Friday, October 17, 2008

Lost in the Supermarket

I can no longer shop happily.

Seriously, I can't. I trying to cut back on sugar as my kids' main source of caloric intake, especially for snacks, and it's making shopping hard, and scary.

I am inspired by my mother's comments about all the foods in our house being good foods, so that it was okay for us kids to snack between school and dinner. (This isn't entirely true. I do remember Stew Leonard's cookies and the occasional hard-won box of brownie mix or pop-tarts. )

But for the most part, it's true; we had very few snack foods or premade sweets. My brother and sister and I regularly made whatever we wanted for afterschool snacks, but it was usually real food.

(Of course I loved going to friends' houses, where the cupboards overflowed with Chips Ahoys and Snackwells and Yoo-Hoo's. )

But I'm not going to raise my kids that way, and I'm already freaked out by how dependent we are on Stonyfield Farms Yogurt Squeezers, juice boxes, and weird things like fruit ropes. It's all organic, so it must be good, right? If you're okay with ice cream-level portions of sugar in every snack and meal, sure. I guess so.

So the other day, as I cruised the aisles, I held on to the rudder, hard. I looked over our usual suspects, all those junky things that get my kids through lunch with at least a few calories in their bellies, and appease them afterschool when they are bearishly hungry and eager for a sugary snack. I picked them up, looked at them, and put them down.

I put down the Squeezers and walked away quickly. Because: what if we just didn't buy them? Will my daughter starve? Or will she discover that nuts are good?

I looked at the fruit leather ropes. Is there any nutritional purpose to those things? Or do they just take up precious lunch-eating minutes? The info box confirmed my suspicions that there is virtually nothing in there but sugar. I walked away. Without these will they go back to peanut butter and jelly as a sweet snack?

I walked away from the organic multigrain granola bars that in any other era or culture would be considered candy. Will they turn to cheese and crackers? Will I remember to throw cheese and crackers into my purse as we run out the door?

I loaded up on nuts, cheese and crackers, honeycrisp apples and ... and ... that's kind of it. What else do you give hungry kids? My mind drew a blank. That's our current snack list, and I was unable to go further.

Already I have been meeting my kids at afterschool pickup with a honeycrisp apple, our current favorite. (Them: "Is that a honeycrisp? Yay! Can I have it?"). Hungry and thirsty, they devour them. amd no longer beg to visit the ice cream truck.

Afterschool there are cheese and crackers, more apples, frozen blueberries and sometimes leftovers from the night before, or a whole turkey sandwich if the situatin is drastic. Is it the change in seasons? They are famished lately. And I am running short on ideas.

What do you all feed your kids afterschool? I need snack ideas!


Anonymous said...

I make this pear cake for my kids. I has sugar but I MADE it - why this makes it ok is beyond me:
Mix 2 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2tsp cardamom, 1 tbsp baking powder. Add one egg, one cup milk, 7 tbsp of melted butter and about 1 1/2 cups canned pears cut in 1/2 inch pieces. Batter will be stiff. Sprinkle on 2 tbsp chopped almonds and 2 tbsp pearl sugar. Put in a buttered and floured 9" spring form and bake at 350 for 40-35 minutes.

I just love seeing my kids with a big piece of cake in their hands

Liz said...

Hi, Larissa!
My daughter loves dried apricots. And I've found that you can buy entire boxes of Stretch Island fruit leather ( online, as well as at Fairway (it's the only fruit snack I've found that is made entirely out of actual fruit). These are a big hit both with Paulina AND Philip since he's sprouted molars.

popakap said...

My kids love to have popcorn (air popped with butter and salt on top) after school, usually with apples on the side. Even their friends get excited about this.
Your shopping dilemma hits home for me, I frequently walk around the giant supermarket feeling like "there is nothing to eat here."
Great blog, thanks

Cay said...

