I wrote a while back that Nora was becoming a bit of a snack monster — demanding snacks while we were out and about and the like. Thank you so much for all of your helpful comments! I now know that this is pretty normal toddler behavior, but, as with everything in parenting, it’s a good idea to set some limits. This is the follow-up, after putting some of your ideas into practice, to share how your advice has worked for me. Hopefully it will help someone else!
A couple of you, either here or on Facebook, suggested she might be having a growth spurt, and that, regardless, limiting her snacking was going to lead to a very unhappy kiddo (and, consequently, an unhappy mama). I certainly don’t doubt that a growth spurt was involved, as Nora seems like she’s grown about 2 inches recently. Even my mom, who hadn’t seen her for about 10 days, said recently that she’s looking longer and leaner. Throw into the mix that this all came to pass around the same time we weaned, and it makes sense that she’d be extra-hungry.
Be that as it may, I did recognize, as a couple of you pointed out, that I might be unwittingly fostering bad habits. Since I would give her something to eat every time she was in a shopping cart, the car, or the stroller when she yelled “snack” at me, she was coming to associate those things with eating, whether or not she was actually hungry. And, by feeding her things like graham crackers, Cheddar Bunnies, and freeze-dried fruit, I might be causing her to develop a taste for junk food.
I had to tackle this as a two-part problem: first, the developing snack habit, and second, the types of foods she was starting to prefer. For the habit, I started by modifying my behavior. Since we are more settled in now, and daily trips to Target, Ikea, and the grocery store to stock up on staples are not mandatory, I have started forcing myself to do a better job of planning and consolidating trips. That means less time in the shopping cart and more time for fun stuff like trips to the park, the pool, or the library, which keeps her busy and entertained.*
* As a bonus, it also means less money spent on impulse buys!
When a trip to the store is necessary, I started trying to go right after a meal or snack, so I’d know she was not really hungry. If she demanded a snack, I’d tell her it wasn’t snack time, and that we’d have a snack later. If that didn’t work (and at first, it didn’t at all), I’d offer her a piece of fresh fruit to munch on.
That bleeds into the second portion of the problem. On Emma‘s suggestion,** I started mostly offering her fresh fruit and veggies as snacks. Once in a while, she gets a cheese stick or a graham cracker for a snack, but if she asks for more, or another snack later, fruit or veggies it is. I’m trying to make sure she doesn’t get a taste for “snack foods,” and the more fruit and veggies she eats, the better. If she doesn’t want an apple, well, too bad. That’s what I have. If she’s hungry, she eats it, and if she doesn’t, I don’t cave and give her a graham cracker instead.
** Go look at her comments if you are struggling with this — she gives a bunch of great info and links to some fantastic resources.
After a couple of weeks of this, I can tell a pretty big difference. Not only can I now go shopping without having her yell for a snack the second her bum hits the cart, she has also gotten way better about eating fresh fruits and veggies as snacks. Part of that is because it’s easier for me to have them available if we are at home, but I have learned to bring more portable fruit with us (apples, pears, berries in a snack ball) rather than defaulting to Cheddar Bunnies or freeze-dried fruit.
I do give her graham crackers or raisins or dried cherries every so often when we’re out and about and I really need her to behave, or just as a treat, but, again, at Emma’s advice, I let her know that it’s a special treat. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that — everyone deserves treats once in a while!
So that’s my story. I feel a lot better about Nora’s snacking habits now, and we can even go shopping without a non-stop snackathon — she’s usually content to play with a toy in the cart and flirt with passers-by. Success!