Kids, Snacks, & Screens: How To Avoid Mindless Eating

Parents need ways to keep their kids occupied at times. This has always a fact of parenting, but the need is even greater now in a COVID-19 world where parents are working from home and kids are learning at home…all at the same time. These are truly unprecedented and challenging circumstances. How can parents meet project deadlines when their toddler won’t nap, and the babysitter is quarantining?

Snacks + Screens: A Solution?

Parents are often looking for a quick and effective way to occupy their kids with minimal supervision. For many, that means handing them a snack and sitting them down in front of a screen. But what’s the cost? When parents use snacks and screens in combination for temporary childcare, they are fostering a ripe environment for mindless eating.

Imagine grabbing a snack to watch a show, becoming engrossed in the show, then realizing when it’s over, you ate a lot more than you thought you would. And you weren’t even hungry to begin with.

Babies are born with natural hunger and fullness cues, but parents and society can weaken these cues when they are ignored. For example, forcing children to eat when they aren’t hungry can override hunger and fullness cues. Eventually, children will learn to ignore them too and may ask for a snack because it’s snack time, not because they are hungry.

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How to Encourage Mindful Eating

Parents can help their kids stay connected or reconnect to their internal hunger and fullness cues by making sure they aren’t distracted when they eat and asking them if they are hungry and when they are full. Some ways to prevent distracted eating include:

  1. Keeping meal and snack time screen-free.
  2. Leading by example at mealtimes.
  3. Keeping mealtime interruptions minimal.

Hang in there—parenting was never easy, and it certainly isn’t now. You’ve got this!

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Courtney Lee MS, RDN, CLT, CFCS has a virtual private practice specializing in personalized nutrition & anti-inflammatory diets. She loves helping people use nutrition to change their lives and enjoys empowering other RDNs to do the same!

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