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I Didn’t Let My Kids Snack for a Week. Here’s What Happened

Despite all the money I spend on groceries and all the energy I pour into making meals, my kids mostly survive on crappy (although often organic!) snack foods.


Their constant snacking makes it so that they are never hungry enough to sit down and eat a meal, yet starvation seems to strike suddenly in the most inopportune times. The lack of structure means I hardly ever know if they’ve eaten enough, which perpetuates the snacking cycle.

Of course, I start them off with a good breakfast, but with assurance they’ll be able to eat again in a half hour, they are easily distracted.

This is annoying for several reasons:

  1. All my cooking efforts are in vain.
  2. So much food gets wasted, especially the healthy stuff.
  3. The mess and work is constant.  As soon as I get one mess cleaned up, they’re already requesting something else. I’m sick of it. Sick of the perpetual slaving, serving, and wasting just to end up still worried about their intake and health.

I decided to implement Ellen Satter’s advice on how to feed children. She’s a family therapist and registered dietician nutrionist who is internationally recognized as an eating and feeding authority. You can read about her philosophies and guidelines here.

My Plan:

  1.  Meals and snacks are at set times during the day and we sit at the table for them (unless we are out during a snack time, then we improvised). No beverages, other than water, are allowed in between these times.
  2. I sat down and ate with them (mostly).
  3. When they left the table, the meal was over. I made it clear they would not be allowed to eat until the next snack or meal time.
  4. I offered a variety of foods. Maybe there were some new ones, but always options that I knew they liked.
  5. I didn’t remark on how much they ate nor did I ask them to eat more of this or that. I served them, and then let them choose how much of something they wanted.

Ellen Satter says the parent decides what, where, and when to eat, and the child decides how much.

Day 1

The night before I started, I told my 4-year-old that I’m doing an experiment to see what happens when we only eat our meals at the table at certain times.

I told him that once he walks away from the table, meal time is over, and that he won’t be given anything else until the next snack time. I told him that in between meal times he will only be allowed to have water.

We basically ate 4 small meals during the day and a bedtime snack after bath. The times were roughly 8:30 am, 11:30 am, 2:30 pm, 5:30 pm, and 7:00 pm. These times weren’t exact, just a guide.

The first day was amazing, and I enjoyed the added structure.

Before implementing these mealtime rules, I tended to leave food out in case they wandered back around for another bite. But now meals had clear end times and messes were cleaned up promptly. I told my 4-year-old I’d deny his requests for a snack until the next time, so he made sure to eat enough.

The meals I served were mostly wholesome and balanced. I didn’t just sprinkle some cheerios around or throw them a few biscuits. I made sure to offer fruits, vegetables, protein, and healthy fats at most meals. This didn’t make more work for me because I planned for it, and cooked all I needed at once.

I enjoyed the quality time of sitting with them to eat, and made sure to keep distractions (like my phone) away from the table. I was generally in a better mood because I wasn’t annoyed by constantly serving and cleaning just to be whined at 20 minutes later about hunger.

I also felt more confident. I was proud that my kids were eating well and that I was being present with them. Mom of the Year award, please!

You know what else was awesome? There weren’t yogurt smears on the couch cushions and cracker crumbs in the toy bins. No more of this:

Day Two

With my new plan, making a grocery list was easier and I had a better idea of what I would serve at each meal.

I made a list and vowed to not go back to the store for a week’s time. (What a novel idea! ) Trader Joe’s gives out lollipops to kids, and it’s a crucial part of our shopping trip, so although it certainly wasn’t a scheduled snack, we indulged. There’s some wiggle room for this sort of occasion, right?

On this day my 4-year-old was distracted and playful at meal times. He kept whining and wanting to snack. I denied his request for crackers, but I did let him munch on some bell peppers while I finished getting lunch ready.

My son would have never eaten raw bell peppers before but because he was genuinely hungry he was willing to try new things. He even decided he liked them, so I sliced him another!

Day Three

Feeding my children in this way makes me plan meals out better, so while I prepared lunch, I went ahead and cooked dinner, too! Feeling like a boss….

