Meal planning: what about snacks?

In comments on my meal planning post, I was asked what I do about snacks for kids.

Afternoon snacks happen maybe once or twice a week, usually on cookie-baking day when fresh cookies are coming out of the oven, or in the form of a popsicle poolside on a hot day. (Yes, the junky food-coloring kind– yikes!)  Sometimes in the afternoon I’ll set leftover breakfast pancakes out for snacking.  Occasionally I’ll offer carrot sticks or other veggies.  I figure if kids are truly hungry, they’ll eat carrot sticks and pancakes.  If not, they can wait til dinner.  The only time I buy snacks like potato chips and pop is when we’re having a party or going on a trip.

Dessert is actually more frequent than afternoon snacks:  I serve sweet treats (like butterscotch chip cookies, apricot crisp or cranberry pumpkin bread)  at dessert probably 4 or 5 meals a week.  Often teenagers do my baking for me– in fact, it is usually a teenage girl with a snack craving who decides to bake cookies in the afternoon, and blesses everyone with her industry at dinner.

Evening snacks are standard after swimming at the rec center, which we do 2 nights a week during the school year.  Kids come home hungry!  Snacks usually consist of a cookie, fruit, or a slice of homemade bread.  Movie night with the whole clan usually calls for a couple different desserts, and often popcorn as well.

One of the reasons I don’t do afternoon snacks EVERY day is that I don’t want my kids filling up on goodies at 4 and then turning up their noses at dinner at 5:30.  It still happens sometimes, but I think that it would happen a lot more often if we snacked every afternoon.

You definitely have to take your family and your style of cooking into consideration when you’re thinking about snacking.  Right now our youngest child is 7.  We did afternoon snacks much more often when we had toddlers and preschoolers.  Little kids often don’t eat enough at meals to last 4 hours without getting grumpy.

One more thing: meals at our house tend to be pretty substantial. Rarely does a meal consist only of sandwiches, and (come to think of it) when I do try to get away with a light meal like a main-dish salad, I have hungry people sooner and end up having to come up with a snack.

I’m sure there are times when kids wish that snacks were more exciting at our house.  But I know that would just tempt us all to eat more than we should.  (Me especially!) As it is, we are all normal weight and in good health.  I hope that our snack choices will give our kids a jump on good health in future years as well.


For more snacks and desserts, be sure to check out my recipe index!


  1. My kids are still little, and it’s easy to snack all day long. However, recently they were just not eating well at meal times. Not well at all! Except for breakfast, they’d take two bites and declare themselves full. This made us realize that snacking had definitely gotten out of control! So we instituted a zero snacks policy, and, Low and Behold, they ate their meals! They complained between meals about being hungry, and we’d tell them they should have eaten better at the last meal, or that dinner is in an hour. Sure enough they ate really well, and didn’t complain at all about the menu.

    • Anna, We’ve experienced that too. Our current 7yo is picky, and when she’s actually hungry at mealtime, she eats much more willingly. Who’d a thunk it? 😉

  2. Now that kids are older, snack time is usually a piece of fruit or toast and juice, also crackers and hummus a favorite. Know a few elderly that have popcorn for snacks whenever they want a snack because it is the cheapest snack they can find.
    When had little ones in the house, had to monitor snacks much more than I do now. I don’t really care if they eat something in between meals because they will ALWAYS eat their entire meal and still want more.

  3. I’ve noticed that my 7 year old son likes to snack when he gets bored. I’ll give him something small (clementine, etc.) and then try to help him find something different to do. Chewing gum also helps to curb his appetite.

    I can tell when he and his 10 year old brother are having growth spurts. Then I’ll let them snack a little bit more. When he is growing my older son needs a snack at bedtime too.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    We found that our kids (12,10,3 and 1) were often not hungry enough to finish their dinners at 5:30. So we decided to try the French meal timing: an afternoon snack at 3, followed by dinner at 7pm. That allows me more wiggle room to get dinner on the table, the kids are always hungry enough to finish their meal, and they don’t need a snack before bed. On the days I’m consistent with this, it seems to work well for our family 🙂

    For snack, I will usually offer fruit with cubed cheese or nuts, or homemade yogurt. We also do fresh cut-up veggies (or cold, roasted veggies for those with braces.)

  5. We are still knee deep in the snack phase of life. Not just because I have a 2 year old but because I’m 8 months pregnant and can only get enough food if I eat lots of small meals. But it also means our snacks can’t be as much “fun” since they are such a big part of our calories intake – nuts, yogurt, fruit, turkey roll up (with cream cheese inside) and we do the leftover pancake/waffle thing too, often with a little peanut butter – basically mini versions of lunch. I look forward to the day when my kitchen goes more than 2 hours without being used and the day when I don’t feel bad saying cookies are our snack today.