a word or few on snacking

Things can go a bit awol over the summer. Or maybe you’re already struggling with a picky eater and have more energy to tackle to the problem over the summer. The holidays mean parents get loads more requests for snacks and to eat out. So here are some thoughts and ideas of how to keep everyone on the straight and narrow and how to save money while still enjoying the change of routine. I’ve also shared some breakfast and picnic recipes to help with summer eating here.

I won’t judge if you don’t

Food and how we feed our children is such a sensitive issue. It is the subject that most of my clients and friends struggle with the most. I’ve thought long and hard about writing this as I can imagine the eye rolling some people may do. The tone is more serious than most of my other writing, but that’s because I feel really strongly about the misinformation that is out there.

Please know when you read my tips and recipes that my family is not a treat-free zone. Nor do I try and kid my children that a sweet potato brownie is as delicious as the real thing. We have real ice cream, crisps, cookies and cake and go out for pizza or get a take away. We just don’t do it every day. And when we do have treats, we choose the least processed, real ingredient versions of them – so while we’re enjoying that delicious sugar and fat, we’re not filling up on poor quality meat or chemicals, and we’re lining the pockets of small producers rather than those of the big multinationals.

This is just about eating real, unprocessed food and eating the right food at the right times so we teach our children good habits.

I’m not judging how anyone feeds their children. We’re all doing our best and it’s bloody hard. But because I spend so much time teaching families to cook, I know the habits that can form, and that this is a really common rut to be in. I also know what tricks work, so I hope they help you too. Changing habits takes time so stick to your guns and you’ll get there, children are hard-wired to moan but ride it out and stay strong.

Grandma knew best

Remember that line ‘if you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple you’re not hungry’? Feel free to bring that back, because it’s true. Snacks that are too heavy, and grazing throughout the day or too close to meal times can mean that children don’t get hungry enough to want meals. I’m pretty sure our grandmas were all united in the not eating before mealtimes rule but that has been lost a bit.

Most of our grandparents weren’t trying to juggle work with childcare so it was easier to eat dinner earlier and there was less of a gap between lunch and dinner. If a child is starving hungry but gets picky at meal times, maybe their mealtimes needs shifting a bit rather than filling the gaps with snacks.

Tempting as it may be, it’s also important not to use snacks as a way of keeping children quiet. I know that it is a good way of keeping order on a busy day, but we usually pay the price later.

Do we need the snacks we’re told we should have?

The food industry has been clever to created ‘snacktime’ as a way to sell more food outside of the traditional mealtimes. Now we’re constantly given options for snacks throughout the day, and obesity and children being picky eaters is growing. The sales for snack foods have increased by over 30% in the last 5 years in the UK alone. It makes it one of the most profitable areas of the food industry.

I know there is an argument for eating six small meals a day, but I think many of us forget the ‘small meals’ bit of that and just have our usual breakfast, lunch and dinner with two or three snacks added in.

While we’re at it – ditch the juice

Juice fills children up so they don’t eat properly, also there’s the cost, all the packaging and the teeth thing. Make the most of the lack of routine by going cold turkey on juice during the summer, while there are other distractions. Just fill a couple of water bottles and take them out with you. You can even throw some sliced oranges or a few frozen berries in to flavour it up if that’s an issue. They may moan at first but they’ll cope.

Ideas for snacks other than fruit

Stock the freezer with

  • Frozen berries and grapes – eat them from frozen, like mini lollies.
  • Homemade lollies, packed with fruit and veg.
  • Bananas, peeled and in chunks so you can make my easy banana ice cream in a jiffy.

Veg and dips

I usually give children a ramekin with chopped up carrots, peppers, cucumber and baby tomatoes while I’m getting dinner ready. Most children will be more likely to eat their veg when they’re hungry when the veg isn’t in competition with the rest for their dinner. Having chopped up veg on hand while I’m making dinner also helps the two dinner syndrome I can fall into when my boys are eating earlier than us.

If you need some dips, beyond the ever useful bought houmus or guacamole, have children make dips for their veg.

  1. Balsamic or lemon juice plus olive oil (1:3 ratio. i.e. 1 tablespoon vinegar : 3 tablespoons oil.)
  2. Cream cheese or plain yoghurt, grated cucumber, mint (4 tablespoons each of natural yoghurt and grated cucumber, 5/6 leaves mint, chopped, salt and pepper)
  3. Low sodium soy or tamari sauce, sweet chili sauce, lime juice (equal amounts of each)
  4. My romesco sauce is always a great one to keep in the fridge.

What other help do you need?

I’m going to be writing more about how to help families eat better and have all sorts of ideas and tips to share. Do let me know what you’re struggling with and I can weave that in or help you directly.