My 7 year old likes apples, but only cored, and ONLY if they aren't brown in the middle. How do you carry that around in your bag, you ask? Core the apple (with nifty coring tool), squeeze some lemon juice into the core-hole, and wrap in tin foil-voila!
My kids also like mini-muffins, which i make with whole wheat flour, not much sugar, and some sort of fruit or vegetable (pumpkin, banana, apple, zucchini, carrot). Anything "mini" is a big hit for them. Snack example: kirby or persian cucumbers.
Have you ever made your own granola bars? My kids love the "bad" ones, but I've never tried to make my own, would love a recipe...
Another pertinent blog post from you, thanks!

Cay said...

Me again. Just found this post on martha stewart for "smart snacks." I haven't seriously checked out the recipes, but the pictures look good.

Larissa Phillips said...

Great ideas, everyone. Thank you! What is pearled sugar? Mini muffins are a great idea. Mini everything is great. And popcorn ... how could I have forgotten our jar of popcorn kernels, which have been jostled to the very back of the hardest-to-reach, most overstuffed cabinet...??

Anonymous said...

pearl sugar is large white pieces of sugar (2mm odd sized pieces) I buy it at IKEA here in Seattle but I would think in Brooklyn or NY you wouldn't have to go to IKEA just for that. A good baking section at a food shop should have it
I guess suger covered cake doesn't really compare in healthy-ness to cucumbers, apples sections or dried apricots...

Anonymous said...

Also here is a recipe for a granola-ish bar:
melt a stick of butter and add 1 c. brown sugar. Stir then add 1 tsp vanilla, 2 cups raw oatmeal (not instant) 1 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt. Also add 1/2 c or so dried sour cherries. Press into ungreased 8" square pan and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. You can melt a couple of handfuls of chocolate chips on top with the residual heat afterwards. Wait a few minutes then spread it around with a spatula - sugar addict

Mirem said...

It's a real battle to keep sugar out of snacktime. Thank goodness for apples! They devour them.

I wonder if Pirate Booty and Tings are sugar in disguise, i.e. if they are so quickly digested that they spike blood sugar like a cookie would? That would certainly explain their appeal.

Sometimes, I admit, I use Larissa's mom's approach and just feed the kids chicken, prosciutto, cheese or chorizo for snack, and then they just have cucumbers for dinner - but they've already had protein. If the timing is right it works fine. If the timing is wrong, they are hungry again by bedtime...

Jamie said...

Ok, so I'm guilty of those bars... Sugary, sometimes, but natural ingredients, at least. I'm going to try and quit. My kids love apple slices and honey. Cheese sticks are a fave, and crackers and peanut butter. Marisa also loves to carry around a whole carrot and munch it. If they're starving right before dinner time, I cut up raw veggies with ranch dressing dip. That way they've already eaten their vegetables!

Larissa Phillips said...

Anon, thanks for the pearled sugar definition. I think homemade cake is better for you than storebought snacks. Is that crazy? I am partly going on my friend Nicole's theory that lovingly made foods have more nutrition in them. I think the pear cake sounds delicious.

Anonymous said...

It's fiddly but the Applesauce Cake on the Cook's Illustrated website is pretty delicious too. I like the cardamom variation. I make it for my kids but I eat a lot of it (with tea at 11 by myself and with cocoa at 3:30 with my kids)

sandyefern said...

Funny how the first thing I was going to say was popcorn....maybe because I made it yesterday. I put brewer's yeast on it, make enough for snacks in school lunches too.
Cut up vegetables, sometimes with dip. Dips usually have a yogurt base.
Apples and honey, that rosh hashana standard.
And almost any fruit.
Rice/corn cake type item with almond butter or jam or both.
Dried fruit and nuts.
The ever popular edamame.
Snap peas and snap beans.
Juice pops.
And the occasional muffin, cookie, brownie, ice cream cone,birthday cupcake, pudding.
Remember when veggie booty was all you had to think about?

Felix said...

Thanks for all the good ideas! I just heard about your blog yesterday, you are getting a following on nantucket. My kids love biscuits (Carr's wheatmeal, or McVitties) with cream cheese and just a tiny drizzle of honey or a dot of jam. We usually have tea after school and I trot these out fairly often. I do give my kids black tea but I read some where that if you steep for 30 seconds then dump the water out most of the caffeine is discarded and when you refill with more hot water there's still plenty of color and flavor. The kids like the ritual particularly the adding their own cream part!