Is snacking sabotaging your weight loss? The 8 nutritionist-approved hacks to stop picking at your kids’ leftovers

SNACKING on the kids’ tea or leftovers is something we’re all guilty of from time-to-time.Whether it be nuggets and chips, spaghetti bolognese or sandwiches and veggie sticks, there’s usually something to help yourself to.2Get leftovers straight into the bin or stored awayCredit: GettyParticularly as children can sometimes leave their tea – they really enjoyed it last week but for some reason today, they turn their noses up at it!It can feel very wasteful – of your time, energy and money – when food has to go in the bin. So it’s no wonder that sometimes parents end up eating the leftovers, even if you have a meal planned for yourself a couple of hours later.Apart from worrying about waste, are there other reasons why parents eat their kids’ leftovers? Counsellor Georgina Sturmer says tiredness is a common reason why parents pick at food.By teatime, your energy levels can start to feel depleted but you’ve still got to get through bedtime before you can relax and sit down. Having a nibble on something might feel like a nice reward for dealing with tricky behaviour or tired children. Sturmer says: “When we are tired, it’s tempting to assume that grabbing some food will fuel us up for the rest of the day. It also makes it easier for us to mindlessly graze on the food that’s in front of us.” So, what can parents do to stop themselves from picking at those leftovers? 1. Have a proper lunchPaediatric dietitian and food specialist Lucy Upton says filling up on a protein-rich lunch can be a great way of stopping you from reaching for the cold waffles or baked beans. ‘Bring out a cookbook’ fans beg as dad-of-22 Noel Radford reveals cheap and easy dinner recipe that’s ready in minutes She says: “I recommend a balance of carbohydrates (wholegrain where possible), with vegetables/fruits, healthy fats and a protein source to provide a well-balanced lunch that can be super supportive for your energy levels across the rest of the day, and even help with mood and concentration.”Grace Willis, founder of Happy Little Eaters which helps families with techniques to improve mealtimes, also says it’s important to look at your food intake across the day. She says: “If you are experiencing high levels of hunger in the evening, I suspect that you may not be eating enough in the day and not honouring your hunger levels fully. “The diet industry will convince you to eat ‘clean’ or less than your body actually needs and the consequence of this is gorging at the end of the day for your body to try and make up for calories lost.”If you have a young baby, you might struggle to put them down for long enough to make anything too complex so grabbing something quickly might be easiest – but it might not fill you up or be very healthy. This can continue to be your routine as your child grows older and time feels like a luxury.Try planning well-balanced lunches for the week ahead and preparing them a few days, or the night before so all you have to do is grab a fork when you’re ready.Filling and balanced lunches
Here are some example lunches from our experts:

Taco bowl – mix together black beans (protein), brown rice (carbs), avocado (fats), tomatoes, red onion, spinach and coriander.
Salmon fillet (protein) with a green salad, microwaveable lentils (protein and carbs)
Eggs (protein) and avocado (fats) on sourdough (carbs) with tomatoes and spinach.
Frittata – combine eggs (protein) with slices of potato (carbs), vegetables and another protein of your choice. e.g. shredded ham, chicken, a tin of lentils or beans – and bake.
Pre-baked sweet potato (carbs) with cottage cheese (protein and fats), kimchi and chopped cucumber. 
Wholewheat wraps (carbs) filled with hummus (protein), grated carrot, cucumber, pepper and cheese (fats)

2. Mid-afternoon snacks to fill you upEating a nutritious mid-afternoon snack can stave off hunger until your own dinner time. You could time it so that you eat it an hour or so before making the kids’ dinner.If eating with the kids, a decent afternoon snack can help prevent overeating because you are not starving.Make sure your own meals are satisfying and something you’ll look forward to, so you can remind yourself that your own meal is the priority. Caroline HannaNutritionist Upton says: “The key here is often combining food groups and including nutrients like fibre, protein and/or healthy fats which can improve satiety [help you feel full for longer].”Dietician Fareeha Jay says: “Intelligent snack choices will still leave enough room in your belly to enjoy your meal later.”Filling afternoon snacks
Try these expert-recommended snacks that will keep you full

Cottage cheese with crackers
Vegetable sticks with hummus
Apple slices with nut butter
Oatcakes with cream cheese or nut butter
Banana and peanut butter smoothie
Natural yoghurt with berries and a handful of nuts or seeds
A homemade ‘trail mix’ with options like popcorn, nuts and dark chocolate 

3. Plan a nice dinnerJay says it’s important to remember that you deserve good quality, nourishing food too.If you’ve got something planned for your evening meal, you’ll be less tempted to snack on foods children like so as to not ‘spoil your appetite’.Jay says: “Plan your evening meal so you look forward to the meal rather than having the leftovers.”Nutritionist Caroline Hanna says: “Make sure your own meals are satisfying and something you’ll look forward to, so you can remind yourself that your own meal is the priority.” If the idea of cooking two nutritious meals – one for the kids and one for yourself later – is too much to bear, come up with a strategy to avoid this.For example, could you put something in the slow cooker before leaving in the morning? 4. Keep food out of temptation’s wayDon’t let food hang around on the countertops.Hanna says: “Out of sight, out of mind: remove the leftovers as soon as possible either putting leftovers away in the fridge or getting rid of food waste.“Once you can’t see it, the temptation is less.” Hanna also recommends asking the kids to put their leftovers into the bin as soon as they’re finished. If you do have leftovers which can be saved and reheated then put them straight into containers and into the fridge or freezer. 2Make sure to store leftovers straight away so you’re not temptedCredit: PA5. Distract yourself with something elseIf leftover snacking has become a habit then try keeping yourself occupied with something else, such as making and drinking a cup of tea while the kids are eating or afte dinner.Fluid – whether it be a tea or large glass of water – can help with hunger pangs (if you have them) and help you feel full after eating.The comfort of a tea can satisfy cravings, too.6. Think about whether you’re actually hungryNutritional therapist Dana Chapman recommends taking a moment to think about why you’re eating this food. She says: “Check in with your body, are you really hungry, or are you bored? “I often also ask clients to think about how they will feel after they have had the kids’ food, do you really feel good after fish fingers, or do you ruin the meal you were going to have?” If you really can’t resist a nibble, Sturmer says: “Eat mindfully. “If you’re tempted to have a bite, then really slow down and notice the food that you’re eating. “This helps us to tune into what our body needs, rather than just gobbling food down when we are tired and distracted.”7. Make mealtimes funIf you find meal-times boring and repetitive then Sturmer suggests finding a way to make the process of feeding your children “more enjoyable and engaging”. Family meals promote the growth of healthy eating habits, positive psychosocial functioning, and advances in language and literacyFareeha Jay DieticianThis could involve playing word games or listening to your favourite songs while you eat. Life is busy and mealtimes can be a great opportunity to all catch up with each other and share what’s happened during your day. 8. Eat with the kidsAll of the experts suggested eating with your children as a way of avoiding this mindless eating. Obviously, this isn’t always easy if you’re working or eat different food to your kids but Jay says there are a lot of benefits. She says: “When families eat together, the kids may pick up healthier eating habits and have a better diet. “It has also been demonstrated that family meals promote the growth of healthy eating habits, positive psychosocial functioning, and advances in language and literacy.”Cooking smaller portions can also be a good way of reducing the volume of leftovers. Children’s appetites can vary daily and according to their age, but if you’re consistently cooking too much pasta or fish fingers then this obviously means there’s more left for you to pick over. Crucially,  Hanna reminds parents not to beat themselves up for eating this food: “A nibble now and then is completely normal, and guilt is not healthy – just be mindful, move on, and try to remember the tips.”

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