It wasn’t until I became a dad that I fully realised what hangry actually meant. Sure, I’ve been angry through hunger before – I can remember multiple times when I’ve snapped at the missus and been on the verge of tears because I wanted food NOW and wasn’t prepared to wait. The missus may disagree, but I think I have always demonstrated an acceptable level of frustration in situations such as this. It’s different with a toddler though – this is where I’ve learnt the true meaning of the word hangry.
Toddlers are still learning about their emotions and social norms, so their reactions are often pretty extreme – hence the toddler tantrum. I’ve written about some of the ridiculous reasons that Toddler L has had a tantrum before (read here and here), but food – or lack of it – is probably the one which is guaranteed to result in a bad-tempered, irritable and frustrated tiny human. After all, I’m pretty sure it was a three-year old Incredible Hulk who first uttered the sentence “don’t make me hangry, you wouldn’t like me when I’m hangry”.
It makes sense when you think about it though. Toddlers only have small stomachs so can’t take on loads of food at once – interestingly, Google tells me that their stomach is about the size of their clenched fist. This is something I need to keep in mind when I’m getting frustrated at Toddler L for not clearing her plate – after all, it’s most likely a much bigger portion than she actually needs so that I have the added benefit of finishing her food…
Then you need to consider just how much energy a toddler has. They’re like bigger, more human versions of the Duracell bunny – always going, never stopping. I often get tired just watching Toddler L as she goes about her day-to-day tasks like jumping on the sofa, chasing the dog and getting every single one of her toys out just because she can.
It’s hardly surprising then that toddlers need regular snacks between mealtimes to ensure that they have enough calories and nutrients to keep them going and going and going and going and going until they crash out at bedtime (hopefully).
I like to think that Toddler L has got a good relationship with her food. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve gone through VERY frustrating periods, such as those few weeks when she wouldn’t eat anything but porridge for dinner or when she loved rice one day only to hate it the next.
Generally though, she’s always been a decent eater, will (sometimes) try new things and has a pretty varied diet. She could do with more veg, but I’m fighting one toddler battle at a time – veg eating is currently way down the list beneath the likes of potty training.
When it comes to dealing with Toddler L’s hangry side, there’s two main times when I notice it. Firstly, it happens when we’ve been out doing anything remotely active. As soon as she’s done at Water Babies or Tumble Tots, the first thing she asks for is food for the car journey home. She couldn’t possibly wait 15 minutes until we’re back, could she?!
This is usually fine though as I ensure that we have some kind of individually packaged toddler snack with us – her personal favourites at the moment include the Organix Cheese & Herb Puffs and Raspberry & Apple Oaty Bars – which helps to stave away the hangry demons. The issue is when I forget snacks – that’s when all hell breaks loose. Do. Not. Forget. Snacks.
The second situation is when she wakes up first thing in the morning. For whatever reason, the child is ravenous, which is surprising considering that she usually eats tea around 7pm. I kid you not, for the last few weeks, her first words – which she shouts from her bed – are a variation of “Me want go downstairs. Me want Cheerios and Rice Krispies”.
No “morning Daddy, I’ve missed you, it’s wonderful to see you” – she just wants to put food in her face. In fact, even though she loves nursery, we have a regular tantrum on the mornings she goes because she wants to eat at home and doesn’t get breakfast at nursery until 8.30am. The only way to avoid this hangry episode is to give her a quick snack before we set off – usually a handful of dry cereal.
Snacks are therefore one of the key ways I stave away hangriness in Toddler L. Without snacks, she becomes moody, uncooperative and a bit of a pain – let’s say it’s practice for her teenage years. When she’s at home, she’s constantly asking for food – she’s not so bad in the afternoon, but the morning is relentless. She’ll already have had breakfast and one or two snacks before I’ve even had chance to eat anything myself. It’s hardly surprising then that that we spend a good 92% of our weekly shopping bill on snacks for her.
When it comes to snacks, there’s a few different things that we get her. As she has so many snacks, I try to ensure that it’s all pretty decent things – she has ‘bad stuff’ from time to time, but I try to minimise this where possible. Firstly, there’s her ‘snack stash’ – literally a big box of snacks.
This includes the aforementioned Organix snacks like oat bars, fruit bars, crackers, puffs and gingerbread men, as well as a few other things like Nakd Bars. Having such a big selection gives her variety and means that she can always choose what she wants, plus it makes it easy to load up a bag or pocket with them when heading out.
Then we have other stuff not in the ‘snack stash’. She has a reasonable amount of fruit, for instance – usually a choice of bananas, blueberries, strawberries or dried fruit like raisins or craisens (yep, they are a thing). Having a middle-class toddler, she’s also a fan of slightly posher things – granola and natural yoghurt being a prime example. Give her a kid’s yoghurt and she’ll turn her nose up at it! Finally, we – or should that be the missus – does baking from time to time with Toddler L for some healthy homemade choices like flapjacks or banana muffins.
It doesn’t always work – mainly due to me being forgetful – but that’s how we try to keep Toddler L’s hangry demons in check. Do you have a hangry toddler? How do you ensure that they don’t quite get to the frustrated due to hunger stage? What are your favourite toddlers snacks? Let me know below!
Disclosure: This is a commissioned post in collaboration with Organix for #NoJunkJourney.