Should kids be allowed to randomly snack? The French would say definitely not! Here's why…

I wrote this post to explain why I don’t allow my kids to randomly snack or graze throughout the day. They eat three meals a day, and one afternoon snack. If they say they are hungry, I tell them:
“That’s great, you’ll really appreciate your next meal. It’s in (X) hours.”
 I know this might sound cruel! But read on for my explanation of why I think the ‘no snacking’ approach is positive — both for what children eat, and how they eat.

We’ve heard a lot lately about the dangers of snacking–and it is a hotly debated topic.

Some argue that regular snacking means that kids aren’t hungry enough to eat the nutritious foods served at mealtimes. Others argue that snacking has benefits (balancing out blood glucose levels, for example).

I only let my kids have one snack a day. But before we moved to France, I let my kids snack several times a day. Whenever they said they were hungry, they got a snack (except in that half hour before mealtimes, and even then I sometimes gave in). However, I learned some things during our year in France that convinced me to change our family’s snacking habits.

The first thing I learned is that most French kids don’t snack randomly at home. They just never think of doing it. Astounding but true. I’ve been going back and forth between France and Vancouver for 10 years, staying for long periods with extended family and friends, and I have never once seen a child open the fridge or cupboard and dig around for a snack, or demand a snack from their parents in between mealtimes. Not once. I kid you not.

The second thing I learned is that scheduling snacks is OK. If it’s a habit, and if everyone follows the same routine, it’s not a problem. French kids never complain about it, because it would never occur to them to eat at the ‘wrong’ time. Life goes on, and even without snacking their kids are just as well-behaved (or even more well-behaved) than ours. And they do just fine at school (even with much longer school days).

There is one exception to the snacking rule, which is called the goûter. French kids DO eat after school. But it’s a mini-meal rather than a snack, eaten sitting at the table, with real foods – like bread and butter, fruit, yogurt. Then, French kids don’t eat anything until the evening meal at 7:30 or 8 pm. No bedtime snack.

The result? You guessed it: French kids eat much better at mealtimes, because they feel hungry. And the foods at meals tend to be more nutritious. So their diets are healthier.

My kids (one in primary school, one in preschool) follow the French approach on weekends. It works really well for us. They are used to the pattern, eat well at mealtimes, and I don’t have to worry about spoiling their dinner by giving them a snack. It was definitely a big adjustment at first. But the French have a lot of routines and great tips they use for teaching kids how to eat. (When we applied them, the results were so successful, and I was so inspired…that I wrote a whole book about it (French Kids Eat Everything), which will be published in April with HarperCollins!)

The French approach at school is also interesting. French kids can’t snack at school, even if they wanted to. They are not allowed to bring food from home, and there are no vending machines (they’re completely banned in all schools). Most French kids don’t even want to snack, because the lunchtime meal they’re offered is so tasty. As the menus on my French Kids School Lunch Project blog suggest, French kids’ school lunches are tasty, nutritious, and highly filling. They eat a lot of foods high on the ‘satiety index’ at lunch, because the expectation is that lunch is the biggest meal of the day.

No snacks!? This might seem shocking to some parents. In some American schools, snacks are served to all children (on the theory that they need good nutrition, so that hunger doesn’t interfere with learning — which is true, particularly for lower-income kids, but perhaps not necessarily needed for all children).

Not snacking is also a difficult concept if you don’t like the idea of your child being hungry. What if my child is hungry? I used to think. Should you really deny you child a snack, even if they say they’re hungry? That’s controversial, to say the least.

Here’s the French view: there is a difference between feeling hungry and being hungry. No one wants a child to BE hungry. But the French think it’s OK to FEEL hungry. What does that mean? It means being comfortable if your stomach is empty, and being able to wait until your next mealtime–even if you do feel hungry. Otherwise, the French believe, you create a culture of ‘unregulated eating’….with all of the health problems that arise from that. To prove their point, they might refer to the statistics which show that American children snack, on average, three times per day (and one in five snack up to five times per day). Although I didn’t agree with their view when we first moved to France, I’m now convinced. That’s why I no longer let my kids snack more than once per day.

No culture is perfect, and there are lots of things I wouldn’t want to adopt from France, but I do think the French have a good approach to snacking. What do you think?

