A recent NY Times article entitled, For Children Now, Snack Time Never Ends, bemoaned the current snacking environment we parents introduce to our kids. It's a pet peeve of mine, as a health coach, so I'm going to highlight some of the comments and offer my own spin as well.
Used to be that kids would come home from school, grab a glass of milk (usually only down half) and race outside to play with friends. These days, kids come home to a formal snack experience which often comprises several processed snacks. It is typically packed with sugar, salt and fat. If they don't come home because of after school activities, then they typically grab snacks from a vending machine or something from the fast food drive through, on their way to team sports. And at team sports, they will be given post effort snacks....again. One father in the NY Times article claimed that though he realized he had "messed up" by allowing his son to become accustomed to grabbing 7 Up and a fruit roll up (this week), he did not see any way to change the behavior, "Maybe if I was a better parent I'd tolerate the incessant complaining that would occur." He also pondered the wisdom of maybe just allowing the 7 UP or the fruit roll up - not both.....Are you kidding me?
I cannot tell you how much of a battle I faced when I suggested to my son's athletic director, that after a team workout, donuts, soda and chips were not an acceptable snack. My gosh, here we are lucky to have kids working our and exercising, and we're rewarding them with junk food (so we can undermine the calorie burning effort most of them need??). I stood my ground and the net result was a list of acceptable foods that included any kind of fruit, small packets of nuts or healthy cereal and water. The parents did finally get on board and the kids were, for the most part fine with the change.
I agree with the author of the article when she suggests that everything we seem to do with kids seem to necessitate a snack break. If they go to an event an hour after breakfast, they need a snack. If they get whiney, they need a snack. If they don't like dinner and eat sparingly, they need a snack. Don't get me wrong - I think snacking is a vital component of a healthy diet. But the quality of foods you choose, the calorie count, and the timing of these feedings can determine a healthy eating pattern versus a food frenzy and ultimate weight gain.
Snacks were not created to relieve parents from parenting. They should not be used for boredom, reward, or other behavioral issues. If your child is really hungry give them a healthy snack - a piece of fruit and some yogurt, cut up veggies and healthy dip, an English muffin and melted low fat cheese, a hard boiled egg and a small whole grain roll. If they worked out for an hour, give them water and a banana and a handful of nuts (if they're not allergic), not donuts and pizza and soda. That just flies in the face of common sense.
Yes treats have a place in a kid's diet, but not everyday and not in multiple doses and not to calm them down or keep them occupied so you don't have to do......parenting. And if you have somehow adopted these less desirable snacking habits in your family, then being a good parent means you try to slowly shift to new habits and you explain why, to your children. Oh, and by the way you also need to adopt those healthier habits too!! Snacks do play an important role in a day's worth of eating. So make sure you understand the logic and the true need of snacks - to fill in, between meals, so blood sugar and in turn, energy stores (physical and mental) remain constant.
Published On: February 03, 2010