Stop the snacks: Could you? Should you?

05/29/2014 7:00 AM

05/27/2014 2:20 PM

Four years ago, researchers called snacking a major culprit in the childhood obesity problem. That shouldn’t have surprised any parent of young children, as they’ve likely doled out — or at least seen doled out — snacks at play dates, at their Saturday morning sporting events, at scouts and at school. We can’t do anything with our kids, it seems, without giving them a snack. Even learning multiplication tables earned a snack — ice cream sundaes — at my daughter’s school this year.

And while each event in isolation might theoretically be fine, the end result, it seems, is that too many kid are getting too many calories because they eat too many snacks of questionable value.

A study out in April found that childhood obesity rates have increased in the past 14 years, despite a focus and push (even from the White House) to reverse the trend.

Which makes me think we need a new attack on snacks. Which I know is not always easy. I found myself falling into the snack trap during FCAT week, thinking, Oh, it’s test time, I should pack extra treats (read: unhealthy snacks). But, really, why?

A writer for the Baby Center blog asked a few weeks ago, “Could you go a day without giving your kids snacks?” Good question, I thought.

Not that all snacks are bad, as healthy snacks can head off hunger meltdowns in toddlers or keep an active kid well fueled.

But when kids get a sleeve of fatty crackers for a mid-morning snack on a school day or packs of cookies and sugary drinks after a short soccer game (and just before lunch), we aren’t doing them any favors.

As I packed lunch boxes recently, I didn’t eliminate snacks (that’s not realistic, given that my youngest stays for an after-school program) but I tried to be mindful about the quality of what I was packing, opting more for real food (fruit and cheese, for example) and less for the bright packages that contain little anyone would call healthy.

These tips from Change 4 Life, a British effort to improve family eating, were helpful, as I thought about how to scale back our snacking habits.

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