Snacktivism: An Interview with Sally Kuzemchak from Real Mom Nutrition

A few years ago, I got fed up with the Kool-Aid and cupcakes my son was getting after soccer games and vowed to make a change. I began talking to coaches and parents about providing fruit for post-game snacks instead–or even nixing snacks altogether (read: “What If Soccer Snacks Just Went Away?“). One day, a friend jokingly referred to me a “snacktivist”. That’s when Snacktivism was born. What do Snacktivists do? They help counter the current culture of snacking by providing healthier options at sports, after-school activities, church, camp, and anywhere kids eat. Snacktivism is also about asking the simple question: Do the kids even need a snack?

Recently,  I had the pleasure of being interviewed about Snacktivism by Mia Moran for StayBasic digital magazine. Here’s an excerpt about my experience with sports teams:

Mia: How did you approach coaches and parents? Was there any resistance from them, or from the kids?

Sally: A few years ago, I emailed the boys’ soccer coach and suggested we switch to water and fresh fruit, defining exactly what I meant by “fruit”, so parents wouldn’t bring things like gummy fruit snacks or yogurt-covered raisins, which are high in sugar and additives. I made a case for fresh fruit – it’s cheaper, it’s better for our environment, and it’s better for our kids – and I was pleasantly surprised that everyone agreed. Now when I approach coaches I say, why don’t we eliminate the snack altogether? I don’t think kids need a snack right after activities, if they live close enough that in just minutes they will home, and it takes an item off the parents’ to-do list. But kids like to hang around after the game a bit, sharing a snack together, and that’s fine. I approached different sports leagues to change to fruit and water only, but they didn’t want to dictate what parents could bring, so I approached the teams directly instead, and healthier snacking has been catching on. I even heard from people in my community that they’re seeing a lot more fresh fruit on the field these days.

I did get a little bit of resistance. Some people say, “it’s only once a week, a donut won’t hurt.” But if your children are involved in multiple activities, it’s more than once a week. And you also can’t always control how much your kid is eating – did he have one donut or three? I don’t get pushback from the kids, but sometimes I get it from the parents. When I was growing up playing sports, we didn’t even have snacks! Maybe we had orange slices at halftime. It’s the parents who invented this culture of the sports snack. And of course kids love it, because who wouldn’t want to eat Chee-tos or get a goody bag of candy? We can’t expect kids to say, “No thank you on the candy, I’m going to go home and eat a healthy dinner.” But kids love fruit as a snack, and people are on board with making better choices for kids, so overall the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

You can read the rest of the interview–as well as the whole issue–at StayBasic (use your email address to sign up and you’ll get a PDF of the issue).

A little bit about Stay Basic: After being diagnosed with a gluten intolerance four years ago, Mia started a blog about changing her diet, feeding her family, and losing the 65 pounds she’d gained over the course of three pregnancies. Two years ago, she launched the StayBasic digital magazine, which she produces out of her home with a small support staff. “I really liked the idea of creating something beautiful and inspirational for moms wanting to up the health in their family,” she says. “It also gives moms something they can print or save and reference digitally, without having to search too hard.”

I hope you’ll check out StayBasic–and if you’re doing work as a Snacktivist in your community, I hope you’ll tell me about it!

Stay Basic Magazine


It's Not About the Broccoli

This week, I reached out to readers on my Real Mom Nutrition Facebook page asking for their most frustrating feeding dilemma when it came to their kids–and promised that feeding expert and parent educator Dr. Dina Rose would address one of them on this blog. Dr. Rose, who is full of effective strategies for diffusing mealtime angst and teaching kids healthy habits, has a brand new book called It’s Not About the Broccoli. (You can win a copy by entering this giveaway.)

The dilemma I chose comes from dad Michael. Not only does this happen in my own house, but it’s also something I frequently hear from other parents: “My son doesn’t eat much dinner, says he’s full, gets up from the table, and asks for a snack 10 minutes later.”

So to Michael–and all of you who experience this as well–here’s what Dr. Rose’s says:

The easiest way to fix a parenting problem is to see the world through your child’s eyes. So let’s jump inside your son’s head for a moment to see what’s probably going on. I bet he’s thinking some version of the following:

  • The food mom and dad serve at dinner is OK, but I don’t like it that much, especially compared to the snacks they give me after dinner.
  • Dinner is no fun. We have to sit around forever. Plus, sometimes there’s pressure to eat stuff I don’t want—like veggies.
  • I don’t get a lot of say about what’s served for dinner, but I get to choose my after-dinner snack. I like getting to choose.
  • Saying “I’m not hungry,” is the only way I can be excused from the table.

We’ve got four separate, but related, issues here. That means we need four separate, but related, solutions. Taken together these four steps will produce change.

Step 1: Create an incentive for your son to eat at meals.

