While sitting in on “The Good Food Factory”cooking class, at The Center For Healthy Lifestyle in Solana Beach, CA, we had the good fortune of striking up a conversation with Carrie Chacon, Certified Clinical Nutritionist. Carrie is the creator of S.N.A.C cards, an innovative new system that helps teach kid’s about the foods they eat, and how different foods fuel their bodies. We thought this was a great idea, and wanted to know more about S.N.A.C cards. Below is an interview with Carrie Chacon, explaining what S.N.A.C.ing is all about.
Q: What are S.N.A.C. cards, how do they work?
A: S.N.A.C. cards are a fun and engaging way to teach nutrition to kids. Designed to educate kids on healthy eating using a language they understand, S.N.A.C. uses visual, audible and sensory methods.
In doing so lessons learned will ‘stick’ and recall of concepts is quicker. This makes S.N.A.C. a fun and educational “game” children enjoy. Each S.N.A.C. card has nutritional information and suggested serving size, along with a bonus meal or snack ideas.
A great way to use S.N.A.C. is in meal preparation. I will pull out a Muscle, Brain and Mover Food card (code for protein, carbohydrate and fat) put them on the counter and talk with my kids as we cook. In the past I would feel overwhelmed as I cooked, I would worry about balancing my kid’s meals, feeding them too much or not enough; but now we have a starting point and we can modify food if the kids need to play soccer, take a test or anything else that may need more nutrition. Austin and Isabella (my little pumpkins) find it so funny that they can feed their eyes with carrots, their bones with black beans, their cells with eggs.. well I could go on and on.. We have a lot of cards!
At snack time the kids will pull a Muscle card, Brain card or Mover card, and if we have the food they know it’s ok. And they have learned by the visual aids how much to start with. I seldom have to say ‘get something healthy’ because they have learned what their bodies need and how to measure a serving size.
Q: What inspired you to create S.N.A.C. cards?
A: My Kids!
I started S.N.A.C. with a simple desire to change how my kids thought about food. I wanted them to understand that food does not make you right or wrong, good or bad. Food is something that nourishes your body. Food can be such a touchy thing for many people. We are constantly being told that making a healthy choice means we are good and strong, and choosing an unhealthy food means we are bad and weak. When really we are not either of those, we are simply feeding our bodies, and the real choice is “What do I want from my food today?” I want to play all day with kids? Feed those muscles, feed the brain, and the move it around. I want to finish up my filing or be spot on for work? Pile on the Brain Food with something to get it moving, along with Muscle Food to keep your body alert. And yes, we know there are days when we want to sit and enjoy our food slowly and lavishly. Dark chocolate with a glass of wine anyone? Wait, S.N.A.C. is about the kids! But look what we can learn as well.
I wanted my kids to love the body they have. My son is shaped very different than my daughter. Each of them are amazing and beautiful in their own way and in their own body. With S.N.A.C. the focus is on fueling their body and mind, not on being right or wrong. That empowerment has flourished in so many other parts of their life too. They are comfortable and confident in who they are because they have been given the power to make choices for themselves.
Q: How do you hope S.N.A.C. cards will be implemented?
A: S.N.A.C. can easily augment any nutritional program in schools, hospitals, YMCA’s, after school programs and more. Because S.N.A.C. talks about the benefits of whole, natural foods, implementing our information and programs can bring programs into compliance for most nutritional recommendations. Strict diets that require vigilance can also use S.N.A.C. since all they would have to do is use the appropriate card, or custom make a S.N.A.C. pack. The support S.N.A.C. can offer is so wide and endless.
As a family we use S.N.A.C. in many different ways. For meal preparation, for snack choosing, for grocery shopping, and even as a ‘flashcard’ game.
My kids love to see if they can remember which food goes with which character. For instance, instead of presenting food groups as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, S.N.A.C. categorizes foods as Brain, Muscle, and Mover Foods. Each of the three Master Cards (Muscle, Brain, Mover) includes a list of healthy foods for each group, their nutritional content, and easily understood information about the food’s function in the body. They also contain helpful, visual aids to help determine portion size.
S.N.A.C. Is a simple tool to help parents instill healthy eating habits early for their kids, which will stick with them for a lifetime.
Q: What age demographic are S.N.A.C. cards targeted towards?
A: S.N.A.C is designed for kids from as early as 6 months to 12 years.
S.N.A.C. can be used as soon as kids are eating solid food. The information on the cards is a great way to communicate about food and teach kids the nutritious value of a variety of foods. My sister reads the back of the cards to her 5 year old and her 10 year old reads them himself. My cousin gives her 3 year old the banana card while he is eating a banana, all the while pointing to his muscles and talking about how it is helping him so he can jump!
Q: Do you see potential for developing S.N.A.C. card sets that specifically target an age range (for example: Ages 0-3/age:4-6 /age:7-10 /age:10-13)?
