It's summer! Is this what your eating schedule looks like (constant asking for food and/or eating)? The kids are home, they get bored, so they eat. Or they bug you for food. Sound familiar? Here are 4 tips for making summer eating a little more manageable.
1. Maintain an eating schedule with extra snack times .
Establish an eating schedule, including meals and sit down snacks, that work for you and your kids, and stick to it. Firmly tell your kids exactly when to expect the next eating time, and they will stop asking for food in between. Make sure to give plenty of warning though when you first start this up! So for example, when your child gets up from the table after lunch, ask if he’s eaten enough, because there won’t be food coming until snack time in 2 hours. Think of snack time as "mini meals" and include a variety of healthy and fun foods. If kids do ask for food between meals, simply tell them now is not the time, and when the next meal or snack is coming.
2. Introduce your child to mindful eating.
Ask him to identify why he's asking for food: is he physically hungry (ask him to rate his hunger on a scale of 1-10, possibly identifying if he could have eaten more at the previous meal/snack, or may require a larger meal/snack coming up), emotionally hungry (eating in response to feelings or emotions), or mouth or mind hungry (wanting a certain mouth feel or eating because "it's time to eat")[2,3]. Once your child has identified what he is hungry for, you can help him find ways to feed it that don't involve food.
3. Make drinking water fun
Children need to stay hydrated, especially if they’re outdoors and being active. Fluid needs increase as they age, but even a 2 year old needs 3 ½ cups (875 ml) of fluid per day just to meet his basic needs before factoring in heat and activity (Click here for more fluid/age requirements). And while they can get some fluids from juice, fruit, Popsicles and icy treats, there’s a limit to how many of those you want your kids eating (and asking you for), and honestly your best option is water. Because children have an immature thirst mechanism , and may not be able to identify or communicate their thirst, ensure that water is always readily available. Make it enticing by keeping it cold, offering fun cups or straws, adding carbonation, or jazzing up plain water with fruit, vegetables... I’ve recently seen rose petals added!
4. Keep to a sleeping schedule
Though longer nights and less pressured schedules may leave you wanting less hassle around bedtime, ensuring your kids maintain their sleep habits will reflect in their eating habits. A lack of sleep lowers the level of the hormone leptin (the satiety hormone) and increases ghrelin levels (the hunger hormone), as well as affecting appetite control . When 14-17 year olds were sleep deprived, though their hunger levels were not affected, the appeal and their intake of sweets was more than 50% greater than when they had slept a healthy amount . Even children who aren’t sleep deprived, but sleep later, had increased hunger scores . Keeping to a year-long sleeping routine allows your children to maximize their sleeping time, and keep their appetite and eating habits stable as well.
Summer-time eating and feeding can be tough. What tips have you found useful, and how do you manage?