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Snack Time All The Time

By Sierra Black |

assorted_snacksAccording to the New York Times, it is Snack Time All The Time these days for the soccer mom set. Jennifer Steinhauer describes a world in which she is constantly being asked to provide snacks for kids, and their parents, at all her children’s social events.

Soccer game? Snack. PTA meeting? Snack. The snacks never end.

And the “healthy snack”, Steinhauer finds, is largely a myth. We’d all like to think we’re baking whole wheat carrot cake for these events, but the truth is a lot sweeter. Oreo cookies and Fruit By The Foot rule snacktime in kids lunches and at their soccer games. According the Department of Agriculture, up to 40 percent of the calories kids ingest come from non-nourishing sources. Sugar and fat, in other words.

It’s hardly news that American kids are getting too much of a good thing in the sugar department. For kids with real weight concerns, the constant social snacking can be a problem, as Babble’s Madeline Holler has discovered.

Nutritionists say part of the problem is kids’ busy schedules. Families don’t have time to eat together when they’re rushing out every day for chess club and swimming lessons and ballet and…it’s exhausting. We show up at social events frazzled and hungry. No wonder everyone wants to eat when we get there.

Other causes of constant snacking: it’s easier to say yes than no, and sometimes stressed out parents with the best intentions simply cave in. Another one: food is typically part of social gatherings. It gives moms something to do while they hang out watching the soccer game, or the dance class, or whatever.

Some experts feel the problem isn’t the grazing so much as what’s being grazed on. A diet of endless apple slices and carrot sticks isn’t the problem. It’s the packaged, processed, high calorie low-nutrient snacks so many kids are eating. But again, you knew that.

I wonder if the trend the New York Times is spotting is really more about social environments than it is about kid’s regular routines. I let my kids eat all kinds of crap at all hours of the day when we’re out at birthday parties and school events. They don’t have any trouble understanding that those are special occasions. At home, we stick to our normal routine, where mealtimes are regular and snacks are generally apple slices and peanut butter.

When do your kids snack? Morning? Afternoon? Before bed? Whenever they please?

Photo: Jeffrey O. Gustafsen

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About Sierra Black


Sierra Black

Sierra Black lives, writes and raises her kids in the Boston area. She loves irreverence, hates housework and wants to be a writer and mom when she grows up. Read bio and latest posts → Read Sierra's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Snack Time All The Time

  1. Anonimon says:

    The day that I was the “snack mom” for my daughter’s softball team, I brought sliced up oranges. Kids flat out said that they wouldn’t eat them. When I was a kid playing sports, no one was the “snack mom,” they were the “orange and water mom.” If you aren’t hungry enough for an orange slice, then you aren’t really hungry and don’t need any snack at all.

  2. Amanda B. says:

    One of the boys that I nanny for has preschool 3 days a week from 12:30-3:00 pm. One child’s parents have to provide snack each school day on a rotating basis. This seems excessive to me. They each lunch right before they go and could just have a snack when they get home if they’re hungry.

  3. Julia says:

    I’m pro-snack, as I’m someone who grazes/eats very often, but agree snacks should be healthful. My child isn’t yet school age, but it sounds as though the school/activity snack situation is truly out of hand. Why can’t kids just bring their own snacks if they want/need them?

  4. JCF says:

    Like your kids, Sierra, mine get away with eating some junk occasionally (my grandma fed them microwave popcorn and Doritos while I gritted my teeth the other day). At home? They have a snack after afternoon nap, and it is usually a fruit and vegetable smoothie, plain yogurt with a little cinnamon or fruit puree added, fresh fruit and veggies, or maybe a little cheese on whole grain crackers. They’ve never been offered cookies, candy, fruit snacks, etc. (by me) and they don’t even ask. I think I’ll go nuts when my kids are old enough to have social functions where they’re offered junk food daily!

  5. Ella says:

    Commentsi just hate when parents seem to think kids can’t go 45 minutes ithout a snack. If you’re going to MUSIC CLASS, feed them BEFORE they go in. Way distracting to a roomful of toddlers when one of them is snarfing down goldfish in the middle of the kookaburra song. Or at least take them out of the room!