43 thoughts on “Should kids be allowed to randomly snack? The French would say definitely not! Here's why…

  1. Pingback: Kid's Healthy Snacking: The Good and Bad From the French GouterBrightonYourHealth

  2. I am french and when I was a kid from the age of 3 until the end of high school,I had a snack at the morning break at 10am. And a goûter (usually a piece of bread with butter or jam and a glass of milk) at 4 or 5 pm when I was back home. But I never thought about eating between those snacks or before mealtime.I am 25 and I am still taking a goûter (cakes whith a coffee usually). And i have no problem with my weight and I am healthy.
    Like a lot of my friends, a day was like that : breakfast > snack at 10 am > lunch between noon and 2 pm > gouter at 4 or 5 pm > and the last meal at 7h30.

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  3. I eat breakfast around 7:00 am but lunch is only until 1:45 and we dont really have time for a snack at school, its only 5 minutes and while I get to my locker and back the bell has already rung. What can I do? I would love to have lunch at 12, but then I would need to change my schedule!

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  4. Such interesting comments about Japan and Singapore. It’s amazing that approaches to food can vary so much between cultures, isn’t it? I agree: a nutritious diet is a great foundation for good behaviour. I look forward to hearing more about your thoughts on Japan/Singapore versus NZ!

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  5. I was looking for snacking quantity for adults and I stumbled upon your blog, and I read your whole entry about snacking for children. Interesting cultural differences from where I’ve lived. I used to live in Japan for 12.5 years and snacking is allowed but it all depends on which school your child goes to. But generally, the kids don’t snack, as far as my son’s kindergarten is concerned, and when it comes to lunch time, my son always finishes his meal packed in a lunchbox. Now, we have moved to New Zealand and he is now in primary school for 6 hrs a day, as opposed to 5 hours in Japan. He has to snack 2 times before lunch time and I thought that was too much. True enough, he always doesn’t finish his lunch as he is not properly hungry. The point of snacking, at least in his school, is so that the kids have enough energy to pay attention. They do make a point not to include sweets, only fruit or vegetables for snacking, and no nuts, strictly. And mummies need to prepare something easy for the kids to eat quickly. I’m still trying to get use to this concept as I never had to prepare snacks in Japan. I didn’t even have snacks in school when i was little in Singapore. I guess for my situation now in New Zealand, I need to cut down on the amount of lunch so that my son can finish it. As for behaviour problem, I always believe that a nutritious diet is the foundation for good behaviour, and this is the same with adults. I never give sweets for snacks, unless it’s a special occasion. If I do, it’s always something homemade, or something that contains less sugar if store bought, so my son doesn’t have a lot of choice, but that’s for his own good, and so far he’s doing fine.

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  6. Great question! We have one scheduled snack a day because I found that limiting snacks means that my kids are more hungry at mealtimes, and eat better. As a result, they don’t feel hungry between mealtimes, and don’t ask to snack–because they’re satisfied by what they eat at their meals. This means healthier eating habits for them.

    It takes a bit of getting used to, but I like the new routine because I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking snacking three times a day is normal. This might be a good habit at the age of 8, but not at 18, or 28 etc….Of course, every child is different, and every family is different. There’s certainly no one size fits all model. You might find this post interesting, from Dr Dina Rose, who works with families on eating issues: http://www.itsnotaboutnutrition.com/home/2012/5/1/what-to-do-about-snacks.html.

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  7. As a mother of two i would like to know why you would refuse your child a snack at any time of the day. A child is more active therefore burning off more energy and calories. My daughter who is 5½ will ask for a snack and will always get it because it’s not junk food but fruits and veggies or yogurt or other healthy meals. I would understand refusing to give chips and chocolate or oher kind of junk but come on it’s not for a parent to decide on when they eat but what they eat. And if they are eating healthy why should it matter. I made a rule when my daughter was born i want her to eat healthy best way to do it is don’t bring in the junk and believe me she eats three meals a day with about three snacks. Yet she is 4’3″ and only weighs about 50 lbs.

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  8. As a francophile, I read your book out of curiousity, but it has lead me to totally rethink our famiy’s approach to food. We have healthy food in our house, and my kids are fabulous about eating everything from beets to kale to sushi to quinoa, but it troubles me greatly that the refrigerator is a few steps away from the side entrance of our house – I see our kids open the fridge door and stare inside without any thought as soon as they walk in the door. I’ve been tossing out quotes from your book so I think they know what’s coming. We are going to give it a try this week when the college age ones head off to school. I think if I can get the rest of the family on board, when the others come home from school, they will go along with the flow.

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  9. So, what choices are available then? What you describe (several snacks AND three meals each day) seems rather a lot of feedings wouldn’t you say?

