The third important component of a sound approach to good nutrition is timing. Meals and snacks should be scheduled. Period.
Ideally, children’s mealtimes should be scheduled about four hours apart. If we time breakfast as nearly as possible to waking up and dinner as nearly as possible to bedtime, we can easily schedule lunch in the middle of the day and snack time between lunch and dinner. For most children, snack time should wait until after school; for toddlers, it should follow their afternoon nap.
A patient of mine asked me why I insist on giving kids just four meals a day and eliminating all other snacks. The answer is very simple: while some diet plans advocate eating several small meals throughout the day—some, up to eight—they are designed for adults who are already overweight and want to lose weight. Those plans offer a stepped-down approach; that is, they start decreasing the amount (quantity) of the meals first while maintaining a high frequency of meals, in order to make it easier for the person to engage.
My approach introduces timing right away; I think it is important to start training the body—and the brain—to go without food for a number of hours and to offer only good food (quality) without options. By following this schedule, the amount of food we consume during a whole day (quantity) will be automatically decreased. Because this book is geared to helping the whole family, I don’t advise training a young person to eat too many meals or snacks. Otherwise, when the child becomes an adult, he or she will likely end up overeating and becoming obese.
When setting up a meal plan for a family with small children, even if they are not obese, the goal is to provide good nutrition and to initiate good habits, training the body to go without food for three to four hours at a time. There is no animal species on earth that needs to be constantly eating or drinking as if connected to a calorie-producing umbilical cord. We should be able to go through the day without having food nearby. We don’t need to keep food in the drawers at work or visit the refrigerator during every TV commercial break when we are at home. These are bad habits, ones that are causing our children to be overweight.
Learn more about choosing quality food in the right amount:
Quality. Families should focus on the quality of the food they eat. By using more natural and less-processed food, they will begin to see a change in their lifestyle. Learn more about making quality food choices.
Quantity. Quality is also being compromised by quantity – both the quantity of food and the quantity of food choices. Focus on portion control. Learn to use smaller plates and avoid going back for seconds. Learn more about choosing the right about of food to eat.