Small Talk#16: A Balancing Act!

Snacks & Mealtimes

Have you ever wondered why your toddler shakes his head in an emphatic “NO!” when you want him to eat his supper?

We exist in a fast paced, crazy busy life where eating happens on the go a lot of the time and it has become the “norm” to feed your toddler snacks in between meals as well. There are many reasons some parents are continually feeding their tots snacks all day long…the reasons range from “ oh, he never eats all of his main meal” to using snacks as a distraction for when the little one is bored or gets niggly!

Although a little person has a little tummy and cannot manage a huge meal, they do not need to be snacking all the time either, even on healthy foods like fruits and vegetables! Toddlers are capable of waiting 2-3 hours between meals and snacks and preschoolers and school age children can go 3-4 hours without eating.

If one isn’t careful, your little one could be getting more than enough calories every day from the snacks you feed him and will therefore not be interested either in his lunch or his supper. This is a pity as this can lead to stressful mealtimes where you try to persuade your toddler to eat all his lunch or supper when, in fact, his little tummy is already full of whatever snacks he has been munching on! Your toddler may be getting the calories necessary for proper growth if his snacks are “healthy” snacks, but he will be missing out on the quality family time from you all having a meal together.  This is where you all sit at the same table (him in his high chair, of course) and he will see the interaction and conversation between his parents. By being with you at the table he will also be exposed to the “grown up” foods he is expected to learn to eat.

So how do you manage to get a balance?

Below are 4 handy hints to help you balance your toddler’s snacks with his or her meals

1: Schedule snack times

schedule snack time

scheduled snack time

First of all you have to make a mental note of the time between meals when your child gets hungry and then you plan a snack for this time – preferably a sit down snack, not a snack whilst still running around! You may need 2-3 snacks per day, depending on your toddlers age. Don’t wait for him to ask for a snack. Have it (and the time) planned in advance and remind your toddler when it will be coming

2: Two food groups/snack

a selection of food groups

food groups

Plan on having at least 2 food groups/snack. Just a fruit or just popcorn may not be filling enough to last till his next meal. Instead add some protein or fat for more substance. An example would be: apple puree and a slice of cheese. Or bread with butter.

3: Use milk wisely

milk is a food

Glass of milk

Milk should be given as a snack or for a meal as it is very filling. One serving of 250ml of milk provides the same amount of calories as 2 eggs!! Therefore it is important not to let your toddler sip on it in between unless you are providing it as a snack.

4: Food as a Distraction is a NO-NO!!

don't use food to distract

bored child

Don’t use food or snacks as a distraction from boredom or for when your child gets irritable and niggly. This is a good tip for children of all ages (and for adults!) as it is a bad idea to use food to soothe emotions as doing so might lead to problems later on in life with weight management.

If you structure the snacks well, your little one can enjoy the convenience and flavour of different snacks without compromising eating at main meals. In order to structure the snacks, you first need to find out how many calories per day your little one needs. Then think carefully about what snacks you are going to offer, and how many calories the snacks will provide for the day. In addition, calories are not the only thing to think about – the snacks should also provide nutritional benefits. As if that isn’t enough to think about, you also have to have enough calories left over AFTER snacks so that your toddler will be hungry for his main meal with the family which will then balance out the total calories for the day!

The internet has many healthy snack ideas  to get you started on your balancing act! An article in Health Ambition, has some really delicious, healthy snacks for yourself, as a busy mom (or dad!), whether at home or in the office. The snacks which will give you lots of energy to last the day without piling on the calories  are easy peasy to prepare! Definitely recommended reading.

Food for thought, wouldn’t you say???

Any thoughts or comments can be sent to me directly at or you can leave them below  in the comments box.

Enjoy preparing the snacks!

Yours in newborn photography


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