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Snacks, snacks everywhere ...

March 3, 2010 | 12:04 pm


A study in the journal Health Affairs reported this week that snacking is up sharply among U.S. kids. From the L.A. Times coverage of this by Melissa Healy:

"From 1977 to 2006, American children have added 168 snack calories per day to their diets, a study finds. They're munching cookies after school, granola bars on the way to piano lessons, chips after an hour of soccer practice and peanut butter and crackers while waiting for dinner. For some, those extra 1,176 calories a week could amount to as much as 13 1/2 pounds of body fat a year."

Ideally, all this snacking would be curtailed somehow. Good luck with that, health experts. You try showing up empty-handed for a soccer game when you're the designated snack mom.

Another approach is to provide different kinds of snacks, which may or may not work: I'm thinking of the time I decided to fob my daughter off with a healthful doppleganger of a toaster pastry--whole wheat flour, carob filling, honey sweetener, etc. (let's ignore the issue of whether honey and carob are actually better for you than what they're standing in for). It looked like the original item and she bit into it happily--then let out a plaintive wail and threw it to the ground.

On the other hand, some snacks actually taste good without being ridiculously fattening. (I like 100-calorie popcorn servings--they keep you busy for a while, which has never been my experience with a candy bar.)

"Snack girl" rates them at her blog.

Take a look. Among recent entries, she has a recipe for turning cauliflower into a snack her kids like. She has a method to slash the calorie count of a doughnut --you cut it in half and throw the second half away. (Why didn't I think of that?) She does comparison tests --SnackWell's devils food cookie cakes got panned in a recent one ("Food manufacturers who promise you a low calorie treat need to deliver on the TREAT part," she writes.)

Snack Girl's most recent entry deals with cereals, which may not be snacks in the classic sense, but I guess people treat them that way. She offers an easy three-part guide for assessing a cereal's worth: One, is it whole grain? Two, is the second ingredient sugar (or some other sugar-word, such as honey or high fructose corn syrup)? Three, how much fiber does it give you per serving?

Target-brand Rice Krispies does even worse than Trix in this test, Snack Girl notes. Trix has 1 gram of fiber per serving. The rice cereal lists none. Trix is whole-grain. The rice cereal isn't. They both have sugar as a second ingredient.

It goes to show: Just because a food is multicolored doesn't mean it is worse than one that is beige.

(By the way, my personal snack favorites are limon-flavored potato chips and anything by Cadbury's, and may I take this opportunity to say to Kraft...we're watching!)

-- Rosie Mestel

Photo credit: Daniel Acker / Bloomberg