Jul 7, 2014

The mystery of the snack box

D has been going to a play school for more than a year now. Since she wakes up quite late, she usually drinks a little milk or a tiny portion of her breakfast. I usually pack her breakfast for her mid-morning snack break and she has been eating without a fuss so far (touchwood!). I used to wonder what her friends/classmates bring in their snack boxes. When I ask D, she usually says "biscuits" or "grapes" :-)

Early April, we enrolled D in a new school for a summer camp programme. Being a new school, I accompanied her for 3 days and sat next to her, to get her settled in the new place. During the 10:30 AM break, it was so cute to see all the tiny kids open their snack boxes and eat together. Snack breaks are a perfect time to bond and get to know each other. Yes, it applies to 3 year olds as well. I quickly glanced around to check out the various snacks that kids have brought along. Some of them were the usuals like parathas, cheese sandwiches and bread+jam.

A 3 year old sitting next to us was eating dosa with sugar. The teacher asked him, "Do you like to eat your dosa with sugar?". The boy replied in an innocent tone, "No, I only like sugar". What a cute response!

There were a few snack boxes with store-bought cookies, banana chips and most enticing of them all, Lotto Choco-Pie. The kid with the paratha was staring longingly at the Choco Pie in a colorful pack. He wasn't too keen in eating the rest of the paratha. I was thinking about his mom who would have spent time making a healthy home-made paratha in the morning.

Kids can be easily influenced. They observe their peers, brands, logos, ads, messages etc etc. Food industry is well aware of this fact.

I'm not completely against packaged food products but I believe they should be consumed in moderation. Would I have my meals everyday in a restaurant because it is convenient? No! I apply the same rationale when it comes to giving packaged foods to my daughter.

The goal of big corporations is to make profit. They are not concerned about making healthy choices for their consumers. To get higher margins, they would cut their costs in numerous ways than we could imagine. They not only want you to consume their packaged foods but they want you to consume more of it. A ketchup or a jam bottle is readily available in most of the urban households in India but the food industry want you to consume 3 bottles in a month instead of one. No wonder, they advertise their products by advocating a generous spread of ketchup on a chapati to feed a fussy kid.

The West has woken up to the fact that these packaged foods are destroying their health and creating obesity related disorders. So now the food corporations are extending their wings to target consumers in developing countries like India.

Taste enhancers, preservatives, artificial flavors, loaded sugar and salt - all are awaiting yours' as well as your kids' attention in the aisles of the supermarket.

My intention of this post is that you be "aware" of your food choices. Read the nutrition labels and ingredients. Ensure moderation of processed foods.

I believe in following the 7 rules of eating by Michael Pollan. Out of these rules, the following 2 are my favorites

"Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food"
"Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can't pronounce"

In the next post, I plan to share a few healthy and quick snack box ideas so we don't have to send a "Choco Pie" in our kids' snack box when we are short of time.

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