French people typically don’t snack between meals. We have three main meals and that’s it. That rule has actually been credited for keeping French people slim (have you read French Women don’t get fat?)
For kids, it’s a little different: they do have an afternoon snack, usually served after school, around 5 pm. I remember snacking on a baguette with Nutella growing up (yes, like in the commercial!). Or on Wednesdays, when I was off from school, I remember going to a tea room with my grand mother, mother and sister and enjoying a piece of cake. I can’t say my snacks have been the healthiest but they definitely have sharpened my palate for any thing sweet!
When I started to take my daughter to the playground, I was surprised at how much kids snack here in the United States. It seemed to me that mothers were always carrying some food from infamous Goldfish crackers to various fruits etc…It also occurred to me that kids were snacking at no specific time, but rather on demand, whenever they were hungry.
Although I think it’s a good idea to carry food (you never know when your child gets hungry), I haven’t been too keen on feeding my daughter between meals that much. Not that I have anything against it, but this is just the way I was raised. Simply a cultural difference. Instead, I have instituted a specific hour for snacks (usually around 3pm). I only give her a snack in the morning if we are out somewhere and if it’s going to be a late lunch. If she requests a snack outside this time frame, I’ll happily give her one but typically I don’t.
This of course requires that I put a little bit more effort into the meals that I prepare for her. Because she doesn’t really snack a lot, I prepare cooked food for every one of her meals. Now I can’t really say that it is connected for sure, but she’s always been a good eater and this may have something to do with it.
This attitude however has also disadvantages, as it has trapped me in a lot of situations. For example, say we are at the playground, we are meeting friends and my daughter has fun, but we have to go home to be on time for lunch…my friends on the opposite side of the issue stay longer because they always have snacks, whether it is nuts, cheese, fruit or yogurt. This really got me thinking at how being more flexible on snacks and meals, in general, can mean more freedom to do things.
What is your snacking policy? Do you think kids should eat on demand or at specific dedicated meal times?