Friday, July 29, 2011

The Snack Trap

it is no secret that i love (real) food. i love to cook and i love to eat.  there are days where i am constantly preparing, tasting & writing new recipes.  however, i am not what i would call a "snacky" person.  i prefer my meals and when i get a hankerin' for something in between i usually gravitate towards a piece of raw milk cheese, seasonal fruit or vegetable, a glass of kefir or home brewed kombucha.  although right now i could go for a small bowl of zerbe's potato chips fried in lard. anyway, this is not the case for most.  from what i can tell, and i am "in the field" everyday observing with a keen eye, americans have become addicted to snacks.   

snacking wouldn't be so bad if everyone was eating real food but they're not. roughly 17,000 new packaged, processed food products make it onto the grocery store shelves each year and most of them are not food.  chemicals have replaced food and are cleverly (read: deceptively) marketed as economical, convenient and healthy!  the marketing is so clever that adults buy the advertising, become addicted to the chemicals they perceive as food and then raise their children on them creating a whole new generation of people addicted to chemicals.  these products posses zero nutritional value and are made with cheap, dangerous ingredients, creating a vicious cycle of hunger and addiction that keeps people craving more and more in order to feel satisfied. this is what i call the snack trap: constantly eating to maintain stable blood sugar levels and instill a feeling of comfort.  the truth is that when you get caught up in snacking on packaged, processed foods this way, your body is in a perpetual state of dis-ease and there is nothing economical, convenient or healthy about that.

when i talk about constant snacking i immediately envision chubby legged toddlers with their plastic snack traps loaded with cheerios, pepperidge farm goldfish, pirate booty and those awful fruit flavored puffs my friend leah calls "baby crack." (have you ever tried to take those puffs away from a toddler?) these snacks provide an unhealthy dose of toxins in the forms of sugar, MSG, food dyes & colorings, high fructose corn syrup, vegetable oils, soy byproducts, GMOs, artificial flavors and fillers that keep kids busy chewing. sometimes i think parents love these foods just because they keep their kids quiet (drugged) so they don't have to engage.....but that's another talk show altogether.  the good news is that if you know how to read labels you will see exactly what is in packaged foods and can avoid them. (see truth in labeling).  by staying away from packaged and processed food snacks, this vicious cycle can easily be broken and snacking can be a fun, healthy, delicious good time for all. by the way, the snack trap is a useful invention for self feeding toddlers that can be filled with healthy and nutritious foods.

when packing food to go it is important to think about what types of food travel well.  summer is a great time to investigate as there are plenty of opportunities for picnics (breakfast, lunch and dinner).   i always pack snacks when we head out for  a day at the park as well as when i take my turn as class mum for a weeks worth of snacks for 25 children.  this can be a difficult task but i have found a solution (see below).  the thing you want to remember about snacks is that they should be nutrient dense, easy to eat and provide energy as well as flavor.  

on a typical day i will have any of the following smart snacks in my bag in order to restore myself and my children when we get to feeling low on energy: bison, beef or turkey kielbasa, raw milk cheese cubes, cherry tomatoes, radishes, salmon jerky, nori sheets or even sushi, dried fruit leather, fresh berries, dried figs, coconut macaroons, cucumber spears with sea salt, pickles, popcorn with coconut oil, sea salt & nutritional yeast, sourdough bread & butter, pate on cracker, a boiled egg, sesame seed crunch bars, a freshly baked muffin or bread, skewers with cheese and fruit, roasted whole beets - eaten like an apple, a peach, pear, plum, melon slices, ham slices, soaked and dehydrated walnuts and almonds, pita chips with guacamole, a container of hummus with steamed carrots and a thermos of real milk, bone broth, water or kombucha tea.  

