Here is a really quick little rundown of how we are going to be controlling out snacking in our home.
The kids have been “Grazing” instead of eating regular meals. They snack all day long and as a result aren’t hungry at meal time. This is frustrating to many reasons. First of all we were getting snacks for the kids all day long and it was wearing both parents out.
Secondly, if we weren’t the ones getting the snacks for the kids they were fending for themselves when every hunger hit and feasting mainly on things like Chips with catsup (yuck!) and spoonfuls of peanut butter. Although these snacks aren’t the most unhealthy things they could be eating, chips and peanut butter only and all day long isn’t healthy.
And third, I or Daddy were spending way too much time and money making Healthy meals that were being wasted on kids that weren’t hungry at meal times. This was infuriating for us parents and it was causing WAY too many arguments with the kids and between us parents.
Obviously something had to be done. There is only healthy Gluten Free and Dairy Free foods in our fridge, cabinets and pantry so it wasn’t the end of the world if the kids were snacking on these foods…..the problem was WHEN they were snacking. After talking to our Behavior specialist and getting a few ideas on what to do and how this is the system I decided on.
I thought about when our 3 basic meals were and when the half way times were when I would want to allow a snack. I didn’t want to always have them fill up on the snacks but we did want to tide them over til a full meal was served with lean meat, fruit and veggies. It is hard for some autistic and sensory kids to distinguish what they are feeling when the feeling comes. That goes for anger, tired, frustrated, happy, anxious and the list of feelings goes on but a Very important one is Hungry and also Thirsty.
We have found that our kids were confusing Hunger with other feelings like tired, bored and upset. We want to make it a point to talk to the kids about hunger and what it feels like. So to start with them we have to regulate when they are eating and what they were eating. We will be helping the focus on feeling satisfied vs. full and even Thirsty vs. Hungry. These are hard feelings for these kids to think through so a lot of help and prompts are necessary for our kids.
Our system will go as follows. At specific times the kids will be told that it is snack time. They will go to their envelope and have 3 choices to choose from. They pick one of their snack tickets and hand it to a parent. The parent keeps that ticket for the rest of the day and the kids gets the snack of their choice from that category. That evening when the kids have all gone to bed, the snack tickets are replaced and the system starts again the next day. This helps the us parents makes sure that they are picking a different snack group each snack time and not just eating chips all day long. If they say they are hungry in-between snack times they are directed to the sign and reminded that we only eat at these times.
The choices are a Fruit, Chip and Grain. Fruits in our house are: Craisens, Apple, Banana, Frozen Blueberries (Ammon’s Favorite) and Strawberries. Another choice is Chip, This means Corn chips, potato chips or veggie sticks from Costco. And the last choice is Grain which are, Granola bar, Cereal, Nuts or oatmeal. All the snacks are individually bagged and put up on a shelf or in a specific spot in the freezer of fridge and labeled accordingly. This takes most of the snack making work away us, the parents. I pre bag the snacks and do a month at a time or more if the snacks are on hand. There are special times when we will make the kids a smoothie or a sweet treat but only when one of the parent has the time or on a special occasion.
So, there you have it. I know to many this sounds really extreme. The truth of the matter is that with all our special kids with their own food likes and needs, therapy times, homeschool and my husbands 3rd shift schedule we were going completely crazy with all the “food issues” in our home. This was the best possible way for us to take a lot of the food problems out of the equation and allows us to focus more on God, learning, family time, fun and adventure. These are our families core values and they were completely lost inside of issues about food budgets, wasted meal time foods, hunger association issues and so much more. The system is a great way to take the anxiety and stress off.
As an added bonus, if we are leaving the house for some reason and snack time will come while we are out i just tell the kids to pick their snack ticket, pick the appropriate snack and we just throw them all in the bag that is already leaving the house with us with the essentials we always carry. Easy!!
Food is a major issue for most special needs kids. It is so very helpful if their is a way to take the anxieties and stress off. I hope that our system is helpful in some way to you if only to spark your imagination about coming up with your own system that will work for you and your family. Stay strong and God Bless.