Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Meal Hygiene

It seems to me that DD is hungry every evening just before supper. Even if I bring it forward to to try and catch her before the whine, "I'm hungry!" As soon as I go to make supper she's hungry. Of course I tell her to wait bearing in mind that she's eaten a number of snacks since coming home from school about an hour before. "Supper's in 10 minutes," I say.
"But I'm hungry now! What can I have to eat?"
"Nothing, you'll wait 10 minutes and we'll have supper."
"But I'm hungry! Can I have something to keep me going?"
"No there's nothing now, wait for supper.
"There must be something I can eat now." She goes to the fridge. 
"Get out of the fridge!" I shout, losing it. "We're not in Africa, you're not starving to death, you can wait 10 minutes!" I forcibly pull DD's head out of the fridge, shut the fridge door, and banish her from the kitchen.

Later while we eat, I tell her that when I was a little girl and I was hungry, I would ask, "what time's supper?" not "what can I have to eat now?" And if Grandma said supper was in 10 or 20 minutes, I'd go away and be hungry for 10 or 20 minutes while I waited for supper. I don't think she got it.  

I remember my brother-in-law saying that they never established good meal hygiene and that it had been a mistake. He wasn't referring to washing your hands before you eat and using a knife and fork, he meant serving proper meals at set times, sitting at the table and not running an all-day open buffet. I loved this idea and vowed to instigate in my home - but I've never quite managed it.

Natasha at The 1979s Diet writes this: In the 1970's we had 3 meals a day. The only snack we had was a piece of fruit. There were no take-aways, no giant cupcakes, no endless supply of nibbles ...... and you felt properly hungry between meals.

Natasha once wrote about this oft had conversation: "I'm hungry."
"Have an apple."
"I don't want an apple."
"You can't be very hungry then."

LOL, didn't we all get that response at some time in our childhood?

At what point in time did we stop waiting for supper (or any proper meal)? When did we make the shift away from three proper meals and a couple of tea/coffee breaks to just grabbing food whenever we felt like it?

I think in our case it might have been when I was about 9 with the instigation of packed lunches for school and my Mum going back to work. These two events meant that there was suddenly a stock of small bags of crisps and chocolate biscuits in the house to supplement the sandwich and fruit for packed lunches, and we were encouraged to take something for 'tea' to keep us going until supper - which changed from an early children's supper to one family supper later when Dad got home from work. Suddenly we were allowed to help ourselves and we did.

I tried to be more strict with DD and I got the following lecture from my 6yo: "But I'm hungry. You've got to let me eat something if I'm hungry. I didn't come here just to be hungry and not eat anything!"

I stood my ground but, as always, it ended with a fight. I won of course because I'm the grown up but I know why she fights it - because she's seen me eat whenever I'm hungry and not just at meal times.

So from now on this family is going back to 1970 when there were no ready made snacks in the house apart from fruit, meals were served at the table three time a day, and in between were a drink and a biscuit - just one. Well maybe two.

Does anyone practise meal hygiene these days? I'd be interested to hear how it works in your house.


  1. I can relate to a lot of this. As a child, if I was hungry between meals, I was offered an apple, or a piece of dry bread! That soon sorted out just how hungry I was. We've come to see hunger as a pain to be avoided, rather than a healthy and normal signal from your body, that yes, needs attending to, but not as an immediate issue. Do you think we all learned that you appreciate a meal so much more, if you're properly hungry? I'm not sure our children these days ever have that experience. We've denied them it.

    I try to keep snacking to a minimum in my household, though I'm a bit of a prime offender! Breakfast, lunch, dinner, with a snack when they come home from school. I really try to steer clear of bedtime snacks, which I think are often either boredom-related, or delaying tactics!

  2. We eat 3 meals at the very same time every day and there are nuts, fruit and the occasional home-made salad/snack (as in devilled eggs) in the fridge if one feels hungry (usually around 5pm or late in the evening if one works late). I guess I did not realize how "old school" I must be, but I did not see as a thing of the past the very logical (to me) "if you don't want what food I give you know, then you are not really hungry." This being said, I would add that sometimes, even as a child, I did feel genuinely hungry in between meals and there was always something in the fridge for me to eat (something home-made though, nothing else). The hunger in such cases was usually related to some intense studying or similar activity, so I wouldn't really think of it as poor meal hygiene.

  3. Personally I think having small frequent meals is healthier.

    1. It's als a matter of what you can manage. If I had to think about food 5 times a day I'd be eating non stop and never feel full, whereas I can contain my eating to 3 times a day and slightly larger meals after which I do feel full.

  4. I think celery and carrots make good snacks too, they take a while to crunch through like apples. My daughter has been saying 'what can I eat' morning til night since she learnt to speak. Growing kids, always hungry!!

  5. No, we don't practice it.... but we should!
    Our childhood days were all built around proper mealtimes and few snacks. Like as you say, an apple... or a slice of bread and jam! My son was completely horrified when I offered him both those options recently!! xx

  6. I think it's excellent practise to stand us all in good stead for life and I find nothing helps me lose weight like it - limits the insulin we're pumping round apparently - but I'd never get away with it wit my boys. Perhaps she's on a growth spurt but good for you for holding your ground :)

  7. It drives me NUTS when my girls constantly forage for food - then, of course, they don't eat their dinner. And I had to laugh about the apple remark; I had that exact conversation with my youngest yesterday!! xx