A: Absolutely! There are many groups that need specialized cards including diabetics, vegetarians, girls, boys, athletes, etc. They all face different nutritional challenges and concerns; so a specialized pack for each will be developed.
S.N.A.C. will be able to grow in every direction possible, driven hand-in-hand with by our community of S.N.A.Cers.
Q: At what age do you think children should become actively involved in their personal health and diet, and to what degree?
A: I feel that at an early age kids should always know what they are eating. By letting kids know what they are eating from the 1st bite of solid food their involvement in nutrition begins. If veggies are constantly hidden in food kids will never know they like those foods. So they might eat them if they are disguised but what happens when they aren’t? When kids are aware of the power of food they are more apt to choose healthier foods.
My son was given more nutritional responsibility this year; at 9 he understood it was best to eat a breakfast of Muscle, Brain and Mover Food. He began to see a difference in many areas of his day. At school he stayed focused until recess, while before he was hungry an hour after he ate. He was up and focused at his early-morning baseball games, allowing for better play in the field and energetic support of his teammates. These situations reinforced to Austin that fueling his body up leads to just plain old feeling good. Oh, and some pretty good hits!
Q: In general, how do children respond to S.N.A.C. cards?
A: Kids love to talk about what they eat and they love to tell you the worst thing they ate! They love to tell you they can eat a whole pizza, 5 pieces of cake and 3 sodas. Then we talk about S.N.A.C. and I pull out my handy dandy Sludge Card! And talk about the crowd going wild. Sludge represents “overindulgence”, “too much”, “feeling yucky”. Sludge does not talk about specific foods or food groups. And because of that kids don’t feel threatened at all when we touch on the subject of foods that make you feel sludgy.
And they get it! They get that Muscle Foods feed your muscles and if you’re going to play soccer you need to feed your muscles! Brain Foods will help with your spelling test! Done. They get that all 3 groups work together and are important to each other.
When I present in classrooms, teachers will tell me many months later that everyday at least 1 student if not more will talk in S.N.A.C. Terms. The teachers quickly capitalized on that by rolling it right into curriculum.
Q: Are S.N.A.C. cards something you foresee eventually being used as part of classroom curriculum?
A: Speaking of curriculum…Yes! S.N.A.C. easily translates into curriculum that can be integrated right into teacher’s lesson plans. I work with educators to develop worksheets for grades K-5. The worksheets can be used in all curriculum, reading, writing, arithmetic, geography and more. There are crossword puzzles, word searches, and food addition, along with grade-specific projects. Included in the curriculum package is a number of S.N.A.C. packs, posters for the cafeteria and special event help.
A big benefit to schools using a nutritional program is the access to grants that opens up. Budget cuts have hit schools hard and grants are a fantastic way to find extra funds. S.N.A.C. has grant writers available to assist schools as well.
Q: What have been some of your obstacles in bringing S.N.A.C. cards to the public?
A: Exposure has been a big obstacle. I can shout from the mountain tops about nutrition, but without key support from schools, hospitals and especially families, it’s difficult to break through the noise.
On a much more personal level, not exposure of the product but of myself. S.N.A.C. comes from my heart and putting it out there for people to see and judge has been a HUGE challenge for me. Every step of S.N.A.C. pushes me outside my comfort zone, yet every time I hear a child talk about S.N.A.C. , I build more confidence and then I’m take on something a little bigger.
Q: How can people who share your vision help bring S.N.A.C. cards to the publics attention?
A: Talk about S.N.A.C. to everyone! There is a great core group in our S.N.A.C. family and we all believe that S.N.A.C. embodies a way of life, a joy of life and the importance of family. But we need our S.N.A.C. family to grow, because the more people talking about S.N.A.C. and using the cards with their kids, the easier it is to spread the word.
Fan us on Facebook, ask your school to contact us, or just talk to us! We’re happy to help answer anything we can about S.N.A.C or child nutrition.
Q: How much do S.N.A.C. cards cost and where can you get them?
A: S.N.A.C. can be purchased at www.snaccards.com for only $19.95. Our site is a fun way to keep up on snack ideas, meal suggestions, recipes and nutritional motivation for a busy life.
Q: Is there anything else you would like people to know about S.N.A.C. cards?
A: S.N.A.C. came from a place of love, a love of food! And from compassion for today’s busy families, hope for our planet, excitement to educate people about food.
I envisioned families sitting together talking over the meals that were prepared together and catching up on their day. Our kids have been provided a solid and safe foundation to find their voice and discover trust in their decisions using S.N.A.C as a foundation for decision making and empowerment. All these things lead to higher self-esteem and self-confidence, which lays the groundwork for the rest of their lives.
Life is good, we have to enjoy it and celebrate each other! Over a S.N.A.C. Card!!