a peek inside the fishbowl

03 May, 2010

Know More Do More Mondays: Junk food and snacking

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Know More Do More

This past week we said no to junk food. This wasn’t an “official” tip from the Know More Do More tip jar, I chose to do this on my own. And I am so glad we did! Ditching junk food for a week allowed us to take stock of what we’re eating and get an honest perspective on (a) where the junk food comes from and (b) how we end up eating it. :)

As I mentioned at the end of last week’s post, I asked one of the girls to help make a list of the junk foods we were going to banish for the week. Then we stuck it on the fridge.

I thought this would be dead simple, but we did have a few hurdles to overcome.

  • I had just made a batch of jello popsicles and they were just waiting for us in the freezer. This isn’t something they get to eat every day, but I did get some complaints. So I made fruit and yogurt smoothies and DIY lemonade for cool substitutes on warm days.
  • We had just been to the Candy Store and there were a couple baggies of our favourite candies sitting right on the counter. I had to put everything away because if it’s out in the open it’s top of mind. And likely to be eaten.
  • We still have Easter chocolate, can you believe it? The Easter bunny left a little too much sweet stuff and we’ve all gotten in the bad habit of grazing the candy bowl. Ugh. Had to put that away too.
  • I didn’t know this at the beginning of the week, but both girls had a junk-food related fundraising events at their schools. Gah! One girl had two opportunities to buy popsicles on two separate days (money from sales going to cancer) and the other had a popcorn fundraiser. Popcorn wasn’t on our list of junk food, but this was caramel corn and thus had to be reclassified. That being said, I was incredibly proud of the girls. The popsicles were refused (although I wish the money had been given in lieu) and the popcorn was carried home to be eaten another day. To summarize: Both girls had to face a class full of kids eating popcorn and popsicles and they said no. (YAY.)

Anyway, we did it. Although I have to admit that Friday night was a stretch. We went out to a restaurant for pizza. Both girls had a glass of chocolate milk. We ate and drank with pleasure BUT when the server brought the bill on a little tray with eight hard candies I swept them into my purse. Cue the chorus.

“OH MOM.”
“What?”
“The candies are so small!”
“I know, but we’re not eating candy this week. Remember our list?”

There was grumbling, sure, but they had to admit, there was a list. There was no arguing with that.

Anyway, we found some good things to substitute as fun snacks this week; fruit, nuts, crackers and cheese (the girls LOVE cheese curds), and buttered hot air popcorn.

At this point I have to ask you a question. Do you ever wonder if you are overfeeding your kids? When the girls were small I found it hard to know how much food to serve our girls. I worried about feeding them too much, or not enough. It’s tough! How should we feed small humans who are growing every day?

I’ve written about my issues with snacks before, but when Emma was five I learned the best lesson about snacks EVER. And I wanted to share it with you.

Emma was attending a local co-op preschool. Each month I had to come in and help in the classroom (all the parents take turns doing this) and provide a mid-morning snack for the group on that day. We were given a list of suggestions of what to bring. No problem.

The teacher, a 25-year a veteran of the preschool scene, told us how much each child was to be served. I tell ya. It wasn’t much: one small glass of apple juice, two crackers (I don’t know what they’re called – the square ones that come in sleeves), one slice of fruit, one slice of (real) cheese. AND THAT WAS IT.

At first I scoffed. How could this be enough food? But you know what, it was fine. Kids could have more fruit if they wanted, maybe an extra cracker, but they usually didn’t. I had been looking at this snack thing all wrong. The midmorning snack isn’t supposed to be a meal, it’s a pit stop on the road to lunch. And if you overfill little tummies you run the risk of the kids not eating their meal. And we want them to eat their meals. The same idea applies for the after school snack. If you give your kid a granola bar at 4:30, don’t be surprised when they won’t eat their dinner an hour later. Our kids are not in danger of starving.

The Pre-school Snack Incident has remained in the back of my head ever since.

If my kids are truly whiny and hungry right before dinner I’ll put a bowl of raw carrots or red peppers on the dining room table for them to munch on while they’re cleaning up and setting the table. (Since the veggies were going to be part of their dinner anyway, no harm there, right?)

