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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why Do We Give Kids Foods We Know Are Bad for Our Own Struggling Selves?

With the holiday season in full swing, I've been a bit concerned about how entrenched unhealthful foods are part of the gift-giving tradition. Fatty cakes. Butter-laden cookies. Sugary treats in huge portions in pretty cans and jars and boxes.

As people fighting the fight against fat, we know that cookies, candies, and cakes are things that ought to be RARE treats (or, in the cases of those with bad triggers, banned altogether or modified significantly into less-dangerous versions).

But what do I see, including from women and men as big as I am (or bigger)? People with kids...

They stuff them with candy, cookies and cakes. Not just once week or once a month, but regularly. And moreso in this holiday time.

With childhood obesity a major health concern (some call it an epidemic) in the US (and other nations), we really need to take a look at this. A good hard no-excuses sort of look.

Imagine if we had grown up with our parents more disciplined about what cereal we ate in the morning (no KABOOM or Cap'n Crunch, but whole grain and no sugar--fruit instead?). Imagine if a candy bar or pack of animal crackers was a special weekend treat, and not a regular afterschool yumsy, if the daily treat was apples and oranges and carrots with hummus or celery with Laughing Cow light or a whole grain role with peanut butter. Imagine if our parents stocked the pantry with stuff that was clean, nutritious, no to low-sugar, high fiber, and fresh.

Would we be where we are?

Maybe. :)

But I think we train kids to like what they like. I love fruit because my parents loved fruit and had plenty of it around and made smoothies before smoothies were a commonly enjoyed commodity around town. They used olive oil and vinegar, not bottled dressings. They offered us beans almost daily, so we were all bathroom regular.

But I was the one who grew up from age 2 in this country, so I got the junk cereals that were mostly sugar and refined grains. I got candy bars after school. Sno-cones daily in summer. Pocket money for potato chips and other crap.

Of all my siblings, I am the ONLY one who got superobese (or even obese, for that matter). My brothers and sisters, who grew up in another country, much more physically active and eating more natural foods and much less junk--they didn't develop the crazy food relationship I did. They didn't grow up with junk food commercials on television sending them off into cravings for Milky Ways and pizza and burgers and fries and Starburst and cupcakes and whatnot.

So, when I see someone, especially a parent with weight issues, struggling, on diets, struggling to lose, that same parent buy candy and cupcakes and sugary cereals for their kids, I wonder about the dissonance. Why give them the taste habits and food issues we have? Why not hand them pears and grape tomatoes and mango slices and low-fat string cheese and almonds and raspberries? Why not end the crazy food cycle NOW?

I've begged a particular family member not to inflict our curse on her own kids. She and I are both obese. She has two kids who are currently normal weight. When I see the kids fed crap, it hurts. When I see kids catered to (ie, they don't want to eat the wholesome fair, and just pick at, say, white bread and then rush to eat a handful of candy), I want to cry.

In 20 or 30 years, they'll be where we are. Oversized and health-impaired.

It frightens me, and I don't even have kids.

I, both my nieces and both my nephews are overweight to obese. (Three of us obese, one overweight.) Five out of five of us born in the sixties and seventies in the immediate family--all too big. I don't want the next generation to have this curse. I want them to radiate good health and love good, clean food and be active and be happy and live vibrantly.

If it's not good for us to eat, big as we are, then it's not good for kids to eat, especially in their formative years, when they need the BEST nutrition to build bones and spare teeth from decay and develop the strongest neuromuscular system.

Junk ain't for us. But junk ain't for kids, either.

Why do we not see that?

Maybe it's long past time to tax the hell out of junk foods and treats. How many cupcakes will a kid buy if they're 5 bucks each? How many candy bars if one uses up their whole allowance? I'd rather tax crap that does nothing for one's wellbeing and use that money to subsidize fruit and veggies, so they're more affordable for a family's budget.

I am vowing not to buy junk for the kids in my family anymore. (This will be sooo hard. Habits die hard.) And I'm gonna work hard to break the holiday junk-food giving tradition. I'll find alternatives--sugarless, low-fat, or just plain better treats--like dark chocolate (I've tasted excellent sugar-free varieties) or dried fruit or nuts.

I want the people I love to be healthy and live a long, long time. And I want to be healthy and live longer, too, so I can enjoy their company for years and years.



Emma said...

Hi, i love your blog so very much. It's just wonderful. Hey i started a blog on Look Younger Live Longer and i was wondering if you could exchange links with me.

Squishy ! said...

I was SO right there with you, right up until you mentioned taxing cupcakes and the like. I just can't overlook the fact that at least here in America, the government wasn't design to parent each of us. Provide us with protection and daily secure our freedom- certainly! There is no freedom in trying to tax foods out of someone's diet though. It also doesn't make any of us, children or adults, more responsible for our actions.

:o )

Lyn said...

The hard thing (in my experience) is that children are PRIMED to love sweets. And even if we don't give them any, they will have a cookie at the neighbor's, a candy at school, a cupcake at a friend's birthday party. And once they taste the sugar, watch out. Even a 2 year old usually will want more.

With my kids, once they went to school all bets were off. They got so much junk (fried foods in school lunches, candy from friends) and then came home and no longer wanted wheat bread or celery sticks. They do still enjoy fruit, and eat salads with dinner and such, but they'd much rather have a hot dog at a baseball game or a bag of Cheetos.

We live near a 7-11 which compounds the issue: all the teenagers walk there (and to McDonald's) after school for snacks. Even fi my kids don't use their allowance for that, their friends share with them.

All I can do it make it, like you said, an occasional special treat in our house. I bought my kids candy bars for their Christmas stockings, and I am quite sure that the last time I bought any of them a candy bar was last Easter!

Thanks for the interesting post :)

atara said...

OK, I'm just curious because I have a 3 month old. If I never bring the junk in the house, will he still want it? In other words, do they just get used to eating it? Is that it?