My Child Can't Stop Snacking! | The Nourished Child

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My Child Can’t Stop Snacking!

Do you have a child who can’t stop snacking? You’re not alone. A lot of kids today are snacking way too much. Learn the four main reasons for kids snacking.

Should kids snack or not? I believe snacking is good for children, as long as you’ve got a system and routine in place.

Otherwise, kids snacking can get out of hand.

Snacking helps children meet their nutrient requirements and provides an opportunity to try new foods.

There’s also a downside to snacking.

For one, too many calories are coming from snack foods during the day. In fact, about 25% of the calories that kids are consuming comes from savory and sweet snacks.

These tend to be cookies, cakes, and candy, and high fat foods like chips and French fries.

Essentially, kids are getting an extra meal per day in the form of snacks.

If your child can’t stop snacking, you may be worried. In this article, you’ll learn the main reasons why children snack too much and get into trouble with their health.

three kids snacking on milk and cookies

4 Reasons Kids Can’t Stop Snacking

It’s important to understand why your child is snacking so much so you can help them use snacks to enhance their nutritional intake, not derail it.

Whether it’s boredom eating or distraction, here are four of the most common reasons kids can’t stop eating when bored.

1. No Schedule or Structure with Snacking

Structure is the routine around meals and snack times.

When there isn’t a routine, kids are left to figure out snacking on their own. And, they don’t necessarily pick the best snacks.

Instead, set up a structure for snacking. Identify how many snacks your child will have each day.

Then, identify the location for snacking. Is it in the kitchen or in front of the TV? Is it outside while playing?

The goal is to keep a routine with snacking in the same place, most of the time.

I recommend snacking in the kitchen, either at the table or at the kitchen counter.

The most important thing is to have a routine area where snacks happen.

Make sure your child knows when snack time is, and make sure you serve up snacks at those times.

When snacks are random and there’s no structure, your child may get nervous and seek snacks. In other words, they start to look for snacks on their own.

2. Boredom and Other Emotions May Lead to Excess Eating

Some children eat when they’re bored. Or emotional. Or celebrating.

When they eat for reasons other than hunger, it’s a behavior called Eating in the Absence of Hunger.

When this happens, it basically means that children are disengaged from their appetite cues.

Our appetite cues are the signals that tell us when we’re hungry, and they tell us when we’re full.

If a child is frequently Eating in the Absence of Hunger, or because they’re bored or need emotional comfort, they may get out of sync with their appetite signals.

Instead, make sure your child understands and recognizes when their body is sending signals of hunger.

For example, they may be hungry when they feel cranky or really tired.

If their belly growls, or feels uncomfortable, this may also be a sign of hunger, or fullness in the case of discomfort.

We want to help children recognize when they’re truly hungry and encourage them to satisfy this hunger by eating.

We also want them to recognize when they’re satisfied, so they can stop eating.

3. Unhealthy Food Options are Tempting

When we have chips, cookies, candy, and sweets around, it can be  really tempting for children, especially for those who haven’t mastered their executive functioning and delayed gratification skills.

I’m not saying get rid of unhealthy options.

I actually believe that having them around is a good thing.

It provides a training ground for navigating these foods, and it also normalizes them as part of the family diet.

But instead of simply having those foods hanging out on the countertops (and being too tempting), you want to make sure that you’re including them as part of the meal plan.

For instance, that might mean at lunch your child has potato chips, because it’s part of the meal plan, or at dinner, they get to have dessert because you’ve scheduled it in.

When you’re scheduling sweets and treats into the meal plan, you’re sending a message to your child that you’re in charge.

It also builds security for them.

In the end, they don’t have to go looking around for those sweets and treats because they know you’re going to include them as part of their eating routine.

4. Distraction and Eating Too Much

Being distracted while eating has been shown to disengage the senses from satisfaction and fullness and increase overall food intake.  

When you keep snacking in the kitchen, your kids are less likely to be distracted by sitting at the computer and snacking, watching TV and snacking, or playing on their gaming sites and snacking.

We want to make sure that snacking is happening without distractions, as much as possible.

Encourage your child to sit down and take the time to focus on eating and enjoy the snack.

If you find that your kid can’t stop snacking, it is time for you to take back the reins and bring more structure into your family snacking routine.

Start with these simple tasks:

  • Set a time for snacks.
  • Determine a location for snacks. Avoid distractions. Encourage your child to pay attention to the food they’re eating.
  • Plan the menu for weekly snacks. Don’t forget to plan for sweets and treats on the snack menu.

Learn More about Children’s Snacking

Read: The Smart Mom’s Guide to Healthy Snacking

Check Out: The Healthy Snack Planner

You may also be interested in:

51 Filling Snacks for Kids

5 Easy Late Night Snacks for Teens You Can Feel Good About

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