There is a hunter lurking among us, and our kids are its prey. It has occupied a prime spot in the everyday lives of our kids, and it is armed for battle with an arsenal of deadly weapons. It has infiltrated our kid culture so completely that we don’t even notice it anymore. It is an innocuous presence that flies so low under the radar that we actually believe it’s a good thing…a fun thing. But don’t be fooled. It’s a predator and it is preying on our kids. The battlegrounds? Sports Fields, Classrooms, Preschools, Day Camps. The invader is penetrating these protected natural habitats right under our noses. In fact, we are carriers. Willing carriers.
Are you alarmed? You should be. What, you say, is attacking our kids?
Characterized by large calorie, sugar, sodium and fat contents, this insipid little parasite is along for the ride at many of our kids’ most formative childhood events. Be it a soccer tournament, 10:00am pre-recess in the classroom or at day camp, ‘SNACK‘ is looming in the periphery, ready to spike their blood sugar and plant the seeds for a life of bulge-battling and Type 2 Diabetes.
‘SNACK‘ is a brilliant enemy – it conceals itself beneath bright colors, sometimes with popular cartoon or Disney Channel characters plastered on its surface. This further draws the unsuspecting child – and her delicate digestive system – into the web of deceit. It uses words such as ‘fruit’ and ‘natural’ to further disguise its true identity.
Victims of ‘SNACK‘ may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms: blue tongues; ; peculiar stains around the mouth area; laps full of crumbs and empty wrappers; an incessant whine consisting of, “Mom, can you open this?”…consider these warning signs that your son or daughter has been victimized.
In singular form, ‘SNACK‘ can morph into its twin cousin, ‘TREAT‘. Because ‘TREAT‘ appears less frequently in our habitat, it is considered slightly less dangerous. But beware of both.
Many moms and dads do not recognize that ‘SNACK‘ a most cunning enemy; that it is a contributor to many childhood difficulties, such as laziness and hyperactivity, and is singlehandedly turning our kids into fatties. In order to further explore the damaging effects of ‘SNACK‘, it’s helpful to grab our reading glasses and take a gander at its scientific composition:
‘SNACK‘ appears in both liquid and solid form. One of its most dangerous compositions comes in a shiny, squishy package that holds a visual and tactile appeal to kids. This vile little creature, which calls itself Capri Sun, contains 70 calories and 18 GRAMS OF SUGAR. This is more than a candy bar. On its own, The Capri Sun liquid saboteur might pass the sniff test, but it’s almost always in the company of one or more of its solid-form compatriots. Let’s take Ritz Bits Cheese Crackers. Those little enemy combatants contain 220 CALORIES and 12 GRAMS OF FAT…per 3 oz. serving. Introduce the sweet member of this nasty little triumvirate (they almost always travel in packs of three), otherwise known as Quaker S’Mores Granola Bar, and you can add another 100 calories and 8 GRAMS OF SUGAR to the mix. So, this one frontal ‘SNACK‘ attack will invade our unsuspecting offspring and deposit:
Calories – 390
Fat – 14 grams
Sugar – 28 grams
Along with the following ingredients:
Granola (Whole Grain Rolled Oats, Sugar, Rice Flour, Whole Grain Rolled Wheat, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oils (Adds A Dietarily Insignificant Amount of Trans Fat) With Tbhq and Citric Acid Added to Preserve Freshness and/or Sunflower Oil With Natural Tocopherol Added to Preserve Freshness, Whole Wheat Flour, Molasses, Sodium Bicarbonate, Soy Lecithin, Caramel Color, Barley Malt, Salt, Nonfat Dry Milk), Corn Syrup, Crisp Rice (Rice, Sugar, Salt, Barley Malt), Semisweet Chocolate Chips (Sugar, Chocolate Liquor, Cocoa Butter, Soy Lecithin, Vanilla Extract), Sugar, Dehydrated Marshmallows (Sugar, Com Syrup, Modified Food Starch, Gelatin, Artificial and Natural Flavor, Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Blue 1), Corn Syrup Solids, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Glycerin, Honey Graham Cracker Crumbs (Enriched Flour [Wheat Flour, Niacin (One of the B Vitamins), Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate (One of the B Vitamins), Riboflavin (One of the B Vitamins), Folic Acid (One of the B Vitamins)], High Fructose Corn Syrup, Graham Flour, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Shortening [Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oils] (Adds A Dietarily Insignificant Amount of Trans Fat), Baking