This article (below) caught my eye recently and inspired me to discuss the topic and share my insights on snacking.
“February has been designated National Snack Food Month by the Snack Food Association. The Institute of Food Technologists reports that snacking accounts for more than 25 percent of calorie intake each day for Americans and adds about 580 calories each day to the average American diet. However, snacking is not totally bad and can even be a good habit if done in a healthy manner that helps you meet recommended intakes of nutrients, states Cathy Agan of the LSU AgCenter.
According to Wikipedia a snack is a portion of food often times smaller than that of a regular meal that is generally eaten between meals. Traditionally, snacks were prepared from fresh ingredients commonly available in the home.
The US snack foods manufacturing industry includes about 500 companies with combined annual revenue of $27 billion. Major companies include PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay, Kraft’s Nabisco subsidiary, Diamond Foods, Snyder’s-Lance, and ConAgra Foods. The industry is highly concentrated: the top 50 companies account for 90 percent of industry revenue. (source: Hoover.com).
I attended my son’s lunch period several times during the week and I saw many packaged food choices but also many bento box style fresh food boxes. I quickly correlated the packaged food items with busy parents, overwhelmed with work and multiple children. I get it. I am a mother of 3 kids, 13, 10 and a 5 year old. I work ¾ time outside the home. We divide up the chores but they never seem to end.
I often think about how precious our kids are to us. When they are first born we only want the best for them: The safest car seat, the best pediatrician and dentist, the best stroller, non-toxic toys, natural foods. I often, return to Michael Polin’s advice to only eat food with ingredients you can pronounce and to keep the number of ingredients to about 5. I embrace this as a simple mantra and strive to adhere to it. Now, coupled with my knowledge about the health dangers of genetically modified food sources, I have evolved my approach. Given my tight budget and time constraints I still feel it is vital to think about the big picture, including the health of the planet.
What I consider when packing a snack:
When I pack snacks , I am often disturbed by the thought of where the waste will go, despite recycling and greener packaging, when refuse is tossed where is away actually?
To reduce garbage I use small kid size containers, BPA free, washable, easy to open and close, spill proof (please see coupon from Kids Konserve) ; I often reuse small glass jars.
A snack is nothing else then a small meal: veggies, fruit, cheese, yogurt, small sandwich, almond butter and bananas on whole grain bread (not whole wheat), lettuce leaves with guacamole as a dip are great and kid approved choices in my family.
Treats and “party foods” are not snacks: Cookies, pieces of cake, donuts, Nutella breads, graham crackers, fishies, fruit leathers and pretzels. These are “fillers” and not nutritiously valuable.
Foods with artificial colors and flavors and genetically modified ingredients are never seen in our food bags. Keep your snack choices free of artificial colors and flavors and genetically modified ingredients. If you are strapped for time, money and creativity here are a few quick ideas:
- Bite sized homemade muffins (zucchini, pumpkin, banana)
- Refillable water bottle
- My little one loves olives and gherkin pickles.
- Rice and beans
- Sunflower seeds or pistachios
- Fruit skewers
- Homemade apple sauce (or organic store bought)
- Banana slices with almond butter dollops
- Cheese cubes
- Hard boiled eggs
- Hummus dip and tortillas/ whole grain bread cubes