How to cope with snacking at the Olympics

Natasha Gavin, from I Know Why it’s Yum Mum!, knows how tricky it can be to maintain a level head when it comes to the snacking demands of young children, and convince them to eat the right stuff, as well as allowing them the wrong stuff, in moderation. Recently, Natasha shared with us her favourite healthier ‘unhealthy’ snacks for events just like the Olympics.

How to deal with snacking at the Olympics

by Natasha Gavin, I Know Why It’s Yum Mum! 12th July 2012

Here, Natasha has given us a few Top Tips on coping with children’s demands for snacks at the Olympics events you are lucky enough to have secured tickets for.

Coping with kids at the Olympics..and healthy (ish) snacking options

This is the kind of article no nutritionist would sign up to writing. ‘Damned if you do, damned if you don’t’, springs to mind. The best I can hope to offer readers are ‘damage limitation’ ideas because as you sit for hours at the wrestling match that you ‘won’ tickets for, trying to keep the kids happy and fed healthily could be a contradiction in terms.

Based on my experience as a mum, who has had to sit through a fair few football matches with two young boys (prone to snacking and who continually ask for food), I have tried to come up with some practical tips for minimising the amount of sugar, salt and fat your cherubs consume, as you wait the 2 hours before the sport starts, and sit through a couple more hours of only vaguely entertaining viewing (to a toddler anyway).

Focus on how healthy the athletes are

Firstly, introduce as early possible the fact that athletes competing in the Olympics have had to train hard, eat healthily, and be disciplined about indulging in snacks. Positive role models go a long way. I know this because I am now known as the ‘Fruit and Veg Rainbow Fairy’ to hundreds of preschool children, and mums use me to convince their children to try new fruit and veg. I realise I have to be very careful about what I snack on in front of little eyes- a bit like not crossing when it’s the red man, just because there are other young children at the crossing, even though my own are not with me and I could easily dash across the road.

5 a day before 10am?

Probably not possible to get in 5, but maybe 3? Before you leave the house, get as much good stuff in to them as possible, so you don’t need to worry as much about what they eat later. Porridge, fruit, scrambled eggs .. for breakfast, and a healthy snack just before leaving.

Be creative with the sponsors

My favourite approach is to relate the golden arches to the nursery rhyme, Old Macdonald had a farm. Change the lyrics to make them about what he might grow on his farm, and explain how those different fruit and veg are good for you. That’s why Happy Meals now have carrots and apples in them! Because Mr Macdonald wants you to be healthy..just like the athletes? (I think they call these white lies).

Law of diminishing returns

Aim high to start with, and barter. Start by offering the best you think you can get away with. And make it clear they can only move on to the less virtuous snacks once they have finished the healthy ones. Try to establish this rule before you leave the house, with two bags, one filled with sandwiches, fresh fruit and veg, yoghurts, mini cheeses etc, the other with treats.  My boys know they have to eat their way through most of the content of the healthy box first. It is sort of the opposite of The Hungry Caterpillar.  And of course, you can always compromise when you are out ‘in public’, if necessary, and you can see they have done a really good job of eating most of the good stuff..

The Grand Finale

Obviously, your children are not going to eat all of the above, without being sick. So you may need to ration the snacks, and intersperse them with activities. Take a watch, use your mobile phone, find a clock they can see, and give them deadlines. At 2.15 you can have this… at 2.45 (and not before) you can have that..and then promise them the best treat at the end..I somehow suspect there will be plenty of ice cream vans around the Olympics venues!

Good luck. And remember, you can always make up for all the unhealthy snacking, tomorrow. Unless that is you have tickets to watch the volleyball…

Photography: Kevin Krejci @Flickr

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