I observed an emerging after-dinner pattern in my son yesterday.
This pattern has been developing for a while, but I don’t think I paid conscious attention to it until last night. We were sitting at the table, digesting, when my son got up and helped himself to a handful of nuts from the counter.
Why is he snacking already? The dinner dishes haven’t even been cleared yet…I thought to myself.
I looked at the serving dishes on the table in front of me. There was some roasted potatoes, leftover rice from a previous night, marinated flank steak with broccoli and mushrooms, and salad.
He helped himself to:
- a minuscule amount of rice (less than half a teaspoon)
- he didn’t touch the potatoes
- one piece of flank steak, the size of a child’s finger
- some broccoli and mushrooms
- a bowl of salad
To me, this is not an adequate amount of food for a growing, athletic tween boy. Especially because he barely touched any of the carbs or protein.
He was snacking on nuts because he did not feel full from dinner.
After the handful of nuts, he then reached for a peach, some watermelon, more nuts, and asked if he can have dessert.
He was (obviously) still hungry.
I did not grow up with snacking after dinner. We also rarely had dessert. This snacking while watching tv at night is a North American thing (I grew up in Switzlerland), one that I never got accustomed to. There are snackers in our extended family though, and I do allow popcorn when we watch a movie, but I am uncomfortable with the concept of eating after dinner, particularly when one can choose not to eat properly at dinner.
How is it my kid can overlook my food, but then spend all evening thinking about eating snack food?
This is not a habit I want him to develop further.
Yes it’s summer vacation, and yes he does get hungry if he has a sports event or we go for a walk later, but those are exceptions. He should not be relying on snacks to fill himself if he has an opportunity to eat a proper, home-cooked, nutritious meal.
My solution to this problem was this:
Old-fashioned physical labour.
And why not? Plenty of work available for him to do outside. His dad is helping with the renovation of the garage, they’re shingling the roof now, there’s plenty of debris to pick up back there. There were many branches cut on a Manitoba Maple tree, which required cutting into smaller chunks and placing into yard waste bags. There’s sweeping, shoveling, and tending to the vegetable garden, as well.
So this morning, he got up and after breakfast, helped load old shingles into the contractor’s truck. He then went to his swim lesson and upon returning and having a quick snack he went back out to continue his work.
The dog days of summer are over for my boy, is what I’m saying, and my goal is that his appetite for meals, not snacks, will improve automatically.