In my 5 Tips to A Healthier Wei, one tip is to avoid bedtime and nighttime snacking whenever possible. But let’s face it, it is not realistic to expect that children will never eat or drink after dinner, especially those active in sports and/or going through growth spurts!  Therefore, as a mother of a young child, I always make recommendations that I know are realistic and achievable.  What I usually share with parents and caretakers is that ideally, we teach our children to eat well during mealtime, and enjoy their snacks in between meals without developing a routine habit of eating and drinking (other than water) close to or right before bedtime.  This is to minimize children going to sleep with a stomach full of undigested contents which then has the chance to ferment and reflux into their esophagus and even throats.  The same holds true for adults as well.

No mother wants to send their child to bed hungry, and it is always difficult to deny them food and nourishment when they tell you they are hungry. Therefore, it is important to know that if they must eat after dinner, at least we can help them make good choices.  Such choices include the following:

1)Fresh fruit that are low in acidity :

  • Melon (cantaloupe)
  • Banana
  • Pear
  • Apples

Fresh fruits to AVOID before bedtime (higher in acidity)

  • Berries (blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, cherries)
  • Grapes (green)
  • Grapefruit
  • Mango
  • Nectarines and peaches
  • Oranges & Mandarin oranges
  • Kiwi
  • Pineapple

2)Dry Crackers, whole wheat crackers, any crackers with low sugar content

  • Goldfish (1g of sugar per serving)
  • Wheat Thins (3g of sugar per serving)
  • Saltines (0.17g of sugar per serving)
  • Ritz crackers (2 g of sugar per serving)
  • Dry cereal that are low in sugar like CheeriosTM

3)Fat free or light butter popcorn – without added butter

4)Whole grain or wheat toast – lightly buttered or plain

5)Rice cakes

6)Whole corn tortilla chips

7)Hummus

8)Natural /organic peanut butter (low sugar)

9)Fresh vegetables (these are low in acidity)

  • Avocado
  • Carrots
  • Cooked green beans
  • Cooked sweet potatoes

You probably notice what’s missing on my list of suggested healthy snacks: what children love the most: chocolate chip cookies, cookies of any kind, ice cream, cheesesticks, cheese slices, yogurt, sugary cereals and milk.  I highly recommend that water is the only beverage consumed in the evenings, which means avoiding chocolate or strawberry milk, sports drinks, sweet tea, juices, Sunny delight or other citrus drinks, and definitely carbonated beverages (even diet).  I am lucky that I never drank much soda, and my husband has not had soda since college so we only have some diet sodas at home for guests.  I allow Claire to have it once in a while when we eat out, since she’s has been sufficiently brain-washed since early childhood about all the negatives of carbonated beverages due to their acidity, high likelihood of causing reflux because of the carbonation, and the fact that one can cook a piece of raw meat in any carbonated beverage!  Since many parents also share with me frustrations over their child’s poor sleep or sleep habits, I always discuss with them the risks of sugar and/or caffeine containing beverages and how they may impact their child’s sleep.

I am not asking anyone to feel like a bad parent/caretaker by starving their somehow quickly “full” at dinner time but even quicker “hungry” right after dinner children. If your children must eat again, help them be healthy, avoid chronic nasal complaints, and sleep as soundly as possible by choosing better snacks and avoiding the Milk and Cookie Disease.

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Dr. Julie Wei is a pediatric ear, nose, and throat specialist and the author of A Healthier Wei. As a mother herself, Dr. Wei is a passionate advocate for improving children's health through better diet and dietary habits. She has been committed to helping parents learn how to eliminate their child's ear, nose, and throat problems simply by reducing excessive sugar and dairy intake, as well as minimizing habitual late night snacking. She hopes to raise awareness for the need for accountability by both medical professionals and parents to ensure that children are not prescribed or take unnecessary medications long term.

When she is not in the clinic, operating room, or conducting research, you will find her in the kitchen preparing food with love along with her daughter Claire. If you sit next to her on the plane, she will likely share with you information about how to minimize choking hazards in young children, and many other tips for improving your child's health.