I had all sorts of ideas for the blog this week, but they were derailed by food. The best laid plans of mice and…cooks. Last week I attended a lecture given by a Pediatric Gastroenterologist covering pediatric obesity and nutrition. As much as I think I know about food, there is just ALWAYS something more to learn.
First, and while I knew this to be true, it was harsh to see in numbers: America got fat really fast…like REALLY fast, but kids got fat even faster. We’re all aware that the low-fat movement of the 80′s turned America to processed carbs, which is killing us, but what I didn’t realize is that childhood obesity went from under 5% to over 30% in a matter of 20 years. That’s not evolution: that’s environment.
Our speaker was very personable and funny. But as someone who sees the worst of childhood obesity and its corresponding disorders, he was quite matter-of-fact about…well…the facts. Kids should just not drink juice, especially toddlers. He would love to see sippy cups disappear. We should be eating at home, and when the issue of chocolate milk came up, he was quite clear: he used the words “mind-boggling amount of sugar”, and “it’s pure sugar”.
I’ve always struggled with the sugar that flies through America at the speed of light. It’s not ONE thing. It’s the Mom who lovingly packs a Hershey Kiss in the lunch, the kid who chucks the water for the chocolate milk, eats the Kiss and the cupcake someone brought in for their birthday, and then gets a tiny candy bar for turning in their 10th optional Math worksheet, and then it’s Friday, so to celebrate the weekend Mommy (who has no idea about the cupcake, the candy bar, or the chocolate milk) takes everyone out for a cookie…
IT ADDS UP.
This Mom (she looks like me) thinks her child ingested 4 tsps of refined sugar by nightfall. Oops…she ingested closer to 14. That’s not including a shot of morning OJ, lemonade with Friday night pizza, or any added sugar in the girls’ yogurt, bread, granola, cereals, and jam on the Sunbutter & Jam sandwich. Let’s add that up, because what’s more fun than Lori Math?
My daughter’s diet of mostly organic, whole foods included: 21 teaspoons of sugar on ONE DAY. In my head, she ate scrambled eggs, a piece of wheat toast with honey, yogurt with fruit and granola, OJ, water, sunbutter and jam, broccoli, a clementine, another small yogurt, a Hershey Kiss, water again (and hopefully a few sips of the organic white milk I packed), a cookie, more water, cheese pizza, a breadstick, and a small lemonade. And she did eat those things…along with 7 full tablespoons of sugar.
And here’s the rub: I’m very pro-cookies on Fridays. I love hanging out at Illinois Food Emporium and hearing the girls rattle on about this and that, even if it’s just once a month. I love kids bringing in treats on their birthdays. I’m not even totally against the occasional treat to celebrate an accomplishment (although I’m aware there’s a world of research against it).
What I can’t tolerate is the MINDLESSNESS of it all. The lack of planning. The wild bandying about of sugar, without thought or intention. We should take our treats, acknowledge it’s the special moment (not momentS) of the day, and take the time to enjoy it. We should work as a coordinated community to say YES, there will be celebrations. There will be cupcakes. There will be holidays and parties. But it will be done with full disclosure so a family can plan and adjust, creating a daily menu which is not…well? Neurotoxic. I’m not free of guilt here. I bought the cookie, poured the OJ, OK’d the lemonade, and packed the Hershey Kiss. And on birthdays? I’m Mrs. Sugar Coated Sugar With Sugar Filling.
Kelly’s half birthday was last week. She was disappointed, though she reserved her thoughts for herself…a real first. She wanted heart cookies, and made the small (and they were quite small) cookies above. I wrote the entire class in advance. Resetting expectations will take some time, as I’m sure when Kelly requested “heart cookies” she imagined I’d make something as big as her head. But you know what? I just couldn’t in good conscious.
The first step is admission of guilt. So here I go: I have a sneaking suspicion my kids, after years of their Mom studying and researching food, are still eating too much sugar. What are your thoughts about kids in America, the sugar they ingest, the community giving it to them, and the way it adds up? What role should our school’s play in notifying us about what they feed our children? How lax should we be about a community giving our kids food we’d never put on our own pantries? And for those of you with younger children, remember: someday they will be 7 and they will have thoughts of their own, especially about fitting in with their peers.
Grab some coffee and let’s chat about this!!!