The snack zone: fuss-free eating

Here’s a quick and simple way to empower your children to make their own choices about the food they eat, while giving gentle and non-coercive guidance.

We call it the ‘snack zone’ in our house and here’s why I love it:

  1. It helps end the meal and snack time battles.
  2. It honours your child’s hunger rhythms. Most of the time kids have to eat when someone else (parents/teachers etc) say they have to – whether they are hungry or not.
  3. It provides ‘teachable’ moments where children can discover the benefits of self-regulation, cooperation, and the pride of responsibility.
  4. I can actually sit down and eat with everyone else (bonus).

What is a snack zone?

The snack zone is a designated area or container in the fridge that is stocked with kid-friendly, nutrient-dense foods. The philosophy behind the snack zone is that it allows children to make their own decisions about what they eat. If you have a child who regularly rejects what’s put on the table (whether it’s snacks or meals) this can be a great solution. There’s no questions about what to do. Eat what’s on the table or get thee over to the fridge and make your own choice.

How to create your own snack zone

  1. Allocate a space in your fridge that is the snack zone. You can use a basket or container to hold the ‘snack’ foods.
  2. Talk to your kids and get them involved in designing and stocking it. (Of course they are going to like it better that way!)
  3. Put snacks in clear containers so it’s easy for the kids to see what’s available. Mason jars work.
  4. Make sure the snack zone is always stocked with a variety of food (and drinks). Try restocking on the same day so you establish a rhythm around it.

 Snack zone food ideas

  • Fresh fruits
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Homemade dips
  • Homemade granola or lara bars, homemade cookies or biscuits.
  • Homemade crackers (yes, you can even put the pantry items in the snack zone!)
  • Yogurt (you can make it into individual helpings if your child can’t make their own portions yet).
  • Cut up cheese
  • Nori (seaweed)
  • Applesauce
  • Homemade jerky (beef, bison, elk, turkey or salmon)
  • Homemade fruit roll ups
  • Kombucha, juice kefir, water kefir
  • Kale chips
  • Chicken or egg salad

You can see the sky is the limit here…and what you put in your bin will vary depending on the age of your children as well as if they have allergies)

Why kids love it:

  • It empowers them to make their own choices.
  • They get a say about what goes in it.
  • They don’t have to ask someone every time they want something (it teaches self-reliance).

You may have to tweak your snack zone to see what works for your family. For example, some kids might eat five granola bars if there are five available. Rather than you restricting that food however, you might want to consider just letting it run out and allowing your children to learn to self-regulate. i.e “Hmm. If I eat all that in one sitting there will be no more for the rest of the week). This is a tool we’ve tried to adopt from Jane Nelson’s Positive Discipline. There might be some crying and protests at first (if they want certain items restocked NOW) but a firm and loving attitude is worth the outcome.

Do you have a tip for nurturing healthy habits in your children that you can share? Please do! We’d love to hear them!