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Solving Snack-Time Stress

My previous entry was about feeding
finicky toddlers, and the feedback fell into two categories: 1)
“I feel terrible in comparison since you make things from
scratch and I’m serving up Kraft Mac ‘N Cheese most
nights”; and 2) “We want more details!”

So first off, don’t feel bad if you don’t do everything
just like me. Keep in mind I’m home all day and have the time
to cook that moms who work outside the home often don’t. I
make cheese crackers from scratch because a) I like to, and b)
after eight months of unemployment last year, I’m very very
cheap. And finally, don’t feel bad because I cracked open the
blue box last week myself; my kids don’t always eat like
pro-biotic, all-organic angels.

As for the request for more detailed suggestions, here goes!

Today I’m focusing on snacking: how
best to use those mini-meals to your toddler’s nutritional
advantage, and ways to not get stuck in a snacking rut. I think we
all have our two or three favorite snacks we turn to as we’re
running out the door, and we can easily see our children turning
into a gigantic goldfish or piece of string cheese.

Let’s address the first issue – how to snack. Keep in
mind that toddlers need snacks because their little bodies are
constantly burning up fuel and their tummies simply aren’t
big enough to hold all that fuel from a meal. So try to have a
couple of set snack times during the day and be ready for them,
even if the snack time pops up in the middle of your
errand-running. I know that when you’re in the middle of
Williams Sonoma, waiting impatiently in a huge line, and your
toddler begins whining, “Mommy, I’m hungry!”,
it’s tempting to turn to the pretzels or popcorn to simply
get him quiet. But if you plan at the start of the day to have
those “emergency” snacks with you, you’ll be able
to hand him some dried fruit or multigrain crackers instead of the
roll of Lifesavers from the bottom of your purse.

Likewise, keep in mind that our children haven’t yet learned
how to eat because they’re bored, but they quickly will if we
let them. Maddie sometimes equates riding in the car with eating
because we’ve occasionally been running so many errands that
she’ll end up having snack time in the car, so often
she’ll climb in the car seat first thing in the morning and
say, “Mommy, I’m hungry!” I’ll tell her
it’s not snack time and see if she’s easily diverted,
and thus bored, or really hungry and insistent. I also don’t
let Maddie eat while watching television, ever. She’s allowed
one video a day, and if she requests it around snack time she knows
she has to choose whether she’ll watch a video or eat a
snack. If she’s hungry, she’ll eat, and if not,
she’ll choose the video. I’m hoping that this will keep
her from falling in that trap of snacking while watching t.v. when
she’s older.

Ideally, Maddie’s snacks come right in the middle of physical
activity: we take snacks to the park and she’ll ask for one
when she’s tired and needs to refuel, or after spending an
hour at the gym on the trampoline. Sometimes Maddie will skip a
snack time and I won’t offer it, and if she begins
consistently asking for food about half an hour before a meal I
know I need to move mealtime forward.

Now to the brass tacks – what to eat.

You want your snack to fuel your kid, not slow her down, but you
also don’t want it to cause a huge crash an hour later. You
want a snack that’ll satisfy, but still leave an appetite for
the next meal. My friend Graham found that when he stopped offering
simple carbs at snacks (like pretzels or goldfish) his daughter
Elisabeth ate much better during mealtime. I have not been brave
enough to go completely carb-free, but I am mindful of using them
sparingly. Pretzels and goldfish are a rare treat – maybe
once a week – but I do offer some sort of crunchy something
at most snacks. I try to find a crunchy/sweet/fat combo to satisfy
Maddie’s palate and fill her up at the same time. For
example, I’ll give Madeleine some soy chips with applesauce
to dunk them in, or a bowl of veggie booty with some peach slices.
Her current favorite snack consists of some multigrain crackers,
apple slices, and a few pieces of smoked Gouda cheese. You’ll
find combinations that work for you, and easily be able to build
around the same themes soon enough.

