Essential Healthy Living

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Good snacks for kids or glorified junkfood?

Momma is on fire today! Yesterday my son went to the pediatrician for his 4 year checkup. Like all checkups, we were sent home with a packet of handouts. Last night I was casually browsing through the handouts and was shocked at what I found. Before I tell you what got me fired up, I have a question for you to consider. Let's say I was your nutritional counselor, personal trainer, lifestyle coach, teacher or maybe even your doctor. Say I gave you the following list as 9 examples of GOOD snack choices. Read the list carefully and let me know if you'd want to keep paying me or if the words "you're fired!" come to mind:

Good snack examples:

  • Apple + peanut butter or cheese
  • Snickers bar
  • Cookies and whole milk
  • Celery + peanut butter with raisins
  • Yogurt and granola
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • EZ Mac with bacon bits
  • Peanut butter crackers
  • Trail mix

Hopefully you'd fire me and I would deserve it. Now add the words "for children with teeth" after "Good snack examples" {See photo at end of post}. That is what the "nutrition guidelines" sheet showed in my take home packet.

Maybe you are confused as to why a Snickers bar is not a good choice. Let's take a closer look. Per Snickers "nutritional" info page, here is the list of ingredients: MILK CHOCOLATE (SUGAR, COCOA BUTTER, CHOCOLATE, SKIM MILK, LACTOSE, MILKFAT, SOY LECITHIN, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR), PEANUTS, CORN SYRUP, SUGAR, PALM OIL, SKIM MILK, LACTOSE, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL, SALT, EGG WHITES, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR.

What I see here is sugar, lots of artificial flavors (toxins), soy lechithin (no bueno), corn syrup (gmo, not a high quality sugar to say the least), Partial hydrogenation (an industrial process used to make a perfectly good oil, such as soybean oil, into a perfectly bad oil. The process is used to make an oil more solid; provide longer shelf-life in baked products; provide longer fry-life for cooking oils, and provide a certain kind of texture or "mouthfeel." The big problem is that partially hydrogenated oil is laden with lethal trans fat.), more sugar, etc. The peanuts are good - hey, I'm giving credit where credit is due. I'm sure the eggs don't come from free range chickens, but I'm trying to bring my crunchiness down a notch for general sake.

Let's check out those "nutritional" facts. The snickers bar contains 4.5g of Saturated and 27 grams of sugar. Besides a little sodium (levels not a problem in this bar) and some other fats, this bar contain no other nutritional components. According to The American Heart Association (AHA), a 4 year old male should consume about 1200-1400 calories per day. This one snack is 1/5 of his total daily calories, which probably isn't a problem, but what are those calories made up of is the big question. Not all calories are created equal.

Saturated fat: According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, no more than 10 percent of your child's daily calories should come from saturated fat, regardless of age or gender. In a 1,300-calorie diet, that's 14 or fewer grams of saturated fat. That means this one "snack" is 1/3 of his saturated fat total income limit.

Sugar: Per the AHA, children ages 4-8 with a daily caloric intake of 1,600 calories should consume no more than about 3 teaspoons a day. One teaspoon of granulated sugar equals 4 grams of sugar. Therefore 12 grams of sugar in a product is equal to 3 teaspoons of granulated sugar. This ONE snack has 27 grams of sugar, which equals 6.75 teaspoons of sugar. I don't think I need to explain this point any further. According to the American Heart Association, the average 1 to 3 year old consumes about 12 teaspoons of sugar each day, and the average 4 to 8 year old takes in 21 teaspoons.

Only 2 items on this list I would call a GOOD snack choice. 2 items I found questionable depending on the source of the ingredients. I've seen some pretty healthy trail mix and I've seen some mixed junk, masquerading as trail mix. Again the yogurt and granola depends on how much sugar (or worse artificial sugar) and junk it contains. 5 of the 9 were totally unacceptable as good snack choices in my opinion. I won't dissect the other unhealthy snack choices, but I HAVE to comment on the EZ Mac with bacon bits. Are you kidding me? I can't even comment on this one. If we honestly believe as a society that EZ mac with bacon bits (btw, I'm sure they are ok with the imitation bacon bits since not clarified), is a good source of food or nutrition, then we have a long way to go in our thinking. We really need to education and empower ourselves as a society to learn the difference between real "food" and "food like" substances. Our kids deserve better than this. We are failing our kids and failing ourselves if we think this is 9 examples of GOOD snack choices. With 1 out of 3 American kids now considered overweight or obese, our thinking has to change. With the number of issues our kids face today, ranging from spectrum disorders to diabetes, we owe it to them to evaluate our toxic society and get back to the core of the problem. Toxins (from our enviroment or from food) is a major issue that MUST be addressed. We can no longer sit back in denial and say 'I have no clue why our kids are fat or face the health issues they face today." WAKE UP America! Wake up!

To add two quick notes, I have contacted the doctor to discuss the list. Hopefully I can get the practice to reconsider this handout or make revisions. On the second note, there are ways to make some of the ones on the list good options. Had 'peanut butter and jelly' said 'All natural sugar and salt free peanut butter and homemade no sugar organic fruit preserves on a brown rice cake or sprouted Ezekiel bread', I'd have agreed this was a good option, but I somehow doubt that is what they meant.

Live well, my friends!

Bridget Davet