Soda, Salt, Honey), Sorbitol, Calcium Carbonate, Salt, Water, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Molasses, Soy Lecithin, Bht (A Preservative), Citric Acid.WATER, SUGAR, GRAPE AND PEAR JUICE CONCENTRATES, CITRIC ACID, NATURAL FLAVOR, VITAMIN E ACETATE.Flour Enriched (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron Reduced, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid (Vitamin aB)), Soybean(s) Oil and/or Palm Oil, Whey, Sugar, Cottonseed Oil Partially Hydrogenated, Corn Syrup High Fructose, Sunflower Oil, Salt, Cheese Cheddar Powder (Milk Pasteurized, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzyme(s)), Leavening (Calcium Phosphate and/or Baking Soda), Contains less than 0.50.5% of Disodium Phosphate, Flavor(s) Natural, Maltodextrin, Yeast, Corn Starch Modified, Buttermilk, Color(s) Artificial Includes (Yellow 6) Lactic Acid, Soy Lecithin
Yummy. The good news is that right after your child consumes his ‘SNACK‘, you will probably head out for lunch at some nutritional powerhouse like McDonald’s, Rubio’s or Roundtable Pizza and add another 700 calories to the mix. You might also comfort yourself by engaging in such logic as, ‘well, he played 45 minutes of soccer – he’ll burn the extra calories fast!’ Keep dreaming.
The fact is, these ‘SNACK‘ items are not all-natural, despite the claims on their fancy packaging. Think I’m wrong? Then show me the Organic Ritz Bits Farm (where is it? Up there in the bread basket of central California?). I would like to see the Capri Sun cow that’s churning this sh*t out of their bloated, neon-colored udders and the forest of S’Mores trees.
In fact, this is not Willy Wonka (and by the way, why was he so skinny?). This is real life and our kids are super fat, skinny fat and unhealthy, for the most part. And it’s our fault. We are feeding them chemicals and preservatives, and our busy lives somehow justify this. I’d be willing to bet that every third house in my neighborhood is harboring a box of Hot Pockets.
When-I-Was-A-Kid-Story-Alert: When I was a kid, we were pretty poor. We ended up at the DQ down our street a couple of nights a week for dinner, snarfing the $1.99 2-hot dog special (chips, a drink and a small cone included!). When we weren’t there we were in the drive-thru line at McDonald’s, and my 8 year-old self was already working the big girl menu, ordering a Big Mac, large fries and Coke, with a cheeseburger chaser. My mom wasn’t much of a cook when we did eat at home. She made meatloaf (25% fat ground beef + Campbell’s Chicken & Rice Soup = meatloaf); spaghetti with Ragu sauce (we did not know the word ‘pasta’ existed back then…it was all called spaghetti); and deli meat sandwiches with mayo on Wonder Bread for lunch. Somehow I avoided getting fat – probably because we were so active playing outside back then – but I picked up some pretty bad habits. I’m immune to sodium and the taste of salt; there could be a tablespoon of it on my steak and I’ll salt it more. I have to work at enjoying certain vegetables (a special message for okra – you look and taste like snot and I will never eat you again even if someone holds a gun to my head). I can still taste the special sauce on that Big Mac and even knowing what I know now, I can’t promise there won’t be one in my future. In other words, my tolerance and preference for unhealthy foods was imprinted early and has stuck with me to this day. I have been on about 1,000 diets and, while I am educated about healthy eating and exercise, it takes a conscious effort for these things to be a regular part of my life.
We have a shot with our little ones to help them avoid the perils of fatty, unhealthy foods, and the addictive qualities of sugar, which bleed over into unhealthy attitudes and behaviors in adult life (Hello, future Biggest Loser contestant!). Those of you with very little kiddos are sitting on a gold mine of promise. Instead of the Gerber pre-packaged kid snacks, go for dried blueberries. Skip the juice boxes (literally the WORST offender – do not get me started) and offer milk or water instead. Save sugary treats for special occasions. And introduce veggies – all kinds of veggies – early and often.
‘SNACK‘ is winning the war. We have to launch an offensive. It may be too late with our teenagers (who now have to figure it out themselves because of our recklessness), but this next generation of up-and-comers has a shot. Take a stand against Kraft Foods and M&M Mars – the real enemies. Show up at the next soccer game with a cooler full of fruit, string cheese and bottled water, the ‘anti-SNACK snack’.