Arriving home from high school, my daughter Miriam breezed through the front door with her friend Bonnie just behind her. The girls plopped their backpacks on the floor in the foyer and headed straight to the kitchen where I was already at work preparing dinner. We exchanged greetings and hugs, and then Miriam posed the inevitable question, “Can we have a snack?”
Of course I would let them have a snack. I remembered being ravenous after school when I was a teenager. Besides, it was still two hours before we would eat dinner.
Miriam went to the cabinet, opened the doors, and said, “What would you like, Bonnie? We have peanuts, sunflower seeds, dried apricots, raisins, banana chips, dried cranberries, and crackers, and there is always fresh fruit and cheese in the ‘fridge.’”
Bonnie looked at her in total disbelief. “Is that what you eat for snacks?” she asked incredulously. “No wonder you and your family are so healthy and slim!”
Miriam smiled. What teenage girl does not like to be referred to as “slim”? I turned back to my cooking, but I was smiling, too. What mother does not want to hear her family being called “healthy” because of the way she feeds them?
Providing snack foods that contribute to good health should be an objective for every parent. Parents have a limited number of years during which they can teach their children good eating habits before the children are grown and making their own food choices; teaching them how to snack healthfully should be part of that education process. Furthermore, the wise food choices that parents make can build healthy bodies, but unwise food choices may lead to the children becoming overweight. Obesity among children is a serious problem in the US. The most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), conducted in 2003-2004, revealed that over 17 per cent of American children aged 6-19 were overweight. Sadly, a comparison with previous NHANES data showed that the prevalence of obesity was increasing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity is accompanied by potential health risks. The CDC states, “During their youth, overweight children and adolescents are more likely to have risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease (such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes) than are other children and adolescents. Overweight children and adolescents are more likely to become obese as adults.”
Fortunately, providing healthful snacks is scarcely more difficult for parents of celiac children than it is for parents of non-celiacs when one considers the fact that simple, minimally processed foods make the best snacks. Here are some suggestions for healthful snack foods:
Happily, the majority of these snacks are naturally gluten free and can be purchased as mainstream grocery items. Of course, items in the last category – bread, crackers, and rice cakes – must be purchased as gluten-free products for celiac children. It is also important to verify the gluten-free status of nuts which are dry roasted, yogurts other than plain, and dried fruits that have additives.
US Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. “Prevalence of Overweight Among Children and Adolescents: United States, 2003-2004,” Apr. 2006. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/pubs/pubd/hestats/overweight/overwght_child_03.htm
US Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “ Childhood Obesity,” Overweight and Obesity. 28 May 2009. http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/index.html
Gau Gerald T. “Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health,” Heart Disease. 9 Feb. 2007. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/nuts/HB00085