The thermometer on the cooling device in my attic office currently reads 90 degrees. It’s not a long, contemplative blogging type of evening.
Luckily, I don’t have to take much time to sound off about a particular abomination that was revealed to me over the long holiday weekend. As I relaxed with J. and my father, watching the “Rocky” movie marathon that AMC apparently felt was the most patriotic programming choice for the 4th of July, a commercial came on that literally bolted me upright from my half-asleep contemplation of Sylvester Stallone’s terrible enunciation. It was an advertisement for…wait for it…”NUTRITION COOKIES.”
Oh, yes. I’m sure some of you have seen these things before — apparently, they’re relatively new to the market, but they have been on store shelves for a couple of months now, at least. They’re called “WhoNu? Nutrition Rich Cookies” and they come in a variety of flavors: Chocolate, Crispy, Soft and Chewy, and Vanilla. I’ll spare you the suspense. They’re gussied-up Oreos, Chips Ahoy, Keebler, and Hydrox knockoffs. Yep. Just cookies.
In a feat of nutritionist smokescreening that would probably give Marion Nestle hives, the WhoNu? website proclaims that the 3-cookie serving size provides the following benefits:
As much fiber as a bowl of oatmeal
As much calcium and Vitamin D as an 8-oz glass of milk
As much Vitamin C as a cup of blueberries
As much Iron as a cup of spinach
As much Vitamin E as two cups of carrot juice
As much Vitamin B12 as a cup of cottage cheese and fruit
As much Vitamin A as an 8-oz glass of tomato juice
Ooh! All of that in just THREE LITTLE COOKIES? You mean I don’t have to ever worry about my kids’ nutrition again — I can just let them scarf down chocolate sandwich cremes all day long? Sign me up!
There’s just one teensy little problem: THEY’RE COOKIES, people.
A glib, frothy testimonial on the WhoNu? website has a mother gushing that she “can’t believe a cookie with so much nutritional value actually tasted good.” Well, why wouldn’t it? After all, there’s nothing in this cookie that is really any different from any other packaged cookie. It comes with the same refined flours, sugars, and even hydrogenated oils as many other shelf-stable baked goods. It’s just pumped full of synthetic “vitamins” and “minerals” so that the WhoNu? people can say that it’s better for kids than the other brands…and parents, desperate to feed their kids well without having to put in the effort of fighting over every truly nutritious mouthful, will believe them.
I can understand the temptation. And let me be clear: I don’t care if you feed your kids cookies. I don’t even care if you feed them packaged cookies full of HFCS and hydrogenated oil and endangered unicorn fur, for heaven’s sake, as long as it’s ONCE IN A WHILE. But of course, the WhoNu? people are smart — they know that if they can convince you that feeding your kids these “nutrition cookies” is just as good, or even sort of nearly as good, as feeding them apple slices, you’ll give the little sweeties their “healthy cookie fix” ALL THE TIME.
Here’s my advice, for which you have not asked: Don’t. Don’t do it. Don’t even buy these things. I’d rather you buy Oreos. Know why? Because the Oreos are not lying to you. They are not cookies in sheep’s clothing; they are just plain old bad-for-you cookies. And they’re okay with that. Judging from their staggering annual sales, we American consumers are okay with that, too. And if you KNOW that the Oreos are not good for you or for your kids, you’ll make sure they’re a “sometimes treat,” not a “nutrition rich” everyday snack packed with fortified vitamins and lies. (How do lies taste with cold milk, Little Jimmy?)
So here, in no particular order, are ten snacktime substitutes (besides just plain fruits and vegetables) I think you can offer your kids pretty regularly, with an ACTUAL absence of guilt, not a manufactured one. I am also willing to bet that even more selective eaters will happily chow down on a couple of things on this list.
Unsweetened banana chips dipped in nut butter or sunflower butter
Raw oats with cashews, a drizzle of honey, and a splash of milk (Also an excellent breakfast)
Good old air-popped popcorn. You can even put a little salt on it. Maybe even a drizzle of real butter. I won’t tell.
Yogurt with fruit — organic frozen berries keep the cost down, and when they’re thawed they make their own little juicy sauce for the yogurt,
Pretzel sticks (read the label) wrapped with slices of ham
Freeze-dried mango mixed with whole-grain cereal and raisins
Frozen chocolate-covered banana slices — once in a while, a little bit of chocolate on their fruit won’t hurt.
Veggie chips — kale, beet, and sweet potato are our favorites. You can make them at home for far less than it will cost to buy them in the store. We often season ours with garlic powder, salt, and paprika.
Whole-grain crackers or bread with “avocado butter” (puree the avocado with a splash of lemon juice, a sprinkle of salt, and a drizzle of olive oil to make it really smooth and creamy)
“Mango shakes” — L.’s new favorite breakfast/snack/dessert. Of course, you could do ANY smoothie, and even freeze them into popsicles if you’d like, but this one is a new winner in our house, so I’m sharing it.
Please. Please. If you ever see anyone you know reaching for the “WhoNu?” cookies at snacktime, hand them this list instead. Make them a Mango Shake, then sit them in a comfy chair next to a cool fan and stay with them until they’ve regained their senses. These “fortified” fantastical nutrition claims must come to a stop.
L.’s Mango Shakes
Makes 4 shakes
3 cups milk
2 very ripe bananas
2 cups frozen mango chunks
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon each ground cinnamon and cardamom
Combine all ingredients in a blender; blend until smooth and thick, adding more milk as needed. Serve immediately.