Grazing is quickly becoming our children’s way of eating

Families are busy today. Because of our busy schedules, meal time often gets overlooked or pushed to the side. Our children are left grazing for their food. Learn what consequence this has on our children.

Today families are very busy. In many families both parents work and children are at daycare or busy with after school activities or sports. Homework takes up much of the evening hours. Family schedules have activities from very early in the morning to almost bedtime. Because of our hurried lives, our eating time has been pushed and made less important. Even at schools and daycare centers, children eat in a hurry. Children are anxious to get outside on the playground. Other children in school face long lunch lines before they are able to get their food. When they do sit down to eat they only have 10 to 15 minutes to eat their lunch.

According to Ellyn Satter, RD, children need planned and structured eating times to help them learn to eat a variety of foods, be able to consume a nutritionally adequate diet and get the right amounts of food to grow properly. Grazing is fast becoming the preferred way of eating. Advertisers push us toward many convenience foods. But, many processed foods come with additional trans fats, sodium and sugars. Children are often feeding themselves and just grabbing foods from the shelf or from the refrigerator. Michigan State University Extension says that this grab and go approach can easily lead to poor food choices and extra calories not needed by our children.

As a parent, our job is to see that our children have access to a variety of nutritionally adequate foods on a fairly regular schedule. By paying attention to feeding schedules, our children learn that the food will be there again so they can tune into their own internal signals of when they are hungry and when they are full. They also learn to accept a variety of nutritionally healthy foods through exposure and experimentation. So the next time your child says they are hungry, ask yourself, am I setting a regular meal time each day and am I offering my child a variety of healthy foods?

MSU Extension offers nutritional education in planning and preparing meals and answers questions on how to feed your child.

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