Friday, February 13, 2015

Snack Attack

My daughter is an active seventeen-year-old. 

Her high school, which was built just a few years ago in a fairly state-of-the-art way, is too small for the number of students currently enrolled. So the kids eat lunch in shifts. 

For better or worse, my daughter is in one of the earlier groups, breaking at about 11. 

For better or worse, this makes for one very hungry teenager when she gets home.

Snacking isn't intrinsically bad. In fact, a lot of weight management programs suggest frequent snacks — small and healthy, of course — as a way to curb cravings and eat moderately throughout the day.

The trick is the "healthy" part.

For concerned parents, there's plenty of advice out there. For example, the website suggests the following "Top Healthy Snacks for Teenagers:"

1. Hard boiled eggs plus an apple
2. String cheese plus almonds
3. Soft pretzels and hummus
4. Peanut butter and an apple
5. Low fat yogurt with berries and cottage cheese
6. Popcorn mixed with nuts and dried fruit
7. Whole wheat English muffin with pizza sauce, veggies and mozzarella
8. Baked corn chips with bean dip

Excellent ideas all. Except for one thing. 

Two really.

My daughter's eyes rolling up and over into the back of her head were I to suggest any of them.

After all, what kind of after-school snack list excludes staples like raw chocolate chip cookie dough? Cheese Poofs? Double Stuff Oreos? Ben & Jerry's S'mores? Clearly the well-intentioned list is missing some very basic food groups. Like chocolate, refined sugar, processed flour and orange ... well ... whatever that is on the Cheese Poofs that makes them glow in the dark.

What is the connection between teenagers and junk food? Is it simply impulse control? Is it a means of relatively safe rebellion? Or is it something even deeper?

When my daughter was little (read, when I was still the boss), she definitely ate a healthier diet. I was fairly diligent about offering her a variety of healthful options. (I say "fairly" because we did go through a chicken nugget phase for a time.) Her pediatrician once explained that I couldn't control what she actually ate, but I could control what I put in front of her. As she became more and more autonomous, it became more and more difficult to steer her toward the good stuff and away from the "Double Stuff."

To her credit, she's exceptionally hearty and healthy. Her figure is lean and strong; she sleeps well; she's rarely sick with so much as a cold. (Just check her attendance record.) And, after we got through some issues with her baby teeth, she's never even had a cavity.

For all my organic yogurt, tofu and tempeh, that's something I can't boast.

Is that the trick then? Should I follow that old adage "If you can't beat them, join them?" Should I trade in my air-popped popcorn for a big florescent bag of Cheese Poofs?

It's an idea. But, the thing is, I don't actually like the junk she chooses. I'm sure I did at some point (and, trust me, I have plenty of middle-aged mom vices myself). 

But Cheese Poofs — like jeggings — are only for the young.

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