Monday, 3 March 2014

The Insanity of Snacking




The insanity of snacking

What is it about the after-school snack? Every day at pick-up time I watch parents press pre-packaged goodies into outstretched hands before hellos have been exchanged. Biscuits, bars, brioches; honestly, lots and lots of brioche. 

This is not as much of a judgment as it sounds. I might not bring the biscuits to school with me, believing as I do, that my children can probably make it up the hill before collapsing with hunger. But once we’re home, more often than not I reach for the malted milks. Administering a snack to post-school children can feel like a medical emergency. A few wilted cucumber sticks simply isn't going to cut it.  Get some calories in them quick before something terrible happens and they get hungry.

But, surely we’re getting this a bit wrong. What if we do let the kids get a bit hungry? What would happen then? The major risk is a serious condition my friend calls being ‘hangry’ and the symptoms are irrationality, bad behavior, despair and then rage. The only cure is food, but the recovery is pretty immediate. So, snacking can ward off the dreaded ‘hanger’, but it is fine balance and I can’t help feeling we might be tipping the scales in the wrong direction. Tipping towards a situation where children are protected from feeling even the slightest pang of hunger.

Why do we give kids snacks anyway? Just to play devil's advocate for a moment, to we really need them?  I had a chat with a mummy the other day, who said, ‘I give them these snacks after school and then I wonder why they won’t eat their tea.  Crazy, isn’t it?’ So, what are the options here? No snacks and a good dinner with a dose of grumpy hunger? Or a cheerful, snack-filled child followed by dinner rejection?

There has got to be a middle ground. What I tend to do if I’m worried my snack allocation has reached dinner-damaging proportions is to do a mental scale-up. I look at what I’m offering as a snack and picture it scaled it up to my size. I’m about three times the size of my daughter, so I figure her eating three malted milks is like me eating nine and then expecting myself to want dinner two hours later. There’s no scientific basis for this little exercise whatsoever, but it does make you think. My child eating a mini-roll is a bit like me eating a whole Swiss roll. Not saying I couldn’t do it; but I’m not going to want my spag bol afterwards. Most ‘snack sized’ food is actually epic when scaled up this way; in fact I’d like to do a photoshoot with adults posing with giant snack foods to illustrate the point.

So, to snack or not to snack? Do we cut out the snacking completely, and ride the wave of stroppiness all the way to dinner? Or do we stuff them full and resort to cajoling, bribing and threatening to get the tea down too? Or, maybe, there’s just something to be said for a small banana, a glass of milk and a good bit of hunger left over for dinner; after all, there are few things as satisfying as seeing a child fall upon their dinner with gusto.

How do you do snacking in your house?




5 comments:

  1. I am a big believer in the post school slump snack, but have always been measured about how much I give because of the dinner spoiling thing. Add an aside I have been away with people who give sweet snacks an hour before supper and then have the nerve to comment on my children's lack of appetite! Anyway, only change is having hit the tween years, not only is the appetite much bigger (you do need to feed to seity here), and still there is room for tea, but also the anger and hunger that can occur can and does get in the way of getting homework etc done. So I completely agree with arriving at the dinner table hungry, but would now also fill them up enough to last after school. With that in mind I provide carb heavy but what I how are nourishing options, like a sandwich on brown, or home made flap jack or oat cookies.

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    1. All very sensible! And I like a carb-heavy snack myself :)

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  2. We don't snack every day after school, sometimes its missed. On those occasions I've never had a melt down, but they also don't eat any more dinner than they would if I had given them a snack. But then my kids can go all day refusing food and still not be hungry by dinner, so we're probably not the ones to judge it by!

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    1. You make a very good point Kath - that hunger isn't a fixed thing that's the same every day - sometimes we feel more or less hungry and it can be easy to forget the same must be true of kids and end up trying to force them to eat!

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  3. Snacking only ever really came into play in years 4-6 in Primary School and I tried to only respond if asked by my son. The need tended to be more for fluid/refreshment I felt. Without getting too "salesy" this is why my friend Jenny and I developed Crushed Fast Fruit snack as an ambient (so store cupboard OK) both to emulate the French love of puree and compote and to have have an alternative to other pre packaged stuff. All types of parents are pushed for time and hunger may not be a fixed thing but at senior school they are out of your hands/near a vending machine and the need for after school activity snack gets greater as they get older, hockey, rugby, swimming - Home and dinner times get later and the options are worse - get prepared now!.

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