So for everyone who wants details, here’s what’s in my
pantry – on the famous “snack shelf”, as it were:


target="_blank">Robert’s Gourmet Veggie booty
both Maddie and Cora now eat this

Pretzel goldfish (not on the snack shelf, but on a mommy-controlled

target="_blank">Milton’s Everything multigrain
– found these at Sprouts and have to say,
they’re incredibly tasty. Maddie loves them – great
seasoning. Definitely worth looking for - make sure it's the
"Everything" flavor!

Brown rice cakes – for when Maddie wants “crunch”
– use for dipping in applesauce or spread an herbed soft
cheese on it

Kashi’s Tasty Little Cracker

Carr’s Whole Wheat Crackers – you’ll find them in
any grocery store, and they taste like cookies with only three
grams of sugar per serving. Great for spreading cheese upon.

target="_blank">Late July mini organic cheddar cheese
– the organic version of mini-Ritz cheese
sandwiches. They satisfy Maddie’s crunchy and fat cravings,
but are not a daily offering

Apple-cinnamon soy chips – she gets the crunchy, but fills up
on the soy protein much more than she would if she were eating
potato chips.


Pretty much the entire line of href="http://www.justtomatoes.com" target="_blank">Just
: we’ve got Just Strawberries, Just Peaches,
Just Mango, and Just Pineapple in heavy rotation. *Note: all dried
fruits are not the same! When I talk about Maddie eating dried
fruit I don’t mean the ones with added sugar, like Craisins
or sugared pineapple rings – I mean the freeze-dried fruit
that has no other ingredients. Go with a brand like Just
Strawberries, orhref="http://www.barefruitsnacks.com/products.html"
target="_blank">Bare Fruit

Applesauce – I keep the no-sugar-added individual servings
for snacking on the go, in both regular and berry flavors

Individual cans of mandarin oranges or peach bites – yes,
they’ve got added syrup, but they’re a great snack for
a hot day since they help keep her hydrated.

Any fresh fruit! I’ll try to cut up grapes, strawberries,
mango, kiwi, whatever, before heading out to the park and save the
dried fruit for when fresh isn’t available.


String cheese- what would we do without it?

However, I also try to save string cheese for out and about, and
keep hunks of cheddar, Colby jack, and smoked Gouda in the cheese
drawer for snacks.

Spreadable cheeses –you know those flavored cheese spreads.
Also great are the orange rounds you can slice up. The key is

Animal cheese crackers – made with hummus and cheese,
they’re high protein and taste a tiny bit like goldfish. And
Maddie gets to cut them out with cookie cutters when we make them.

Hummus – ok, this is protein, not fat – but it’s
great for dipping whole-wheat pita or carrot sticks.

Yogurt – if Maddie’s really starving and our next
meal’s a ways away, I’ll fix a bowl of plain yogurt
with granola.

Milk – Maddie loves when I make her a glass of “chai
milk”: a cup of soy or cow’s milk, add dashes of
ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and honey, and stir up. Make a cup for
yourself while you’re at it.

So those are my go-to snacks. And here are my last tricks: plan
ahead, and spread snacks every where.

My diaper bag ALWAYS has the following: at least one serving of
applesauce (travels well, can serve as a drink in a pinch), a tub
of Cheerios, a bag of mini-cheddar crackers, a “hidden”
bag of goldfish, and some sort of dried fruit, usually

And since I’ve been living in a car culture, our car now has
another “hidden” box of goldfish, a bag of dried fruit,
and my last line of defense – an href="http://www.odwalla.com/product1.asp?p=nutritionalbars&s=flavors"
target="_blank">Odwalla nutrition bar
like the Berries
Go-Mega. Low(ish) sugar, no trans fats, high in protein, these bars
last on the car door forever and are almost like a cookie for
Maddie if she’s starving.

Now I’ve said enough – if you’ve got your own
tricks, please post below!


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