There are many families like to eat smaller meals throughout the day and many who stick to a strictly 3 meals per day rule. I am a big believer in beginning with your young children the way you envision things for them and your family in the future. Personally, I don’t want my day to revolve around constant eating, so I don’t and we eat 3 meals with usually 1 snack, but I don’t think how many is what is important. I think the what, where, and how is more important.
I would just make sure that all meals and snacks are healthy. I think many parents and kids take the word “snack” to mean cookie, cracker, cheese, fruit, or packaged goodies. There is nothing that says a snack can’t be carrot sticks and water or granola or yogurt. I’m not saying that fruit, crackers, or granola bars are bad or that we don’t buy and enjoy those as well, but my boys definitely don’t think a snack means we’re opening up a package of fruit chewies every day.
I require all food and drink to be consumed in the kitchen. A cup can be on the counter or in the refrigerator with water when needed during the day. But, all food is eaten in a chair at a table or on the stool at the counter. This includes our outside family table or the kids’ picnic table. I think this is very important. Now, there are times like bad-timed doctor appointments or a road trip where we might need to take a snack with us, but this is the exception and not the norm. Oh, and we had a family Super Bowl party with food in front of the tv the other night. This by far an exception to the rule. Eating in front of the tv is definitely not allowed around here and definitely something I think contributes to laziness, obesity, and inappropriate views of food.
Basically, I want my kids to be grateful for food and eat what they are given. At almost 3, they still don’t get a choice in what they are served. They use appropriate table manners. They thank the one who has prepared or served them. They help clean up.