess of issues when it comes to food. I do not want my boys to end up this way, so I pretty much just leave it up to them what they want to eat but make sure that the choices they can make are healthy. We don't have crisps and chocolate on offer on a daily basis so they can't choose those things.. we have breadsticks, mini cheeses, fruit and vegetables, dried fruit, yoghurt, etc.. things like that are readily available as snacks. The only 'rules' are that we have breakfast before we start picking things from the snack cupboard and we don't have a snack if there's less than an hour to go until a meal.

This seems to work pretty well for us. Dylan is old enough to choose things/ask for them himself, and Isaac seems happy to go along with whatever Dylan chooses, so they're in control of what they eat, which is the point of BLW really. They're both healthy weights, active and quite strong.. I don't see any reason to change things for now. If you're worried about cheese intake though, you could look to reduce that and replace it with different things to snack on? Cheese is quite salty so probably shouldn't be offered all the time anyway. As far as a reduction in vegetable intake goes - it's probably just a phase. Dylan barely ate any vegetables for about a year, apart from cucumber and peas, and then he suddenly started eating them again one day. Now he'll eat most vegetables so I wouldn't worry too much about that :)

x-posted with PM - YY to everything she says.
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Re: Reducing snacking

Postby Louisianablue2000 » 03 Jul 2012, 17:56

I think with the best will in the world we get into habits that aren't necessarily about hunger with food. Even at the simplest level, e.g. my daughters never have pudding after lunch, DD1 just use to be too tired to get to a pudding, she would fall asleep at the table and so they never got into the habit.

The other extreme is of course people who snack on foods filled with empty calories and then claim they aren't hungry at mealtimes. The problem I think with snacks is that it is easier to snack on foods that are not the healthiest option. you could maybe try to cut down to one snack in the morning and one in the afternoon and make them more like mini meals so you offer a wider range of foods. In addition to what you already offer what about sticks of veg and hummus, apple and cheese (top snack in this house and more filling than just cheese), popcorn, mini pitta sandwiches, tinned sardines on toast etc, etc.
See DD1's first few meals here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/louisianab ... 629434614/
See DD2's weaning video here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/louisianab ... 826217940/

DD1 Dec 07, DD2 June 09, DS Sept 12
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Re: Reducing snacking

Postby KateGladTidings » 03 Jul 2012, 18:45

I do wonder how many of those strictly regulated french children will grow up with food/control issues!
I don't quite get why it's a problem that modern children get a higher % of their calories from snacks than they used to, if those snacks are nutritious. The article makes calories sound evil, whereas they are just numbers. And kids need them!
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Re: Reducing snacking

Postby DIMDongMerrily » 03 Jul 2012, 18:52

From what I can gather from a quick Google, France has a rate of eating disorders that's a couple of percent higher than America, but America's obesity rate is 19% higher than France. I couldn't find a comparison between France and the UK, will have another look. Slight tangent, sorry, but I was intrigued by Kate's comment.. I wanted to find out!
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Re: Reducing snacking

Postby PerpetualMadness » 03 Jul 2012, 18:59

I think the other difference with France/Belgium is that meals and snacks tend to be eaten more thoughtfully iyswim. Less snacking in from tvs, in buggies, in cars,... Snacks here are eaten at the table like meals. Getting them to sit down long enough to eat requires them to be properly hungry.
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Re: Reducing snacking

Postby KateGladTidings » 03 Jul 2012, 19:01

DIM wrote:From what I can gather from a quick Google, France has a rate of eating disorders that's a couple of percent higher than America, but America's obesity rate is 19% higher than France. I couldn't find a comparison between France and the UK, will have another look. Slight tangent, sorry, but I was intrigued by Kate's comment.. I wanted to find out!


You can always count on me for a tangent ;). It just seems to me that while food-discipline/"teaching kids self-control" may lead to healthy eating, it may not form a healthy relationship with food iyswim. I used to have excellent self-control when it came to food, but I didn't use that in a (mentally) healthy way! Now, I have no self-control at all but that's a whole other issue. Hopefully once my daughter stops eating incessantly, I will too!

What I'm trying to say is that I'm a big believer in the BLW school of thought that says "let food be food" - not as something to be overly desired or restricted or gorged on. Just food.
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Re: Reducing snacking

Postby Heidi » 03 Jul 2012, 19:51

Louisianablue2001 wrote:
The other extreme is of course people who snack on foods filled with empty calories and then claim they aren't hungry at mealtimes. The problem I think with snacks is that it is easier to snack on foods that are not the healthiest option.


Hmmm, I am stuck in a mega-rut with Thom and Kiera snacking constantly on unhealthy foods, and then not eating their meals. It has got to the point where they both demand a Milky Way the minute we get in from school, then numerous other snacks, then say they aren't hungry so I don't even bother to cook tea some days :oops: :oops: :oops: (Please don't judge me - I'm still sleep deprived!).

DIM wrote: We don't have crisps and chocolate on offer on a daily basis so they can't choose those things.. we have breadsticks, mini cheeses, fruit and vegetables, dried fruit, yoghurt, etc.. things like that are readily available as snacks. The only 'rules' are that we have breakfast before we start picking things from the snack cupboard and we don't have a snack if there's less than an hour to go until a meal.



I think my answers lie here - don't have the unhealthy stuff in the house, and set some sensible rules around timings of snacks versus meals.

Right, my plan is to sit down with Thom tomorrow and guide him to come up with a solution to the snacks/meals problem (a la "How to talk")
Will report back :D
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Re: Reducing snacking

Postby Louisianablue2000 » 03 Jul 2012, 21:31

Heidi wrote:Hmmm, I am stuck in a mega-rut with Thom and Kiera snacking constantly on unhealthy foods, and then not eating their meals. It has got to the point where they both demand a Milky Way the minute we get in from school, then numerous other snacks, then say they aren't hungry so I don't even bother to cook tea some days :oops:


It can happen to anyone. I find when we go to Orkney the girls eat far less at mealtimes because of all the unhealthy snacking. This is how their day goes at Grandma's: breakfast, 10am homebakes and juice, 12pm lunch of soup and sandwiches followed by fruit or yoghurt followed by homebakes, 3pm homebakes and juice, 6pm tea including traditional pudding. Funnily enough they eat very little at lunchtime or teatime. We go cold turkey the first week back at home so back to water or milk to drink, no sweet stuff just fruit for pudding and savoury snacks throughout the day. I relax a bit once they know we're back home and the usual rules apply.

I'd be tempted in your position to go cold turkey and claim there were no Milky Ways at the supermarket this week and they can have snack X instead. We have lots of dried fruit in the house so there is a sweet high calorie option for that middle of the afternoon point when fresh fruit doesn't hit the spot. Or you could take it even slower and start offering them some kind of healthy cake (banana bread or tea cake, something with some fruit anyway and with no icing) then work your way to a more varied and healthy set of options.
See DD1's first few meals here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/louisianab ... 629434614/
See DD2's weaning video here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/louisianab ... 826217940/

DD1 Dec 07, DD2 June 09, DS Sept 12
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