 

 

Day Four

My husband got home early and wanted to go out together for ice cream. I had to work my mind around schedules being a good framework to follow but not becoming too rigid about it.

Sure consistency is important, but so are ice cream dates. There must be room for flexibility.

Oh yeah, dear husband also wanted to eat in the living room. It’s not something we usually do, but he was extra tired so I obliged and pulled the kid’s table into the living room. I’d call it a win-win. Or perhaps a loop hole.

Day Five

I noticed that whenever my 15-month-old fussed, I was very tempted to hand him a cracker. I had to find new ways to comfort him, or just accept that he was going to fuss and I wasn’t going to pacify him with goldfish. It’s enticing to eat our feelings away, but maybe not the best habit to teach.

 

Day 6

Oh my gosh, I cleaned my car out on the first day of this experiment, and it’s still clean! It’s not covered with wrappers, crumbs, and stinking of rot. If someone needed a ride, I wouldn’t even feel embarrassed by the state of my vehicle.

That’s a first!

 

Day 7

The kids have adjusted to the new schedule, and we all have a better idea of what to expect.

I’m definitely going to continue feeding my family in this way. They ate a great variety of foods, and our time at the table together was actually enjoyable.

I didn’t spend it nagging, and they didn’t spend it whining. They arrived to the table hungry, and they ate. My house is cleaner, my kids are happier, and I feel way more in control.

My children have less meltdowns because they are better nourished. And I have fewer meltdowns because there are fewer demands on me.

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Ah, back to school time. The excitement of a new year for our kids and the impossibly busy schedule for their mamas. Anyone else get to the end of the day and think, "What did I even DOOO today, and why am I so exhausted?" 🙋

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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A new school year is looming and while a lot of parents are looking forward to seeing their kids take the next steps in their education, many of us are not looking forward to getting everyone back into a weekday morning routine.

Mornings can be tough for kids and their mamas. One of our favorite celebrity mamas, Kristen Bell, does not deny that mornings with her daughters, 5-year-old Lincoln and 3-year-old Delta, aren't easy at all.

"It's miserable," Bell recently told POPSUGAR. "It's awful no matter who's doing what. And I'll tell you right now, the 3- and 5-year-old aren't doing jack."

Anyone who has ever tried to wrangle a preschooler out of their pajamas, to the breakfast table, then into their school clothes and backpack at seven o'clock in the morning knows exactly what Bell is talking about. She says some days are better than others, but it's hard to know what level of kid-induced chaos you're gonna wake up to on a weekday.

"It depends on their emotional stability, it depends on their attitude toward each other, toward life," Bell told POPSUGAR. "It depends on their developmental stage."

Luckily, Bell has got some backup. She's been open about how she and her husband, Dax Shepard, practice a tag team approach to parenting, and sometimes, Bell gets a chance to tap out of the morning routine. Unfortunately, Shepherd's later schedule means it doesn't happen as often as she would necessarily like.

"I don't want to say that I do more mornings than he does, but if you were to check the records, that's probably what you'd find," she told POPSUGAR.

If, like Bell, you're really not feeling mornings with the kids, there are a few things you can try to make things a little easier on yourself, mama.

1. Change the conversation

Instead of saying "hurry up" or "get in the car, right now,"try to mix up your vocabulary a bit.

If there's a need for speed, remind the kids that it's time for "fast feet" or that you're racing to the car.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, you might consider sharing that with your kids. Let them know that mama's got a lot to do this morning and that it would be a huge help if they could make sure their water bottle is in their backpack.

2. Make breakfast ahead of time

If cereal isn't your jam or your kids need something hotter, and more substantial in the morning, cooking up breakfast can be a major hurdle on hectic mornings.

Check out these Pinterest perfect make-ahead morning meals, like breakfast enchiladas or egg muffins, and make mornings a bit easier on yourself, mama.

3. Bring some Montessori into your mornings

Help your kids take control of their AM destiny by bringing some limited choices (like clothing) into the morning routine and allowing for natural consequences (like having to settle for an apple in the van because they missed breakfast) but also allowing for fun with mom.

