Make Your Life Easier and Raise a Better Eater with Consistent Meals and Snacks
Consistent Meals and Snacks: Make Your Life Easier and Raise a Better Eater
Never before have Lynn and I posted a guest blog, but this time we have made an exception. Peaceful mealtimes and healthy eating are hot topics and we decided it would be helpful to bring in a pediatric dietitian professional to provide practical research based information that can really make a difference. That’s why we invited Jill Castle, MS, RDN to create this blog to share with you.
A Guest Post by Jill Castle, MS, RDN
Founder and CEO, The Nourished Child®
Feeding kids is hard. As a mom of four grown kids, and a pediatric dietitian, I know that mealtime can feel unpredictable, frustrating, and exhausting if you don’t have a consistent routine. Funny thing is, it can feel the same way for your child, too.
One of the simplest things you can do to make your life easier is to implement an eating schedule for your family. Here are 4 reasons why scheduled meals and snacks make feeding your family easier and your child a better eater:
1. Consistent mealtimes and snacks build better appetite regulation:
Children eat. They get full. They stop eating. Then after a few hours, they get hungry again. And so, the day goes. Sometimes it feels like they’re hungry all the time! But when meals and snacks happen at regular times, kids are better equipped to listen to their bodies, not only eating when they’re hungry but stopping when they’re full.
Regular meals and snacks also make it more likely that children will have an appetite when it’s time to eat. Here are the recommended intervals for meals and snacks, based on age:
- Toddlers: Every 2.5 to 3 hours
- Children: Every 3 to 4 hours
- Teens: Every 4 to 5 hours
Here’s an example of an eating schedule for a child:
7:00 am: Breakfast
9:30 am: Snack
12:00 pm: Lunch
2:30 pm: Snack
5:30 pm: Dinner
2. An eating schedule reduces excess eating:
When children are allowed to graze or eat whenever they feel like it, including when they’re bored, the risk of overeating is high. Setting boundaries around food and eating, such as where food is eaten and when it’s eaten, prevents children from overeating, filling up on snacks, and losing the connection to their sense of appetite. Boundaries support and reinforce the eating schedule.
Examples of a boundary:
- The kitchen is closed between meals and snacks. Translated: No eating between meals or extra snacking.
- Ask an adult before taking food. Translated: The adults are in charge.
3. Promotes predictability:
Children thrive with predictability. Look at regular bedtimes, wake times, or the school day schedule. These are routine for most kids, helping them trust the system, cooperate, and stay calm. The same is true for consistent meals and snacks. They ease insecurity, and constant questions about food, and deter other behaviors like sneaking food.
4. And for you, Less food prep:
Most children will eat 4 to 6 times a day. This translates to three meals and 1-3 snacks per day, depending on a child’s age. If you don’t have these happening at set times, you may be making more snacks than you need to or catering to your child’s food preferences at mealtime due to a lack of nutritious foods (or an abundance of snack foods) throughout the day.
Although the effort to schedule consistent meals and snacks may feel like work, in the long run, an eating schedule makes your life easier, while helping your child tune in to their appetite, avoid extra eating, and be calmer at mealtimes.
Thank you Jill. For additional information check out Jill's website; The Nourished Child®
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