Nope. The teacher served up an array of healthier snacks, from bottled water to grapes. Not a cupcake or Twinkie to be had. Typical, I muttered. Our PC mindset scrubs simple pleasures like cupcakes from our children’s lives. And mine.
This week, my sister-in-law forwarded me a blog post on the subject.
… we live in a 24/7 food culture that feeds kids at every opportunity, a culture that uses food for everything from reward to distraction. When every event is a “celebration,” when every treat is “special,” it’s impossible to keep framing junk as an occasional indulgence. It is never — not ever — “just one” anything anymore.
That caught my attention. This, however, stopped me cold.
In 10 years of being “that mom” — the one who organizes junk-free class parties, who pushes for healthier camp snacks, who speaks up not only for my kid but for all kids — I have never seen a child protest. Not in any grand you’re-killing-my-childhood kind of way, at least. For kids, the food is secondary to the fun.
I suddenly felt very guilty about my cupcake craving. Then I got defensive. Our culture no longer allows us to use certain words (like “bossy“). Sports team monikers are under assault. And even a simple cupcake at a child’s party is under the microscope. Is it any wonder parents like myself are a little jumpy on this subject?
I understand the need for good nutrition, especially given how many times our children are targeted by junk food. Commercials. Impulse buy racks at the checkout aisle. Movie theater concession stands. The ballpark. We’re still scrubbing that cotton candy dye from my son’s hands from last season.
There simply must be a balance, though, and I suspect balance is not what some parents have in mind. The blogger listed above mentioned that she wasn’t just fighting for “her” kids but “for all kids.”
Our children should be equipped to deal with temptations and to understand the difference between a slice of birthday cake and a hearty, nutritious meal. Banning certain foods may be just as ineffective as banning a word like “bossy.”
Perhaps the best way a school teacher can approach the junk food topic is to deal with it head on. Talk about the reasons why the treats are yummy, and then why those very same goodies can rot your teeth in larger quantities. Parents, in turn, can make cupcakes with better ingredients, teaching students that even savory snacks can be made without relying on processed ingredients or other questionable food items.
That empowers the child to know the stakes with every bite and gives them insight into what ingredients go into the food they eat every day. That’s good not just for my child but for all kids …
And then I sent all of the above to one of the smartest folks I know, a mom who takes nutrition very seriously. Here’s her response:
Your preschool is an anomaly. Most, including my kids, foist junk on them at every opportunity! The ‘snack’ is something like cookies, Goldfish (total processed crap), and at least once a week they are handed a ginormous muffin (the equivalent of a cupcake) or a cupcake.
It’s not a matter of being PC, it’s a matter of promoting healthy habits. I have NEVER heard a teacher talk about ‘balance’ with a kid – for instance, if we’re having cupcakes, then we’re serving water instead of sugary juice boxes…
And take things like soccer… Around here, there’s a signup sheet for snack for soccer. For preschoolers!!! Really? They don’t NEED a snack after soccer! If you want to give your kid a snack, go for it. But please let’s not feel the need to all sit together and eat garbage. That snack is almost never an orange – it’s a brownie! So you got a little exercise… now it’s time to eat some crap. It’s just the wrong message. And we’re talking about 40 and 50 pounders being handed treats that are larger than I would eat. Again, portion distortion is an issue.
And you have to look at the overall picture. Just about every day there’s some kind of junk temptation … a birthday party (cake), snacks in preschool (most schools are garbage), the cafeteria line at school (while there are some healthier choices there’s still lots of junk), and every place I go – from shoe stores to the bank – someone is handing my kid a sugary lollipop.
Even our local library story time hands out junky snacks at the end!!! In the LIBRARY! Come on. So I love to take my kids out for treats… ice cream, for instance. They eat a small piece of dark chocolate with me several times a week. But it’s to the point that I feel I have to carefully think about when we have those treats because some days they’ve already kind of exceeded their saturated fat and sugar needs for the day! Again, it’s about balance. Not every day is Christmas or their birthday. And truly, most American diets suck. Ask a doctor.
Confused? Me, too. My education on nutrition and culture is just beginning frankly, but I’d love to hear your take on the issue …
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