Hi! I’ve been wondering what your thoughts are about bedtime snacks. My kids are usually hungry right before bed and ask for food (not treats) many nights. Sometimes this IS a stall tactic but most times, I think they truly are hungry. We usually eat dinner around 6:00 pm and their lights out time is 8:30. That is a normal amount of time passed to want a snack (about every 3 hours) but I’ve never thought this was a healthy habit to have so I’ve always discouraged it. However, I don’t like the thought of sending my kids to bed hungry.Do you think they need something different earlier in the day? Better, more balanced dinners (not my strong point)? They are usually good about eating until feeling full. Should I just plan to give them a healthy snack as a part of bedtime? (I would prefer to have it planned from me rather than seem like I’m giving into their later night requests. Avoids arguments and stall tactics.) I know it’s not recommended for adults but, I’ve never really read anything about good/bad for kids to have food right before bed. Perplexed in Orem :D (this sounded like a “dear abby” when I read it!)
Dear Perplexed: WHAT WE DO: At our house, we are grazers. Despite my best efforts to serve three meals and two snacks, I never succeed. We eat when we are hungry. However, when we say bedtime, even after a full dinner, they are always starving! I try to reason with them and tell them “It’s better to go to bed a little hungry, than stuffed.” or “Being hungry is OK!! I promise a small hungry pang is not going to be followed by death.” I actually think it’s good to let kids get a little hungry once in a while. But then I let them choose for themselves if they want something very small. And they always choose to eat. They typically have an apple, or a yogurt, or graham crackers. What the experts say: Most experts will tell you children SHOULD have a snack before they go to bed. Children with diabetes are expected to check their sugar levels, and if low, have a snack. Children with Autism are encouraged to have a small snack. Dentists will even recommend it, as long as the nighttime brushing happens AFTER the bedtime snack. One pediatrician recommends kids have a bedtime snack high in complex carbs, since it has a calming effect on the brain (stimulating serotonin). As opposed to protein which stimulates adrenalin. His best before bed snacks include whole grain crackers, sweet potatoes, mini muffins, cereal with milk, small piece of a bagel, an apple, etc. So to answer one of your questions, it’s best to keep the high protein foods for earlier in the day, and go heavier on the complex carbs later in the day. Final Opinion: I don’t think changing your meals during the day would make much difference. If they are stuffed at 10am from a great breakfast, they still could very well be hungry at 8pm. I would not plan a nightly snack, simply because if that becomes routine, they will eat every night out of habit, and not out of true hunger. We give kids plenty of warning, such as, “20 minutes till bed and you will NOT dig into the pantry when we say 20 minutes has passed. If you know they are stalling bedtime, they could get a drink, read a book, play a game, or give them other reasons to stay up “just a little bit longer” (Only in the minutes prior to actual bedtime). If it’s truly from hunger, give them a small, healthy, morsel of food, high in complex carbs. Have some find out questions ready to see if it’s hunger, habit, or a way to spend just a little more time with you.