all of the above mentioned foods can be prepared ahead of time and will sit happily in your bag until needed.  when my daughter or son says that they are hungry it usually means that they are bored (or growing).  my test is to offer them a few choices and if they don't want what i have offered, i then get them interested in an activity.  if after they have been involved in that activity for a little while they tell me that they are hungry again, it might just be time for lunch or dinner.  i remember coming home from school and wanting a snack before i ran out to play. i was ravenous! my snack always included a big glass of milk.  i was instinctively refueling in order to continue on. we need to listen to our bodies. sleep when we are tired, use the toilet when we have to go and eat when we are hungry. it's very simple and we should take our cues from newborns who are comfortable at the breast and not yet aware of anything but the basics to survive. we don't need to eat all day long.  if we eat good meals made from fresh, local, organic & whole ingredients then our bodies will be happy and perform as we need them to. again, i ask you to ask yourselves when making food choices for yourself and your family "have people been eating this for at least a hundred years?"  I guarantee that when you abandon the snack trap and throw away the puffed rice cakes, butter flavored pretzels, soy crisps, booty, 'whole grain" goldfish, part skim string cheese, blue go-gurt and pizza combos and any other disgusting astronaut-like concoction you squeeze from a tube, you will bring a hungrier, more enthusiastic Family2Table who can really taste and appreciate real food prepared with love. 

how to avoid the school snack trap
parents who feed their children real food often have a hard time dealing with the community snack situation at school. some parents choose to home school just so their children do not have to be exposed to poor nutrition.  I totally understand and have been there -- i frequently have to clear my throat and remind parents of where i stand.  

if you are having this problem this is what i suggest.  write a friendly letter (or email) to all of the parents in your class letting them know that your child has a sensitivity to processed, packaged foods.  this sensitivity needs to be regarded and respected as seriously as any food allergy (i.e. peanuts) and exposure to processed, packaged foods will result in health problems for your child somewhere down the road.  exposure to neurotoxins such as MSG, food colorings, soy, GMOs and other chemical additives could produce severe reactions and possible illness.  let them know that these chemicals could also produce adverse reactions in their children as sometimes food sensitivities do not surface until later and you don't want to take any chances.  i do not intend any disrespect to anyone with a severe allergy nor do i take any food allergies lightly.  i only mean to compare in order to convey my concern for the health of our children. 

if they are persistent in pushing garbage food on the kids please ask them to 1) limit the number of ingredients in the package to three 2) notify you so you can provide an alternative for your child and 3) really read the label and see what is in the package.  oftentimes parents will look at labels and decide that it is not so good for anyone to eat.  another suggestion is to come up with a list of approved snacks that all the kids will enjoy and stick to that list for the year.  when birthdays arise, have a set recipe for a treat that everyone makes to celebrate.   declare your child's classroom a processed, packaged food-free zone! after all, parents want happy, smart kids and toxins are not good mood, developing brain food.


  1. Refreshing post thanks! I do have one of those evil plastic snack traps but fill it with green beans, nuts, fruit etc. The trap itself is really useful in the car especially.

  2. tara, i have one too and i use it for holding quarters for laundry! they do come in handy but what they are currently being used for needs to be re-examined. thanks for reading.

  3. as far as reading labels is a list of ingredients to avoid from Russell L. Blaylock's book, "Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills."

    These additives always contain MSG:
    Monosodium glutamate (duh!!)
    Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
    Hydrolyzed protein
    Hydrolyzed plant protein
    Sodium casienate
    Calcium casienate
    Yeast extract
    Textured protein
    Autolyzed yeast
    Hydrolyzed oat flour

    These additives frequently contain MSG:
    Malt extract
    Malt flavoring
    Natural flavoring
    Natural beef or chicken flavoring

    These additives may contain MSG or other excitotoxins:
    Soy protein concentrate
    Soy protein isolate
    Whey protein concentrate

  4. Hi!
    I saw the following comment on Healthy Home Economist's blog article about sweet marjoram. I'd love to have your recipes for the sausage, lentils and syrup. THANKS! Email is

    "when i had my restaurant i made a marjoram sausage that was HUGE hit! i highly recommend
    trying it in sausage (mine were in lamb casing but patties work really well too). a great complement to the sausage is lentils with caramelized onions and reduced balsamic syrup."