I do think he needs some snack before bed, as we eat at 5:30 and he is hungry again before bed. I dont think a small snack of 4~6 crackers is a big problem, I just dont know how to mak it so he isnt overeating.
I would switch snacks to something he likes but isn't so obsessed with. Something with some more fat and protein in it maybe, that satisfies for longer. Save leftovers from dinner to reheat if he's still hungry. If you still want to allow the crackers, only keep a little in the house then when they're gone they're gone.
That way, the food loses its appeal of "forbidden fruit" and you put a stop of negociating how full he is after dinner, or how many crackers he can have.
I have had this happen when we're traveling and eating different foods than what I normally have at home. If it is something I don't mind my kids eating I will tell them they can have it once a week and they can pick the day. Or, if it is something that I do not want them to have, I explain that I just don't have that item at home. Another thing you could do is make a healthier version of the food(s) you don't want him to have and have him help you. You could even get him involved in helping you choose the recipe.
I would consider dinner and snack two separate things. Just like lunch isn't dependent on breakfast, dinner and snack have nothing to do with each other. At dinner time, serve dinner. He can eat what he likes. At snack time, let him have the crackers and jello. If he asks for crackers and jello during dinner, just remind him this is dinner and that's snack. Snack comes before bed. If he's hungry now, he can eat whatever is on his plate (some, all, none, whatever) but snack isn't until later.
I don't think it's a good idea to set up food as a battle ground, or to make kids force down one thing to "earn" another. Everything I've read about kids and food says that parents decide what and when, kids decide if and how much. Dinner is ONE meal in a day. I'm guessing he's not eating junk all day long, so it's not a huge deal if he doesn't eat a perfectly well rounded dinner and has a few crackers and jello at bedtime. That's perfectly fine. I'm guessing it won't take too long for crackers and jello to lose their allure when they're always dependably available.
Crackers are a snack for a kid who wants a little bit between meals. They are high in salt and offer little to no nutrition. I would be fine with a few in the afternoon but not every day, especially since he seems to be really focusing on them and seems a little controlled by them. If he needs a bedtime snack to feel full, this isn't a good choice.
Our kids love a little bedtime snack but we keep it routine and boring. We usually use greek yogurt, unflavored with a little honey or dipping or flavored yogurt mixed with plain greek or kefir. Another option is cheese. If you don't eat dairy, a bit of tofu with soy sauce, peanut butter with fruit, or a hard boiled egg are all good bedtime snacks. I also leave the dinner scraps on the table until after the kids go to bed; one of kids likes a bit more snack.
You might want to be careful that he isn't craving it out of need. In retrospect, I think I may have had a sodium deficiency as a child because my mother had to cook REALLY low sodium due to her heart condition, and I craved salt (I'd eat play-doh and straight butter). I also had sugar cravings that I think were just unhealthy and I craved gluten even though I now know it caused me loads of problems, so I know that cravings are not always good signs- I just wouldn't immediately discount them.
They both are also foods that kids may just like the taste of, but the fact that he seems to be craving salt and/or calories and/or sugars might be worth considering. It sounds like you mostly eat fruits and vegetables, you may want to make sure he's getting enough good fats and sugars in his diet. Again, you don't want to overdo it, but it's worth considering that his body is saying he needs something he's not getting.
You don't want to be a total short order cook, but he's also old enough to be involved in meal planning, which may help him be willing to eat it more. Give two or three options you feel good about ("Do you want broccoli, spinach, or green beans with dinner tonight?"). He could probably help with cooking a little bit as well, which also can help kids to be better eaters because they feel more involved.
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Last edited by sillysapling; 06-18-2014 at 01:20 PM.