  6. LisaA says:

    I agree with Julia – why not let parents bring snacks for their own kids. I’m sure the parents who have kids with allergies and other dietary restrictions would appreciate not having to worry about their kids mistakenly eating something they shouldn’t and the parents who don’t have kids with allergies would appreciate not having to worry about feeding some other kid the wrong food.

  7. Voice of Reason says:

    I struggle with this – we have regular snack times between breakfast and lunch and again between lunch and dinner. My kids are only 3 and 5; we have no activities that end after 4:30. We never have to eat on the run, so mealtimes are occasions when we can sit down together. However, sometimes we are required to pack a snack for an afternoon activity, often eaten not long after they’ve had lunch. It’s not something we can opt out of because they require all the children to sit down and eat together. It’s a pain in the a** because this snacktime takes place just early enough that my children can’t quite make it through until dinner at 6:00. (My solution – a cup of milk at 4:00 PM.) So I’m curious – how many snacks are other people feeding their five years old and under children?

  8. zpyle says:

    Hate the extra snacking, especially where it inappropriate, like during toddler music class as Ella said.

  9. [...] kids snacking all day long and childhood obesity on the rise, it’s refreshing to know we’re doing something [...]

  10. [...] Snack Time All The Time: According to the New York Times, it is Snack Time All The Time these days for the soccer mom set. Jennifer Steinhauer describes a world in which she is constantly being asked to provide snacks for kids, and their parents, at all her children’s social events. [...]

  11. [...] and learning about where food comes from and what foods are good to eat. Given what we know about what kids eat, these are lessons our kids need as badly as they need math and science [...]

  12. mystic_eye says:

    My kids snack all day, but they’re 3 and 2.

    But the snacks are almost always fruit or “baby” carrots (cuz I’m too lazy to cut up my own carrots). Other than that they can have one slice of processed cheese per day, sometimes we have real cheese. Sometimes they have yogurt. Once in awhile we have crackers, cookies, whatever.

    The fact is our schedules are all over the place. My husband works anywhere from 5 to 16 hours any time time from 9am to 3am -starting and stopping at different times. My 3 year old likes to eat as soon as he gets up, I can’t eat first thing also I get up later than him (daddy gets up with him). So he wants a snack when I eat my breakfast. Sometimes we have lunch, sometimes we don’t because the kids have been snacking all morning. Sometimes I eat dinner with the kids, sometimes I wait for hubby. Sometimes I eat two dinners (tee hee)

    Once a week my grandma comes over for the afternoon and always brings “treats” (she brings berries, usually blue berries. Once in awhile she also brings cashews. Once she brought dates). We used to sometimes do dinner, but we’ve mostly stopped. My kids end eating a pint of berries and running around too much to stop and eat, and I think its pretty common that kids eat more in the morning than the evenings.

    But I think there is almost always a snack on the go around here. Right now there’s a bag of lychee fruit on my desk, raspberries and crackers on the table. I don’t take the plates up right after lunch or dinner so often there’s bits of cooked brocolli or whatever getting snacked on for hours.

    On the other hand when we’re out we don’t usually bring snacks, they get busy and they don’t eat (its been like that since they were 2 months old, I used to have to bring my breast pump whenever we went out for the day until I learned to hand express). Sometimes I remember to toss a piece of fruit in my bag, or some dried cranberries but that’s about it.

  13. [...] since I wrote that article for Strollerderby about how it’s Snack Time All The Time for America’s kids, I’ve been seeing snacks [...]

  14. Jana @ Weekend Vintage says:

    My “boys” are now 16 and 18. I used to let them snack all the time and although I thought we ate healthy-no cokes or candy, I’m slowly coming to the realization that all that processed food was not good. We have recently switched back to a traditional diet including butter, eggs, whole dairy products and grass fed beef. We are all feeling better and my son’s acne has cleared up. Go figure?

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