    How is any of this any good to anyone? What purpose does it serve other than establishing the habit of grazing every couple of hours from an early age?

    While it’s true that many kids are up early, what is wrong with lunch around 11:15 or 11:30 am? (and for kids that are up at 6 am and need something until then, sure, let’s offer them a snack every 3 hours, or whatever).

    I fail to see any wisdom in these frequent-feeding daycare schedules. It seems to assume that not offering kids some food every couple of hours is somehow akin to starving them or neglecting them. Some kids might need that, but, why make it the norm.

    So long as we say that the norm in the US is this, we are further establishing it as an unchangeable reality that will continue to define our culture.

    I am a pediatrician and while I recommend some exceptions in my practice for specific reasons, I don’t see toddlers and kids needing to be fed so often. Most parents that follow our advice have perfectly healthy kids who only see food in front of them 4 times a day (5 when needed). There is significant research on this.

    The more you do it, the more you set up associations of food with emotions.

    We are not talking about newborns with a tiny stomach — those do need to be fed fairly often and will let you know.

    My guess is that if daycares had nutritionists on staff who followed the research and took a wide view of how kids need to be fed, kids would end up with fewer and better quality means. What you say is the norm may be what exists today, but it is not serving our children well.

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  10. Pingback: The French Snack Attack » Rachel's Rantings in Rio

  11. My boys (6yo and almost 4yo) and I have 3 meals and 2 snacks. I try to make sure everything that goes into them has a good degree of nutritional content and is minimally processed. That means the majority of what we eat are fruits, veggies, cheese, yogurt, eggs, nuts and seeds…and whole grain bakery items like muffins/fruit breads/pancakes that are homemade. Not only it is healthier but cheaper too 🙂

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  12. Your post on snacking is so refreshing! My kids are now teenagers and never snacked much, still don’t, but I notice that when they do, they don’t eat as much at dinner. It will be a little harder to enforce a no snacking policy after all these years, but I’m at least going to have them hold off a couple of hours before dinner. I do love this approach to meals, and I have started incorporating your (the French) concept of dinner courses and longer stays at the table. Thank you for this wonderful blog!

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  13. Great question! French pediatricians recommend the following meal routine, starting at around 18 months old: breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner. In other words, only one snack per day. Morning snacks are sometimes provided in some preschools, but the practice is controversial, and is not universal in France.

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  14. Loved reading your blog and just bought your book.I cannot take exception with what you have written and look forward to reading it. Very well done blog.I do take exception to one minor detail, goûter. After 30 years of traveling to France, and staying for extended times and yes long before McDonald’s’ days, whether in Rouen, Paris, Dijon, Lyon or Aix, I have witnessed with my own eyes, the Patisseries PACKED with kids after school buying a pastry. I am sure made of real cream, butter and sugar but a far cry from just bread and butter, fruit, or yogurt as you mention above. I am just saying the French love their sugar, too and have a shop dedicated to it. The kids are aware of it, too.

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  15. Karen I love your blog. I am a “baby boomer” and was brought up in the days of almost all home cooked food. How lucky was my generation? We ate 3 meals a day. Morning tea at school was a bottle of free milk ( I hated that) and our parents sent us to school with a piece of fruit and probably a home baked cookie. No food after lunch till you got home. A small snack, usually consisting of home baked goodies, then outside to play until dinner. Main course and always a dessert. Bought Fish and Chips once a week and on Mondays a meat pie for lunch. These were considered treats.
    My kids born in the 70s had a similar food upbringing but they did get more bought biscuits and takeaways as the big American food chains boomed.
    They all love to cook and feed their children well. I reckon the family that cooks together stays together.
    I Watch some of their friends over feed their kids. This obsession with blood sugar levels is a worry. It didn’t seem to be a problem for my generation. Do you think like cholesterol, blood sugar didn’t exist!!! Joking of course.
    Everyday I thank my Mother for her concern that I ate well and healthily. She was a great cook and it has had the trickle down effect in my family. Long may it continue .

