Two words: Snack Duty.
Now that school is back in session, parents are back perusing the grocery stores shelves looking for (reasonably priced) food (in bulk) that will tide their kid's class, soccer or lacrosse team (or all the above) over until the next scheduled meal.
Being an experienced snack mom, I volunteered to bring snacks for my daughter's first grade class this first week of school. I did this not only because I knew her teacher could use the help (brown-noser that I am), but also because I've been through the snack wars before and I know what "acceptable" snacks to bring. It also gets me off the hook for at least another four months!
A decade or two ago, being on snack duty was no big deal. Get a bag of Lays, a box of Oreos, mix up some lemonade, and you're done.
But in these more health conscious, allergy-prone and politically correct times, parents must walk a thin (pardon the pun) line when providing snacks for a large (sorry, pun again) group of kids. So sorry cupcake - you're not welcome anymore.
Nor is anything with sugar, caffeine, trans or saturated fats, fructose, high sodium, nuts, or anything that might have touched or come into contact with a nut during its lifetime.
That shrinks the old-time snack list considerably.
My children's school provides a list of suggested snacks which is helpful, but I'm sure in many homes it gets lost with all the other paperwork involved in this first, busy week of fall. However, there are other places you can turn for snack assistance.
This recent Washington Post article has some great information about snacks that pass the nutrition test these days, which even an experienced snack mom like me can learn from. It includes the results of a taste test taken by some 3rd and 4th graders.
Of course, fresh fruits, veggies and cheese sticks are always at the top of the list. But refrigeration is a problem for many teachers - and keeping that stuff in your car for days on end prior to your snack commitment isn't wise either.
A list of "Smart Snacks" can be found on a website called SmartSpot, which was launched by PepsiCo to help consumers find healthy snacking options. Warning though: its healthy snack list does include nuts...a no-no for anyone on snack duty.
As for pre-bagged individual items which are perfect for outdoor sports snacks, I was happy to find that the Frito-Lay people are finally providing a so-called "Smart Mix" variety in a bulk bag. It has Baked Doritos, Baked Cheetos, Baked Ruffles and pretzel Twists in packets of 120 calories apiece. Something else I'm learning - apparently, just using the word "smart" with a snack makes it healthier.
Snacks are HUGE business....$25.6 billion a year according to the Snack Food Association. And although I joke about the marketing fascination with the word "smart," I'm happy to see that the industry is responding to our more healthy snack needs.
Still, despite all this easily available information on healthy snacks, and the rising obesity rate showing every state getting fatter, there will always be parents who continue bringing bags of full-on chips, cookies and soft drinks for snack.
There's a couple of ways to deal with that: 1) Get angry and do something about it, like launch a nutrition mission ala these moms featured recently in USA Today, 2) Simple ask them to make a "smarter" choice next time, or 3) consider it a splurge for your kids - and give them a taste of what life used to be like when we were children.
What are some of your snack duty suggestions? Are you a parent who volunteers for snack duty, or has to be assigned kicking and screaming? Click below on "Comments" and share your stories and secrets.