The pandemic has disrupted kids’ normal snack habits. Here are small ways to bring back a flexible eating schedule.
By Virginia Sole-Smith
At some point over the summer, my 2-year-old started demanding a snack every day, at around 9 a.m. Despite the predictability of this request, it threw me off every time because we had usually finished breakfast at, oh, 8:35.
At 9 a.m., I wanted my children to be occupied with books or Magna-Tiles or spinning in circles as I cleared their breakfast plates, unloaded the dishwasher, and maybe even opened my laptop and tried to work for a bit. But it was then when my younger daughter, Beatrix, sensing my attention was no longer laser-focused on her, urgently needed a cookie bar. So I gave her one. And then I tried to get back to doing all of those things, until, 20 minutes later, she wanted a piece of cheese. Then another piece of cheese. Then some blueberries.
By 10:30, the time I had naïvely thought a morning snack “should” happen, she had finished three or four courses, and was ready for a cookie or five. By 11:45, she threw a tantrum for lunch until I threw an applesauce pouch at her. By the time I got lunch on the table at 11:58, no thanks, she was full. And this became our daily pattern for the better part of two months.
I have written extensively about our children’s relationship to food, and about snacking in particular. But by August, I had to admit I had lost the plot on snacks with this child. In the Before Time, we had the structure of school, work and being able to leave the house to help us determine when to eat and to do other things. Now, all the lines are blurred. And with many kids back to remote learning, that’s unlikely to change.
“My 6-year-old has eaten so many Cheez-Its, I guess I’m sending the owner’s children to college,” Emily Gardner, 43, a mother of two in Nitro, W.Va., told me when I asked parents to share their stories of snacking on Instagram. “There’s no sitting at the table for lunch anymore,” added Camie Manning, 34, a mother of two in Alcoa, Tenn. “There are just kids running around with pizza rolls.”
So how do we get back on track with better eating habits, without a clear end to pandemic life in sight?
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