The other day at the bus stop I was catching-up on some school gossip with my neighbor. She had done cafeteria duty at our elementary school and told me about one Kindergartner who brought a lunch consisting entirely of diet food: low calorie mini-cupcakes, low-calorie yogurt, everything she had was pacakged as “low-fat” and “diet”.
When the mom inquired about what she was eating, the little girl was able to describe the calorie-counts of each item: “these cupcakes only has 100 calories per-serving”.
Even if this little girl was overweight (which she’s not at all) is this the best lunch for her little growing body? What message is she being given about food and her own self-image?
Now I realize it’s very possible that her family’s lunch duties that day may have been frantic (picture dad in the pantry throwing whatever was handy into the Barbie lunchbox), or handed-over to a relative who’s an employee at Snackwell, or maybe this was only indicative of one meal out of her day and the rest are well-balanced and diet-lingo free.
But if this is not the case, then I wonder what is going on?
As a long-time editor at several woman’s magazines, I can tell you that many personal stories about eating disorders start with the writer describing a mother who was obsessed with fad diets—from grapefruit to South Beach—or put them on a diet at an early age.
And besides the concern about the message this child is getting about her own self-image, what about her missing out on all the nutrients and good fat (there is such a thing) that real food has to offer?
Yes, there is an epidemic of child obesity in this country and I’m all for portion control: I serve my family 2 % percent milk and 2% Greek yogurt and water down fruit juice when I serve it to them, so yes, I am thinking about sugar and fat content as well. But I have never given my kids a Snackwell product or a Lean Cuisine meal or a glass of Crystal Light. Have you? Would you?
I would love to hear your opinions on this!