I’ve been ruminating on this post for a couple of weeks, and while (ironically) today actually IS my birthday, it’s likely not yours.
A few weeks ago, I was standing on a softball field watching my 12-year old daughter’s team have a quick break. It was a double header, so some of the moms and kids brought snacks to share. Out came the trays of brownies and cupcakes. I felt powerless. It wasn’t someone’s birthday. It was just a regular Saturday.
I don’t have an issue with folks eating these types of food on special occasions, but we have more than 1/2 of Americans overweight or obese, and nearly 1/2 have diabetes or prediabetes. Type 2 diabetes is expected to increase 54% between now and 2030…
WE HAVE A SERIOUS PROBLEM.
Sugary foods like candy, cookies, brownies, cupcakes and muffins (which are basically cake, folks) are normalized in American child culture. Lollipops are handed out at my bank. Ice cream and popsicle socials, bake sales, and birthday parties at school only increase our cultural acceptance of the poison. And while I have no problem with the occasional treat, as a dietitian and mother I feel the need to say something.
I see moms baking sugary treats with their kids as an afternoon “bonding” activity. I see my daughter going to a friend’s house and baking junk as their activity. Cupcake culture seems to be particularly prevalent in “girl culture.” I am not seeing boys baking brownies for each other on the baseball field, but it’s completely acceptable for girls to bring a tray of baked goods for their friends to the softball field.
Why do I feel like I’m the only mom who is outraged?
Parents: it’s not appropriate to bring junk like this to sports games or to school. We’ve got an epidemic of overweight and obese kids who are on their way to type 2 diabetes. Please stop normalizing the eating of junk food. And if you make it at home, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better than something in a box. Kids need protein and fat for healthy bodies and brains, not empty carbohydrates in the form of muffins, cookies, brownies, banana bread.
Telling yourself, or our youth that “a little bite won’t hurt” or “everything in moderation” is fine is the wrong message. Our overconsumption of hyper-palatable, ultra-processed foods (that includes junk you bake in your home oven) is incredibly harmful to human health. Our inability to accept that overweight and diabetic people (more than half of our population) should not eat processed carbohydrates is a major issue in our culture. Even health food magazines want to gloss over this issue, glamorizing waffles dripping with syrup on the cover. This probably sells a lot of magazines, but does little to really sell a truly healthy lifestyle to people who desperately need this information.
Again, if it’s your birthday, a holiday, or other special occasion, great. Celebrate! But let’s shift away from eating this stuff on a regular basis, and let’s teach our kids that these foods are not a daily indulgence. What happened to orange slices or apples as a snack?
My kids love PaleoValley meat sticks and Epic snack strips (my son especially loves the salmon one), and Epic jerky bites. Other ideas include hard boiled eggs, carrots, nuts, seaweed snacks, or some leftover sausages from breakfast. And speaking of breakfast, if you start their day with a high protein and fat breakfast like sausages, eggs and bacon, they’re much less likely to need to snack. Breakfast cereal, pancakes, muffins, bagels and oatmeal are simply going to spike their blood sugar and lead to a mid-game energy crash. And let’s move away from thinking sports drinks and fruit juices are a good thing. Kids need water, not more sugar.
But wait, when you restrict foods, aren’t you going to cause an eating disorder? The answer is no, eating disorders are a mental illness and are not caused by eating healthy food. My kids have a really healthy relationship with food. They understand which foods are treats and which foods are better choices for daily living. We eat pretty well when we’re at home and they are free to make their choices when they’re on their own.
For those looking for a great resource to learn more about feeding their kids, check out my friends at Clovis Kids.
Building better bonding sessions: Instead of baking unhealthy food with your kids as your Sunday afternoon activity, here are some suggestions on how to bond without sugar:
You get the idea. Ok, rant over. Have a great day.