July 2012

On the Front Lines of Snack-tivism

by Sally on July 25, 2012

My son’s day camp at the local university had everything going for it: Flexible drop-off for working parents, after-care swim lessons, a full day of sports and activities that made bedtime blessedly early.

But alas: The snacks.

The first day, the campers were given Fruit Roll-Ups and Powerade. The next, it was Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal Bars and Powerade. Then cookies and Powerade. (To be fair, the kids were also offered bottled water, but that wasn’t what my child–and I’m sure many others–chose every day.)

So I called the camp office.

And I told them that while I thought they were doing a great job with the camp, I was unhappy with the snacks. I thought they were too sugary and too lacking in nutrients to help kids through a long day of physical activity.

They said the snacks were “the healthiest options available from their vendor” and that the kids needed the calories and electrolytes in Powerade after so much exercise.

I said I’d prefer parents simply be asked to pack a snack for their child each day (what many camps already do). And that the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t actually think most children need sports drinks–that water is best and electrolytes can be replaced through food. I also suggested that they forgo bottled water and let the campers fill their reusable water bottles at the fountain to save money (and landfill space).

They admitted that other parents had called with the same concern. And they said they would consider using the remaining Powerade and not ordering more.

My next step is to write a follow-up letter to the camp director, reiterating my concerns and offering any help I can provide.

Why make a fuss? As I’ve said before, I don’t mind my child having this kind of stuff sometimes. But this is the snack that’s supposed to fuel them through an afternoon of flag football, swimming, and playing outdoors in the heat. And while my child only attended the camp for a week, some kids are there every weekday, all summer. That’s 225 teaspoons of added sugar from the Powerade alone.

If you run up against bad snacks,  don’t be afraid to be That Mom. My advice:

  1. Be kind and complimentary first.
  2. State your concerns politely and objectively. Have specific suggestions, not just complaints.
  3. Offer your help in some way.
  4. Follow up.

As parents, we can change the snack culture at our child’s school, camp, daycare, club, and sports team.

But we have to speak up.

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Last year, Sam went on a dinner strike that just about did me in. The wonderful Dina Rose talked me off the ledge and gave me some strategies that really worked.

But even today, dinner is just not Sam’s thing.

The same probably goes for many other young kids: It’s the end of a long (possibly nap-free) day. They’re done with sitting still, with being told what to do, with keeping it together. In Sam’s case, his appetite is largest between about 7am-3pm—exactly when he’s expending the most energy.

So come dinnertime, I try to cut him some slack. The rules still apply: You have to join the family at the dinner table, you eat what the family eats, you use manners, and you ask to be excused. And no snacks in the hour before dinner except veggies.

Yet frequently, Sam will take only a few bites. And some nights, he doesn’t take any bites at all.

I no longer freak out about this (okay, sometimes when I’ve spent a long time preparing a really good meal, I inwardly freak out a little bit).

One tactic that eases my frustration: I save his plate of food. And if he comes back to the kitchen later saying he’s hungry, I heat it back up for him. I do this in a very matter-of-fact way, not as a punishment.

Yes, there are some nights when he is not pleased with this arrangement (and there are some nights when I simply forget and his meal gets tossed—or eaten by my husband). But most nights, he accepts it.

Like last night, when, after eating only a few bites at dinnertime, he ate his entire plate of (reheated) spaghetti with meat sauce an hour later. Then he asked for (and ate!) a second helping.

The way I see it, Sam may not have enough focus or appetite for our 6pm family dinnertime. But that doesn’t mean he should miss out on dinner.

 

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