It is not okay to just give your kids junk to eat because it is common practice.
So I’ll be real here, I catch heat from people about my views on stuff like this because it goes against the norm, but so what? I find my son’s behavior is very polite and manageable compared to the “sugared up” kids running around telling their parents to piss off (watch what happens at play places and playgrounds and listen to the language). I’m not claiming to be a better parent or to have all of the answers but a common quote among my colleagues in strength is “I’m not saying you are wrong, I just know I’m right.”
While there are plenty of articles that support my thoughts on things like juice and sugar people will still say “they are kids, they can eat whatever they want because they will burn it off”. While kids burning off junk may be true to some degree it is not my point. [Some articles about juice here and here and one on sugar addiction here.]
This post is not about the science behind energy expenditure and metabolic needs. Heck, this post isn’t even about weight management or quality of food necessarily. This post is about HABITS.
Obesity is a whole different series of blogs posts that will piss off a bunch of people I’m sure.
Habits? Yes habits. The habits we teach our children now will likely influence our children’s health in the future. For example, allowing a kid to eat whatever, whenever, may be setting them up for a host of problems both physically and socially as adults.
I argue that there is ABSOLUTELY NO NEED to give a child who cannot even speak yet, candies, chips and other forms of junk food. I had this discussion with some of my family members when my son was very little. They insisted that they should be able to give those “foods” to my son because they personally enjoyed them. I contended that until my kid was old enough to ask for a junky food there was no need to give it to him, especially if it was a food with next to ZERO nutritional value and had no meaningful reason to eat. In these situations I would suggest they gave the child some fruit (real fruit not hfcs fruit snacks) instead. If we teach our kids it is ok to shovel down sweets and fast food on the regular, physically it may eventually catch up to them in the form of cancer, obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes or a plethora of other fun stuff.
Carrying that attitude forward, our son doesn’t see my wife or I eat junky foods unless the occasion is special or the food is special. I LOVE ice cream (really it is a borderline obsession) but I will hold off eating cheap ice cream and opt for a homemade brand or variety or simply make it myself if I really want some or deserve some. By deserve some I mean immediately following a high volume of heavy weightlifting or rugby match. Basically the action is being mindful of food by appreciating what it is, what went into it and why we should enjoy the food at that time.
My son goes BONKERS to eat a treat he made with mom or dad but can skip a serving of cake without issue at a picnic. Sal is almost 3 and practices more self-control than I did just 3 years ago. (The pic to the left is the aftermath of no control.)
This is the social aspect. Not giving your children every single thing marketed to kids and teaching them mindfulness and restraint early in life will carry into adulthood with a higher likelihood of being healthier. ( Side note – why the F*@k is there a KIDS menu and why is it full of nutritiously void items? Why can’t they eat what we eat? My grandmother would put her foot up my dad’s ass if he wanted a “special meal”, guaranteed!)
While I’m referring specifically to mindfulness of food in this post, it applies in all areas of life as discussed here. Think about it. All to often in today’s America people expect things without working for them or having to endure a little before getting them. Don’t believe me? Ask a local teacher how many times a parent has asked to have a kid’s grade changed because the kid didn’t do the required work and the parent wanted to “cut the kid a break.”
I can say this attitude of food mindfulness has carried into our son and he knows things like cookies, cake and ice cream and candy are special treats only to be eaten on occasion. I’m not saying my son doesn’t test the water and push for stuff when around “softer hearted” family members who keep bowls of M&Ms laying around; because he does like ALL kids do. I even count homemade candies (we make our own chocolates and popsicles too) as “special” but still do not eat them frequently. Just the act of making these foods as an activity imparts a sense of being special because we spent time TOGETHER making them and didn’t simply rip open a bag or box and shove food into our faces. Kind of like my family sausage day. This works for parents AND kids. I REALLY relish a quality bowl of handmade ice cream with homemade chocolate chips FAR more than any run of the mill froyo or whatever other sugar and chemical slop places serve these days.
Give this a shot. Be mindful of your food and what you give to your kids but start with yourself and try to be the example. Take the time to appreciate what you are eating and actually think about what you are eating and why. Don’t just eat the food because it is there. You will uncover a lot of things about yourself and you will be developing great habits you can pass on to your family and kids.