"Try doing something simple, with clear boundaries, such as reading two books before it's time to start the morning routine. If they're ready early, you can spend more time together, which is also a great natural incentive," writes Montessori expert Christina Clemer.

Here's to a less stressful AM routine for Kristen Bell and the rest of us mamas. Just because it feels miserable today doesn't mean it will be tomorrow. There is hope, Kristen!

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It was a year ago when I was pregnant, parenting a highly-spirited preschooler and also working a full-time job while trying to maintain a part-time side business when I got to the point of I have had enough.

I can't remember exactly what the trigger was, but like most times, it wasn't just one thing but a build-up over time that culminates in a massive meltdown.

You see, I was not getting much appreciation or validation for all of my contributions. This was a time when my partner, too, was working full-time and in graduate school two evenings a week. It was stressful for everyone, but, as the wife and mother, I carried the family through it by tending to the little details: the pick-up and drop-offs, the shopping, the cooking, all the minutiae of everyday life.

So, after perseverating on my laundry list of seen and unseen responsibilities, I decided to sit down with pen and paper and make a "day in the life" list from wake-up to bedtime that showed my partner exactly what my day entailed—a day that supported two other people in the house and one in the oven.

Even I was surprised to see all of the things listed out in 15-minute increments. On paper, it actually looked even worse than it felt. I thought to myself about how much physical, mental and emotional energy I expend in this hectic season of our lives. And I didn't regret it for a minute.

However, back to my original complaint…I still wanted to be validated for it. I needed to be seen for both the implicit and explicit tasks and expectations in my day-to-day.

So I handed my list over to my husband, expecting him to be awakened to the fact I was indeed working in overdrive and for him to be grateful for all the ways that I take so many burdens off of him so that he can be successful in school and his career.

Instead of that, his response almost put me into a state of shock. He read over the list and then said, "I know. You are Superwoman."

His words, like kryptonite, left me speechless. Part of me knew that his intent was for this to be a compliment, but it felt so invalidating. It completely missed the mark, and instead of leaving me feeling appreciated, I felt less understood.

Superheroes have innate superpowers that I imagine they use with ease. In fact, they are expected to use their powers and perhaps that is their sole purpose. No one ever looks to a superhero and asks, "Do you need a break?" And as a feminist, I sure as heck believe women are strong and powerful. But the idea of being labeled a "superwoman" did not feel empowering.

I already know I am efficient, capable, strong and fierce. But, I am also fatigued, sometimes overworked and underappreciated, and worst of all expected to be the one that keeps it together for everyone else.

What I learned about through my research of who Superwoman really is was this: her powers always wear off by the end of the story. Turns out these so-called "superpowers" really are temporary. That I can relate to.

I am only human and there are days and weeks where I feel on top of the world, days where I can manage it all with ease. I can be up all night nursing a baby, take both kids to school, and show up on time for a 9:00 am meeting with a French pastry I baked from scratch. I can push through the exhaustion and demands every day…until I can't.

And it's not just my spouse who uses this label. I have well-meaning girlfriends who have also tossed the term out there as if it was meant to be a feather in my cap.

When things get tough, I appreciate the texts of support my girlfriends send me. Even when they are far away, it's nice to know someone cares when everyone in your house has the stomach flu while your partner is out of the country. It's comforting to be able to share the ups and downs of trying to balance a career with a growing family.

But when the text comes in and says something like, "I don't know how you do all that. You are a supermom!" I feel like there should be an auto-reply that says, "Connection lost."

The thing is, I don't want to be elevated to superhero status for living my life. It is not heroic and it's probably not too far off from what every other devoted partner and mother provides their family. But, this is what I think we need, what we are starving for. We need someone to say, "How are you doing?" or, "What have you done lately to care for yourself?" or, "Thank you for all that you do and who you are."

Those are the kinds of words that let me know I am seen and make me feel validated when I am working the hardest. They let me know that the people I love the most see me, and not a cape.

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