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Snack Time All The Time

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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