Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Two Snacks a Day Keep the Hunger Away

Being the worrier mum and control freak that I am, I have been packing two snacks a day for Marcus since his first day at Primary school. 

Thankfully, this decision doesn't draw him unnecessary attention. In fact, from my observations in the first three days of school, at least half of the Primary one boys bring a box of food for recess.  

Anyway, the boy prefers to bring along his own snacks from home instead of queueing to buy. Might as well, since he is only capable of eating in the most unhurried manner. So far, no amount of pressure could work to hasten his chewing or swallowing. I have given up on hurrying the tortoise. 

Since my objective is to prevent hunger pangs, I figured the most constructive solution is to pack him nutritious and calorie-rich food that can be assembled into a small parcel and consumed in a few mouthfuls. 

Before he leaves home, he eats a normal size breakfast. Two and half hours later, he takes his first snack box to the canteen during recess. Another two hours later, he has a quick break in the classroom, which I understand lasts about 10 min. 

So basically, the calories he consumes at these three small meals must be sufficient to keep hunger at bay till he reaches home, which is hours past the typical lunchtime. In fact, in the past two weeks, by the time he finishes his lunch at home, it is about time for some office workers to head out for afternoon tea. Darn! 

At this rate, how can I ever stop worrying about him not putting on enough weight?!! Urghh! 

Because of this eternal concern, there is a need to entice my boy to finish his snacks every 2-3 hours, especially when I won't be there in school to nag him. So I aim for a varied daily menu comprising of wide range of ingredients, hoping to keep him keen on his food.

There are many other factors to consider too, such as the nutritiousness, ease for him to finish in the allocated time, perishability of certain ingredients at room temperature and the food's tastiness a few hours after preparation etc.. So many items are ruled out as a result. 

To save myself wrecking my brain and stressing my zombified body at 6 am, I made a list and stuck it to my fridge. The plan was to simply follow it - to stock the fridge, pack the snacks and make breakfast, lunch and dinner accordingly. 

Sounds easy, but it isn't. Not to me anyway, who's never the sort of cook to plan a week's meals in advance, preferring to give in to spontaneity. The latter allows for days of laziness and occasional household emergencies to be attended to, while I can still sanely serve up a few meals a week. It is definitely a tried-and-tested strategy that has worked well in our household. I like to think of it as organized chaos. :>

So now, having to refer to a list on the fridge calls for some unnatural behaviour on my part. Barely two weeks into the routine, I already found myself trying to come up with substitutes now and again, either because I haven't had time to shop the days before or make certain things the night before. 

But I am trying my best. Mornings can be a lot rosier for me if I were to just pack him some sandwiches everyday, or buy from the deli an assortment of buns with fillings, or just make the boy go brave it out at the canteen and risk being left with 5 min to eat. And of course, ignore the fact that he may not eat at all and lose a few kilos in a month. Sigh. 

These thoughts are enough to keep me going. Yeah, I can do it! :D

Anyway, here is the partial list (with the lunch/dinner items removed), which I've tried to follow closely in the past two weeks. It includes what I served for breakfast, followed by the two snacks I packed daily. We are into week 3 now and I do intend to try out a 4-weeks menu and rotate it monthly. Let's see how long it can be sustained. :>

Week 1
Mon (not for week 1 since school term began on Tue)
Cereal w milk
Potato gratin

Crumpet w peanut butter
Egg sandwich
Cheese crackers and grapes

Tortilla w cheese
Salmon fried Rice
Kaya bun and milk

French toast
Fried chicken strips with Onigiri
Small banana and cashew nuts

Pizza Strips (tomato, cheese/ham)
Granola bar

Week 2
Toast w nutella
Tortilla wrap w baked beans & cheese
Banana nut muffin

Cereal w milk
Tuna/sweetcorn sandwich
sultana biscuits

Jam sandwich
Scrambled eggs w smoked salmon
Macademia nuts and Milo

Peanut butter w bread
Tortellini w soft boiled egg
Pretzels, fruit and small bun

Cheese Crumpet
Inarizushi w chopped crab/prawn, vege
Jam pinwheel sandwich

The verdict so far has been rather encouraging. He ate most of what I gave him, with the occasional leftovers because he hadn't enough time to finish.

He also told me how much he loves packing snacks to school and opening up the boxes to see what's in store, though usually I briefed him in the morning before closing the boxes. I don't know why there should still be a pleasant surprise involved, but I am not complaining as long as it keeps him happy. 

The best part of it all is that on most days, he isn't starving when he gets in. After a quick shower, he would sit with me to finish up a big portion of lunch that I had lovingly put together before dashing off to play.

It does feels like mission accomplished, a day at a time. And I am happy about it. 


The Beauties In Our Lives said...

Wow, I love your menu (may I have the permission to borrow some items? Hee hee). You are so organised! I rem when Nicole was in P1, I did impromptu "brainstorming" for her lunchbox the night before, and it can get stressful and disorganised. She used to like nicely decorated bento breakfasts for recess, but these days, in her "tweenhood" coolness, she told me she only wants plain bread and butter plus some cookies and fruits - everyday! I need to show her your wonderful menu to inspire her to try something different :) And I think it is very thoughtful of Marcus' school to have 2 breaks - most schools just have one recess break and the poor kids eat their lunches at 2pm!

Domesticgoddess said...

