As a leading child-feeding expert here in Canada, I’ve shared workshops on nutrition for kids for 8 years. Without fail, parents ask me whether or not they should offer their kids bedtime snacks. In short, are snacks a ‘do’ or are they a ‘don’t’?
The answer is that either option can work. But, you most make a choice. And, if you do choose to offer bedtime snacks, there are common pitfalls that you want to avoid.
The Don’ts of Bedtime Snacks
It’s common for families to offer bedtime snacks only when their picky eater doesn’t eat well at dinner. This is the ‘don’t’. It’s a ‘don’t’ because it backfires.
Kids quickly figure out that if they don’t eat at dinner (where they usually are presented with more challenging foods), they can get bedtime snacks only a short while later that includes favorite foods.
For More Resources, Check Out:
- Why Snacking Contributes to Weight Gain in Kids
- 30 Healthy and Delicious After-School Snacks
- Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids: Snacks on the Go
Unfortunately, you’re reinforcing the behavior that you don’t want. You’re inadvertently rewarding kids for not eating their dinner.
The Do’s for Bedtime Snacks
Here’s the bedtime snack “do’s”.
Make a new family rule and stick to it. Choose either:
- There is always a bedtime snack
- There is never a bedtime snack
If you choose to never have bedtime snacks, kids will quickly learn that if they choose to not eat at dinner, they’ll need to wait until breakfast the next day to eat again.
If you choose that there is always a bedtime snack, make sure that there is at least 1 hour between dinner and a bedtime snack.
At bedtime snack, be sure to offer foods from 2 – 4 food groups. What food groups you choose depends on what your child has eaten the rest of the day.
Choose food groups of which your child hasn’t eaten much.
For example, if your child ate lots of grain products and dairy/alternatives throughout the day, then choose to provide food from the meat/alternative group and some fruit or veggies. This way you are helping your child meet their nutrition needs throughout the day.
Alternate the foods that you offer at bedtime snack. Sometimes choose to offer favorite foods. And, sometimes choose to offer a challenging food.
As I mentioned previously, clever kids will catch on if challenging foods are only offered at dinner and favorite foods offered at a bedtime snack. They’ll choose to not eat at dinner, knowing that they’ll have favorite foods soon (the opposite behavior of what you want).
One final tip: brush teeth after bedtime snack.
The information on this website is designed for educational and/or entertainment purposes only. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns regarding your child’s condition. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses.