Between 1977 and 2002, the percent of the American populationeating three or more snacks a day increased to 42 percent from 11 percent, according to a large study of American nutritional habits conducted by the Agriculture Department with the Department of Health and Human Services.

Snacks at school, snacks at home, snacks after sports. Dumb, dumb, and dumber:

Once a week, Vivian Zachary’s 6-year-old son, Joel, goes dashing for the vending machine at the gym after his gymnastics class ends at 5 p.m. “Last week it was a Fruit Roll-Up and a can of 7Up,” Ms. Zachary wrote in an e-mail message. “I’m not sure why I let this go on, and I often think that if I were a better parent, or at least more able to tolerate incessant complaining, I would let him buy the snacks but not actually consume them until after dinner. But I have already established the pattern (the ‘rule’ in Joel’s mind), so there’s no going back now.”

Nope, there's no going back—and it would be so much better for little Joel if he had that can of corn syrup and that a sugar-bomb after dinner, not before.