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  16. Pingback: Are we too busy to teach our children to chew? Why parents should we wary of the ‘food pouch’ fad | Karen Le Billon

  17. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this idea of not snacking and it is so shocking for the average American, yet so simple that I have decided to try it out with my family. We’re vegetarians and for the most part eat pretty healthy foods (lots of salads, lentils, rice, beans), but my youngest son who is 4 loves snacking and will graze all day and can rarely sit down with us at a meal since he’s never really hungry. It’s going to be the hardest to get him to stop snacking, but I’m going to also introduce the idea of the gouter and let them know that they have a fun snack to look forward to at 4pm. I think if they know ahead of time that the snack is coming that will help them wait for it. Also, I love the idea that you can FEEL hungry and that’s okay, but not BE hungry. I have been trying to lose those last 10 pounds forever now and I realized that because I’m hungry every 2 hours or so and let myself have little snacks (a handful of walnuts here, a cup of yogurt or slice of cheese there), that adds up over time and has kept me from losing weight. I am also trying the 1 snack a day and will see if that helps… I just found this blog and can’t wait to read your book next!

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  18. Great question! Here are a couple of suggestions: (i) Schedule snacks (don’t let your children snack on demand), preferably avoiding snacking within one hour of mealtimes; or, if that is too rigid, then (ii) create “snack zone” times when snacks are available. Then, if your kids seem especially hungry, move up the meal rather than giving them another snack. This can be explained even to young children–but once you put this in place, it’s best to be firm and consistent. So set goals you can live with! Hope that helps, and let me know how it goes.

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  19. My 3 YO is a snacker (especially juice) so I realize it is a big reaon why she doesn’t eat well at meals. What suggestions do you have for backing off the snacks? Very difficult to go “cold turkey.” Thanks!

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  20. Wow – thanks so much for sharing your story. It’s a challenge in today’s busy world to take the time (and find the energy) to teach children to eat well, given all of the pressures we face. I admire you! And so glad you found the book & blog to be of interest.

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  21. Hi Karen,

    I just read your post and I agree whole hearted ly. I have a three and a half year old daughter. She has been a very picky eater since age one. Every American mo suggested to me to offer her all kinds of snacks, but I did not budge a lot. I am a part time teacher and a great cook ( I think ) so I like to make whole some meals for my family. I never gave into stocking on snacks. At her present age, may daghter has a small breakfast, refuses snack at school.Eats a big lunch and a big dinner. She does not eat everything under the sun, but she eats grain, vegetables ( or lentils as we are from India ) , yogurt and fruit all together in a meal. So I do agree with you, If you train your kids to eat healthy meals they will. Also a lot of moms out there dont want to cook meals, so Its the parents fault or laziness and not the child’s fault.
    Snacks are an easy option versus buying vegetables, cooking grains , making kid friendly meals. I dont mind if my daughter refuses snack at school because I know she will make up the lost energy at lunch time or dinner time.

    Good job on posting great information and sharing your views.

    Surabhi Mukhi
    ( Long Island , NY )

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  22. Hi Karen,
    Having lived in Paris for 4 years, after living in Australia and the USA, I totally agree that having healthy boundaries around snacking is necessary and beneficial. As a mom to two young children, I apply what I learned in France by structuring mealtimes and snacks formally. That means sitting up to the table and turning off all electronica, so the kids learn to eat mindfully. I believe we need to reassure them that it’s OK to get empty and to feel hungry, cause after all, hunger is the best seasoning! I am loving your website and blog! Cheers, Sally

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  23. Glad you enjoyed it! Dinner is actually a lighter meal (lunch is the main meal of the day). It might have only two courses: main course and then salad, or starter then main course. Fruit or something light for dessert.

    Great question about breakfast: I posted about that here (and I’m not actually a big fan of French breakfasts, so I would love to hear your thoughts!): http://bit.ly/wJrjUL

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  24. It’s funny how cultural bias can blind you from examining the everyday practices we all take for granted. I believed it was a RULE that kids had to snack to be healthy, because of fears of low blood sugar, etc. but I figured out for myself that in spite of conventional wisdom, it just doesn’t work. My kids would not eat as well at meal times because they either had a snack blunt their appetite, or figured they could hold out for a snack later. These days, snacking is rare. If I do decide they could really use extra food, I’ll offer fruit or crudite. If they turn it down, I know they weren’t really hungry. I also have them drink water because I’ve read that dehydration can mimic hunger. They eat much better at meal times and are doing just fine. Snacking really is more of a habit than anything.

