I just signed my kids up for a summer activity in which all of the parents were asked to pick a day to bring a snack for the group.
If you’ve read my book My Two-Year-Old Eats Octopus: Raising Children Who Love to Eat Everything (Bull Publishing), you know how detrimental to good health and good eating I think it is that Every Single Kids’ Event seems to revolve around a snack time. But there’s more. Now, it seems, we’re being encouraged to bring in store-bought, packaged goods to serve as these “treats,” rather than anything that is homemade, because “we can read the list of ingredients.” Huh? And that doesn’t frighten you more than the fact that someone you don’t know may be making the cookies?
I think this line of reasoning started with food allergy awareness, which of course is a serious medical issue that many families must vigilantly take into account at all times. When you have a group of kids who are eating together, it’s easier if they are all served a brand of crackers or cookies that the allergy child can safely eat. I get that. But as with many things that start out as a good idea, this is one policy that has gone overboard and now negatively impacts many more children, whether there is a food allergy in the group or not.
Take something like Lemon Crème cookies, for example. With a little time and effort, I can make these at home by combining fresh lemon juice and lemon peel with things like butter, powdered sugar, baking soda and eggs. Rather tasty, I have to say, with a distinct lemon- and-butter flavor that is especially nice on a hot summer day. Or, I can go to the store and buy a box of Snackwell’s Lemon Crème Cookies, slice open the cardboard and plastic wrapping, and serve a cookie that is made of all kinds of things I’ve never heard of — things like maltitol, polydextrose, potassium sorbate and turmeric oleorosin, to name a few of the chemical ingredients listed on the box. (This is along with other chemical ingredients that I have heard of and know we shouldn’t be eating… things like high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils.)
This is supposed to make us feel better about the foods we serve our kids?
Whatever good intent behind a snacking policy like this, in the end, it does more harm than help. Encouraging adults to spend some time in the kitchen, preparing homemade recipes for kids? Forget it. Teaching children the taste and health difference between fresh foods prepared with seasonal, local ingredients, and pre-packaged, boxed knock-offs that have been sitting on the store shelf for who knows how long? Not important.
No, all that seems to matter now when it comes to kids and snacking is the fact that they do it. And as with too many issues involving children, quality takes a back seat to process.