Phew. I feel like I have exhausted this topic for today. If you’ve got anything to add on the topic of kids, snack and junk food I would love to hear it. :)


18 Responses to "Know More Do More Mondays: Junk food and snacking"

1 | solemom

May 3rd, 2010 at 11:20 am

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I do the same thing with the pre-dinner snacking. Sometimes my son just *can’t wait* until the food is served, so I’ll give him whatever veg we’re having, raw, to tide him over. Even when it’s frozen veg – a small handful of frozen peas or corn is actually fun to eat, when you’re almost 2, apparently. ;)

2 | mrsgryphon

May 3rd, 2010 at 11:28 am

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We’re definitely cutting back on the sweets at our house… our 4 year old was getting to the point where she wanted something chocolate with every meal (chocolate milk, chocolate chip pancakes, chocolate chip granola bars etc etc) and it was a battle every time. So, last week we said NO MORE. She still asks all the time, and sometimes we say okay if she’s been eating all her healthy foods, but if we say no she’s stopped arguing.

Best thing? We went to a parade this weekend, and before we left I said that we weren’t going to bring any candy home. She sat at the side of the road with her friends (who were also refusing the candy since one of the twins has a deadly peanut allergy) and said “no, thanks” every time they were handed candy. At the end of the parade, there was a little pile of gum and lollipops at the curb by their feet!

3 | Betsy Mae

May 3rd, 2010 at 11:32 am

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We used to eat dinner at 5pm everyday when my husband worked from home. He would eat with us and go back to work, it was perfect because the kids were hungry, we got to eat as a family, and the kids went to bed early. Now my husband no longer works from home so he usually can’t be home for dinner before 6pm and typically it’s even later. My kids just can’t seem to last that late but it’s important to us to have family meals. Now I give them a large ‘snack’ that is similar to a small meal at 4pm and a very small portion of dinner when we eat dinner. This snack is usually a pate of different raw veggies, sliced up fruits, nuts, and quite often a 1/2 of a sandwich, cheese/crackers, rice cakes with toppings, etc.

4 | karen

May 3rd, 2010 at 11:52 am

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How much do you give the girls when you give them cheese curds? My daughter loves these as well but I’ve always stayed away from them because they are so high in fat and she is not very good with portion control when she likes something. I thought maybe I could start sending them to school and that way she can’t complain that she doesn’t have enough.

5 | Jennifer

May 3rd, 2010 at 3:11 pm

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Are we overfeedibg our kids? I think the answer is ‘yes’, at least I was. We had some food issues, well more like food anxiety for me. Never thought my child was eating enough. After many struggles it finally occured to me to look at the Canada Food Guide and measure out proper serving sizes. And that’s when I realized the portions we ate were way too big. So now, we follow the guide and guess what? I mo longer have a picky eater. She generally eats most of what she is given and doesn’t need or ask for more. Clever thing, that guide!

6 | Marianne

May 3rd, 2010 at 4:18 pm

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@ Karen,
I’d give about the same amount of cheese curds (in weight) as I would a regular cheese such as cheddar, since cheese curds are just cheese (often cheddar or simialr) that haven’t been pressed into block cheese.

7 | Stefania (Ingredients for Life)

May 3rd, 2010 at 4:25 pm

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The crackers are Premium Plus (red box) and they are so good! There. I said it.

I think if we make snacks healthy and the kid decides to just eat very little at meal time then I’m ok with that.

8 | Oriri

May 3rd, 2010 at 8:12 pm

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I used to worry if I was feeding my kids enough too. They ALWAYS seemed hungry… until meal time, when suddenly they didn’t “like” what we were having. That’s about the time snacks actually got cut out entirely until they started eating their actual meals again. ;)

While this makes their father happy, I’m left wondering if it’s a solid approach. I know I feel better and function better if I eat more frequent smaller meals versus two or three major ones. (Actually, I’m lucky to get in one major meal and want to eat the next morning, if it’s dinner. ) I’ve noticed the same tendency in two of my three kids; they prefer to ‘graze’ vs larger meals. (The other one never STOPS eating.)

It’s almost comical now – my husband can’t figure out why on earth half of us are only a little hungry all day, while others are very hungry a few times a day. I can’t explain it to him either – we just eat differently! Makes for a fun time grocery shopping too, let me tell you! ;)

(Eek, sorry for the ramble there!)

9 | Carly

May 3rd, 2010 at 8:15 pm

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My little guy (almost 4 years old) eats pretty much non-stop throughout the day. He’s still hungry long after we’re full despite eating three squares and numerous snacks.

