Shame on school snacks

I brought whole wheat bread dough into my daughter's third grade class yesterday and, in groups of six, the children made the dough into any shape of their choosing: one made a fort and a tree, another cut the dough into triangles and piled the "pizza slices" on top of each other, another made a lizard. Then they decorated their creations with poppy seeds, rolled oats, coconut, cinnamon, and flax seeds (though a lot of kids wondered what flax seeds were). After the bread cooked, the kids ate their steaming hot, healthy sculptures with a dab of organic butter.

It was when I was cleaning up and putting away that I saw the cabinet over the sink. It's packed with the leftover snacks that parents have been bringing in since the beginning of the year. Things like Cheez-Its and Goldfish.

I grew up eating Fruit Loops and Apple Jacks for breakfast. The thought of the pink sugary milk leftover in the bowl is enough to bring on a low blood sugar meltdown. Although I liked it at the time I can't help wondering now how my parents could have fed me "food" that has no more nutrition in it than the cardboard box. And could somebody please explain to me why anyone would feed their child &

or my child for that matter &

Cheez-Its or Goldfish?

"For my snack today we had cookies," my 6-year-old daughter Athena informs me, as she looks over my shoulder to see what I'm writing.

Cookies. Cheez-Its. Goldfish. Are parents in Ashland forgetting to read ingredient lists?

The first ingredient in Cheez-Its is "enriched" wheat flour. When you see the word "enriched" that means all the natural nutrients have been processed out of the flour and chemicals have been added back in. Translation: "enriched" means it's bad for you. Buy foods that have the word "whole" before the word flour. Whole wheat flour, whole spelt flour, whole rolled outs are all much more nutritious than anything that is putatively enriched.

The second ingredient is vegetable oil, possibly including partially hydrogenated soybean oil. When you see the words "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" put the item back on the supermarket shelf and run in the other direction.

Hydrogenation is a process that increases the shelf life of oil while rendering it completely unhealthy.

"But my kids like Cheez-Its," you might be saying to yourself. That's because of the billions of dollars a year spent on advertising. What kid doesn't like a box of ______ (fill in the blank) that has Darth Vader on it, especially one that they've seen over and over again on TV?

Your kids also probably like bananas, apples, raspberries, blackberries, hard boiled eggs, brown rice cakes with peanut butter, cheddar cheese, and nice cool crunchy celery, all of which make much better snacks than Cheez-Its.

Maybe the problem is the word "snack." Just because it's called a snack doesn't mean it has to be unhealthy, possibly carcinogenic, crud that will only expand your child's waistline and not help her grow into a healthy young person. Kids have small stomachs. When they eat snacks they should be eating food. Real food, whole food, food that helps them grow and play and hug their parents.

If you put diesel gas into an unleaded fuel engine, your car won't run correctly. If you put Red Dye

40, refined white sugar, preservatives, and hydrogenated oils into your child, your child won't run correct either.

You don't have to be a health food nut or a tree hugger to feed your child actual bona fide food. You just have to care about their health and wellbeing, which every parent already does.

"OK," Athena says. "So, Mommy. Um. Can I have a piece of celery with some cream cheese on it for a snack right now because I'm hungry!"

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