I had a conversation today with a woman at the Wellness center where I teach Sign Language. She stated she always gave her kids food whenever they asked for it. So that her family were more grazers then sit down eaters. As a nutritionist, I have to say I partly agree with this sentiment.
HOWEVER, many in our society are boredom eaters, and I can often see it peaking out in my children. We have our main meals and our snacks scheduled. Breakfast at 7am, snack at 10, lunch at 1, snack at 4, dinner at 7. Eating every 3 hours is optimal to organ development and keeping blood sugar level, according to research. So, I don't always respond to "Mom, can I have a snack?" I'm also of the mindset that leaving something on your plate is better than licking it clean. I can't tell you the amount of times I heard about those starving kids in China when I was growing up - and I never could figure out how my being stuffed to the gills would aid them in any way..lol.. I see my hubby sometimes falling into this pattern as well, reprimanding the kids for not finishing all their dinner. I always say, that's fine but you get nothing else. This keeps the kids from not eating just because they prefer something else, and yet doesn't get in the way of the bodies signals that they are actually full.
That being said, kids often go through growth spurts that require many more calories. If I notice 2 days in a row of the kids asking for more, sometimes immediately upon swallowing the last bite, then of course they can have more - be it meal or snack. Of course I don't allow sugary or many processed snacks so it's ok to have more apples or carrots..lol..
Much of the obesity in America is due to 3 things: 1) serving sizes are obscene in America today, and the whole cleaning the plate syndrome. 2) the amount of easily accessible processed foods, which slows metabolism and increases fat. 3) training our minds to forget it's cues. Many people no longer recognize hunger, thirst, nor fullness. They don't 'feel' hungry until they are starved, they don't understand the body is asking for water and often reach for a snack, and many people don't recognize their full until their stomach is stretched to bursting.