I recently read an article that claimed that children & teens are the top consumers of packaged snacks, followed by women. I know from my own experience as a busy mom, my family used to fit that bill. I recall a bulk of my grocery tab would be spent on ‘snacks’ & convenience foods because – what on earth will we feed the kids in between meals? What will we feed them when we’re running errands??
Would you believe that now I hardly buy any ‘snacks’?
Would you believe that I rarely pack ‘snacks’ for my kids if we’re running errands?
I know. It’s shocking, I agree.
But here’s how it came to be…
Several years ago when I started transitioning our family to more whole foods I found myself totally bummed out while searching for ‘acceptable’ snacks. You may recall my post about 5 Ways to Stop Eating High Fructose Corn Syrup. When I started kicking HFCS to the curb, it left a lot less choices for our family that could be purchased in a box or bag. Animal crackers? Maybe, if I was lucky. Cheese crackers? Yeah, but they were expensive & my kids could tear through a bag of those like termites! Fruit snacks? I could find em, but the bags were tiny & only had maybe 6 fruit snacks in each pouch!
While a food may be convenient, the long term effects of consuming excessive amounts of convenience foods are very serious for you & your children.
The Inconvenience of Convenience Snacks
Consider what’s used in the processed snacks you’re buying for yourself & your kids.
Trans Fats like Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils (also known as Partially Hydrogenated Fats)
Also included in this list are soy, corn, cottonseed, canola & safflower. Hydrogenation of oils makes an otherwise liquid oil more solid. It also prolongs the shelf life of products. If you like science-y stuff & want to read more about it, check out this article. These oils have been linked to a myriad of diseases including heart disease, cancer & diabetes.
Sugar, Sugar, Sugar
High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Fruit Juice Concentrates, Evaporated Cane Juice & anything ending with ‘ose’ (sucrose, dextrose, etc). Too much sugar is linked with tooth decay not to mention highly concentrated forms of sweeteners trick your kids into tasting food much sweeter than it would be naturally. Plus, eating snacks that are very sugary can cause your kids to have a blood sugar crash making them more irritable & even more hungry. That sounds like fun when you’re trying to do any shopping with a 2 year old!
Neon orange, bright red & blue. Food dyes are in lots of children’s products because kids like colors. Companies market brightly colored boxes (containing brightly colored food) featuring favorite cartoon characters so kids just can’t resist. Food dyes are suspected of causing increased hyperactivity & ADHD. You can literally get lost for hours on the internet searching for harmful effects of food dyes. There is even a whole website dedicated to food dye information.
Preservatives are specifically put in food to prolong shelf life. Any time you’re buying something in a box or bag, it’s likely had preservatives added so that food won’t spoil by the time you’re going to consume it. My best advice when looking for added preservatives is, if you can’t pronounce it, or can’t actually recall what it is, it’s best left on the shelf. Preservatives have been linked with breathing difficulties, such as asthma & hyperactivity/ADHD & even cancer.
This is one of the most extensive lists of food additives to avoid that I’ve seen, plus they provide a printable option!
So what’s a mom to do??
First, don’t freak out. I mean, a level of being freaked out is good if it’s going to get you to start reading your labels, but a complete freak out where you’re overwhelmed won’t help you at all.
If you recall my post on How to Keep from Sending Yourself to the Nuthouse, you know that making small changes is a great way to start. Obviously, there will be times when your family will need snacks! Determine what your most consumed ‘snack’ foods are & then assess their ingredients. If they contain ingredients you don’t want, search for alternatives. If alternatives aren’t available, make your own alternatives like fruit, boiled eggs, home made popcorn or nuts.
Here is a post I wrote about Healthy Traveling Snacks Made Easy. It’s full of great snack ideas & suggestions.
And remember when I said I don’t pack snacks for my kids during errands anymore? That’s because I noticed when I was feeding my kids a nutrient dense meal at home, they simply weren’t hungry when we were out for an hour or two. Of course I have days where my kids go through growth spurts & want to eat every hour at home. But I find that by filling them up with veggies, healthy fats & proteins they are keeping their blood sugar regulated & aren’t crashing on me an hour into our errand running.
I would love to hear from you! Have you noticed a difference in behavior by removing processed snacks? Have you seen a change in your kids when they eat a nutrient dense meal?