Debra Carpenter: Snacking around skirts dinner time

Interesting thing about preschoolers, they love food, but it seems like they barely eat. Seriously, how do they survive? This is true for the ones I know, at least.
Apr 29, 2014
Debra Carpenter, Mother Interrupted

Interesting thing about preschoolers, they love food, but it seems like they barely eat. Seriously, how do they survive? This is true for the ones I know, at least. 

My daughter, Molly, has an affinity for lots of healthy foods, which I’m thankful for, but she also has something against traditional meals. Is it our mismatched dinnerware? The kitchen table? My cooking? 

Whatever the reason, she’s down to grub anytime except breakfast, lunch and dinner. She’s the snack queen, always asking for a nibble of something here and there, but I can’t get her to sit down and eat a real meal often. What’s up with that?

I don’t want you to think I just let her graze on snack foods all day long and then wonder why she won’t eat a solid meal. I’ve tried everything—forbidding snacks, making her favorite foods, offering special treats for a clean plate and even shameless begging. Nothing seems to work. 

When I tried cutting out all snacks, the only thing she ate that day was the turkey from a turkey and Swiss sandwich and a bite of baked chicken at dinnertime. Since I don’t want her to perish from hunger, I panicked and brought the snacks back into the house. 

When I try making her favorite foods for dinner, she eats well. But it doesn’t really solve anything, which becomes evident when I make beef stroganoff – her arch nemesis – for dinner the next day. 

When I offer treats in exchange for a clean plate, she gets creative and is even known to spit food out in the trashcan after dinner so she can get to the treat. This means she’s holding food in her mouth like a chipmunk for the majority of dinnertime, and I guess that’s evidence of the extent of her dedication to the anti-meals policy. 

And when I just break down and beg her to eat the food I’ve so lovingly made, not only does it appear pathetic and un-motherly (is that a word?), but it also fails to accomplish the main goal, getting her to ingest more than 10 calories at a given meal. 

In fact, the only method I’ve had success with is the picnic method. This is where I pack her meal as a picnic and let her eat outside. Something about the change of scenery gets her to eat without a single complaint. Same goes for her grandparents’ houses and restaurants. It’s only when she’s at home that she has the snack attack. 

So, what can I do? I guess I’ll just continue hoping this is a phase that we can all look back on and laugh at one day. If it proves to be a permanent problem, I guess we’ll just have to move outside so every meal is a picnic. Or, I could get tough and crack down on the snacking. I wonder which option is more likely to happen. Stay tuned. 

Lebanon native Debra Carpenter is a novice mother, wife, and college student. She writes a weekly column on the comedy of motherhood and blogs for The Huffington Post. She’s online at MotherInterrupted.com and Twitter @interrupted_ma.

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