Kid Snacking: How Much Is Too Much?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I have a feeling that one day very soon, I’m going to become the complaining parent at my 3-year old's preschool. I've always been conscientious about her diet (I prefer that term over "strict" or "crazy") so I knew that I'd have a hard time sending her to school where she gets a snack that's not approved by me. I've tried to relax a little, looking at the bigger picture and telling myself that she's got to learn to make her own healthy choices at some point. She's only 3, so she's not really making those choices yet. But its good practice for the future, right?

She's only at school for 2 ½ hours, so she really doesn't need a snack. But I'm okay with it, even though I'm cringing internally when she tells me she had Cheese-Its and "dragon juice" for snack. I'm not entirely clear on what dragon juice is, but she always comes home with a blue mustache on the days when she's had it.

Preschool is notorious for having all kinds of parties- celebrating each holiday, each season, etc. And those parties always involve bringing in snacks and special treats for the kids. She never wants lunch after she comes home on those party days. After seeing all of the things parents bring in and how the kids are allowed to fill their plates with mounds of food, I can see why. She's also had regular days recently where she didn't want lunch because "I had lots of Goldfish today, mama!" she proudly tells me. It seems like her very short school day almost always revolves around food, and I guess that's where I start to get irritated.

According to a study from the Department of Health and Human Services, "Between 1977 and 2002, the percent of the American population eating three or more snacks a day increased to 42 percent from 11 percent." Of the children surveyed, the number who said they had eaten three meals on the previous day went down, while those who had had a snack went up more than 40 percent.

Some of that increase is probably due to the fact that families are constantly on the go. Many don't have time to sit down together for dinner as they shuffle from one practice or event to another. So snacking has become a way to fit it all in when there's no time for meals. Unfortunately, a lot of those snacks come from vending machines (candy, soda, etc.) and end up being a poor substitute for a nutritious meal. But it also seems like snacking has taken over our culture. I don't typically go to a meeting or any event that doesn't have snacks. And if they don't, the first question (whether it's vocalized or not) is "Where's the food?"

Am I overreacting? Is this just something I need to get used to, especially where my children are concerned? Do you find that snacking is a bigger deal these days than it used to be? Why or why not?