Of course Linette! So nice of you to ask to begin with. :>

It's amazing that Nicole doesn't get bored with her daily bread/butter combination, but I suppose you can still vary the types of cookies and fruits. Does she eat breakfast before leaving home?

I am refraining from adding sweet cookies, even for the 2nd snack, opting instead for the less sweet type such as sultana biscuits occasionally. And M also presents a giant problem for me when it comes to packing fruits because of the embarrassingly limited varieties that he would eat. Urgh! If he would eat them, I will pack mostly fruits for the 2nd snack.

I really appreciate the addition of the 2nd break in M's school too, which I understand is only for P1 and P2 kids. So far, his is the only school I've heard that has such a practice. :>

Kei said...

Wow, so much heart and effort went into the brainstorming and preparation of the breakfasts and snacks. I've always wanted to do something like that too but it never worked for me. I'm an impromptu 'chef' like you.

I have a friend who packs lunch/snack boxes for her girl. She puts a note in the box everyday. Sometimes, it's a joke, sometimes it's trivial facts about anything, sometimes it's a riddle... The girl loves them! In fact, snack/lunchtime has become an exciting event in her class everyday. The whole class wants to know what's on her lunchbox note.

Maybe you can try that!

Kiasu Mom said...

I salute you for actually putting all these in place. I too have a girl who eats like a tortoise (worst than a tortoise is more like it) and extremely choosy. I tried everything and all she will do is just take a bite and walk away. She will take 30 mins every morning just to finish her bottle of milk, with some threatening. If I give her peanut butter crakers, she will just eat the peanut butter. I just don't know what else I can do to make her eat nutritional foods. I am getting all stressed up when it comes to meal time cause I am a darn lousy cook.

Domesticgoddess said...

Thanks Kei. I started doing that too for two days in the first week, adding a small message and a drawing from me just to surprise him.

Then I thought I'll add a joke or riddle too, which I know M will enjoy because of his wicked sense of humour. But on second thought, I decided not to risk it or he will spend all his time sharing the joke around the table or try to crack the riddle instead of eating his food! LOL!

Domesticgoddess said...

Thanks Kiasu mom. How old is your girl?

My 6 yrs old can take over an hour to finish his lunch at home too and that is with plenty of nagging from me. But he gets a big portion from me despite the long time he takes to finish. If I leave it to him to decide portion, I am sure he will just have two bites and walk away announcing he's full up. But he will return an hour later asking for more food.

So instead of turning myself into a short order cook, I insist that he has to finish a reasonable portion at 3 main meals and I serve 2 to 3 healthy snacks in between his main meals.

Perhaps your girl isn't hungry enough at meal times or she knows that you will give her snacks whenever she asks for them?

My boys had given me plenty of challenges in the past years when it comes to eating too. It is usually a phase that will pass. It always helps to find out the root of the problem so we can think of creative solutions, not that I have managed to solve all the problems. I still can't improve my older boy's slow eating or the limited types of fruits my boys would eat. But on the whole, mine do eat a wide range of other super nutritious food.

Do keep trying! You will get there! :>

Kiasu Mom said...

My girl turns 3 in Feb. I don't usually give her snacks but I am not sure when she's at the bbsitter's. There was once that both hubby and I got so fed up with her not eating we decided not to give her food for the whole day, except milk (3X) or unless she asked for it. And you know what??? she didn't ask for food at all... so what are we doing wrong here????

I really hope this phase will pass soon as I am always so worried and angry whenever she refused to eat or worst puke them out after she had eaten them whenever we forced her to finish a decent portion.

Handydog said...

Bravo to you, my list only last a week. Emma has one break, and she has been complaining not enough time to eat....either that or she is super slow which is likely. Today, she dropped her waffle because a kid ran into her. Sign, left with milk and raisin. Good thing she has heavy lunch before school, I can't imagine mine losing more weight.

Domesticgoddess said...

kiasumom, I know what you mean. It can be exasperating for us parents, especially after toiling away in the kitchen to cook something special that got rejected at first bite.

Actually milk is considered food to kids, in fact milk is very filling. So if your gal was given 3x milk a day, that could be the main reason why she's hungry. It also depends on quantity of course. My older boy used to reject breakfast when he was under 3.5 years, because he started the day with a 200ml bottle of milk. So I cut that to 100ml and served it in cup instead, and I insisted that he only drink it after breakfast. He started eating breakfast (after much protest of course because milk is easier to consume than having to sit and chew) and amount increased gradually.

It is hard to force kids to eat more than what they can. I don't do that with mine but I try to gauge a reasonable amount that they can normally eat. If I see that they really can't eat anymore, I let them stop. We have a rule in the house that if a boy can't finish his lunch, he doesn't get any milk or snack before dinner. If dinner is unfinished, no milk before bedtime. Works like magic.

Another thing to do is, instead of serving three main meals, you can serve small meals which I call snacks. That is proper food in bite sizes (e.g. instead of a bowl of rice, serves two small rice balls) I don't mean junk food for snacks.

Some kids love the idea of eating 'snacks'!

Domesticgoddess said...

handydog, I placed M's snack box in a drawstring lunch bag, so even if he gets bumped by someone on the way to canteen, his food won't drop out.

Handydog said...

She was sitting at the table ready to take a bite when the kid knocked against her. Now I give her extra, just in case. :(


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