For many families, skipping the after school snack might feel like a bad idea as it has become the common third meal of the day. But there are many benefits to skipping the after school snack and having an early dinner instead!
Wait Three to Five Hours Between Meals
Research shows that you should wait three to five hours between meals. This is the average amount of time it takes for the food in your stomach to pass to your small intestine–the time it takes for you to be truly hungry again. Hunger and appetite before then is likely habitual, addictive, or emotional. This leads to extra calories and spoils your appetite for the next healthy meal.
Most kids eat lunch around 12:30pm, so the ideal dinner time is around 5:30pm. So when your kids get home from school, skip the after school snack and eat dinner early. This means that your kids will come to the dinner table with an appetite, and the early dinner means that they’ll have plenty of time to digest their food before bedtime.
At dinner, because they are hungry, they will be more willing to try the new SuperHero foods that you put on their plates. It will feel good to know that your kids are nourishing their bodies with a selection of good protein, veggies and fruit instead of pretzels, fruit snacks, and cookies. Plus, it’s a big benefit for their growing bodies too!
For some families, eating dinner at 5:30pm might seem impossible! But can you block out an hour for dinner and work an extra hour after your kids go to sleep, or find another creative solution that works with your schedule?
If You Have to Snack, Be Mindful
If an early dinner just doesn’t work for your family, reevaluate those after school snacks! Feed them raw veggies or fruit instead of chips or crackers. Both of these foods digest quickly and easily on an empty stomach and won’t disrupt dinner as much. And try to wait at least three hours after lunch to feed them a snack to ensure that their bodies have fully digested their lunch.
Remember that it’s not about depriving your kids but about being deliberate about how, when, and what we feed our children. On average, Americans are consuming more calories today than we have over the past six decades, and our kids are unhealthier than ever before. So don’t just assume your kids are hungry and feed them out of habit. Be mindful about these choices and slowly teach them to be mindful about their bodies and hunger too. Limiting snacks, only eating when hungry, and being present while eating (instead of eating in front of the TV or a screen) are all amazing habits AND GIFTS that we can give to your children.