The Single Most Useful Snacking Rule I Give My Kid

updated Sep 30, 2020
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My main struggle with snacks is that when I’m bored, I want to snack. My daughter is the same way, but it was hard for her to accurately gauge (not to mention communicate) if she was bored or actually hungry — especially when she was a toddler. My husband and I would inevitably find that in the window of time before dinner, she would come clamoring up to us, asking for a snack. Out of this came our family’s most important snacking rule, and one I try to get everyone to follow.

It was hard to deny my daughter food when she was asking for it, but I also didn’t want the dinner I was making to go uneaten and be replaced by fillers like crackers. So in the hour or so before dinner is ready, here’s our rule: anyone who’s hungry is only allowed to snack on vegetables.

Why vegetables? We try hard to make vegetables a big part of our meals, so I reasoned that if you’re hungry, it’s okay to eat some before dinner. Besides, if you’re going to fill up on anything, why not vegetables?

Once we instituted this rule, I found that half the time my daughter would say she didn’t want any vegetables and actually wasn’t hungry, and she’d be fine until dinner. The other half of the time, she did want snacks (veggies!) and since I was already in dinner-prep mode, I had my cutting board out so could happily oblige and make up a small plate for her.

(Image credit: Christine Han)

What are good snacking veggies?

My family’s favorite snacking veggies are raw ones that can also work in salads, so we make sure to always have carrots, baby cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes on hand. For a fun, more “snack-y” vegetable, we buy shelled, frozen edamame, which only need to soak in hot water for a few minutes. Roasted veggies or vegetable-based dips like baba ganoush or hummus would also be great options.

This pre-dinner snacking rule makes it easy for us as parents to respond with a consistent, healthy option, and it’s helped my daughter start to figure out if she’s actually hungry or just bored. Channeling our energy into a healthy snack is much easier than saying no to a snack altogether, and getting more veggies into my kid is always a win!