Thursday, June 9, 2011

A refreshing take on snacks

When I read my friend Sally Kuzemchak's Real Mom Nutrition post today, I wanted to cheer. In her blog, "THAT Mom: The Sequel," Sally addresses the need for kids' sports teams to do away with chips and sweet drinks and instead, provide healthy fruit and water for the young athletes. She didn't just sit on the sideline and complain about all the junk the parents were providing for each game's snack, she took action and responsibility. Sally sought change because as a mom and registered dietician she wanted her children to have healthier food while exercising.

As the mom of a food-allergic child, the benefits of kids eating healthy snacks are even greater than the obvious nutritional boost. My 8-year-old son, who is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, egg and soy, knows that his life could be threatened if he eats, or even touches, food containing an allergen. He can't eat the snacks, such as pretzels, flavored chips, peanut-filled sandwich crackers, nut-laced granola bars and cheese-covered goldfish crackers that many kids eat. He tenses up when he sees melted candy on the ground as he's walking into the supermarket, kids eating granola bars and bags of flavored chips on the sidelines of a sports field or a mom carrying a box of Dunkin' Donuts to the park. He can't even escape unsafe snacks at the library — a place where food and drinks are prohibited, mind you — as some kids can't seem to go 20 minutes during storytime without munching on cheese-coated goldfish crackers.

I understand the need to provide snacks as I offer food to help my kids get through the day. And I certainly don't expect parents to alter their snack choices because they might come across a food-allergic child — even my son with multiple allergies eats foods that other kids are allergic to.

But the encouragement for kids to eat fresh fruit is refreshing. Joseph wouldn't eat fruit that has been cut up by someone else because of the danger of cross-contamination. But he can easily bring his own fruit and safely feel like part of the gang. It is not a problem if he touches fruit or if another kid, who just ate an apple, touches him. He can safely eat fresh fruit and enjoy an activity with other kids without being anxious about having an allergic reaction because of the food they are eating.

Sally took a stand for her kids' health regarding food, something parents of food-allergic kids often must do to ensure their child's safety. She didn't know how the other parents would react, but her children were more important than her popularity among team moms. Her letter to the other parents provides a positive example of how to clearly state the need for a change, the reasons and a solution — without offending anyone.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post, Wendy. I love your perspective--and it's one I didn't even think about when suggesting the fruit-only policy. When you take processed foods out of the equation entirely, you take away so many possible allergens and increase the chances that more kids will be able to partake and not feel left out. Just one more reason why, in my opinion, more teams should adopt the policy. No kid needs more processed food. But all kids need more fresh food.