What happens when children graze or help themselves to snacks throughout the day? They usually have eaten their quota of food before dinnertime. Children are born knowing how many calories/kilojoules they need to eat each day. If they are eating small amounts often, they are likely to reach their calorie requirement before dinner. That is OK as far as their growth is concerned, however it isn’t going develop good eating habits. The problem is that:
- They fill up on the foods they choose to eat instead of being offered a wider variety of foods. Usually the foods that children graze on are the ‘easy’ foods such as crackers, cheese, fruit, biscuits, cereal bars, not meat and vegetables. Meat and vegetables are usually offered at the evening meal where children who are ‘grazers’ are less likely to be hungry. Meat and vegetables are also the foods that are most challenging for young children. They have strong flavours and in the case of meat, take more effort to chew than many other foods.
- Children are not hungry at mealtimes because they have filled up before the meal. For children to want to try new foods, the first condition is that they need to be hungry.
- They don’t have a mealtime routine.
Children need to be offered food at regular times throughout the day and it is our job as parents to do the offering and not wait for the child to ask to eat.