Snack Culture

I’m all for snacking. You’re hungry? EAT! I love food. Yummy-delicious, filling, food that provides me lots of energy and taste and excitement. So when did little bags of processed, grain heavy, sugar filled foods become known as ‘snacks’. What entitles us to take every opportunity to ‘snack’ on candy and little sticks of crap? I’m not a food nazi, I’m really not. In fact, someone recently commented on how I didn’t seem as stressed over my children’s food as she would have thought I was. I still argue: a snack is not the same as a treat so stop treating it as such.

Some people don’t believe in snacks and I may have been among them before I began looking at food as fuel. Now a snack is just more food. Healthy food. Fuel for the body, brain and to keep you chugging along through the day. Treats don’t do that for you. They leave you hanging after 30 minutes like a bad friend. And don’t get me started when it comes to kids, the innocent snack suddenly takes on a magical appeal and turns into sugar and sweets and exciting little morsels of junk. They’re not born thinking this, we taught them so we can re-teach them, if we must. If not, they will soon become adults who indulge in ‘snacks’ between every meal and possibly who snack between snacks, as well. Overweight and/or disease riddled, adults. Depressing. Enter the modern-American culture.

Special treats are always applicable to extra special occasions. However, healthy party options are available.

I don’t know how this thought-shift happened, but I’ll start with preschool. Most schools work similarly where each student is assigned a day or days to bring in a snack for the entire class. The children usually get to help hand out the snack or lead the line to the playground on snack day, so it turns into a special event. And so it should be, every child deserves to feel important, but a special event is no longer special when it is a daily occurrence. I also have a problem with the fact that at 9 or 10am, most children do not need a snack if they were fed a proper breakfast heavy with protein. Then you present that early morning snack in the shape of a brownie, cookie or cupcake, multiply that by as many days as your child goes to school and you’ve set them up for a routine of behavioral crashes by 11 or 12 each day and the idea that they ‘deserve’ this ‘snack’ regularly. Poor kid. They don’t know why they feel funny inside or why they’re starving by lunch time and craving more processed food and carbs. We, as the adults, choose this for them.

Of course, I am not referring to an exceptionally exciting day like a birthday celebration. This deserves a little fanfare, an extra special treat and a bit of a pomp and circumstance. If cupcakes do that for you, so be it. I’m not a martyr but the daily dosing of sugar snacks is overkill and has allowed us to be members of the unhealthy culture we live in today.

Let us move on to organized sports and activities. You or your child are depleting energy. You’re sweating, losing water, burning fuel. Why, then, would a sugary ‘sports’ drink or juices, bags of chips, whole wheat fish, pretzels, or mini cookies (but they only contain 100 calories!) be the first thing one reaches for to share after the baseball game or to the swimming pool? Fuel your body with good food and it will repay you with good action. After you’ve refueled would be the proper time for an extra treat, like ice cream for the winning team.

Water and protein make the most sense when ‘starving’ or a banana when depleted after a long game, run or day in the sun. Yet we grab a bag of treats because they come in boxes of 24 and there is enough for everyone on the team. Eggs come in cartons by the dozen. Boil them up, keep them in a cooler. Okay, my husband would look at me weird too, how about carrots then? You can get a huge bag of carrots for a few dollars, even the organically grown kind, from your local market. Hand them out. They are a great source of fiber, keep hunger at bay, provide the body with vitamins and will help you make it till dinner before eating again. Bunches of bananas are also easy to carry and filling. Grab a pre-made veggie tray if you’re looking for ease. The options are out there. We need another thought-shift.

Lunches and packed meals always seem to have a ‘treat’ added to the pile of food choices. Why? Couldn’t we just as easily pack a salad with some protein and call it a day? There is no need for the insulin spike of starchy carbs and candies leaving us wanting another round of the same, when we could fill our bellies with nutrients that will provide clarity and a steady source of energy. Still hungry? Have an egg. Enjoy a banana. Make a sweet potato. Leftovers. Peel a carrot or cucumber lickidy-split. Thought-shift.

Which brings me to potlucks, office parties and holiday gatherings where everyone finds excitement in bringing their gooiest, most fattening, delicious, dish of whatever treat, bread or cake they are most known for making for every potluck, office party and holiday gathering. We hover around the food table, re-plating and filling our bellies until we can fill them no more, and then of course complain about how full we are. How did veggies (and other healthy options) get the shaft on creativity? I have to hand it to a friend who brought pre-portioned Dixie cups of veggies with a dash of Ranch dip in the bottom of each to a recent gathering. It was a great presentation! Everyone was excited to grab one. In fact, our food table(s) were FILLED with healthy options, one more yummy than the next. You can make things enticing and new and delicious without over indulging. There will always be an opportunity to overindulge, trust me. In this snack culture, however, it seems folks indulge at every chance they get.

In short, lead by example and encourage healthy habits in yourself, your kids, friends, family, co-workers, etc. Share bananas with the team, or an avocado salad at your next office potluck. You’ll be the hit of the party and others will start trying their hand at something more refreshing since the brownies, breads and pies are usually covered, several times over. Most of all, enjoy your days. Don’t fill your bellies with sweets, treats and junkie choices. Those are meant as extras to a nutritious diet, not as fillers between meals or the meals themselves.

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