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Healthy eating can be hard at the best of times; coronavirus lockdowns have complicated the matter for many. So here are some smart snack strategies for when you’re at home all the time. They’re perfect for kids, but most are applicable to adults as well.

For many families, coronavirus social distancing measures mean schools are still closed and kids are home 24/7. Boredom, stress, and maybe even limited food choices can have kids snacking more than ever while parents suffer endless requests for “one more” bag of Goldfish crackers.

Here’s how to cope if you feel like you’re running the world’s most annoying snack stand. And you can even apply some of these tips to your grown-up self in case you’re having trouble not eating everything in sight!

1. Know What’s Normal

Eating every three to four hours is typical for kids, which usually includes two snacks a day. Snacks should be at least an hour after a meal ends and one or two hours before the next meal. Remember, it’s a stopover and a small energy boost, not a meal. The same goes for your own snack time.

2. Set Up a Self-Serve Snack Box

Teach kids planning and budgeting while empowering them to make their own choices about food. Give each child a box with all of the snacks they have available to eat for the day. Let them decide when and what they want to eat from their stash, but be clear that when their daily allotment is gone, they won’t get more until the next day. You can set similar limits for yourself as well.

Related Reading: The Best Snack Subscription Boxes to Order Online

3. Make Certain Snacks Unlimited

Snacking can be an opportunity to encourage healthy eating. If they’re really hungry, maybe they’ll eat an apple, carrots, or another feel-good snack. Make healthy snacks easier to access than junk food. This is good advice for grown-ups too.

Homemade Carrot Chips recipe

Chowhound’s Carrot Chips

4. Look for Win-Win Snack Choices

Offer kids snacks that they like but you can feel good about. Think smoothies, trail mix, yogurt, fruit, veggies with dip, nut butters, and healthy but fun to eat foods, like ants on a log.

ants on a log

Chowhound’s Ladybugs on a Raft

5. Create a Snack Store

Set up a price list for snacks and make chores or activities the currency. For example, 30 minutes of online education is worth a bag of chips, or picking up toys in their room can be redeemed for a cheese stick. Or maybe you’ll reward yourself with a (fairly healthy) Peanut Butter Trail Mix Cookie for finishing a weekly report.

6. Encourage Hydration

Humans, small ones included, sometimes mistake thirst for hunger. If kids seem unusually hungry after what should have been a satisfying meal or snack, offer them a glass of water before they eat something else. It’s a good trick to try if you’re still hungry after eating a normal amount.

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Related Reading: 8 Stylish Water Bottles That’ll Make You Want to Hydrate

7. Ask Kids for a Wish List

Find out what they want to eat for snacks so you can keep that in mind when you’re shopping. Of course, let them know it’s not a list of demands and you’ll see what you can do. But try to get at least one thing they’re really wanting so they can be excited about eating at home. Feel free to treat yourself too!

8. Organize for Easy Access

Enable kids to handle their own snacks as much as possible. Stock food within reach that they can open and eat on their own (i.e., transfer things from tricky packaging to easy-to-open containers, peel tangerines ahead of time). Keeping your kitchen organized is also a good way to help yourself stick to healthy choices.

9. Help Stave Off Boredom

edible kids crafts

MAIKA 777 / Moment / Getty Images

Sometimes, kids snack because they’re looking for something to do (…sound familiar?). While keeping kids entertained all day can be just as exhausting as constantly feeding them, engagement can help cut back on snacks.

Identify times when there’s a lull in the day and they tend to hit the pantry, then plan ahead to give them something to do instead of something to eat.

Related Reading: These 13 Edible Kids’ Crafts Combine Snack Time with Activity Time

10. Don’t Let Snacks Become Meals

Monitor how much kids are eating at a time and cut them off if they’re going overboard with snacks, especially close to meal times. Give them a chance to get hungry before it’s time to eat. And if they didn’t eat much of a meal, save it and remind them it’s available if they try to eat snacks shortly after the meal is over.

Strawberry Fruit Leather

Chowhound’s Strawberry Fruit Leather

11. Designate an Eating Zone

One of the biggest challenges of endless snacking is the aftermath. Wrappers, crumbs, and half-eaten snacks left behind can become a huge mess. Encourage them to eat only at the kitchen table, and not in front of the TV where they’re more likely to snack mindlessly. Good advice for any age, in fact.

12. Encourage More Fulfilling Meals and Snacks

perfect hard boiled eggs

Chowhound’s Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

Give kids food that will leave something in the tank longer. Protein and fiber will help them stay fuller longer. (Same goes for you, of course.)

Related Reading: These Homemade Granola Bars Are Healthier Than Store-Bought | Store-Bought Healthy Snacks Kids Will Actually Go For

13. Get Kids Involved with Making Snacks

If kids want brownies, they can help you make them. Let them get a hands-on understanding of the work that goes into making the treats they want to graze on.

If you want brownies, making them from scratch is at least marginally healthier than using a box mix—and you can even make them vegan if you like. Try our Gluten-Free, Vegan Black Bean Brownie recipe for a surprisingly delicious treat with a Mexican chocolate flavor:

14. Adjust Meal Times If Needed

Dinner might be at 6 p.m., but if you’re noticing the parade of snack requests kicks off every day at 5 p.m., maybe it’s time to bump dinner up a bit earlier.

Related Reading: Easy Meals You Can Make with Pantry Staples

15. Accept Help

Some school districts are offering free food for children—even those not on free lunch or even enrolled in the school district. Availability and policies vary, but it’s worth finding out if this is an option for you. You might get a hot dish and a bag full of easy to serve snacks out of it!

Don’t be too proud to take advantage of these programs, as some districts have them in place not just to help families in need, but to keep the institutional food supply chain moving and maintain employment for school lunch personnel.

Where to Get Help

How to Find Food Assistance During COVID-19

Header image by Chowhound

Jessica Merritt is a writer and editor based in the Houston area. Co-owner of board game brewery Battlehops Brewing, Jessica loves beer, board games, and is addicted to grilled cheese sandwiches. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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