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Entries in Snacks (3)


Snacks vs. treats

I feel like I have been standing in murky waters for most of my parenting life, up to my knees in confusion about how to define the relationship with food that I was going to have on behalf of my child.  The Food Rules have helped. But before they worked well, my family needed to unpack the idea of a snack a little more completely.  

Dina Rose, over at It’s Not About Nutrition, wrote this post recently about redefining snacking and her wisdom has influenced my thinking on the topic.  Dina makes a worthy distinction. We typically think of a snack as a type of food when really a snack is a time of day.  

A snack is just a time of day, not a type of food. Snack foods don’t have to come from the snack aisle of the grocery store.  A snack is a small meal eaten in between our larger meals and any type of food can be available for that small meal.

Remember those Gerber food puffs?  I think that is exactly where this whole debate about what foods I should be buying began.  It is the place where the snack food industry began to bully me with their convenience and portability and designed-just-for-kids mind tricks.  When I started thinking in a new way, following Dina's ideas about what makes a snack, the foods that have been worrying me because of their refined flour and sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sodium, and artificial ingredients began immediately intimidate me less.  They became treats, not snacks.  And the murky waters I felt like I had been standing in since WJ’s first bites of finger food began to clear up for me. 

This is a picture of the snack shelf in our cabinet.  It used to be full of boxes of cereal bars, pretzels, and crackers of all varieties.  It was like a delivery direct from The Little Engine That Could.  I am proud that this shelf is nearly empty.  In fact, I have been thinking about repurposing it altogether, maybe moving my spices into the newly cleared real estate. Snacks don't need their own special place.  They can be found all throughout our kitchen, in all the places you might find fresh, good food.

It certainly is not that we never have a bag of Goldfish in the house or that I am forbidding WJ from eating fruit snacks when his friends offer them in the park.  But those are treats.  Sometimes we have treats… sometimes we don’t.

A snack, on the other hand, can be any food.   Of course, I am not whipping up a little roasted chicken or rack of lamb for a snack. Our snacks mostly come now from the breakfast and lunch categories.  I am working to make sure we always have plenty of fruits, vegetables, and nuts, as well as whole grains and dairy options available for the mini-meals in our day.  My grocery shopping anxiety is cut at least in half. 

Here are some common choices from our repertoire of snacks:

  • Apple slices and a mozzarella cheese stick
  • A slice of whole wheat banana bread
  • A handful of almonds or cashews
  • Yogurt
  • A clementine or orange sections
  • Popcorn
  • Cubes of cheese
  • A handful of grapes and some nuts
  • Bread (sometimes with butter or apple butter, often plain)
  • A bowl of Kashi cereal with milk
  • A whole-grain pumpkin mini-muffin, or other homemade muffin
  • Ants on a log (celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins)
  • A mini-bagel with cream cheese or peanut butter and honey
  • Salami
  • Half of a peanut butter sandwhich
  • A soymilk smoothie with banana and berries
  • Carrot sticks

Most of these can be slipped into my bag if we will be away from home at a snack time.  They are convenient. But few of them are overly processed.  And all of them offer actual sustenance.  WJ does especially well if his meals and snacks offer some protein.  These snacks are also a big part of his getting in those five servings of fruits and veggies a day.

A snack is a time of day, not a type of food.  A treat is a treat.  These are two principles that have made The Food Rules more livable and enforceable and have helped me relax, knowing that WJ is eating well.

What are the favorite snacks in your house?

By the way, if you are not familiar with Dina Rose, check her out. Dina is a food sociologist and her blog, It's Not About Nutrition, is a site full of useful information.


The food rules


There was an article in the New York Times last week about snacking and our children.  (You can read it here.)  Like the author of this article, I have found myself asking, How many times a day do our children really need a snack? 

And are these snacks providing the nutrition that children need?  Especially the ones eaten on the run, the cereal bars and snack packs and fruit-like pieces, rolls, leathers.  The convenience items that are tossed so easily into mom's bag.  Last year we came to a place where WJ was pretty consistently not hungry at meal times.  When I really took a look at what he was eating over the course of a day, I was feeling like there were too many chances to say, There’s no food in your food.”

So Dave and I sat down with WJ and wrote down a list of guidelines we call The Food Rules.  Basically, it is a schedule of eating times and a few simple guidelines.  The paper looked a little like this:

WJ’s Food Rules

Breakfast (must include protein)





Snack (yogurt or applesauce)

  • If WJ is hungry at a time that is not a meal or snack time, he may have fruit, nuts, or bread.
  • WJ decides how much to eat at meal times.
  • Adults decide about treats; no arguing.

We added a few symbols to help WJ read the schedule so that we could go back to it when he started his begging routine.  And we posted it in the kitchen.  It is still there, a year later.

