Creating A Healthy Snack Zone For Your Kids

With two little boys (ages 5 & 8), snack time is like The Neverending Story in my house. First thing in the morning, my boys head off to the kitchen to grab something to eat.  Whenever they come in the house from playing outside, they head right for the kitchen.  As soon as they get home from school, the backpacks hit the floor and they go running to the kitchen to scavenge for food.  Most of the time, they will open the refrigerator door, screech and whine that there’s nothing to eat in the fridge, slam the door, and then head to the pantry cabinets to grab whatever is readily accessible to them.  Usually this means some type of chips, crackers, popcorn, snack bars, a bowl of cereal, or even a bag of chocolate chips (they really don’t discriminate).  Before I know it, everything in the pantry is gone, and the stuff that I would rather them eat still sits in the fridge untouched.

Now, I realize that you are probably thinking “just don’t buy that stuff, and they won’t eat it.”  I hear you, but I also want all three of my children to grow up with a healthy relationship around food.  I don’t want them to feel like they HAVE to avoid certain types of foods, although the bag of chocolate chips is definitely questionable!  I want them to be able to have the “junkier” kinds of foods around them as they grow up and know that they don’t HAVE to eat all of it in one sitting.  That having a little bit of that kind of stuff is okay from time to time.  I have witnessed other children whose parents don’t keep any of the “junky” foods in their own house, and when left to their own devices these poor children will go absolutely ape sh*t at the site of chips, popcorn, pretzels, etc. and binge on them before they return home.

After experiencing the fallout from my boys eating through everything in our kitchen like Tasmanian devils, except for some stuff in the fridge, I decided this summer it was time to find a happy medium for both parties.  That’s when I decided to create a snack drawer in the fridge for them, so that they are eating more of the healthier foods that I would like them to eat, and they are also given a bit of freedom to “snack wisely”.

It took a few days, and a few episodes of whining and whimpering to get them comfortable with the idea of a snack drawer, but I will say that things seem to be looking on the up and up as the kitchen doesn’t look like it’s been pillaged by a small group of Vikings anymore.  There isn’t any complaining about “there’s nothing to eat”, and my boys are enjoying their “independence” of being able to select from a variety of snacking options.  I have also found that it makes grabbing snacks for when we go out and about much easier. The snack drawer also provides me with some more sensible options to eat when hunger strikes and I don’t have anything prepared.  Once schools starts up again in a few weeks, it will certainly help with making packing lunches a much easier and smoother process.

Now, yes, it does take a little bit of prep time in advance to get everything together, but the prep time is well worth it if it means avoiding pleasant children morphing into hangry little monsters.  I used to resist doing a lot of things ahead of time because it’s just not in my nature, but it’s amazing how something so simple as a designated snack drawer can make such a big difference in the mental and physical state of all those involved!

Here are a few tips to help you put a snack drawer together for your kids and help you breathe a sigh of relief –

 

1. Keep your food contained in an obvious spot.

 

I know it sounds pretty obvious, but the struggle here was that my boys had to actually search the fridge to find something healthy to eat.  My fridge would be stocked with yogurt, fruit, cottage cheese, veggie slices, and other stuff, but if that stuff wasn’t front and center for the boys to grab, then there was “nothing to eat.”  I thought it might be better to bring everything together in one spot so they would know where exactly to look for snacking options.

So, I just took one of the drawers already in the fridge and decided to make that their designated drawer.  Now, if you don’t want to give up a preexisting drawer you can always purchase an additional plastic drawer at the store or online.  Remember: You will want to select a drawer that works for you and your family.  I like a drawer that is transparent, and I also try and put most of the snacks (except for the prepackaged ones) in clear bags and containers, so they can easily see what’s in there.

I also try to organize the snack drawer as much as possible by grouping foods in their appropriate food groups.  That way they can quickly glance through the entire drawer and get a quick read for what’s available.  The last pointer is to place the drawer on a shelf where your children can easily SEE and ACCESS the drawer.

 

2. Establish guidelines and rules

 

So there are some foods in our snack drawer that my boys gravitate towards more so than others.  I didn’t set any rules starting out with the drawer, but I quickly learned my lesson after the first few days.  The items in high demand in our snack drawer are the yogurt squeezes, cheese sticks, trail mix, and fruit.  So, I knew that if I wanted the drawer to stay evenly stocked throughout the week -we had to get some things straight here.  Yet, I couldn’t place too many rules on them or else they wouldn’t oblige.

We have come to a mutual understanding, and here are the “rules” that we have established for our snack drawer:

  • Once an item is taken from the snack drawer, it’s gone and there are no refills until the following week -so they need to learn to choose wisely!
  • My boys must AT LEAST one veggie pack per day, and they are only allowed 1 yogurt squeeze and 1 cheese stick per day.
  • Lastly, they are allowed 3 snacks per day during the summer, and two snacks per day during the school year (obviously on the days they have school). (Since my boys know the snack drawer is more easily accessible to them, the first few days they just went bananas and were grabbing snacks out of the drawer like it was going out of style. I want them to be eating a solid breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day instead of just snacking all day long.)

3.  Have variety

 

If you want your kids to stick to the snack drawer for their grazing options then you need to be sure that you provide them with a nice variety.  Remember: Kids can get bored very easily, so you need to keep things interesting and provide them with choices.

Our snack drawer includes things like Greek yogurt squeezes, string cheese, flavored cottage cheese, beef jerky, individual peanut butter packs, individual hummus packs, varieties of fruit, varieties of sliced veggies, homemade trail mix, homemade granola and a few other items depending on what we feel week-to-week.  This gives all of us some foods that we each enjoy as a family.

 

Overall, having a designated snack drawer has been very helpful for me.  It gives me the peace of mind of knowing that my boys are getting healthy and nutritious foods, while they also feel a bit more “grown-up” and special for having their own area in the fridge all to themselves. Do you use a snack drawer? What are your tips?

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