One reason kids can afford to refuse meals is that they know there’s always another meal (aka a desirable snack) waiting in the wings. Eliminate snacking on-demand by creating a schedule that includes general times for eating—dinner is sometime between 5 and 7; after dinner snack is sometime between 8:30 and 9. I call these Eating Zones. Meals and snacks get offered once during each Eating Zone. If they’re refused, or if your son doesn’t eat enough, then he has to wait until the next Eating Zone to eat again. Let me be clear: This is not a starve-him-out approach. It’s a structure for eating that will give your son a chance to experience the consequences for passing up dinner. And learning to live with mild hunger is a valuable life skill.

Make sure the snacks you serve are snack “size,” not meal “size.” And, it will help if snacks are not your son’s favorite foods.

Step 2: Take the pressure off dinner.

The best way I know to eliminate pressure at dinner is to serve a few bites of fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack…most days. That way you know that when your son gets to the dinner table he’s already eaten a lot of the good stuff (or at least more than you’ll get by trying to coax a few more bites just at dinner). Then, start serving very small portions at dinner so that it’s easy for your son to to tackle the task. And vow never to ask your son to eat even a few more bites. Don’t worry that this will leave your son hungry. You’ve already covered that problem with Step 1.

Step 3: Incorporate more choices during dinner and fewer choices at snack time.

The kind of choices I’m talking about do not include, “What would you like for dinner?” Who wants to be a short-order chef? The choices I’m talking about include occasionally consulting your child before the meal to see if he’d like you to make chicken or hamburgers, or green beans or asparagus. And during the meal try putting out a few bowls of cut up veggies (that you keep in the fridge). Ask your son to help himself from two of the three bowls. Other ways to increase dinnertime choices include: which bowl? cup? chair?
Reduce the choices at snack time by setting some parameters: snack can be only a fruit or a vegetable; you can’t have the same snack two days in a row; snack must be eaten at the table.

Step 4: Give your son a legal way to end the meal.

Most children learn to say, “I don’t like it,” and “I’m not hungry,” to get out of eating because they know it’s the statement their parents will accept. Imagine what would happen, though, if you gave your son an alternative way out—”I”m bored; May I be excused?” “I’d like to go back to my trucks; May I be excused?” That wouldn’t just keep him from “using” his hunger to manipulate the situation. It would give you an opportunity to discuss what’s really going on!

To hear more from Dr. Rose, visit her blog It’s Not About Nutrition.


Camp Snacks: The Sequel

June 21, 2013

I practically stood up at my desk and cheered when I read a piece by Caron Gremont yesterday on The Huffington Post about camp snacks. She writes: We send our children to camp and trust that the counselors and lifeguards will keep them safe, from the pool to the buses used for field trips. Shouldn’t […]

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{Giveaway} KIND Bars

April 29, 2013

I was never a big fan of granola and energy bars. To me, they seemed too much like candy bars, and I never felt like I’d eaten anything substantial–even when the bars packed hundreds of calories. But KIND bars are definitely an exception. They’re made with whole nuts and fruit, many are low in sugar, […]

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Change The Snack Culture: 3 Steps to Take Now

April 4, 2013

Two years ago, I had a “light bulb moment” about snacking when I saw a mom and her child on the playground one day (read: “Snacking Insanity“). Since that moment, I’ve become much more aware of the snacks my kids are getting–and what I see isn’t good. It’s a problem, and not just in my […]

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My Pre-Dinner Snack Strategy

April 1, 2013

There’s nothing more maddening at mealtime than sitting down to a dinner you’ve spent 45 minutes to prepare only to have your kids push aside their plates because they’re already full. On pretzels. Navigating the hour before dinner is tough with children–especially young kids, for whom “dinner will be ready in 10 minutes” sounds more […]

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Make Your Own Peanut Butter

November 28, 2012

My attempts to make homemade almond butter last year nearly resulted in an electrical fire (read: DIY Almond Butter or How I Almost Made My New Food Processor Explode). But my Cuisinart seems to like peanuts a lot more. Homemade peanut butter is so easy and so delicious. Do you have peanuts, a food processor, […]

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Halloween Snack Solutions for Classroom Parties

October 1, 2012

I like candy corn and pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies as much as the next person. But our little trick-or-treaters are about to be bombarded with sweets. So if your child’s class is celebrating Halloween with a party, why not go easy on the treats? Many schools are now requesting healthier party snacks anyway. Here are three ideas: […]

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Soccer Snacktivism Handbook

August 28, 2012

Soccer season has officially begun–and if you’re fed up with junk food snacks on the sidelines and want to take Snacktivism to your child’s team, I’d love to help you! Below are four resources for you to use: A sample coach letter A sample team letter FAQ to answer questions from coaches or parents Please […]

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On the Front Lines of Snack-tivism

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 […]

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