The kids come home from school and wail “I’m Hungry”!

My daughter is only 2 years old and she is already getting in practice for her post-school “I’m Hungry” wails.  Is it built into kids to do this?

If you look at mealtimes across your day, you will see that going from lunch to dinner is a very expansive amount of time. Untimely grazing is the norm for many kids in the afternoon.  Grazing on inappropriate foods decreases a child’s appetite for dinner.  Also, if opting for quick and easy foods, it will unnecessarily increase sodium, fat and sugar intake.

Here are my 5 tips for nipping this afternoon ritual in the bud!  These tips when put in practice, have side benefits of: A) Decreased nagging B) Helping you keep your sanity C) A peaceful family dinner.

5 Tips for Handling the Afternoon "I'm Hungry" Wails by Play with Food (


#1: The Two Hour Rule

Afternoon tea has to be completed no less than 2 hours before your scheduled dinner.  So, if you eat at 6:30pm – do not allow the afternoon snack to go past 4:30.

#2: Be Prepared

This is essentially another meal opportunity that you are actively providing.  Don’t think of this as an inconvenience that the kids can just sort out & grab from the cupboard as they please.  Either prepare something ahead of time so it’s ready to go on time or get them to prepare it themselves with you when you get home.  In the picture , I have yoghurt, toasted oats and stewed fruit layered in a glass.   It’s super easy for the kids to make and covers off 3 food groups in one meal.

#3: Fix What’s Missing

This is your opportunity to fill in the nutritional gap in your child’s day.   If they are down on the recommended vegetable intake, use this as a vegie eating snack.  Likewise with dairy, fruit, protein or cereals.

For Australian readers, the Eat for Health website has easy to understand guidelines on what a child should be eating.  Use this website to help you work out nutritional gaps  in your childs typical diet and what an appropriate “serving size” is.

#4: Eat With Your Kids

Who says they are the only ones struggling to get from lunch to dinner time?  Its a great way for you to enjoy a nutritious snack and have some time to chat to the kids.  Role modelling the consumption of healthy foods is really important.   Don’t underestimate how much you can connect with your kids over a 5 minute snack shared together.

 #5: If all else fails….

Dinner is about 30 mins away but the wails continue – avoid sweet foods (yep, even fruit).  Sweetness suppresses the appetite and will leave you stranded with your lovingly prepared dinner & either a battle ensues or you just feel helpless.  Try giving a glass of water to make sure it isn’t thirst disguised as hunger and then assign some creative tasks to get them to help get dinner on the table – “Can you design us a centerpiece for the table tonight?”  Or (maybe less creative) “Can you please set the table?” Or “Can you taste test this sauce and tell me what it might need?”  Or “Try this carrot that I put into tonight’s curry.”

** BONUS**

A Plan Ahead Tip by Food Group:

Fruit:  Poach left over fruits & store them in an airtight container for during the week.  I stew all sorts of fruit with some cinnamon & a dash of vanilla extract – it doesn’t have to have lots of added sugar!  Remember that the cooking water holds nutrients too – so chill that and add it to a smoothie.

Protein: Make a chick pea hummus & store in an container in the fridge.

Vegetables: Vegies that cam be cut up and eaten raw include carrot, cucumber, cauliflower, broccoli, capsicum, snow peas, sugar snap peas, zucchini (peeled into ribbons), celery, tomatoes, fennel, cabbage, lettuces and green beans. Team these with a legume or nut based dip and you also get some beneficial fats and proteins into the day.

Dairy: Smoothies are a great way to blend fruit, vegies, cereals, nuts & seeds and dairy into one easy meal.   See this post of mine on green smoothies.  My daughter has been having rockmelon, spinach & chia  seed smoothies lately – what a powerful combination of food groups!  You can put all the ingredients for your smoothie into your blender, wack it in the fridge, do the school run and then blitz when you get home.

Cereals:  Cereals are a great base for adding other food groups.  Prepare ahead ideas include muffins that can be stored in the freezer & quickly defrosted.



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