Friday, January 22, 2010

Too Many Snacks for Children

The article in the N.Y. Times is titled, “Snack Time Never Ends (NYT 1.20.2010).”  The author of the article was complaining about the number of snacks she and the other mothers have to bring to her children’s school.  She wrote, “Apparently, we have collectively decided as a culture that it is impossible for children to take part in an activity without simultaneously shoving something in their {mouths}.”  

When my children, Hailey and Jessi were in elementary school, I couldn’t believe how many snacks were brought to school.  Every birthday, school event, soccer game, etc., there were snacks.  Some mothers brought good snacks, fruit and vegetables, while others brought bad snacks full of refined carbohydrates (cookies, cakes, and such).  I would estimate that the good snacks were brought about 10% of the time.

I thought the snacks would be over as my kids got older.  I was wrong.  Even in high school, we get the dreaded snack notice.   I don’t recall my mother bringing a single snack to high school.  I don’t think anyone ever brought a snack to high school.

From 1977 to 2002, the department of Health and Human Services has reported a nearly 400% increase in snacking by Americans.  What do we have to show for this increase in snacking?  Obesity, diabetes, and hypertension are all related to snacking on poor quality food and are occurring at epidemic rates.   In fact, all of these illnesses are occurring in our children at epidemic rates.

I believe this over-use of snacking is teaching our children how to eat poorly.  They would certainly eat better if they were not snacking.  Also, children should be conditioned to eat at mealtime. They do not need to eat constantly during the day, particularly high-calorie, low- nutritious food.   We are bound to see more and more childhood illnesses such as obesity and diabetes if we keep up this practice.  

What can we do?  For starters, the schools should limit the number of snacks brought in.  Also, there should be guidelines about what kind of snacks should be allowed.  What is wrong with fruit and vegetable snacks?  Instead of fructose-flavored juice, what is wrong with serving water with snacks?

I can assure you that if we do not change course with our children’s diet, we are in serious trouble.   You can forget about healthcare reform if our young population becomes too fat and too ill to work.   The looming health care debacle is the obesity epidemic.  This epidemic is a lifestyle epidemic and we all share in the blame. Unfortunately, this epidemic is already here.  On the other hand, we can all share in the cure for this epidemic; we can eat better and feed or children healthier food.  So, if you get  the dreaded snack letter, think about bringing fruit and vegetable snacks and water to drink.  At least if they have to eat, let them eat healthy food.   


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