Wednesday, January 20, 2010

For Children Now, Snack Time Never Ends in the NYT

I laughed out loud when I read today's New York Times (NYT) article "For Children Now, Snack Time Never Ends" about the constant snacking of today's kids. I really related to the writer, who said:

"I am happy to serve on any refreshment committee there is. I like to bake, and am far more efficient at that than at any other classroom obligation." I am a class parent in my daughter's third grade class and I really shine when it comes to bringing allergy free snacks--but I love to opt out of sending group emails and organizing anything else.

And, although I don't live in LA, I agree with the author, who said "What is especially baffling where I live, in Los Angeles, is how often the kind of parental paranoia that obsesses about school ratings, vaccines and myriad imagined plagues is matched by utter disregard for the nutritional downsides of mowing down Fruit by the Foot every afternoon at 4." I did a post on Fruit by the Foot, and for a few weeks we actually had them in our house, but I do think that it is much easier for people to focus on the dangers out there lurking than the subtle ways that processed food is robbing us of our children bit by bit.

Part of the problem is food is so hard to study and quantify and everyone is different. So while one child will become unglued by the dye in Fruit by the Foot, another is undone by the gluten in bread, and a third goes into anaphylactic shock from the dairy in yogurt.

My son's preschool has a "healthy" snack twice a week. Typical "healthy" snacks range from go-gurt & string cheese to fruit. But this year, because of my son's numerous allergies and intolerances the "healthy" snack had to be a fruit or a vegetable making the healthy snack truly a healthy snack for everybody.

My daughter's third grade class tried to eliminate snacking completely--the teachers were fed up with the junk that kids brought in for snack. But asking 8 year olds to go 5 hours between breakfast and lunch, wasn't the answer and I personally lobbied for some type of snack to be reinstated. They are now very strict about the snack. The children are allowed ONE thing. No chips. Nothing sweet. If you bring more than one thing, you lose snack completely for that day. My daughter, who is gluten free, thinks it is hilarious that you can bring frosted "granola" bars, but not cookies, since she says frosted brightly colored cereal bars and 100 calorie snack packs of mini muffins (which are allowed) are more unhealthy than any cookie she might be able to have. And that in a nutshell is the problem with trying to institute a "healthy" snack policy. There is too much junk masquerading as "healthy" snack food. Even my 8 year old thinks it is ironic what is thought of as "healthy."

I would be thrilled if they eliminated the constant snacking done during activities today. I spend my life bringing gluten free snacks here and there because gluten full snacks are being served at after school activities. The problem is that it is easier said than done.

I try to serve a fresh, whole food with every snack and meal so that at the end of the day my kids have 5 servings of fruits or vegetables--even if it is only a pickle or a piece of apple or carrot. It is easier said than done, but it works. And, I am fortunate, being gluten free eliminates a lot of the typical snack food that kids eat.

Related posts:
Snack Trays
Apple Stackers
My Cat, Diabetes and Gluten a story about constant snacks at synagogue


Snack-Girl said...

Excellent post - I read that article too and I am now trying to do something about snack at my child's school. It is SO difficult. Check out for healthy snack ideas for kids. Lisa

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Anonymous said...

Just so long as the fruit is not mango, which my son is allergic to! Some kids are allergic to strawberries as well.

(We actually send individual snack, as his nut allergies -- cashews and pistachios are in the same family as mango -- mean the school district will not allow him to eat anything we don't send. Just wanted to get the point out that there are fruit allergic children, too.)

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gfcfcanadianstyle said...

Isn't this the truth? I don't understand how people can consider most of the packaged snacks "food"' let alone healthy food.

What is so wrong with carrots, apples, cucumber, mandarin oranges?? (All snack foods for my son!)

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