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  25. I’m “devouring” all the wonderful lunch ideas from French schools that I can make for myself. Also, enjoyed hearing about snack ideas.
    I’m assuming dinner is similar to lunch with four courses? If not, what is a typical dinner?
    Finally, I’m very curious about what the French eat for breakfast??? Breakfast food is my favorite so I’m very curious about this 🙂

    Thanks a bunch! I can’t wait to get the book 🙂

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  26. I have been a teacher in child care centers for the past ten years. The schedule you are dealing with is based on the most common schedule for children of that age in the US. It’s done that way because kids in the US are most commonly up early and go to bed very early. It would be about two to three hours earlier than what you are probably used to. Lunch is served at 10:30 for the younger kids because a lot of them have been up since 6 a.m. The meal at 2:15 is considered afternoon snack. As they get older this will change slightly, but even school age kids typically do not eat lunch later than 1:00…that is considered on the late side.

    The US is more accepting of kids grazing, or eating multiple small meals throughout the day. For the typical child in a child care setting they are going to have breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, many get another snack at home before dinner, dinner, and then sometimes another snack before bed depending on what time dinner was served. The accepted belief is that young kids should eat when they are hungry, even if it doesn’t line up with adult meal schedules. It’s pretty common for kids in the US to eat dinner early around 4 or 5 in the afternoon, and then the parents eat later…often a completely different meal than what was served to the kids.

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  27. Pingback: French Kids Eat Everything | Foodspace

  28. Merci bien, for the wonderful blog, and the upcoming book.

    (I forgot this most important point in my previous post).

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  29. My thoughts on this are complex, not in the least because my life experiences come from having lived in Europe, Canada, and now living in San Francisco.

    There is a cultural system in place in France, and the fact that it is uniform and universally applied goes a long way towards preventing any kind of snacking or grazing from creeping into a child’s repertoire. If everyone does it, it is really hard to do otherwise (which as you rightly point out in your blog surely does not sit well with many French families with different cultural norms).

    So, what does one do when the immediate environment around them is not thinking this way (except for isolated cases), as is the case in many North American settings? Where we now live all daycares have rather convoluted feeding schedules for 18-month olds. We follow a European meal schedule at home, but the daycares want to give lunch at 10:30 and then again at 14:15 (they are not interested in explaining this to us, and we are left to guess that maybe they do it early to leave enough time for a diaper change before the noontime nap?).

    Our little one seems okay with the split lunch at the daycare, but he will only eat a few bites at 10:30 am with his little friends staring at him — peer pressure starts early, it turns out 😉

    As I type this, I cannot help but feel stupid for having to type “10:30 am” and “lunch” in the same sentence.

    How to deal with the tide going in the other direction is a key problem for many parents living in North America.

    As an aside, I recognize that being gentle-but-firm with kids is choosing to make parenting much more difficult in the short term (it requires active engagement!), so I can see why so many parents give in to the temptation to offer snacks all the time.

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  30. Thanks Sharen. So interesting to hear about your experiences; sounds quite similar to the French approach in many ways. There are lots of great organizations working to improve kids’ food and I’m so happy to be part of this movement!

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  31. I love this post! (and your whole blog, I just discovered it tonight!)
    It drives me crazy that my son’s school has him bring a morning snack. I don’t think he is hungry enough at lunch and then by afterschool he is quite hungry!
    My husband is from Germany and I have modeled our eating habits off of what I noticed in his family. The kitchen is a room with a door and no one goes in there unless it is time to eat or prepare a meal.
    We eat breakfast, lunch, have “coffee time” (typically at 3:30 which is the time for a treat), and then dinner. We rarely have dessert after dinner and my son has never had a bedtime snack. He eats a variety of foods, will try anything once, and is an energetic, intelligent, healthy boy! Thank you for being a part of a truly worthwhile movement.

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  32. Great post! Although I find that “no snack” rule a bit harsh at school. Kids in France are in school between 8:30 and 16:30, recess at 10 and 15, lunch around noon.
    Even with a healthy breakfast in the morning (we don’t know what time kids wake up in the morning, the distance between home and school etc…), it can difficult for some kids to be able to follow instruction without a snack (goûter) during reces (I was one of these children)

    Me, as an adult, I need to grab a bite around these times (might be a habit I kept from my school years in France ;))

    My 5 YO daughter needs a “collation”. They have 2 per day at her French preschool: one at 9:30 am (usually a fruit) and another one a 15:30 (yogurt). Her lunchtime is at noon…

    We have the same system at home = 2 gouters per day at home… Well, as another mother said, it’s not chips or hot dogs but usually a “tartine” (bread and jam), a yogurt or a cake or crepes we made earlier that day. She never goes to the fridge or the cupboard to get cheese or cookies; she would ask first if we can give her something.

