Wednesday, March 29, 2006


So when my neighbor and I were out walking yesterday, we were talking about the concept of snacking. And I just read the March 28 entry of Skinny Daily, in which Jonathan explains how he deals with snacking.

I don't have fond childhood memories of my mother offering snacks for comfort, or even offering many snacks at all. I walked home from elementary school with my friend Gretchen, whose mother subscribed to the 'nothin' says lovin' like something from the oven' philosophy. More often than not, my mother was ironing or maybe even touching her toes. The one snack event my siblings and I really looked forward to was when our parents went out for the evening and left us with a sitter, and we were allowed to have popcorn and Pepsi. No separation anxiety for us! Bring on the Jiffy Pop!

Perhaps I was snack-deprived. I've more than made up for it.

My neighbor is six months older than I, grew up in a completely different type of household and also doesn't remember having snacks on regular occasions. She said she does recall having juice and two dry little butter cookies at Girl Scout meetings. Probably the Shortbread.

It's a whole different world today. You won't find a weight-loss plan out there that doesn't include a scheduled snack or two. Snacking is recommended to stave off hunger and provide adequate nutrition, especially for athletes and dieters. And I don't think snacking is a bad thing. Snack choices, though? Another matter.

The snack-food industry just couldn't be healthier and, like all industry, strives to make itself an even more vital part of our daily lives. Oh, and also our economy. A recent snack-food trend is adding whole grains to products. According to Snack Food Association president Jim McCarthy, "Nutrition … has affected the way we manufacture, market and label our products." And of course, there's the convenience trend. McCarthy said we consumers are "just looking for something to open and eat." [source]

Apples now come pre-sliced in plastic bags. Hundred-calorie, foil-wrapped packages of cookies line the grocery shelves. Single-serve slices of cake tempt us in the bakery. No muss, no fuss, and bring on the mindless eating. [I wonder how many apples are in those cute little bags.]

So where am I going with this? I eat a finite number of calories each day, and I want those calories to count, to matter. It takes five minutes, or perhaps less, to rip open a bag and scarf down 100 calories worth of whole-grain cookie goodness, and I'm left wanting more. ['More' has always been my drug of choice.] I need to take some time to prepare my meals – and my snacks, when I have them.

I like anticipating how the popcorn will taste as I haul out the pan, wait for the two test kernels to pop, listen and watch as the steam escapes and the contents expand to slightly lift the lid. The aroma is as delicious as the popcorn itself. In the time it takes to prepare a pan of popcorn, I could have eaten three or four single-serving bags of Lance's White Cheddar.

The snack-food industry profits little from me. I make my own fruit salad, with melon, grapes, kiwi and berries. I mix my plain, non-fat yogurt with wheat germ and nuts, which means getting out three containers and actually making a bit of a mess. If my lunch menu suggests a sandwich and fruit, I save the fruit for later, if I'm satisfied with the sandwich. And later, when I'm ready for a snack, I wash the fruit, put it on a plate and enjoy it.

Besides, all that extra preparation uses more calories than opening a bag.


Beth said...

Debbi, did you see what Eric Oliver had to say about snacking in Fat Politics?

Snack foods are creating a conflict between satisfying our individual desires and maintaining our health. Because many snack foods play a dual role of both nutrient and opiate, they pose a new and thorny problem. By their convenience and solitary consumption, they allow for the individualized pursuit of happiness, something we hold to be extremely important; with their refined carbohydrates and trans fats, they act like a drug and may be at the root of many health pathologies.

Anyways, he says that we don't really eat more at meals than we did years ago, and that the issue with driving, besides the lack of walking, is that it allows us additional time to snack.

Sounds like you're really doing the right thing!

Debbi said...

I haven't read Fat Politics yet; thanks for yet another reason to order it! We all know that grocery store stockers put the most tempting items at eye level and on end caps. Learning more about the marketing of food, as well as the manufacture, is pushing me more and more toward a "real food" plan. Much more satisfying, in all ways. Thanks for your comment, Beth.