Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Are we over-snacking our kids?

I came across this great article in the New York Times about snacking. It's ironic timing for me as yesterday when I went grocery shopping, I was scouring the cookie/cracker isle for packaged, semi-processed, almost-healthy snacks I could grab along to the kids' activities. (Of course, I ended up with so many boxes there's no room for them in my pantry).

Anyhow, this article talks about the culture in American society that we now expect that there will be snacks for kids and adults at EVERY activity that kids do - regardless of duration. That instead of coming home and going outside to play, kids now come home and seek to satisfy their cravings. And because so few of these snacks are home-made, this must be contributing to the declining health of our youngsters.

I can speak for myself that as an internist, I worry a lot about the obesity epidemic in this country, especially among children. Yet when it comes to my kids, I don't think much about the QUANTITY of snacks, but I try to get the 4 food groups into the day, try to make sure there's at least one vegetable on the table at dinner and try to avoid purchasing processed foods from the grocery store. I think about the quality of snacks but I really don't' think much about the number of snacks. In fact, I'll be the first to confess that I use snacks as a way to get the kids into the car, out of the house, avoid tantrums ... really it's my most frequent bribe because I considered it relatively harmless.

I'm not sure I'll change my parenting style but this article has definitely made me think about it!

3 comments:

  1. That is a great article.

    My kids are young, but we've already done three seasons of soccer. I notice, that when you get out there in the kid world, all of your attempts to establish healthy snacking at home are sabotaged. I mean, who knew a parent would be ostracized for bringing fruit as a mid-game snack? To be popular with the kids (and this migrates upwards), you've gotta bring tiny sacks of the vitamin-less carb of the week. Not that those are all bad, but neither is fruit, occasionally. It takes a balance, and when you are a working parent, it's hard to gauge your child's daily intake when you are not present and have multiple caretakers and school celebrations.

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  2. It makes me furious that even at karate and religious school they give nothing but meaningless carbs to the kids.

    And even a suggestion that they nourish their bodies as well as their souls has gone nowhere.

    "There are no fruits in season," I was told this Fall. To which I responded, "Apples. 20 for $5 at the market across the street."

    And of course they are not hungry when they come home. So I just serve salad.

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  3. Junky snacks are everywhere; when my kids were smaller, my husband had the brilliant idea to start cutting up red, orange & yellow peppers just before dinner and putting them in a bowl on the counter...when the kids came by and asked what they were for, he just said "Oh, those are for the grown-ups." The next thing we knew, we had little hands stretching up and "sneaking" down one piece, then another and another - until they had eaten far more than we would have ever been able to cajole them into consuming at the dinner table. We still eat them almost nightly (but now they're on the table with the rest of dinner) - and if we go on any long trips, a big zip-lock bag of chopped up peppers is always along for the ride. I know this doesn't eliminate the rest of the snacks they're exposed to, but it's a start in the right direction.
    A

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