Summer snacks can be a common frustration for parents. After all, summer is a time for long days at the beach and pool, camps, cookouts and time with friends and family.
With it comes less structure and more activity, which can throw the meal schedule into chaos and lead to snacking problems.
In this article, I’ll cover 5 summer snacking problems, including:
- Using Snacks as a Reward
- A Lack of Eating Schedule
- Too Much Processed Food
- Getting Behind Your Child’s Hunger
- Drinking Your Snack
Don’t worry, I’ve got the solutions to troublesome summer snacks. With them, you will be able to use summer snacks to your advantage!
Why Snacks for Kids are Important
Snacks help round out the nutritional requirements for children who are young or very active and cannot meet their energy needs in three meals.
Snacks can contribute up to 25% of calories for children, so it is important to try and make them count nutritionally.
It is well worth your effort to make snacks a nutritious addition to your child’s summer eating patterns.
Summer Snacks: 5 Common Problems
These are the most common summer snack issues I see with kids, and some of the most frustrating ones for parents. I’ve got some solutions to help you navigate these, so keep reading!
Problem #1: Using Snacks as a Reward
Last week, my six-year-old went to a soccer camp in the morning and was given Starburst candies. Then she went to swim team practice in the afternoon, and was given more candy.
From there she went to a tennis clinic where the coach gave each player a lollipop.
Seriously? I can almost guarantee high fives all around and an enthusiastic cheer would be way more exciting than candy.
These are “reward snacks” that do not add to kid’s nutrition, and can ruin kids’ exercise. I’m all for everything in moderation, but not like this.
Our kids really do play for the love of the game, not the love of the snack.
How to Fix It:
Work together to decrease “reward snacks” including eating one food to get a reward (more broccoli to get ice cream) or participating in an activity to get a reward.
Research shows that children learn to love the reward and not like the trigger.
Problem #2: Lack of an Eating Schedule
Summer is often more relaxed and less structured which can lead to all-day-snacking.
How to Fit It:
Keeping a structured meal and snack schedule in the summer is critical. If kids begin snacking all day long, meals are lost, and hunger and satiety signals become fuzzy.
Like all food service operations, your kitchen can have hours of being open and closed. Plan snacks so nobody gets too hungry, but don’t let the snacking go on.
Children are supposed to feel hunger, eat to feel satisfied and wait to feel hunger again.
Listening to internal hunger cues is crucial, and having structured meals and snacks promotes this.
Problem #3: Too Much Processed Food
Your children always want chips, crackers, cookies and nothing else for snacks. And it’s easy for them, because your pantry, the pool and friends’ houses are full of these foods.
How to Fix It:
There are many ways to downsize processed foods in your child’s diet. And, summer is a great time to experiment with new fruits and vegetables. Try to engage your snackers and get them involved by making yogurt parfaits.
Or, take the kids to a farmers market, and let them pick new things to work into snacks.
Try to include two food groups together in snacks – more like a “mini-meal”, such as nuts and fruit, veggies and dip, almond butter and apples, which are more nutritious and satisfying than a bag of crackers alone.
Here is a list of 51 snack ideas to try with your child.
Problem #4: Getting Behind on Your Child’s Appetite
Kids are often more active in the summer. They come in like a pack of wolves with voracious hunger, sniffing out any snacks they can get their hands on in the fridge and pantry.
How to Fix It:
Be prepared. Be prepared. Be prepared.
Have cut raw vegetables and dips ready. This is the best time to serve vegetables – when kids are hungry. Have snacks prepared at eye level in the fridge for easy access.
Make snacks visually appealing to entice children.
Problem #5: Drinking your Snack
Your kids are thirsty and would rather drink their snack with a sugar-sweetened-beverage.
How to Fix It:
Offer foods with high water content and avoid sugar sweetened beverages. Get your snacker to help make homemade popsicles with pureed fruit, smoothies, spa water, and fruit kebobs.
Or, opt to make your own (healthy) soda.
Photo Credits: Petite Nutrition
Photo Credit: IRIS Photography
This guest post was provided by Anne London, a pediatric and family registered dietitian who works with children and families to develop healthy eating habits for life through her practice and blog Petite Nutrition. She resides in Connecticut with her husband and two children.