I was raised in a family where the focus was on three square meals and minimal snacking in between. A square meal, of course, meant having a hot and cold vegetable and a big plate of sliced bread on the middle of the table. Often, there would be dessert, but mid-meal snacking wasn’t encouraged. With my own kids, I’ve put far less emphasis on the “3 square” and more of a focus on overall health and nutrition.
I’ve read several articles about how “grazing”—eating little bits throughout the day is healthier than eating a big meal. I still like having the big three or four-course meal, but my kids are definitely in to the munching all day. The trick is getting them to munch on reasonably healthy stuff so they are coming out ahead in terms of health—not eating junk food and empty calories all day.
I have to admit, that if I eat a little bit all day, I never feel hungry and the day seems go by faster. Instead of having the big breakfast and then waiting for lunch—having a hard-boiled egg in the early morning with my tea, an apple or banana mid-morning and maybe a bagel in the late morning—I’ve had a full breakfast but spread it over time and never felt the hunger pangs.
Younger children and toddlers tend to be natural grazers. Getting them to sit still for a meal is pretty much impossible as they are so busy and newly-mobile, if it’s not finger food or something that can be eaten in motion; it is likely not going to get eaten.
I would be interested in hearing from some of our other families—do you find that you stick to the three square meals each day tradition, or do you notice that grazing seems to be more your family’s eating style?