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Cynthia Liu's picture

This story originally appeared in the LA Moms Blog.

Yes, I’m the resident Sugar Nazi at my school, the parent who complained when a Halloween celebration involved kindergarteners nibbling powdered sugar donuts tied with string off a clothesline using only their mouths. I’m a wet blanket, I’m here to rain on your parade.

I’m the parent who marvels at the affluent Chinese immigrant parents at the weekend Chinese school in the community next door who haven’t gotten the memo yet about the high fructose corn syrup in the snacks they persist in bringing every week. (These performance-oriented, high-striving immigrant parents who are pouring advanced math sets and Mozart violin concertos into their kids at a young age along with artificial colors and bad-for-you-sweeteners–incongruity, thy name is San Gabriel Valley parent.)

I don’t feel there’s a problem with “Snack Time Never Ends,” as this NYT piece claims. It’s not frequency that’s troubling, it’s something else. The article’s writer says:

What is especially baffling where I live, in Los Angeles, is how often the kind of parental paranoia that obsesses about school ratings, vaccines and myriad imagined plagues is matched by utter disregard for the nutritional downsides of mowing down Fruit by the Foot every afternoon at 4. Rarely do I see a parent show up on the soccer field with a homemade snack, or even a bag of carrots. Oreos are the post-game snack of choice, even in sports leagues dominated by upper-income parents.

Indeed, what happened? I know these upper-income moms, I’ve sent my child to school with their kids. I’ve seen the care with which super-nutritional toddler snacks are packed and lovingly doled out among stay-at-home moms in playgroups and by nannies in posh neighborhood parks. The infant food made with a food mill at home from organic “super-foods.” Did we all just decide that once elementary school or higher kicked in, our kids no longer needed to snack on carrot sticks?

See, my problem is not with the ubiquity or the frequency –- it’s the quality. As one mom pointed out, especially for very young children, snack time is a crucial tantrum-stopper. For older kids at sports practice it’s an energy-picker upper. I just think it’s a huge mistake to think snack=dessert. And I have to admit, my pet peeve is when snack=sweet baked good.

Now, I’m not going to pretend my kid has never touched a french fry or partaken of that crime against innocent seafood, popcorn shrimp. He’s not unacquainted with the cavity-magnet, Fruit Roll-Ups. He recently had the outlandish idea that we install a chocolate fountain in our kitchen. A few vices, a few indulgences here and there, make a person interesting and human.

But at every snack? Please, no.

I secretly conducted an experiment among the children at the intense Chinese school where we send our son every Saturday. I brought in fresh sliced apples and a supermarket pre-assembled vegetable platter with a little container of dip in the center. I brought extra mini boxes of Hansen’s apple juice on the theory that thirsty kids will drink two or find a water fountain if they’re still thirsty after one, and 30 half-drunk juice pouches with liquid still sloshing around inside are a waste.

The children, who ordinarily are presented with old school Capri Suns (the “original” flavors you get at Costco, occasionally in blinding bright blue “flavor”), cookies, mini frosted donuts, or other such sweets, GOBBLED THE APPLE SLICES AND VEGETABLES like they were going out of style. They. Were. Happy.

And you know what else? THE PARENTS AND TEACHERS were fighting the kids for celery sticks. I swear I saw the Chinese school’s teacher pushing her finger along the bottom of the dip container to get the last little bit.

Join me. Stand with me in my nutrition revolution. Refuse to bring baked goods that take a long time to make. Buy string cheese or assemble fruit slices or veggie platters (often cheaper than donuts to feed 30). If it’s a fact that kids are grazing and sit-down meals can require the multi-tasking of an air-traffic controller to coordinate, then let’s make sure snacks–mini-meals–are good stuff.

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