Does this after-school scene sound familiar? Everyone comes in the door and you immediately hear, “mom, can I have a snack”. You agree. The snack suggestions start. Then, after saying no to three suggestions, you finally agree to the last one- even though it wasn’t ideal. Just like clockwork, more snack requests come minutes after the first.
Before you know it, your kids have inhaled all of the chips, cookies, and popsicles that were supposed to be enjoyed on occasion. What’s worse is that they are struggling to settle down to do homework and manage themselves well. The homework hassles, meltdowns, and sibling battles ensue. Before you know it, you have inhaled a ton of snack food too. It is so frustrating, predictable, and seemingly unavoidable.
As moms, getting our nutritious food intentions and actions to line up can be challenging. We want to feed our families nutritious food that keeps us all healthy and happy. But, those in the moment decisions can take us out. Our food choices are often compromised when we are hungry, tired, or have pent-up energy. That’s what makes managing the early afternoon hours such a challenge.
While this scene is more normal that we like to admit, it can be changed. With a little strategy, intuition, and practice, we can get the entire family’s after-school snacking under control. The good news is that we don’t have to become the food police in order to make it happen. Here are my favorite strategies to help my family gain control of their after-school snacking.
Plan your snacks in advance.
Having a snack plan has saved me tons of stress and helped us all eat better. My meal board that is displayed on the kitchen counter makes the snack plan clear to everyone. I don’t have to make in the moment decisions on what is allowed for a snack. The kids feel empowered because they can choose anything they want from the board. It’s a win-win.
For even stronger buy-in from your family, ask them for help with planning the snacks. Just make sure that each snack is balanced with some protein or fat and fiber so that each snack is satisfying. Satisfying snacks eliminate the usual request for more snacks.
Use this tool to help you easily plan balanced snacks from foods your kids already love.
Have a dance party.
Sometimes we eat as a way to release pent-up energy even when we aren’t hungry. A dance party can help the entire family release that energy. Once the energy is released, it is easier to transition from one part of the day to the next without a ton of snacks. So cue up the music. Dance. Eat your snack and be amazed at how easy it is to get everyone’s cooperation with homework and chores. With less stress, you are less likely to end up eating junk food too.
Have a mindful moment.
While dance parties are great, sometimes the greatest need after school is a decreased pace. This is especially true on days when we have lots of activities and appointments after school. During these times, I have found that quiet connection works best. We cuddle on the couch to read a book or color a few pages- in silence. The downtime helps us get out of reaction mode and make clear conscious choices. After the activity, we eat a planned snack and move into the next part of the day.
So there you have it, three ways to calm the crazy to cut down on the after school junk food frenzy. It will take some trial and error. However, with a commitment to keep trying, you will find the perfect after-school formula for your family too.