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Feeding Our Kids Junk Food: Im Part of the Problem

junkfood for kidsSince I’m a dietitian, my husband is understandably nervous about what I’m going to put my son through when it comes to allowing him to have junk. When his first birthday rolled around and I adamantly opposed giving him a sugar-laden birthday cake, he thought his fears were coming true. He’s terrified that I’m not going to allow our son to have any junk food, meaning he’ll go absolutely crazy when anybody else gives him some. (For the record, I’m not going to forbid junk food, but you certainly won’t find my pantry stocked with the like.) Since I’ve yet to give my son sugar that’s not in fruit form, you’ve bet I’ve heard plenty of “but it’s just one cookie” statements.

The thing is, it’s not just one. It’s just one cookie and one cupcake and one scoop of ice cream and one bag of jellybeans. Then it’s just one bag of Cheetos and one plate of nachos and one fried Twinkie. That’s a whole lot of junk, especially for one tiny tummy. I found myself shaking my head vigorously in agreement with this mom’s article about offering our kids junk food. Her estimate of her daughter being offered at least 600 extra calories a week in the form of sugar (not given at home) is appalling and rather frightening.

As I shook my head in disgust, I suddenly had to stop. I thought about the recent get-togethers I’ve attended. The peanut butter cookies I’ve brought. I thought about the “thank you” cupcakes I took to my son’s preschool. My son’s preschool. I brought the sugar. Granted it wasn’t for the kids, but what message am I sending? By gifting treats I’m only contributing to the problem. We know sugar plays a huge role in childhood obesity, yet here I am just escalating the problem. If I as a dietitian can’t stand up and say, “hey healthy things are good too”, then who’s going to do it? I’ve avoided bringing veggie trays or granola bars because I don’t want to be that mom. Honestly, it’s a lot easier and cheaper to whip up some cookies or slice a roll of cookie dough, but a little extra effort shouldn’t be the reason I’m not providing better options. How can I expect my son to make healthy decisions on his own when I’m sending the message that cookies and cupcakes are the only things that are “fun” to bring to parties and school.

So friends, next time I bring a fruit salad to a party, don’t give me the evil eye. I’m just trying to get out of the habit of only bring sugary and junky treats before my son catches on.

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