Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Taking My Cake and Eating It Too!

Yesterday at work we got into a really good discussion about sugary foods and parenting. The office I work in is a nice mixture of women aging from early 20's to mid 40’s with some being moms and some not. The conversations started with the topic of foods that we crave (the top office picks were chocolate, pop and salty snacks) and then moved into parenting and allowing kids to have sweet treats.

The one woman working yesterday who was the only mom in the group said that she would get offended when other parents would try to stop her kid from getting sweets. The example she gave was on pizza day at her kid’s school. I guess on pizza day they would also get donuts, but some of the parents didn’t want the kids to have both pizza and donuts so they were trying to boycott them. The woman I work with was against the boycott because, 1) Pizza/donut day only happened once every 2 months so what’s the big deal?, and 2) Why should other moms be in charge of what her kid got to eat?

The nutrition dork in me completely understands a parent’s desire to try to control what their kid is eating at school and I get the desire to take away the donuts. But then I think back to pizza and hot dog day at school when I was a kid and how much I loved that special day. It didn’t happen often and it was such a fantastic treat to get a hot dog with multiple glasses of that atrocious (yet delicious) orange drink that always got paired with the meal. As a kid we look forward to those special days so much, so yeah, now I get my coworker’s point of view as well. Let them eat donuts! Is one (or 2) donuts going to cause those children to become overweight and destroy their health for the rest of their lives? No, not at all.

My other coworker who is 22 years old, had her own experiences about the subject which holds true to all of the health research out there. Growing up, her household was very restrictive when it came to any kind of treats and to this day she still has binging issues with those kinds of foods. Since these foods were such a taboo for her when she was a child, whenever she was able to get her hands on them she couldn’t control the amount that she ate. Not knowing the next time that she would get the chance to eat the chocolate, donut or potato chips, she felt the need to consume as much as she could when the opportunity came about. I felt sad when she talked about Halloween! Her family would make her throw away her Halloween candy the day after Halloween! I would have been devastated if my parents would have done that to me. All that work of walking around in the freezing cold, yelling at strangers to give me free candy – for nothing!!!

I think that making a child eat too healthy all of the time can be very strenuous on the child and I can’t image ever growing up in a household like that. Being focused on always eating healthy food would inhibit the joy and carefree life of a child (not to mention a grown up as well) and could create an unhealthy relationship with food. I think that yes, candy and sweets should be limited to a certain degree but forbidding them in the home is not an ideal situation. Think about how you feel when you go on a diet. While you’re munching away on your salad and steamed fish, you’re constantly thinking about what you’d really rather be eating. 99.99% of the time it’s the mental game of dieting that kicks us off the wagon and it’s because we are too restrictive when we do these diets. You have to allow yourself something unhealthy to keep the balance or else you’ll go mad and devour a bag of Doritos before you’ve had a chance to wipe the faux-cheese from your fingers. We’ve all done it.

Now put yourself in the shoes of a little kid who doesn’t need to be on a diet. You’re basically forcing your kids on a junk food mental diet from the very beginning of their lives. Making something taboo is just going to ignite the need to explore it. Telling a kid not to ever touch a glass vase is going to result with a vase covered in tiny finger prints. It’s inevitable. Kids need some freedom of choice and balance in their eating behaviours or else they’re going to take every opportunity they can to go against how they’re forced to eat at home.

So once again I need to stop and thank my parents for letting me eat cake, candy, cookies, chips, pizza and hot dogs. I don’t remember ever having any kind of forbidden foods around the house and we always got some kind of sweet packed into our school lunches. However, there was always an apple or banana in there too. Whether or not we ate it was our choice…but at least the option was there. 

1 comment:

  1. People always ask me in amazement how I get my kids to eat veggies. It's really not that hard. Serve them veggies! If you give a kid choices- both healthy foods and yummy junk food- they seem to create their own sense of balance between the two. Completely cutting out one or the other is when you run into issues. Moderation and enjoyment!