Comfort Food?

6 03 2009

A friend and I were at the Tysons Corner play area the other day, watching our toddlers running around bouncing off of the giant, psychedelic, puffy mushrooms and forest creatures, and she commented on the number of other kiddies running around with snacks in hand. Early multitasking, I guess, but it occurs to me — as it did to her — that we might not be doing our kids the best favor by providing them with a neverending snack cup throughout their entire day. And before I begin, let me tell you that I am as guilty as any other mother of using “comfort food.” I’m not talking mashed potatoes here, although they might work in a pinch! I’m talking about popping a couple of Cheerios in Masher’s mouth as I buckle him into the car seat so that he doesn’t complain — because he can seriously COMPLAIN about being confined by those straps! I’m talking about busting out the SnackTrap of plump, sweet raisins in the stroller so that Mom can get a nice, long walk in before boredom sets in. And I’m talking about offering whatever’s on hand when Masher sees some other kid with some other treat in hand … because nothing makes a kid hungry (or at least desirous of having food in hand) like seeing another kid with food in hand.

But what’s the big deal anyway? I don’t know … I’ve read a few things that say that toddlers are meant to snack throughout the day and that encourage parents to set out a tray of food on a low bench for them to graze on when they feel like it. Well, maybe that works for non-dog households, but our two pups are strong believers in immediate consumption of any food on or close to the ground, so I can say for a fact that this system wouldn’t work for us. Even sans chiens, I have to wonder, with all that snacking, how would a child be hungry for meals? And OK, if he doesn’t eat meals, is that a problem? I guess not, but I just don’t see how the toddler snack food I can think of — mainly cereals, cheese, and fruit — is as nutritious as the meals that we cook and share with Masher. He doesn’t go for room temp beans or grated carrots, so really, how could snacks take the place of meals with no nutritional loss?

I’m no expert, but I just don’t buy the “grazing” theory, and I’m going to try to remind myself to offer other types of comfort besides food for those moments when Cheerios seem like just the thing. ¬†Here’s some good info about healthy snacking habits from pediatricians at the University of Minnesota.

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