No small subject here. Its safe to say that CMS is not exactly laid back about what “snacks” are allowed at school. Having been a Central Parent for about 3 years now, having agreeably followed the suggested/allowed food ideas since then, and having talked to other parents about this along the way, this post is an attempt to help distill this matter a bit. This, quite understandably, is an ongoing point of adjustment for new families. This post also provides a response to a recent email we received:
“I would love to see a listing of ‘acceptable’ snacks. ”
So, perhaps a good first step at approaching this is to let go of what we think of as “snacks”, which might be tied to what we saw as “snacks” when we were kids. For me, snacks were swiss cake rolls and chocolate-covered peanuts, maybe an occasional bag of doritos. So, for the most part, non-food items of high sugar, fat and salt content, eaten for short-term kid pleasure. Yes, snacks.
CMS asks that we avoid the “snack” concept, and instead send tiny little meals in themselves, or healthy sides to main courses. In short, rather than attempting to give our little ones some sort of daily treat, we can give them something they love that is also good for their minds and bodies. Alright, here are some examples:
- any fresh fruit, whole chopped, alone or mixed
- nuts, raw or roasted
- fresh/steamed veggies
- crackers with fresh sliced veggies (i.e., carrots, cucumbers), or cheese, or sliced meat
- apples slices and peanut butter
- pretzels with hummus
And as for convenient out-of-the-package items that tend to be relatively healthier (not high sugar, fat, and/or salt) , one might select things with no high fructose corn syrup nor refined sugar, and no partial hydrogenated oils. While one might choose to stay away from other ingredients as well, avoiding these provides a nice selective filter for choosing snacks that are relatively healthy out of the box or bag. Also, watching the added salt and saturated fat is another way to identify healthy items off-the-shelf.
Lastly, a bit about dried fruit, as this is often a question I have heard: “What is wrong with sending raisins to school?” The logic here goes for other dried fruits and dried fruit products (e.g. fruit leather, juices) as well, but raisins provide a strong example. Its not that raisins are sweeter than grapes, or that prunes are sweeter than plums. In neither case does the dried conterpart actually have any more sugar. It’s a sugar concentration issue. In short, it takes more raisins to fill a little tummy than grapes. A small child can eat a handful of tasty, healthy grapes and be satiated, while it would take many more raisins to add up to that volume. Think about that little box of sunmaid raisins. Maybe there are 20-25 raisins inside, but how many grapes would it take to fill the same space? Maybe, three?
A half a cup of raisins has nearly 8 times the amount of sugar as a half cup of grapes. Yes, this means that other nutrients are concentrated in raisins too, but at Central the concern is sugar, as it is not nutritious, is not healthy calories and is bad for little teeth. Some say dried fruit stuck in teeth is actually worse than candy.
Lastly, I have not heard this rationale, but I have to think that a low/no sugar class learns and rests better. Based on what I have seen sugar do to some little ones (mine is a GREAT example) I could not imagine teachers trying to provide meaningful work cycles and rest cycles to a class where some kids are rattled from sugar. I could see a classroom void of sugar altogether as a much more constructive environment…
Hopefully this was helpful to (1) revisit the concept of not sending “snacks” to school, and (2) touch on the dried fruit questions.
We would be glad to hear any comments and suggestions for lunchbox items that work well for your family.