The Wider Angle with Liz Seymour

Ahhhh, the snack issue.  It’s a real problem in my house.  When I’m feeling very strong, I stick to my “one snack between lunch & dinner” rule, but when I’ve had a hard day, almost anything goes.  I mean seriously, can Annie’s Organic Fruit Snacks really count as a nutritious snack?   I tell myself “at least they aren’t filled with unpronounceable and artificial ingredients” – but natural sugar is still just that – SUGAR!   Better to opt for a piece of fresh fruit (which my kids love) or some carrots (which they don’t love).  Alas, tomorrow is another day….

Snacktime Smackdown

I’m writing this when the last thing in the world I feel like doing is cooking for my children. It’s been a long week of rejected meal after rejected meal, coupled with a husband working late hours, thus leaving me to wage battle against mealtime unpleasantries all on my own. On days like this, I feel like I have made zero inroads into my kids’ finicky eating habits and really find myself wondering why I bother trying. Aren’t you psyched that I’m sharing this mood with you?

While it works in so many facets of my life (the cats clawed a hole in the couch? really?), I cannot bury my head in the sand when it comes to meals. My own appetite won’t let me. So it’s time I faced my problems square on, and with a bit of insight from my friend (and dietitian), Allyson Balzuweit, I have identified one of the chief culprits: snacks.

Snacks are by far the number one saboteur of successful meals. I say that with absolutely no official data backing me up, and yet I feel quite confident that it applies to just about every child on the planet. I don’t think it’s either practical or wise to attempt to avoid snacks – they’re a healthy part of all diets, when undertaken in the right way. That’s where the wheels so often fall off the cart.

On a typical day, Clare eats breakfast at 6:45 a.m., a mid-morning snack, and lunch at noon, so she is always ready for an after-school snack. She doesn’t get home until close to 4, but if I deny a snack at that point, that’s a long day and a long stretch until dinner at 6 p.m. I do refuse snacks past 4:30 p.m., but while I have seen a modest improvement in appetites at dinner, this clearly isn’t enough.

So I am now expanding my snacktime war to include a battle with carbs. More accurately, cracker- and bread-like carbs. Instead of pretzels, goldfish, graham crackers and the like, I am taking a different tactic for the after-school snack: fruit, yogurt, or nuts. My first effort was Ants on a Log. Sneaking in a vegetable, fruit, and protein without a single cracker-related item seemed like an impossible dream. And when I announced to Clare what I had prepared for a snack, she looked horrified and said, “Ew! (long pause) Are you joking?” Which just made me laugh so hard I almost started crying. I assured her that they were not real ants, nor a real tree log. She remained a bit skeptical, but was evidently hungry enough to try it – and fell in love! Danny’s veggie radar is, unfortunately, infallible, so he opted for a bowl of raisins instead.

Of course, the real test remained: How would this snack experience affect dinner? I opted to go all-out on my test, too, and tried something new on them: a variation on baked “fried” chicken, whereby I cut the chicken into strips, thus making chicken fingers. Given that nuggets and tenders are the only form of chicken Clare will consume, I was curious to see how well this would go over. These were decidedly more chicken-heavy than your typical frozen nugget or tender. I’m not sure if I have the snack or the pre-dinner excursion to the playground to thank, but lo and behold, my chicken fingers were a success!

I am experienced enough to know that it’s usually one step forward, two steps back with these types of efforts, but my eye remains on the prize. If you have any tips to pass along, please feel free!

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