We have slipped into a nasty habit lately. I’m spending more time with the kids after school, which has been terrific. I greet them at dismissal with a healthy snack, we talk about the day and we play a bit before it’s time for reading or homework. Then I get busy preparing dinner. By this time, they are hungry. I’m hungry, too. They want another snack. But dinner is so close, I ask them to wait. It’ll be just five more minutes…this is where the problem begins. I’m busy chopping, dicing, boiling and broiling. I have little resolve to stop them. Next thing I know, the fridge is open and boxes of crackers have found their way out of the cabinets. They know I’m not going to chase them out of the kitchen to wrestle wadded up slices of prosciutto from their marker-stained fists. It’s been done before, but I don’t play this game. I’m not against snacks. I am a bit of a snacker myself. But I’m annoyed when the kids pick their way through meals, relying on snacks to provide much of their caloric intake for the day. Most snacks they choose can’t stack up nutritionally to the foods I’ve put on the table for a meal. I’ll happily allow a child who has eaten his entire dinner a little something more a while later, perhaps a piece of fruit and some nuts or a yogurt. But if the dinner plate wasn’t touched? No way. I have a new solution to this pre-dinner witching hour: the snack board. This is a board you must get on immediately. You’ve been unanimously approved, so get to work. Before dinner prep begins, set out a board covered with approved snack options. Put it in a spot that’s central, but out of your way. In my kitchen, the peninsula between my kitchen and dining room is that place. Include a rainbow of fresh raw vegetables, fruit and something with a little fat and protein. What I love is that the kids have a choice, which is huge for them. Anything on the board is fair game! Pictured here is a creamy black bean yogurt dip that’s a snap to prepare. Get the kids involved if you’re looking for ways to let them help. Mine love to work the food processor and the blender. They also like to dump the ingredients. Feeling really ambitious? Work in a sneaky math lesson about measurements and fractions! Other ideas for the snack board…small quantities of nuts, olives or dried fruit. Make it colorful. Make it fun. If they ruin their dinner eating from this smorgasbord, who cares?
P.S. I like to pick at it, too!