He’s a great eater in that he’ll try anything and likes just about everything. He eats meat, LOVES fruit and vegetables (cooked or raw), cheese, etc.

I get concerned at times because he’ll eat an ounce or two of chicken, an adult-sized serving of veggies, fruit for dessert, a homemade popsicle (fresh-squeezed pear and unsweetened pear juice and water) and maybe some yogurt too.

Then 30 minutes later, he’s ready for another big meal. We’ve had to feed him oatmeal or a bowl of cereal (just cheerios with soy milk) before bed most nights or he wakes hungry three hours later.

He doesn’t seem to be putting on any serious weight, just growing normally in both height and weight. He does still have a bit of a baby belly left – much to my delight.

Where does all that food go?!?!

10 | Rebecca

May 3rd, 2010 at 8:30 pm

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I am defn guilty of over-snacking. I offer healthy choices (cheese, fruit, veggies etc) but a lot. Plus milk. My son is a huge milk drinker. So yes, I know why he doesn’t eat a big lunch most days, but at the same time, that’s the kind of food he likes to eat.

I think I always have that ‘you aren’t eating enough!’ mentality and while I don’t want my kids to develop certain food behaviours, it’s a hard habit to break.

I am trying!

11 | Finola

May 3rd, 2010 at 8:36 pm

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My girls still call them “preschool crackers” :)

12 | Scatteredmom

May 3rd, 2010 at 10:57 pm

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When Jake was little I’d set out raw veggies while I was getting dinner together. These days, I’m less concerned about snacking as Jake is going through a growth spurt and eats almost non stop. I keep the house loaded with lots of healthy snacks and stay away from any chips, pop, and highly processed stuff.

He’s such a bean pole (can count his ribs) that I’m not too worried about it at this point. He’s just so hungry ALL the TIME. Yeow!

13 | Kaitlin

May 4th, 2010 at 11:44 am

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The point about a snack being a pitstop is a good one and one that parents often forget. My SIL doesn’t understand why her daughter doesn’t eat dinner after crackers, cheese and a huge glass of milk. My own mom was guilty of this too, but her cooking was so good that I lapped it all up just the same.

14 | Lynn

May 4th, 2010 at 1:03 pm

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My kids are legendary grazers — they love to snack, and then they love to eat nothing at actual mealtimes. I agree with Stefania that I’m okay with this eating process if the snacks are healthy foods and they are getting a variety of fruits and veggies. I think (or hope??) the grazing method can actually be an okay thing in that the kids eat as much as they like when they are hungry, then stop when they are full because they know they can have a little more later on if they need to.

I’ve started trying to work with it by feeding the kids a very small breakfast, then not having an official lunch – instead they just have a snack at 11 ish and another at 3 ish. It’s working out well and also fits in with the school’s balanced day schedule. I try to keep them away from snacks for a couple of hours before dinner, but if they don’t eat dinner because they had fruit, cheese, and crackers earlier, I’m okay with that.

15 | andrea

May 4th, 2010 at 1:10 pm

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School meals aside, I always wanted our kids to take eat with the rest of the family. Even if it meant we had to eat at 5:00 in order to accommodate. There’s no right or wrong way here, just a choice we made.

(But yes, as one commenter pointed out … whether or not the snacks are healthy ones or not, smaller afterschool snacks mean that more dinner gets eaten. That’s what I like to see!)

16 | andrea

May 4th, 2010 at 1:15 pm

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karen: when I give them cheese curds I give them about the same amount I would give them if it was regular cheese… dunno, a few bites worth? Hard to say without having measured it.

FYI, I don’t count calories with the girls. I’m not worried about fatty cheeses and things like that.

17 | Rae

May 4th, 2010 at 7:22 pm

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We have a “no snacks w/in 120 minutes of dinner” rule that works well for us, esp. since I let them steal veggies off the cutting board while I’m prepping.

The hard part of late has been the meatless meals – I try to do atleast one a week, but it’s been pancakes far too frequently.

18 | Mandy From Nova Scotia

May 7th, 2010 at 8:59 am

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I have only two concerns with my boys and there eating habits, one, that they eat healthy choices and two, that they listen to there body to tell them when they are hungry and full. I am scared that by pushing my boys to eat there meals etc… like I always thought a mom should do, that I actually might be changing the way they listen to there bodies when they are full.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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