These guidelines eliminated a lot of the struggles we had about food in this house.  Suddenly there was no more begging.  No more little boy begging his parents for snacks.  No more parents begging the little boy to eat his meals. Differentiating between snacks and treats helped a lot too.  More on that later. 

With The Food Rules, we all regained the power we were after.  WJ has the power to decide how much he eats and I have the power to decide what is available.  I have put my energy into making sure that our meals are balanced and that WJ’s snack options are as nutritionally sound as possible.  

What are your solutions to the food struggles in your house?

*This post is part of SteadyMom's weekly 30 Minute Blogging Challenge.  If you haven't met her yet, I encourage you to visit SteadyMom (and check out her new book). Post time: 23 minutes.


Two and a half rolls


What’s the deal with the bread?  While no one has come out and asked this point blank, I have had a few emails lately with undertones of this question.  What is the deal with the bread?

I am enjoying baking bread and writing about it.  There are so many ways in which the BBA Challenge bread baking weaves itself perfectly into a metaphor for our struggle this year to remake our family's life into one that is moving at a more intentional and healthful pace.  But the truth is that I was baking homemade bread before we embarked upon this year of taking things slow. 

The real deal with the bread is an ongoing struggle I have been having, and I know many of you have been having, with the way our children eat.  For me it culminated with a period in our family that, if it were written as a made-for-TV movie, might be entitled The Boy Who Would Not Eat DinnerIt became clear to me that I needed to change the way WJ was snacking.

Then two things happened.

The first thing that got me thinking was a conversation with a friend from Europe who is raising her children here.  “I hate these Goldfish,” she said, telling of how her preschool-aged daughter had begun requesting snacks all afternoon.  “My daughter should know,” she said in her rich and strong Portuguese voice, “after lunch… it is bread.” 

A light went on.  My child would not go hungry if I said no to the snacking on expensively empty calories.  I decided to borrow her Portuguese rule.  Before dinner, if you are hungry, you may have a slice of bread.

But when I began to institute the new rule, I found myself reaching most afternoons into a crinkly plastic bag of factory-made bread.  The kind that takes a week, sometimes more, to loose its springy softness and seems to repel mold like Deep Woods OFF! repels mosquitoes and ticks. I was still somehow feeling uncomfortable. 

Sighing deeply, I looked more carefully at the label on my carefully selected, whole grain, health food store loaf.  I struggled with the fine print: cultured dextrose and maltodextrin, monoglycerides and diglycerides, soy lecithin, and calcium propionate.  Maybe you speak Food-industry-ese and you are going to write in to tell me that I am mistaken, but to me these words translate into a simple adjective: processed.  I found that same cryptic jargon listed on the labels of the colorful boxes of snack foods I was trying to avoid, so how was this manufactured bread improving the situation any?  WJ would still be filling up on foodless food and missing the nutrition of our dinner.

Then the second thing happened.  I caught a scene in a movie, a completely inconsequential moment in Across the Universe, a film that tries to speak to us through the music of The Beatles.  If you have seen the film you will remember the scene where the dreamy young man leaves his job at the docks in Liverpool, stopping at home to pack a bag and kiss his mum good-bye, before setting off for Technicolor America. As he walks into the kitchen of his plain little flat, he slathers butter on a fat slice of homemade bread and gathers the shirts his mum has just ironed for his journey. There was something about this image that stuck with me.  The young man with his mother’s bread.

All over the world, I thought, there are boys, girls too, walking into kitchens and tearing off a handful of freshly baked bread.  It is that simple.  Whole grain wheat, yeast, warm water.  These are ingredients a mother need not fret over feeding her child.  If this is the way I wanted my child to eat, then I was going to have to change.  I was going to have to find a way to provide this simplicity. 

And so I have fiddled with numerous recipes.  Right now I am enjoying the challenges of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice but if you are hoping to begin baking bread regularly, a wonderful place to start is Artisan Bread in Ten Minutes a Day.  The basic formula in this book results in big batch of no-knead dough that keeps in the fridge, providing fresh dough to bake every day if you wish.

All of the bread I have tried, all of it... the children cannot keep their hands off it.  This weekend I baked a batch of Peter Reinhart’s Vienna Bread.  I shaped the dough into dinner rolls that were eaten up before I got even a chance to photograph them.  These two and a half sly rolls somehow tucked themselves under the corners of the cloth and hid safely from the little fingers that were reaching repeatedly into the basket all night.

I am not saying that there is freshly baked bread in this house every day.  Not even close.  But I am working toward having it available most of the time.  It is another way of eliminating the instant, the processed, the additives, the junk, in order to make room for more goodness.  That’s the deal with the bread.