Why it's bad
Snacking all day means your child won't be hungry at mealtime. Constant munching (even if it's mostly healthy stuff) also prevents her from learning to recognize her own feelings of hunger and fullness -- and that's an important skill she'll need throughout life.
How to break the habit
- Set a schedule. Kids thrive on structure, so serve two or three daily snacks (midmorning, midafternoon, and bedtime if she's hungry) -- and try to have your child sit at the table for them. When she asks for a snack at another time, especially if she's just eaten and probably isn't even hungry, remind her that snacktime is coming. (If you're not comfortable denying her, offer a piece of fruit to tide her over.) "That can be hard at first, but the payoff is that your child's hunger will be better regulated and more predictable," says Linda Piette, RD, author of Just Two More Bites! That said, you should leave some wiggle room in your snack schedule, depending on the day's events.
- Make snacks filling. A snack that includes some protein or fat will keep kids satisfied longer, so they're less likely to feel like nibbling. Some combos to try: peanut butter spread on graham-cracker squares, a slice of cheese melted onto whole-grain crackers, or apple slices dunked into fruit-flavored yogurt.
- Keep junk out of sight. It's harder to say no when you have all sorts of goodies in the open -- and at little arms' reach. Rearrange your pantry and fridge so the only stuff you don't mind having them grab (like baby carrots or cups of applesauce) is front and center.