Healthy foods taking on the guise of junk foods seems to be a trend these days. First baby carrots got wrapped in chip packaging and are being sold in school vending machines. Now plain old H2O is filling slick plastic bottles with bright neon colors so that kids will think arecool. (Yeah, cuz grown-ups are so above clever branding. Ahem.)
Peter H. Gleick, founder of the Pacific Institute, has written an expose on the bottled water industry for the Huffington Post, and in it he claims bottled water is being marketed to kids “through an advertising campaign masquerading as a “health” program.” He says Wat-aah! brand bottled water is “being pushed as an anti-obesity alternative” with it’s tagline “Healthy Hydration in the Nation.” It’s true that schools are trying to cut down on the availability of high-calorie drinks like soda and chocolate milk, but at what expense? Gleick says tap water is “far, far cheaper and equally clean” as bottled water, and notes that as a nation, despite Mrs. Obama’s and Jamie Oliver’s best efforts, “we’re NOT drinking less soda and sugar — we’re drinking less tap water and MORE bottled water and soda.”
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Florida’s Board of Education has “agreed to move forward on a plan to eliminate sugary beverages and make Florida the first state in the nation to ban chocolate milk in public schools.” Elementary and middle schools would “cut out most beverages besides water, pure juice and white, low-fat milk to help fight childhood obesity,” but “high schools would be allowed to sell some types of diet sodas and some other low-calorie, low-sugar drinks.”
Board member Susan Story makes an excellent point when she says, “Students take in hundreds of additional calories through snacks — chips and ice cream, for example — that are sold in schools.” Is a comprehensive ban on junk food underway in schools across the nation? Members of Congress have proposed funding for vegetarian lunches… why not stop selling Nutty Buddies, too?
Here’s the thing: it’s not that ice cream and chips are flat out bad for us; it’s that processed foods are bad for us. I’m not saying you should eat all natural tortilla chips and Hagen-Daz Five every day (tho seriously… you need to try Hagen-Daz Five OMG so gooooood!). But you shouldn’t eat Doritos ever. My generation has been neck-deep in a processed food culture since we were born. I don’t care if you’re a staunch vegan now – if you’re in your 30’s, there’s a good chance you have fond memories of licking your orange, fake-cheese-powdered-covered fingers after housing a bag of Doritos/BBQ Fritos/Cheetos as a kid. I loved the stuff! And I still do – but I almost never eat it. (Almost. I did cave once this summer when I was in a gas station and the Doritos munchie mix just called out to me. But I drank a Vitamin Water with it, so, you know, I figured I was okay.)
Look – I’m not perfect – I am not a gluten-free raw food devotee – I eat “normal” food like most people. But we certainly have to stop and think about what “normal” really is, and what we want our kids to be eating and drinking in school. Like I said, I’m not a food snob, but I am proud of the fact that my daughter has never had any soda except the rare taste of ginger ale in all nearly five years of her life. I wish that as a kid my Dad hadn’t encouraged me to drink chocolate milk and eat donuts and chips and pizza. (Don’t worry – my kid has eaten plenty of pizza. But we haven’t had McDonald’s in at least 2 years.) I see nothing wrong with offering kids juice and milk in recyclable paper cartons and providing them with water fountains to drink from (or fill stainless steel water bottles with). I do think water sold in plastic bottles should probably be banned from school while we’re at it, because of the waste – not to mention the potential BPA exposure.
What do you think?
Photo: Huffington Post