Hi folks, Jill here. In case you’re wondering, I am well! Spending a lot of my summer driving kids around to various activities…waiting for my almost 17 year-old to get that driver’s license. I’m also savoring the fun stuff too, like watching my son mimic Mick Jagger in his Rolling Stones Rock and Roll camp and my daughter practice her role as Ariel in The Little Mermaid for the summer theater Jr. Company. Oh, and I can’t forget Duke, my new yellow lab pup–he’s like having a new baby in the house!
Today you’re in for a treat! My guest blogger is registered dietitian and athlete Jaime Windrow RD (she’s also a mom!). You can find her blogging at Momdentity.
I hear this all day long. At home, the grocery store, the park, gymnastics, the bank… if there are children in the area, at least one of them is asking for a snack. Did they miss a meal? Are they hungry? Bored?
While providing snacks throughout the day may be a short-term solution, such as making it through your shopping list without a meltdown on aisle 3, it may be causing some problems in the near and far future.
How did our children become so snack obsessed and what can we do to turn the table?
I realized this was becoming a problem under my own roof when my now 2 year-old daughter asked for a snack every single time I put her in the stroller. It was automatic: I placed her in, buckled her straps and within one second there it was.
You just ate breakfast! I am a triathlete and runner, and currently training for 103-mile ultra-marathon, so my daughter joins me in her BOB stroller about 5 days per week for runs. I knew that I had to make some changes soon, or we were going down a very slippery slope…
What’s wrong with stroller snacks anyway?
- They replace real food. Most stroller snacks consist of items like crackers, goldfish, pretzels, “fruit” snacks and roll-ups. Even if they are organic varieties, these foods are empty calories compared to a fresh fruit and yogurt snack you could offer in the home, sitting at the table.
- They may ruin appetite. Filling up on foods for the duration a child might be in the stroller will only take away from mealtimes later in the day. Children should come to the table hungry and ready to eat their lunch or dinner, which should include nutrient packed choices such as a lean protein and vegetables. If they are full, they will most likely refuse the meal and this is often confused with being a “picky eater.” But really, they just aren’t hungry!
- They promote mindless eating. Eating out of habit, which is generally the case in stroller snacking, can lead to problems later in life. A teenager and adult can get used to eating all day, which can lead to obesity or as well as other health problems.
- They may be used as a reward. Using food as a reward to “be good” while mommy completes her errands, takes a stroller class, or goes for a walk/run, can lead to food struggles for a child. Karen Le Billion, author of French Kids Eat Everything, said it well: “Avoid emotional eating. Food is NOT a pacifier, a distraction, a toy, a bribe, a reward, or a substitute for discipline.”
- They may be bad for teeth. The minute certain foods containing sugar and starch are eaten, bacteria makes the tooth enamel more acidic, and the acid starts the process that may lead to cavities. Although some foods cause a stronger reaction than others, the biggest factor is TIME. Snacking for a long duration such as a 90-minute walk in the stroller, contributes to tooth decay more than eating the same foods within 20 minutes during a designated snack time. The worst culprits that are the most popular with the little ones are breads, crackers, bananas and cereals, in addition to the more obvious: cookies, cakes, candy and soft drinks. Sorry moms, but the organic bunnies, goldfish, saltines and cheerios fall into this category! If you were going to give these choices, they are best given at a designated snack time in the home, rather than nibbling on for hours without a toothbrush nearby.
What are some other ways I keep my child happy in the stroller?
- Play a game. Watch the environment around you and point things out, especially if you’re outside. Play the I Spy game, sing a song or play some music! I started playing Pandora during my runs a few months ago, and my daughter hums and sings along.
- Bring toys. If you have a baby or young toddler, bring some stroller toys that can be hooked on the stroller, and for the older child, include some books. Be sure to change them up so they don’t get bored.
- Time naps. Naps are always best for the baby or child in the home, but some moms have found that scheduling stroller outings with naps works well for them.
Is there a better way to include snacks in the stroller?
- Time your stroller snack. Don’t let the stroller snack be additional foods, let it be THE snack for the day. Toddlers only need 1-2 snacks, depending on the age and activity level.
- Choose non-fermentable carbohydrates. Stop the puffs, cheerios and goldfish and choose other snacks such as apple or orange slices, blueberries or raspberries with a slice of cheese.
- Bring water. Children should be drinking water throughout the day. Save juice (if you serve it) for special occasions like birthday parties. Encourage your child to drink water and rinse their mouth after a snack.
- Lose the snack tray. This is a constant reminder to your child that a buffet should be served every time they are in the stroller. Use it in special circumstances like a trip to a theme park!
If “stroller snacking” has been a part of your routine for a long time, you are not going to eliminate it overnight. And you are not a bad mother if you continue to give snacks in this manner. The goal is to get rid of that automatic response to “snack?” every time you place your child in a stroller and help them develop good eating habits and eat well-balanced meals. Good luck and enjoy these years, I hear they go by fast!
As a dancer, Jaime Windrow appeared with the famous Radio City Rockettes for 12 years, and also performed on and with the New York Knicks City Dancers, MTV’s The Daily Burn, ABC’s One Life To Live, The Today Show, Good Morning America, two Presidential Inaugurations, multiple commercial’s and TV shows among many others. Now a mom, Registered Dietitian, writer, athlete, lover of anything DIY, self-proclaimed faux chef and a woman of many hats, Jaime does not define herself by any of these one identities alone, but rather as a whole. A leading sports nutritionist in the country, Jaime has also worked very hard in the childcare and school systems to make the food our children eat a top priority. Her blog Momdentity sets out to support all these identities in a real, raw and passionate manner and is currently supporting a personal mission, Miles For Lexi.
Written by: Jill Castle, MS, RDN
Published on: July 12, 2013
Updated on: August 5, 2017