Snack-Time Smack-Down

Cathy Arnst

I hate snack-time. I particularly hate it at this time of year, when its far too easy to let my daughter load up her backback with Halloween candy for an after-school snack. When was the law passed that says kids must have a sugary treat every afternoon, or after every activity?

Evidently I'm not alone in my snacktime anger. The New York Times ran a superb essay on the subject this week, Will Play for Food, by a New Jersey dad. It quickly became one of the most read stories on the Times' web site, and I highly recommend it. Here's how it starts:

Will Play for Food By HARLAN COBEN

ENOUGH with the organized snacks.

When did this start anyway? I'm at my 7-year-old's soccer game. The game ends and this week's designated ''snack parent'' produces a ginormous variety pack of over-processed chips and an equally gargantuan crate-cum-cooler. Our children swarm like something out of the climactic scene in ''The Day of the Locust.''

Do our kids need yet another bag of Doritos and a juice box with enough sugar to coat a Honda Odyssey? Can't they just finish playing and have some water?

Call me a spoilsport, but I don't want to bring a team snack.

Equally fed up were some of the letter writers who responded to the story. My favorite comment:

I am that coach’s wife who is forced to organize the snack schedule for the kids’ soccer game. If I suggest we do without snacks, parents look at me as if I am neurotic.

I am also one of the few parents at school who supported banning junk food at school birthdays. Parents felt their children would be missing out in life without it.

Even though the statistics on childhood obesity are alarming, until parents believe it is a threat to their own child, nothing will change. I feel horrible for the parents with overweight children who are trying to deal with the problem at home. The other parents look at the chubby child with disgust, but then hand him a doughnut and Kool-Aid and say, “Nice game!”

There was a meeting this morning at my daughter's elementary school on this very topic. The school has set up a committee to field suggestions on healthier snacks (evidently we can't even begin to consider that our kids could forgo a snack altogether). If anyone has any ideas, please pass them on. I'm a big believer in fruit myself, followed by small boxes of raisins, dried apricots and dates. My daughter loves all these things, probably because they are the only snacks I keep in the house--in part because I know all too well that if I kept a lot of cookies and so forth around, I'd probably eat more of them than she would.

And here's another advantage of training your kids to expect healthy snacks: my daughter is already losing interest in her Halloween candy. This morning she told me she didn't want any today!

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