Well, we’re getting to that time of year where food and socializing are abundant, holiday celebrations at your kid’s school and at home abound, and many of us start the downward spiral that is the source of many lofty resolutions for the coming year.
This applies most of all to your children (if you have any lying around). Since our child entered public school this fall, I’ve been made aware of what many parents consider a proper snack for their child (mainly because my child relays this to me in a “why-can’t-I-have-
Chips-Ahoy!-cookies for snack” diatribe). Let me just say that I’m not entirely against such foods on occasion, but they are not snacks; they are indulgences and should be treated that way.
The average child usually consumes between 1,000-1,400 calories a day (to find out what your child should be consuming, head on over to MyPyramid.gov and on the left, click the “For preschoolers” or “For Kids” link. If you download MyPyramid plan for your kids and can’t read it, try opening it in Word. Anyway, my point is that if you’re giving a kid a 200 calorie snack and it’s devoid of any meaningful nutrition, it wastes anywhere from 10-20% of their day’s calories.
So it’s good to find snacks that are healthy, fast and well accepted by your kids. The ones we’ve been able to agree on: applesauce, carrots with dressing, celery with peanut butter, yogurt, grapes, nuts, bananas, cheese (not cheez whiz stuff, but real cheese) and whole grain crackers. Buying a fancy little spoon for their lunchbox and a $1.79 refreezable ice (see the butterfly in the pic?) keeps everything cool and makes everything look more acceptable to both your child and their inquisitive friends. I once made our child a pasta salad with chopped vegetables and a tiny bit of salad dressing. She loved it, but her friends made fun of her (“what is that?” and that was the end of that).
Since we run out the door like lightning every morning, it helps if snacks are packaged and ready to go. And cheap. I know that. For many people, that seems limited to 10-packs of chips or 100-calorie cookie packs. These are not great snacks — they contain little if any vitamins and minerals, and they also disregard one very important point: children are a captive audience during snack time at school. This means that they’re hungry, and whatever is packed (unless positively shameful) will be quickly consumed because it’s available. Thus, it’s a great opportunity to get some veggies, fruits or other healthy snacks down the hatch. A 4-pack of applesauce is about $2.00-$2.50, 3 packs of carrots and ranch, or celery with peanut butter are $2 at Trader Joe’s, little packs of Stoneyfield yogurt are about $3.50 for 6. Motts makes a “natural” applesauce (avoid the original; it’s sweetened with high fructose corn syrup — and the natural costs the same – about $2.50 for 6 at Target). Theoretically you can do healthy snacks for kids at well under $1 a day. And that’s for high-end, organic good stuff.
As a rule, read the label for sodium and fat and avoid the product if either of those ingredients is listed as 20% or more of the Daily Value (that’s those percentages on the right). That’s about 480 mg of sodium and (yikes) about 12 grams of fat. Keep the cheese low fat; they won’t know if the difference.
All of this, of course, is good advice for you, too. If you want to start the year healthier and wealthier, bypass that snack machine at work, bring your own snacks and eat just those (squirrel the money you would have spent at the vending machine or the coffeehouse — those frappucino dealies with whipped cream can kill anyone’s diet — into a jar and you’ll have some money for nice clothes during the holiday sales). Bring a container to work to take home any especially fabulous goodies, but unless it’s the Christmas party, you really need to just say NO. Try to remember that alcoholic beverages pack up to 200 calories a pop, so try to choose between one of those or dessert (um, and presumably we’re talking after work, unless things are really going downhill at the job!). Save the snacking and grazing and enjoying for the social occasions when you’ll want to let go a little, and for the rest of the time, polish that halo!