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Snack attack

(article, Carrie Floyd)

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Not everyone likes to go to the movies with me. When something strikes me as funny I laugh out loud, and my laugh is, well, quite loud. Last summer I saw the movie "Little Children," which was not a funny film, but the scene where Kate Winslet’s character is rummaging through her purse for snacks while her child whines and the other mothers look on disapprovingly was hilarious to me. Been there, done that. 

Just last week, in fact, at my son’s soccer game. After the game my son was peeved, going on about why there was no group snack. I said, “Oh, someone probably just forgot.” It wasn’t until I got home and saw The Snack Schedule that I realized that someone was me. Oops!

It was a Freudian slip, I’m sure. Because the truth of the matter is that I hate group snack. I can’t understand why kids need to eat right after playing a sport, as I for one never want to eat immediately after playing soccer. (Water always tastes good, though, that’s for sure.) The other thing is that if a game is at 9 a.m., and presumably the kids ate breakfast before, do kids need a snack at 10 o'clock in the morning? Hardly — and certainly not Oreos and soda pop.

[%image girl float=left width=400 caption="Water always tastes good after playing soccer."]

I guess the idea of it is nice — parents working together, building community by coordinating food. Right? At the risk of sounding like a cookie-spoiler, I don’t think so. It’s just another myth parents have bought into: Good parents provide snacks. As for the group snack, someone started it, it spread like wildfire, and now everyone does it because they think it’s the thing to do. 

Don’t get me started on trophies and group pictures.

See, I think we’ve (once again) been sold something erroneous by big food corporations in America. Why else are there so many snacks available in convenient packages, individually wrapped? There’s a huge market out there in snack food, and the message to parents is threefold: “Kids are hungry,” “Good parents buy snacks,” and “You’re so busy, we’re here to make it easy for you.”

How easy are apples, I ask you? And get this: No packaging to throw away or recycle. Also, how many snacks do our children really need? I doubt as many as they are given. And not at every gathering, as part of every venue.

I’m glad that my children’s schools make time made for morning snack, as I know how distracting a growling stomach can be in that hour before lunch. In the seven years that my kids have been in public school, I’ve seen many variations on snack time. There are teachers who allow a snack from home; of that group, some stipulate “healthy” (no chips or cookies). Other teachers have parents sign up to donate snack; in one class, that ended up being a lot of pretzels and crackers, in another the mandate was apples, carrots, and Cheddar cheese. 

I have always been of mixed mind with this whole snack thing. Though I would just as soon provide snacks from home for my children, if there are kids in the class going without, I’m happy to pony up to the group snack. Especially if that snack is healthy.

And this is where it gets sticky. The times I have brought in a box of apples or oranges, it’s cost upwards of $10 for snack. One snack, for one day. It’s so much cheaper to buy cookies and pretzels! Or sugar and salt. Pick a snack food — any snack food — read the label, and tell me how nutritious it is. Even goldfish crackers and Cheddar bunnies, which I have bought my fair share of, are basically filler. Pretzels don’t necessarily have anything bad in them (except megadoses of salt), but they don’t have anything good in them either. 

And the problem is, once your kid has developed a taste for one of those salty, corn-sweetened crackers, Ak-Mak just doesn’t hold the same allure. Not to mention the fact that filler without protein doesn’t get them very far; they just end up eating a lot more of the less-nutritious food. 
At soccer games, if you’re the parent bringing juice and the healthy snack bars when the other parents have offered Doritos and Capri Suns or Gatorade, you’re not very popular. I understand the allure, believe me; the kids fall on the junk snacks like sharks scenting fresh blood, and who doesn’t like to be so well received? 

More than once I’ve packed home the lion’s share of my good intentions from a soccer game. But that’s OK, because it shows me that the kids weren’t really that hungry — otherwise they would have delved into the bowl of cut orange slices or pocketed a Nature Valley granola bar. And as for the latter, now I can restock my own snack drawer! 

[%image promo-image float=right width=400 caption="Both kids and parents like banana boats."] 

I can already hear the outcry, anticipate the “bad mom” response, so allow me to defend myself. I do give my kids snacks, and I encourage them to get something to eat if they are hungry. I remember how starved I was as a kid after school. (Then my favorite snack was a glass of Tang, sliced Cheddar cheese, and pepperoncini out of the jar. Sweet, sour, salty, and spicy — I was a precocious eater even then!)

My kids, too, are bloodthirsty after school. If we’re going to be out and about after I pick them up, I make sure to have a few raw steaks to throw into the back seat. (And — full disclosure — I keep emergency snacks in the glove compartment, right next to the flares.) If we’re at home, they are welcome to help themselves from the fruit bowl or snack drawer, which is stocked with nuts, dried fruit, pretzels, granola bars, etc. If there is anything baked in the house — cookies, cake, what have you — I encourage them to eat it with a glass of milk. Or to make something: cocoa, popcorn or toast, yogurt with honey and granola, banana boats. 


h1.Featured recipe


Banana boats are a favorite snack in my house, something I learned to make in my brief tenure as a Girl Scout. You take a banana, peel back a strip, and scoop out and eat the top half-inch of the banana. Then you smear peanut butter over the top of the banana and stick in marshmallows and chocolate chips. Set this under the broiler just long enough until the chocolate begins to melt and the marshmallows turn golden-brown on the top. (If you were camping, you’d wrap this up in foil and put in the fire.) 

To eat it, push your spoon through into the banana, making sure you get a bit of each layer in every bite. 

I thought everyone knew how to make this, but given the look of horror and surprise from friends of my children, I realize that it’s not as mainstream as I thought. Is it health food? With a glass of milk, it’s a perfect snack in my book: fruit, protein, and a little something sweet. Would I serve it to a group of 15 kids after a soccer game? No, but I’ll happily fill their water bottles and sing the praises of a game well-played.

p(bio). Carrie Floyd is Culinate's food editor.

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