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Early Snacking Helps Avoid Later Weight Issues

By , SparkPeople Blogger
My oldest child has always been a great eater.  She’s very active and has a big appetite.  She’s willing to try new foods (within reason) and is always asking when the next meal or snack is being served.  She’s a healthy eater (although she does have a sweet tooth like her mama), and is happy to snack on carrots or tomatoes if she’s hungry and dinner isn’t ready yet. 
I give my kids reasonable portions and encourage them to ask for more if they want it, because I hate to waste food and don’t want to force them to continue eating if they aren’t hungry just to clean their plates.  I’m hopeful that the way I’m teaching my kids to eat will help them avoid weight problems later in life.  I want them to develop a healthy relationship with food and not have to worry about “diets”.  We are big snackers in my house, so I was happy to see results of a new study regarding snacking and weight gain in young girls.
The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that girls who eat more frequently gained less weight over the next 10 years, compared to those who ate less often.  When the girls were 9-10 years old, they filled out food logs for a few days at a time.  Researchers compared the number of meals and snacks they ate with changes in their weight and size over the next 10 years.  They found that the less meals and snacks girls reported eating, the more weight they tended to gain.  “Over the ten years, those who started out eating more than six times a day climbed 6.5 points on the body mass index (BMI) scale, which is a measure of weight in relation to height. Girls that ate three times or less went up 7.8 points.  That works out to about eight extra pounds gained by the least-frequent eaters.”
This study did not look at exactly what girls were eating, and researchers agree that more studies are needed to determine whether or not eating more often can actually help shed weight.  But it makes sense that eating more frequently helps prevent binges since you’re never going too long between meals. 
Looking for healthy snacks your kids will enjoy?  Check out 25 After-School Snack Ideas and  Snacking Healthy.
What do you think?

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I see validity in this with my daughter, who is 14. She eats several small meals and snacks throughout the day and has a very healthy attitude toward food and her body image. She has always been a well-rounded eater and truly knows her hunger cues. I've never been a fan of the clean plate club. My parents did that to me, and all these years later I still struggle with leaving food on my plate - it's such a terrible habit! Since I joined SP and committed again to getting healthier, I have tried to make all my meals and snacks "mini meals" instead of three squares, to ward off the binges and overeating. Report
Will be sharing with my daughter for my granddaughter's health.
Thanks. Report
I have children that have feeding disorders and extremely low weight due to a genetic disorder and their feeding specialists are always telling us that letting them snack a lot isn't great because eating little meals often is a good plan for weight loss not weight gain! It makes it more difficult for me to eat less more often, me and my one child that doesn't have weight issues (either way) And not allow the younger one snack as much too. But once we get over that weight gain hump we will all be eating stretched out through the day. Report
my friend raised her children (girl and boy) the same way. They ate realively healthy, weren't forced to clear their plates and had a snack (usually a cookie-thinking to deny them sweets would make them want it more) right before bed. Both children were thin .... right up until they struck out on there own. Now they are both 30+ pounds overweight. So they never learned what was healthy and never learned to cook healthy or otherwise. they both tend to drink a lot of their calories in sports drinnks, etc. We are just not doing enough to teach children what is healthy. Report
Awesome Blog. God Bless You and Have a Wonderful Week. Report
Good blog. Conventional wisdom is moving away from "three square meals per day " to five smaller meals (or large snacks) as being better for weight management. As long as they are nutritionally balanced, it makes sense. Report
Great article. Report
Such an easy habit to implement. I'm sharing this with my daughter for my grandkids. Report
I've lived this and know it to be true! Planning my meals and snacks and spreading them over 5 or 6 mini-meals keeps me from getting so hungry that I attack the refrigerator! I think it's better for my metabolism too. Report
The re thinking of small snacks n meals is a big difference on my family. We always jumped on the big meals and actually miserable. I'm proff you can teach an old dog new tricks. Lol Report
Snacking always worked for me. I didn't always have healthy snacks, but I ate all the time. I called it grazing. I lost 30 pounds in 6 months, felt great, but when a crisis hit, I quit eating and gained the weight back. I am working on trying to eat healthier and snack more. Report
I eat my veggies and fruits. It is part of my menu's every day. Rarely eat sweets. Report
my only question would be how reliable are these logs? It's just like here on Sparkpeople, when I am having a really bad day and binging to the max, I'm inclined to fudge my log just so I don't have to acknowledge that I consumed a day's worth of calories in 1 meal and my sodium is 3x the daily limit! I think there are valid points to the study but not sure how scientifically reliable it is at this stage. Report
I am happy to hear this. My daughter seems to always be hungry and snacks frequently. She is also very active. Glad to be reminded that snacking is not an evil to avoid. Report
I definitely do better in my eating overall if I plan for healthy snacks. Then I don't go overboard at "meal" times because I don't let myself get to that famished point where I will scarf down anything in site. Report
What one eats matters as much as how often for a lot of us. I've found that 300 calories of sausage or bacon for breakfast usually holds me to lunchtime (and sometimes later!), while 300 calories of oatmeal usually meant that I'd be starting to check the clock for my lunch break by 10am. So even though I'm eating higher calorie foods now, I'm not as hungry, so I'm eating fewer calories overall. Report
This is really great info for all of us, moms and daughters alike. It reminds us that snacking is not the sin that some diet plans wild have us believe it is, and that healthy snacking can be a great benefit! Thank you. Report
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