A few summers ago, we bought a boat. We share it with another family. It’s docked at a lake about 20 minutes from our house, and every weekend and any weeknight we can, we’re on the boat—swimming, skiing, wake boarding, tubing, hanging out. Our marina also has a beach with grills, picnic tables, a water slide, swing set, and sand that is plowed daily to keep it clean and fun for the kids to play in. Oh, and there are new bathrooms with marble countertops in a small building just beside the sand! Our only question is why we didn’t start doing this years ago. It’s a true delight for us all.
But my husband and I have one disagreement that mars this picture: should there be food allowed on the boat? He says no; I say yes. His protest is aesthetic; mine is practical. He is rightly concerned about crumbs and bugs and stains and making our lovely new boat appear like the inside of an unkempt minivan. He forbids eating in his own car and strictly enforces it.
But, for him, it’s also a “food issue”. He finds it repulsive—almost morally objectionable—to have food on one’s mind too frequently: “We’re on the boat to ski and swim. Why do we always have to be thinking about food?! Why can’t the kids survive for a few hours without eating or meals or snacks? What are we? Peasants from the old world shtetl, eating nonstop?” For him, planning ahead for snacks and such is a sign of either an eating disorder or impending weight problem. Plus, it’s disgusting—shoving food into one’s face everywhere one goes.
This is the same dispute we’ve been having for years about food, but I come at it from a wholly different angle. My mother always brought snacks along for my siblings and I wherever we went, be it to the park for the afternoon or on a flight down to Florida for vacation. She has food insecurities stemming from her childhood, in which both parents worked full-time and she faced bare cupboards when she got home to an empty house after school. She accepts her need to have easy access to food at all times, so she’ll always toss an apple and a bag of almonds or crackers into her purse when heading out, even if it’s just to run local errands. It’s primal with her. She’s not overweight or addicted to food; she just needs the security of knowing that food is there if she wants it. This same mentality leads her to cook enough food for 20 guests when she’s only entertaining ten. The feeling of abundance is important.
Having thankfully never lacked for food, I don’t share her insecurity, but I do think that there are valid reasons for keeping snacks on hand basically all the time. For kids, their tiny stomachs and level of activity requires frequent refueling. My kids get their 3 balanced daily meals, but snacks are very important: it prevents them from getting ravenous and overeating at mealtime, and it keeps their metabolism chugging along all day at the proper rate.
The same logic applies to adults as well. I have friends who try to maintain their figures by not eating all day, but guess what happens when the sun goes down? They’re famished and can’t leave the kitchen. Studies have repeatedly shown that small meals and grazing are far healthier and figure-friendly than sitting down to ginormous meals.
My husband is guilty of this. He eats very little throughout the day, but he’s standing around the kitchen once we’ve all gone upstairs, snacking on crackers, nuts, chips, ice cream, cereal, whatever he can get his hands on. And this is within an hour or so of finishing a balanced dinner. I don’t blame him—he needs more calories—but I think he’d feel better, and probably have an easier time maintaining his ideal weight, if he ate more moderately throughout the day.
There’s another reason other than being a “peasant girl” that I always choose to bring food along, rather than, say, pick something up wherever we happen to be when the kids’ hunger strikes: in today’s world, 90% of the time there will be nothing healthy on hand to buy. Picture for yourself the offerings at the local minimart, the snack aisle at the grocery store, or the countless fast food outlets you drive by everywhere. If your kids are starving, and these are your only choices, they need to eat, so you end up buying them chips, crackers, overly salted nuts, sweetened drinks–in short, processed junk.
With a little foresight, you come prepared with healthy choices. And when the kids are hungry enough, they eat it all: bags of cut-up vegggies with humus, guacamole, edamame, whole or dried fruit, wholegrain crackers with cheese, almond butter on grainy bread, and on and on. You should see the things my kids will eat on the boat when they’re hungry and there’s no junk to be had! And guess what? They enjoy it and acquire a taste for all sorts of healthy fare. My eldest son, and pickiest eater, recently devoured a bag of raw cauliflower after a strenuous wakeboarding ride. “Why didn’t you tell me cauliflower was so delicious?,” he exclaimed.
Point is, your kids are going to want snacks wherever you go. Why not offer them healthy foods that nourish their bodies and educate their palates? Meanwhile, guess who is, almost without exception, the first person to nudge me after we all get settled on an airplane, and laughingly, but in all seriousness, ask: “Hey, Peasant girl! What have you got for me?” Husbands!