Recent research has found that a big cause of overeating in adults is eating too often.
But what is behind adults eating too often? It's a relaxed attitude towards regular mealtimes. It's not necessarily bad to schedule a snack or two between meals. What's dangerous is to eat when you feel like it. It's dangerous when adults learn to eat whenever they're bored, lonely, frustrated, happy, or when they see a plate of doughnuts at work.
There is a certain freedom in knowing that there is a time for food and a time to stop thinking about food. When it's time for a meal or snack, you can focus on the food. When it's time to do other activities, thoughts of food don't interfere with these activities.
What is Grazing?
Although people have defined grazing in many ways, I'm going to use the word "grazing" to mean eating whenever you feel like it.
Grazing Starts in Childhood
Grazing habits start in childhood. The French, who have much lower levels of obesity, have strict times for eating, which they take very seriously. They don't eat "when they feel like it." They eat at mealtimes. And they really enjoy their food, partly because they are hungry for it. Children in France grow up knowing that food is served at certain times of the day.
How to Prevent Grazing
Here are some ways to help prevent your child from becoming an adult who has to continually struggle with the desire to eat.
1) Don't Give Your Child Food If He Complains That He's Hungry. Every child (and adult) should be hungry at times during the day. Let hunger build up before meals. Hunger is natural, and teaching a child to be afraid of the hunger sensation by scrambling to give him food will teach him to be an overeater. If you don't feed your child when he asks, he'll soon become distracted with toys or friends and forget his hunger until dinnertime. If a meal is delayed and you feel like your child needs a little food, give him some raw vegetables. They will fill him up without spoiling his appetite. But make snacks like this a rare occurrence.
2) Have Regular Meals and Snacks at Regular Times. Decide what times work for your family and stick with them. If your child expects breakfast around 7:00, a snack at 10:00, lunch at 12:30, a snack at 3:00, and dinner at 5:00, that's when his stomach will send him hunger signals.
3) Don't Let Your Child Forage for Food in the Kitchen. You should be the one to give your child food. It is easy for a parents to simply let their children graze in the kitchen. But this will lead to overeating, and to eating unnutritious food. Forbidding your child to get food for himself isn't as strict as it seems. After all, if your spouse grabbed a bowlful of ice cream a half hour before dinner, just because he or she happened to be hungry, you would be justifiably angry that he was ruining his appetite for the delicious spaghetti that you were cooking.
4) Be a Good Role Model. If you forbid your child from grazing, but then you graze yourself, you will only make him more determined to eat whenever he wants. Be a good role model and avoid grazing yourself. You may even find that you shed a few pounds.
5) Feed Your Child Snacks, But Not Snack Food. Food manufacturers would have you believe that junky snack foods like granola bars, crackers, cookies, or candy are the only foods you can feed your child between meals. Don't fall for it. You can feed your child fruit, vegetables and dip, 100% whole wheat bread and cheese, or other healthy foods for snacks.
Here are some related articles:
Snacks -- A Good Thing
Hunger Makes Food Tasty
Vegetables and Dip: Tasty and Fun for Kids
Find me on Facebook or Twitter.