A couple of days ago, I was thumbing through the April issue of Parents Magazine and came across an article titled “Super-Healthy, Super-Easy Snacks.” The article explains that since kids have tiny tummies, they fill up easily at meal times and actually need snacks in-between to keep their energy up.
Fair enough. But then the article goes on to offer a “super snack planner” that will make it easy to “stack the chips in favor of your kid’s health.”
Chips? Did they mention chips? Of course they did – because tortilla chips are one of those “super-healthy” snacks … and “super-easy” too: just lightly coat two whole-grain tortillas with vegetable-oil spray (yee-uck!), bake them for 10 minutes, cut them into wedges, and use them to scoop up some pineapple chunks. The entire snack is only 112 calories and – best of all – only 2 grams of fat!
Well, heck, with so little fat, it must be “super-healthy.”
Before I go on, let me answer the question I know you probably want to ask, especially if you’re a female: “You’re a man, and you actually read Parents magazine?”
Yes, of course I do. I’m like any other dedicated father — if I’m already sitting down in the bathroom, I’ll read whatever is within arm’s reach. I’m reasonably sure my wife arranges the magazines with exactly this purpose in mind. When my girls were toddlers, I could offer informed opinions about the hottest must-have toys in the Fisher-Price catalog (which I affectionately referred to as the “For Sure Overpriced catalog).
I know the editors mean well, but this article is just another load of the same old bologna: Carbohydrates are wonderful, and fat is bad. If you want to be a good mommy, you must be vigilant in protecting your progeny from the evils of dietary fat.
Here are few more examples of the “super snack planner” ideas:
Biscotti Gone Bananas: basically, a banana-bread mix shaped into biscotti and baked. Just 101 calories and 3 grams of fat.
Breadstick Snails: breadstick mix, curled up to look like a snail, mixed with pesto sauce. Just 96 calories and 3 grams of fat.
Peach Crisp: canned peaches in light syrup (uh, that would be sugar), topped with cinnamon, low-fat granola, and low-fat yogurt. Just 101 calories and 1 gram of fat.
Only 1 gram of fat? Well, that’s a relief; it makes the math easy.
The 1 gram of fat provides 9 calories. We’re looking at perhaps 2 or 3 grams of protein, at 4 calories per gram. Split the difference, and you get 10 calories. That means this “super-healthy” 101-calorie snack provides 82 calories from carbohydrates.
Congratulations … thanks to the nutrition experts at Parents magazine, you just served Little Johnny the equivalent of nearly two tablespoons of sugar – more than six times the amount of sugar in his bloodstream. To avoid going into sugar-shock, Little Johnny’s pancreas will have to crank out some insulin to smack his blood sugar down.
I think I’ll send the editors of Parents magazine an article titled “Feed Your Kids Sugar!”
It’s 3:30 in the afternoon, and dinner is still nearly two hours away. Little Johnny’s tummy is rumbly, but you’re already swamped with making dinner and helping Johnny’s big sister Sally with her homework. So what’s a busy mom to do?
Here’s a simple but effective trick: go to the sugar bowl, and scoop two tablespoons of those delicious white granules into a plastic serving cup. Then hand the cup to Johnny, along with his favorite Spider-Man spoon, and voila! – Johnny is happy, and so are you, because you can return your attention to Sally’s homework.
Kids love sugar, and best of all it’s fat-free! After all, you don’t want Johnny’s brain – which is growing at a rapid rate and is made almost entirely of fat – to overdevelop. Next thing you know, those ADD symptoms will mysteriously vanish and he’ll be pestering you with annoying questions, such as “Why does eating corn make cows so fat?” or “Have you and Dad started a college fund yet?”
But I’m pretty sure the editors would reject my article. I might even find some helpful people from Child and Family Services standing on my porch the next time the doorbell rings. They’d order me to take a state-approved parenting class, where I’d learn that sugar is only a “super-healthy snack” if it’s dressed up as a breadstick.
To be fair, the authors did suggest a few higher-fat snacks, such fruit-and-cheese kabobs, or fruit dipped in dark chocolate. But most of the “super-easy snacks” are based on bread, crackers, waffles, or granola … otherwise known as starch, starch, and more starch, with a little sugar thrown in.
The irony here is that the same issue features advertisements for ADD drugs, plus an article on how to deal with temper-tantrums.
Well, that’s just great: in one article, you can learn how to prepare Little Johnny a snack that will take his blood sugar on a roller-coaster ride. Then, while Johnny is busy bouncing off the walls, you can flip to another article and prepare yourself for the meltdown. If you’re a fast reader, you might even finish the article before Johnny’s blood sugar crashes. Then you can confidently attempt to use psychology to handle a problem that is almost purely biochemical.
I’m no psychologist, but I did take a couple of classes in college, so here are some verbal techniques I’d suggest, depending on your parenting style:
“Johnny, it doesn’t make Mommy and Daddy proud of you when your blood sugar crashes. You want us to be proud of you, don’t you? If you stop crashing right now, I’ll put a gold star on your chart.”
“Johnny, stop that crashing this instant! If you don’t stop crashing, you won’t get a big, sugary dessert after supper!”
“You want something to crash about?! I’ll give you something to crash about! Now stop crashing!”
But I don’t expect kids to stop crashing anytime soon. For the past 30-some years, the nutrition experts have managed to scare parents into cutting the animal fat from their kids’ diets and serving them more juices, more starchy vegetables, and more grains. Do-gooders like the Center for Science in the Public Interest harassed schools into serving skim milk instead of whole milk. The American Heart Association seal of approval is proudly displayed on boxes of Cocoa Puffs – a low-fat, whole-grain food! (Just be sure to pour skim milk on that big bowl of carbohydrates … you wouldn’t want a glob of fat to slow down the sugar buzz.)
The result of the anti-fat campaign has been skyrocketing rates of juvenile diabetes and attention-deficit disorders, not to mention a lot more kids wearing what we used to call “huskies.” Naturally, after witnessing the sorry outcome of their efforts, the experts reached the obvious conclusion: we should continue doing exactly what they’ve been telling us to do, only more of it.
I am, of course, accustomed to seeing dietary bologna promoted in the popular media. But it was a bit jarring to realize I actually give subscription dollars to a magazine that’s helping to spread the anti-fat hysteria and advising parents to feed their kids sugar and starch.
I’m just glad I was sitting down.
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