I was at Sam’s Club today stocking up on some groceries. I bee-lined for the produce section as I usually do so as not to get tempted by all the snack foods all over the rest of the store. I stocked up on snack foods like nectarines, grapes, strawberries, sugar snap peas, bananas, and green beans. And then I loaded up on salad veggies like romaine, cukes, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, celery, and mushrooms. I also grabbed some other veggies that I typically make for my breakfasts. Having them pre-chopped is such a time saver. Thank you Sam’s Club!
At the check-out, I noticed a cute little blondie in the cart in front of me who looked to be about the same age as my daughter. The two girls smiled and waved at each other (can’t we all learn something from that unconditional friendliness, by the way?) The other mom pushed her things forward to make room for mine, and I looked up on the belt. I was startled at the contrast. The front half of the belt was full of every “healthy” snack food they make for kids: A case of baked chips, a case of veggie straws, a case of fruit snacks, a case of Chex Mix with 60% less fat, 100 calorie packs of cookies, breakfast protein shakes. Not a single piece of fruit. Not a single vegetable. Every item boasted a banner of some kind about the benefits of that particular snack. In fact, the only thing on the belt not marketed as a health food was a case of Little Debbie snack packs. My half of the belt was as I previously described: Fresh fruits and vegetables. No health claims. No labels. No lengthy ingredient lists because well, the ingredients were fairly obvious.
I was sad when I looked at the belt because I saw a mom who was actually trying to feed her kids healthy. She was among the millions duped by the processed food industry. She saw labels claiming less sodium, less sugar, lower fat, more fiber, and figured she was making the healthier choice. I’m not even discussing the other carts around me full of regular potato chips, Dorito’s, Cheetos, cheese balls, not to mention the meat and dairy. No, this mom was actually making a solid effort, but either for the sake of time or the convenience of packing easy school lunches, she was choosing pre-packaged, highly processed, highly addictive foods. At a great expense to everyone’s health, and certainly at a great expense to the pocket book. Covering about the same amount of space on the belt, her order was over $110. My cart with over 30 lbs of produce, was $55. Maybe hers will last her 3 months, I don’t know. Just like there’s a premium when you go out to lunch and pay $12 for a soup and salad that you could have made at home for $2, there is a hefty price to pay when you have someone else manufacture your food for you. And that’s before we even get into the increase in future medical bills.
There’s a time and a place for eating out, and there’s a time and a place for convenience foods. My guess is that this mom is not alone. My guess is that she’s struggling with getting her kids to eat much of anything at all. Maybe she just hasn’t even thought of the alternatives. Let’s face it, the packaged options are practically jumping off the shelf thanks to all the marketing and advertising everywhere you look. Or maybe she tried healthy snacks and her children didn’t like them as much. Like any good mom, she doesn’t want them to be hungry, so instead she buys the healthiest options she thinks she can.
At the risk of sounding totally nuts, I would like to offer some alternatives. Brace yourself for this: Fruits. Vegetables. Whole grains. Nuts. Legumes.
- Hand-held fruit like apples, bananas, peaches, nectarines, clementines, plums, pears
- Smaller fruit like grapes, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, pineapple
- Carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, olives
- Trail mix made with raw nuts and dried mangoes, apricots, and raisins. These are often made without added sugar
- Kids love to
make a messinteract with their food while eating. Try a few different hummus options, guacamole, salsa, or fruit dips. Find one or two that your kiddo likes and keep them handy to make healthy snacking more interesting.
- Whole grains can come in the way of oatmeal cookies, quinoa salads, or oatmeal waffles.
I have a burning desire to help other parents find ways to help their kids like healthy foods. You’ll notice this theme coming up in many future posts. My goal is never to judge but to offer guidance and support. If you have snack ideas that have worked wonders with your kids or with picky eating grown-ups, please post in the comments below. We can all benefit from each other.