    I’m sure it will be a different story by her teen years 😉

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  33. Pingback: The science behind the French approach to kids food « Karen Le Billon

  34. ‘never rummage in the cupboards or fridge’
    My childhood history is so different starting at 5 with early morning raids to the pantry cookie supply.
    I’m working on changing this now.
    bon chance a moi 🙂

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  35. The great news is you don’t have to move to Paris…you can do this here too. We managed to change the way our family eats. Our daughters (4 and 8) eat a good breakfast, a healthy lunch, a mid-afternoon snack (usually 3:30 or 4 pm), and their evening meal (we aim for 6:30). That’s it. They never ask for snacks otherwise, and never rummage in the cupboards or fridge on their own. Granted, they’re young. But I hope that the habits we have instilled will stay with them.

    However – we only started this when my older daughter was 5. As we cut our her snacking, I cut out my snacking too. Our whole family’s approach to eating changed! So it’s possible. I’m not saying this approach is for everyone, but it works for us…even living back here in North America.

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  36. That’s very similar to our routine, Celine! I think it’s a ‘best of both worlds’ approach that is a nice balance. I’m sure different routines work for different families, but that’s the one that works for us.

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  37. Love your post Karen! My kids have only 3 meals and 2 snacks per day and that’s it. This way I am sure they eat their 3 important meals per day : Breakfast, lunch and dinner. And when the time of “gouter” arrived they can eat Bread/ butter + jam, or chocolate or cheese ( my daughter loved the Lauthing cow wedge cheese) or fruits ( fresh canned or sauce) and yogurt….. no chips, pizzas, hot dogs for snack time!

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  38. I agree, Roberta–healthy snacking is fine, and as long as it doesn’t interfere with meals. That’s why the post asked whether ‘random snacking’ (or grazing) is OK–and I don’t think it is!

    I wish the research was more clear on this issue. I’ve read lots of research on snacking and found papers that definitely support your view (healthy snacking maintains blood sugar levels, reduces stress) but also found research that links snacking to obesity. But I don’t think the studies I read did a good job, in general, of distinguishing between healthy, scheduled snacks and random grazing. If you know of one that did, I’d love to see it!

    By the way, some French schools (less than 20%) do give pre-schoolers a mid-morning snack (usually a glass of milk), but this is a controversial practice. Most kids start school at the age of 3, and don’t snack at all at school. They do eat their gouter at 4 o’clock, which is like a mini-meal. And that seems to fit your definition as healthy snacking, not within 3 hours of a meal (their lunch is at 12:30 and their dinner is at 7:30).

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  39. Great point Julia! I agree that there is a difference between snacking and grazing. The way I personally distinguish between them is: a snack is OK if it is composed of healthy foods, and is scheduled (not too close to mealtimes); but grazing is not OK, as it often happens randomly throughout the day, and the foods eaten when grazing may not be so healthy (especially if eaten on the run). I also think grazing can lead to emotional eating, as you suggest–which is not a good habit to develop.

    Great post on snacking by the way!

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  40. I don’t think there is anything wrong with snacking as long as it’s healthy, and only if the next meal is going to be more than 3-4 hours away. In fact there is a lot of research that supports having a healthy snack between meals. It maintains a more stable blood sugar level, prevents overeating at the table, reduces the stress that large meals on an empty stomach causes on the body’s systems, and seems to promote longer term health benefits (such as lower cholesterol and hearth disease). The problems arise when people don’t choose healthy snacks or eat because they are bored. What I give my children to snack on depends on when the next meal is: a fruit or vegetable (which is not all that filling) in the morning (when there is less of an interval between breakfast and lunch) and a protein rich snack in the afternoon (when there is a longer wait until dinner). This seems to keep their hunger at bay but still maintains their appetite for mealtimes.

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  41. Wonderful post. There is a difference between snacking and grazing. If there is a standard snack of nutritious food, decided by the parent, that’s ok. Kids have smaller stomachs and a larger relative energy need, so a snack can tide them over. But letting kids graze in the kitchen whenever they feel like it, or giving them food whenever they are hungry, teaches them the bad habit of eating whenever they want. Later on, when they’re adults, they’ll eat whenever they feel like it — and feeling like it can be triggered by a plate of donuts, a worried feeling, boredom, etc. Then…obesity!

    Here’s a post I wrote on the topic of snacking and kids: http://smartparentprogram.blogspot.com/2012/01/snacking-is-good-for-kids-grazing-is.html

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