My kindergartener eats lunch at 10:45am so they have snack in the early afternoon. At the beginning of the year, I foolishly (brazenly!) packed his snack bag with “real food” – not chips or cookies or little fish-shaped cheese crackers. I gave a cheese stick one day, a yogurt another. Half a sandwich. An apple. Well, did I get a talking to. “Mommy, I DON’T want ANYTHING from the REFRIGERATOR!” (translation: “I don’t want real food – I want snack food from the pantry instead).
Of course, for the first few weeks I ignored his whines, secure in my RD-mom knowledge. But eventually these nutritious morsels started coming back home in the bag, uneaten, unwanted (and now spoiled after being at room temperature for 10 hours).
So, trying to reach a common ground, and accepting that he has his own opinions, I asked him what he wants for snack. “I dunno,” he said. Well, what do the other kids eat? “Candy,” I was told. This can’t be true. Kids are given candy to get them through the afternoon? Brilliant. (Actually, for you NY Magazine readers, it’s Despicable-Lowbrow.)
Well, I can’t abide candy for a snack. But I also grew very tired of wasting food and arguing with my son. And so I got kinda lazy. Those fish-shaped crackers are really easy to throw into a baggie each day. And granola bars aren’t so bad… I mean, I buy the organic ones. And Sun Chips are made with whole grains…and on and on.
And at this point I must let you in on a little secret: this post was going to be about how it’s not a big deal that I give my child processed snack foods every day because I choose the “right” ones and the rest of his diet is really healthy and I’m tired of fighting and I’m not an uptight food nazi, you know.
But as I’m writing this, I have decided that that’s just silly. These snacks may be “healthy” processed foods, but they’re still too high in sodium, too high in sugar. I do have these foods in my home and I think in moderation they’re ok. But, a few hours after snack time at school it’s snack time at his afterschool program, where he is served a lot of junk like Oreos, Doritos, lollypops. (I’m thrilled when I hear he had something relatively wholesome like plain pretzels or Cheerios.) So, suffice it to say, he gets plenty of processed snack foods. Also, I like to give him ice cream for dessert sometimes or make cookies together or other treats without feeling like he’s already so full of junk that I’m junking him up even further.
And so, as of this week, I’ve decided to fight back, get back to my good nutrition roots. I made a batch of homemade energy bars with nuts, dried fruit, oats, wheat germ, and a touch of maple syrup (from Ellie Krieger’s cookbook, “The Food You Crave”). I’m making oatmeal applesauce muffins this weekend. I’m going to make yogurt dip to go with some 100% whole grain tortilla chips and carrot sticks. I’m going to make him try edamame again. And I’m giving him a cheese stick sometimes, darnit. Occasionally I’m going to throw some little fishies or Fig Newmans in a baggie and send him on his way. But I’m not going to completely give up again. It’s hard, but gosh if I can’t give this a good effort, how do I advise others with a straight face?
That’s it for now. Go forth and snack healthy…er.