It seems so harmless. The three bites of mac and cheese. The half-eaten graham cracker. A quarter of an apple. But these seemingly innocuous things can have a huge impact.
These and so many other foods are leftover when kids determine they’re not hungry anymore. No matter if it’s a meal or a snack, I can’t seem to think of a time when L will eat exactly what’s on her plate and decide she’s done. (Usually she’ll ask for more, take one bite – if any – and then declare that she’s finished.) That leaves me faced with the same dilemma as millions of other parents: What should I do with the remnants of her meal?
Related: Counting Calories – Is it Worth It?
It seems all to common that parents are finishing off their kids dinners, and it’s not without impact. First, let me say, “Great job!” on not forcing your kids to eat when they tell you they’re finished eating. However, if your next step is to chow down on your little’s remaining nibbles, in addition to your own meal, that could be a problem for sure.
All these little bites of food can really add up over the course of a day, week, month. Let’s take a look:
Breakfast: 1/2 banana (60 calories) + 1/3 cup oatmeal (53 calories)
Snack: 1/2 graham cracker with peanut butter (80 calories)
Lunch: 1/4 grilled cheese sandwich (80 calories) + 2 pear slices (15 calories)
Snack: half of a single-serve yogurt with 1 tablespoon nuts (110 calories)
Dinner: 2 chicken nuggets (93 calories) + 1/3 cup green beans (16 calories) + 1/4 cup mashed potatoes (50 calories)
In just one day, we’ve added 557 calories – more than enough to stop active weight loss and even enough to cause steady weight gain of about one pound per week.
One pound here or there might not sound like a big deal, but it’s definitely worth worrying about long term. Eating this way can pack on four pounds in a month and 52 pounds in a year! Yikes! This is bad news for parents who are trying to take hold of their health. We all know the hazards of excess body fat (diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, should I go on?), but more than that, this is a classic case of distracted eating.
Just like we’ve talked about with kids, distracted eating is a no-no for parents as well. Unless you are actively considering these calories as part of your meal and eating less off your own plate, your downing of these few bites is likely an afterthought. If you’re full from dinner (or any other meal), you don’t need more food at that time.
When your toddler leaves you with hardly anything (but more than enough), you have two options:
- Store it for later
- Toss it
Of course storing for later would be the more economical and ecological choice. However, sometimes you really don’t have enough to save. Now, I know that my mother would give me that look and tell me that I was being thoughtless since there are children all over the world starving. Yes, that is true and certainly horrible, but these three bites of mac and cheese aren’t going to do them any good. They could do me a lot of harm in the long term.
Tell me, Mamas: What do you do with your kid’s leftovers?
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