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Morning news 2010.01.20: Down with snacktime

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Food writer Amanda Hesser said 'Bravo!'
to Jennifer Steinhaeur for her essay in today's New York Times on snack food, and more pointedly, our parental addiction to the practice. "Of the many horrors that lurk in the e-mail in-box of a working parent ... nothing quite rivals the snack request," she writes. "Not a month goes by without someone somewhere asking me to serve up some snack for an event that one of my children will attend and that, generally speaking, will not last more than 90 minutes." Perhaps that opening line is a bit maudlin (umm, I can think of plenty of horrors worse), but she gets around to pointing out that kids eat too many snacks, they expect to eat too many snacks, and we organize around it! "Rarely do I see a parent show up on the soccer field with a homemade snack, or even a bag of carrots. Oreos are the post-game snack of choice, even in sports leagues dominated by upper-income parents." She suggests we could have kids bring their own snacks... or maybe no snacks? That last bit sounds right to me! I'm always amazed at the capacity of my children to eat awfully healthy food, when they haven't just filled up on fruit leather and cookies. No snacks it is.

On NPR, we learn that Army wives worry (a lot) (no, a LOT) while their husbands are at war. I've written about this and my husband hasn't even left for war (still, no orders). The study learns that military wives whose husbands have been deployed have a lot of anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders: but the support system for these problems isn't in place. I've noticed a distinct difference recently in the Army's approach to mental health; I think I have high hopes.

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kids like snacks.

I am super down on junk food and driven crazy by how hard it is to keep my kids away from it at social gatherings. Also, our culture probably eats too frequently throughout the day. However, healthy whole-food snacks are really important to keeping my 2.5 and 5-year-olds functioning. They don't always eat a lot at meals and their behavior really tanks when hungry. This may be unique to younger kids (not the target of this piece) but I do think that keeping kids consistently WELL fed is important and some snacking is a part of that.

Agreed. Snacks are key at our house, but more often than not, they are fresh fruit and whole grain crackers. Certainly not Oreos as a snack!

I make up a double-batch of small muffins packed with zucchini, carrots, walnuts, raisins, flax meal and wheat germ. Then I freeze them to pull out as snacks or pack in lunches. The kids have been eating them since they were toddlers (and didn't know any better, ha ha) and still like them at 7 and 10. I agree that not letting kids get too hungry is key to preventing meltdowns.

Oh, yum! Can you post the recipe???

No kidding--I want to make those muffin, too!

The revolt that would happen if I did not have some kind of cheese and crackers or fruit for snack would be loud and painful! I wish I didn't have to but we would be eating dinner at 3pm! Certainly not cookies or chips!

Snacks are key at our house too, but like previous posters, most of the snacks around here are healthy, whole foods that do not come from a package. Most days it's fruit, carrot sticks, cheese and crackers, etc.

The thing that has me so fired up is the necessity to provide packaged foods at schools today...How have we gotten so paranoid about food that now it's impossible for a school to provide anything to our kids that does not either come from a commercial kitchen or a package? I'm sure that I came off as the Weirdo-Mama because I provided individual cups of applesauce for my son's birthday celebration snack with his class, but sorry, I refuse to show up at 9AM with a dozen cupcakes from the grocery store like so many other mamas are currently doing. And although the snack menu could certainly be worse, it's all packaged foods that they are feeding our kids because the health department will not let the teacher cut up a few apple slices to give to the kids.

At our PPS school we are allowed to bring home-baked stuff for snack. I guess it's technically not permitted, but the school looks the other way, the teachers encourage parents to do it, and I think the kids are better for it.

I think what the author is saying has a lot of merit -- mainstream parenting / educating involves a lot of utilizing snacks as a "fruit juice"-enhanced, corn-sweetened, preservative packed (ahem) carrot to reward kids for doing whatever activity we've signed them up for -- excessive, junky snacking is terrible for grade schoolers. for toddlers and preschoolers and even kindergarteners, it's another story (but can still be firmly in the "junk" category, especially at most of the public schools, where homemade treats are out-and-out banned. zinemama, I've begged at my MESD preschool to bring homemade treats, and received the brushoff).

I'm all for allowing kids full access to healthy whole snack food -- nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit, and (hopefully) whole grain bread are always on the menu for my boys.

but she also misses something, which is: the parents in her essay are all involving their children in these activities voluntarily, and they wouldn't have nearly so many snacks if their schedules weren't so jam-packed. the typical content at a preschool snack time or birthday treats at Everett's school make me crazy, and my husband's family's tendency to send him home every time they see him with cookies and "granola bars" (grr) and rice krispie treats for the boys is difficult for me to handle (and regularly messes up my dinner plans). but luckily I don't have much of the exposure to snacks for kids who've run around on a t-ball field for an hour-and-a-half, because our organized kid activities are severely limited.

anyway. snacks after school are nothing new and I don't have a problem with those; I'm all for apples and tortillas and hazelnut butter and dried cherries and toast with honey (the popular things with my boys these days). but it's clearly problematic if, like one of the moms quoted, it's soda and a fruit roll up every day.

Ok, here's the muffin recipe. This is a double recipe that makes at least 36 medium muffins. (When my kids were toddlers, I made a single recipe and used a mini-muffin tin.) You can play around with whatever veggies you want to slip in there, of course.

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups white flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup flax meal
1/2 cup sugar (more if you think necessary)
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

2 cups finely grated carrot
2 cups finely grated zucchini
4 eggs
2/3 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 and 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Combine dry ingredients. Combine wet ingredients. Add raisins and walnuts. You may need to add extra milk, depending on the consistency you end up with and the add-ins you use.

Fill muffin cups about 1/2 full (I don't aim for these to be super large muffins.)

Bake about 20-23 minutes at 375. Let cool, then put in bags and freeze. One of these, frozen and put in a lunch box, will thaw perfectly by lunchtime.

Am I the only one that's annoyed at the NYT seemingly endless tirade of "expert" parenting advice lately? I refuse to be made feel guilty or dysfunctional as a parent if I give my kid the occasional cookie or fruit leather or, god forbid, get angry and raise my voice. I'm so unbelievably tired of all of these attempts to make ridiculous blanket statements and ultimatums about how every step taken as a parent is undoubtedly ruining our children's future health and happiness. I like snacks. My daughter likes snacks. We are both trim and healthy people. Most of the time our snacks are cheese or yogurt or fresh fruit but sometimes we eat oreos and I'M NOT SORRY!!!

You go, anon! My 2 yr old eats a lot of snacks and well--sheesh, my sister and I were raised on total crap and we are really healthy as adults.

Thanks for posting the recipe, zinemama!

I think any food at any time as long as it is healthy is ok. children's caloric or just the desire to eat are too irregular to limit and regulate. I don't think it healthy to restrict children. At our house, we snack healthfully, I often put out a 'trough' of snacky foods. As long as something good/organic/colorful/nutritious is going in at some point, I am not concerned. Fight avoided.

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