BY NIMALI FERNANDO, MD MPH
I recently read a fascinating book called French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon. In the book, the mother describes the year she spent in her husband's native France trying to acclimate her two small children to the French lifestyle. What I have done with my kids is similar to how the French teach kids about food (and my kids do eat EVERTHING!). But our challenge is eating. Our family faux-pas is snacking. What I learned from Le Billon's account of her time in France is that French kids don't snack. After school they eat a small "meal" called le goûter.
For the past month, I have instituted "no snacking" and le goûter at my house, and I'm please to say it has worked brilliantly. The kids now understand the rules about snacking and as long as they have plenty to do, they don't miss the snacks.
Kids tend to overeat during the summer and that can lead to weight gain. Here are four simple rules on snacking:
- Limit snacks. For younger children, a mid-morning and late afternoon snack is appropriate. School aged children need only a late afternoon snack, especially if dinner tends to be later.
- Don't give in! Children will initially protest when they are getting used to not snacking on demand. It's okay. Provide simple explanations for the change in routine so that they know there is a reason. When a child comes to a meal a bit hungry, they are more likely to eat the nutritious foods they are served.
- Snacks should consist of foods that one would give at meal. Instead of "filler foods" like fish crackers, pretzels, chips and fruit snacks, try to provide a balance of fruits, veggies, whole grains and proteins.
- Avoid sweet drinks. Refrain from serving juice, sports drinks, soda or other sweetened beverages with snacks. Water and milk are good choices for snack time.
Summer is perfect for snacking on fresh fruits and veggies. Try these at home:
- Snack Plates: Combine fresh fruit, veggies, whole grain crackers and cheese on a plate for an eye catching and balanced snack.
- Smoothies: Combine whole fruit, mild veggies, yogurt and ice for a highly nutritious smoothie snack.
- Popsicles: Puree whole fruit and yogurt and freeze in popsicle molds for treat to beat the heat!
- Whole Fruit Homemade Jello: Combine 100% juice, gelatin and whole fruit to make a fun jiggly snack that kids will love.