We don’t have three square meals at our house — we have four. It is just what works for our family. We’ve got a schedule that helps balance the needs of getting a lot of healthy food into the kids but also teaching them to try new foods and have good table manners and social graces!

So in addition to breakfast, lunch and dinner, what is the extra meal, you might ask? Afternoon snack. And it’s a true meal in this household! Here’s our day, in brief:

We mostly eat a cold breakfast of low-sugar cereal, fruit and yogurt. It’s easy, relatively healthy and what the kids like.

The lunches I pack for the kids are also healthy. They usually have a sandwich, a fruit or vegetable and some kind of starch — pretzels, crackers, a muffin, etc. They might also get a cheese stick. And they always get water to drink in reusable containers! If James needs a juice box, he can get one from the school nurse.

While lunch is healthy, it’s also rather early in the day because of the school schedule. Also, James isn’t always great about eating his whole lunch. He would rather play with his friends, and I don’t blame him. They aren’t given a huge amount of time for recess, and that’s a majorly important part of his day. We work with it.

So afternoon snack becomes really important. The kids are REALLY hungry usually at pick-up time so this is the best time of the day to fill them up on their healthiest food options.

The first thing we do is test James right when he gets to the car at pick-up. Then at home, I usually set out some kind of platter of foods that are “free” (carb-wise) or almost free for the kids to eat while I prepare the rest of the snack. I’ll put out carrots (which, for us, don’t have a huge effect on James’ blood sugar), or cheese cubes and cold cuts or something like that. This gets some of the most basic kid-friendly staples into them quickly, and I love that James can (for once) eat without thinking about counting carbs or asking permission!

Then I usually add some fruit, some healthy bread, and some kind of spread. This week, we’ve been having carrots, baguette, goat cheese and grapes! We’ve also had hummus with carrots, celery, clementines and bagels. Really, it’s kind of like a second, less distracted lunch.

The other thing I’m really digging about afternoon snack is that it allows me to be more adventurous in trying new dinner recipes, and it means we can eat a later dinner — one where we’ll be more likely to catch Daddy home from work. Because the kids aren’t starving, dinner is full of foods that adults like to eat. While I make sure that we always have at least one item that the kids definitely like, this is the meal where new tastes are made. I like that we can teach them polite ways to try new foods, but it’s OK if they end up not really loving the butternut squash soup.

We’ve only been at this the last couple of months, but so far it’s been awesome. A substantial and nourishing snack when they get home from school has helped ease the nutritional shortfall of harried school lunches and provided a bridge to a more leisurely, varied, and “grownup” dinner in the evening.

Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.

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Meal Planning for the Week
People in the Know: Easy Alternatives to Packaged Snacks
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