This I Believe

Theresa - Bellingham, Washington
Entered on November 17, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe that snacks are harming our children. I’m familiar with the rhetoric that children have fast metabolisms and thus require many small meals a day, but snack time has become an unhealthy obsession in this culture. Snack is provided to children every single morning and after every single extracurricular activity. These snacks predominately feature high fructose corn syrup and carbohydrates in the guise of crackers, gummy fruit snacks or sugar yogurts in a tube. These attractively packaged treats cause a sky-high spike in blood sugar and then the predictable sugar crash. Snacking is interfering with healthy eating, leading to rising rates in obesity, the bribery of kids to get them to exercise, and the dulling of their characters.

Snack time hinders nutritional eating. When I was a child, we constantly heard, “No snacking between meals!” So we didn’t. There was no food in classrooms and no snack provided after activities. We ate every bite of our lunches because we were hungry. We always had to wait for dinner, which we devoured. Kids are filling up their stomachs with the wrong foods during snack time and not eating their healthy meals.

We want our children to participate in sports. Snacks are now offered after every practice and they aren’t orange slices anymore either—they are high sugar, high fat processed products. Just because cute snack options are available, it does not mean that they are healthy and good choices. I see donuts doled out to young children after swimming lessons. What are we telling our kids? They deserve a donut after exercising for thirty minutes? Do we want our children to require a sweet food reward every time they move their bodies?

There seems to be a correlation between the health advice to feed children many small meals a day and the sudden rise in childhood obesity. They are not getting many small meals a day, but rather a constant stream of snacks. We didn’t snack constantly when we were children and the snacks we did consume did not have high fructose corn syrup as a main ingredient. We were all very active and didn’t suffer malnutrition, AND…we weren’t fat. I think the medical establishment meant that small kids should eat two healthy lunches a day, such as a slice of deli meat on whole grain bread and not that youngsters should eat four gummy fruit snacks, with sugar juice on the side. These bad eating habits will last a lifetime.

A little bit of hunger doesn’t hurt anyone and I think it builds character. A child is perfectly able to wait to eat the two hours between lunch at school and a healthy snack at home. It is good to wait and defer gratification. A child will not die of starvation from brief hunger. His growth will not be stunted. Waiting makes you appreciate things.

Habits ingrained during childhood are almost impossible to break. It is up to parents and care givers to promote healthy eating habits. Snacks should not be a constant part of our children’s school and activity lives. Food for our children should not include empty calories from a foil wrapper. I believe that emphasis should be on eating healthy meals, not snacks. It is time for a change in the snack world for healthier bodies and healthier generations.