There is a saying:
“I eat only once a day... I start it in the morning when I get up and stop it when I go to bed.”
And actually, many people really do this. Nibbling while working in the office, nibbling in the car or on the train, nibbling during watching TV.
One consequence of our modern fast paced lifestyles is that we tend to eat on the go, and this is often continued even after going to bed. This habit will be passed on to our kids, especially if we offer them something to eat every hour.
But is it good?
Which group do you belong to? Do you eat three meals a day or snack continuously?
I think, this around-the-clock nibbling is hurting our eating habits.
Mindful, regular snacking can be useful though. For example, for children who have relatively high calorie needs, offering nutritious snacks between meals might give kids a good chance of meeting their calorie and nutrient needs.
Furthermore, eating more often, but regularly is the key to preventing hunger and overeating on main meals. There is evidence that eating three meals and 2-3 snacks might be better for you than eating fewer but larger meals as long as the total caloric intake remains the same.
Moreover, small snacks between meals can increase concentration and endurance.
So snacking should not be systematically discouraged, as long as this contributes to a healthy energy and nutrient intake.
But nowadays we've fallen overboard
Our kids are snacking more than ever - and I think a research on adults’ eating habits would show the same. In the late 1970s, the average kid between 2-6 years ate one snack a day between meals, but now kids sometimes eat every few hours..
- When kids are allowed to eat all day, they will never be really hungry. If kids are coming to the table without appetite, they're not as willing to try new foods. Sounds familiar? Many times, this bad eating system is precisely the cause of picky behavior
- Another trouble is, we aren't only snacking more often, but we also take in much bigger portions and unhealthy, fattening foods and drinks. Nowadays, we are consuming more salty snacks, more simple sugar with meals, fruit juice, and soft drinks.
- Careless snacking can easily take you over your daily energy requirements while providing little to no nutritional benefit.
- A snack which contains mostly refined carbohydrates, can start a hormonal domino effect: First, your blood sugar level increases, then suddenly drops. This time you look for a small snack again. A vicious cycle.
- But it does not only harm the weight... Continous eating increases the risk of tooth decay. When your teeth come in contact with food more often, the bacteria in plaque has more time to produce enamel-damaging acids.
Why are we snacking?
There are also a number of reasons why we may choose to snack.
- Practical considerations like lack of time or irregular agenda may make it necessary to eat on the go or snack regularly.
- Social environment is also an important determinative. What our parents taught us in the past, we teach the same to our children.
- Very often, the reason is simply boredom. You don't know what to do with yourself, and while you loiter, you just snap one bite. And many small amounts can go far. Stress or frustration are also not good dietary factors…..
Conclusion and advice
- First just count how often you give snacks to your family. Nutritionists recommend that toddlers get 3 snacks a day; preschoolers and school-age kids get 2; kids 9, teens and adults get 1-2.
- It’s equally important what we nibble on. The foods you serve as snacks should be just as nutritious as the ones you serve at meals. Avoid ready-to-eat snacks, because these are mostly high in calories and additives. For example, choose fruits, dried fruits, nuts, yogurt, homemade granola bars.
- Don’t watch TV, listen to music, work or talk on the phone while you’re eating. These lead to mindless nibbling. As much as you can, avoid snacking on-the-go. Respect yourself by eating in calm circumstances.
- Boredom, stress, or frustration should never be the reason for eating! Learn to deal with these feelings differently!
- Plan your snacks on the morning or for the whole week. So you can keep your snacking habits in check. Plan also a meal schedule for your kids, if they are old enough, involve them into the planning!
If you achieve these points, you have done a lot for the health of your family!