Junk Food in School: One Parent’s Perspective
|May 16, 2012||Posted by Stacy under Junk food in school|
As most parents will attest, navigating a temptation-filled world with a school-age kid is no easy task. Around every corner lurk shelves of candy and neon blue drinks just begging to be downed. A trip to the grocery store entails a seemingly endless string of junk food requests: “Can we get gummies?” “Can we buy Doritos?”
I must admit that I don’t like taking my kids (ages 6 and 4) to the store anymore, and I yearn for the days when we could walk the aisles without demands for Tropical Tie Dye Fruit Roll-Ups (which Wikipedia aptly describes as “fruit-flavored candy” and are currently the subject of a lawsuit questioning whether they indeed contain “real fruit” as stated on the package).
That’s why it’s all the more frustrating when they come home from school already having had their daily quota of junk. Because it means that I’m going to be faced with two choices: 1) having to continually say “No” as they plead for yet another treat all afternoon and evening or 2) feel guilty when I go ahead and let them have one or two…or three. Or, maybe I won’t have any choice, and they will be handed a few Oreos or a package of M&Ms by a friend, a friend’s parent, or some other well-meaning person who doesn’t realize that they’ve already consumed several days’ worth of sugar at school.
Lately my kids have been begging me for gum. Should 6 and 4 year olds have gum? I don’t know, but apparently, their best friends are allowed to have gum. Still, it’s hard for me to stomach the idea. So I compromised and bought a package of “natural” gum sweetened with xylitol (a “tooth friendly” naturally occurring sugar substitute). Because I really hate having to say “No” all the time. I want to be able to say “Yes.” I suspect it’s only a matter of time before my kids realize that they must have the gum with the artificial flavors and neon colors. But for now, I’ll stick with the natural gum and hope that I’m doing the right thing.
Believe me, I’ve tried other strategies to reduce the number of times I’m saying “No.” I’ve tried saying things like, “Yes, you can have gum—on the weekend.” Or, how about, “Yes, you can have gum—when you’re 18!”? (That’s what I’d like to say, but I’ve managed to stop myself.) It worked pretty well when they were younger, but they are kids. And like most kids, they are intent on immediate gratification. And like most parents, I can only take so much.
Yesterday on her Real Mom Nutrition blog, the amazing Sally Kuzemchak, R.D., described what she does when her kids (ages 7 and 3) are about to dive into a mosh pit of donuts and Capri Suns at her son’s soccer game: She doesn’t say a word. “I worry that excluding my kids that way–forbidding them to join the fray–is potentially more damaging than the hydrogenated fats and high fructose corn syrup.” But she also feels that it’s unfair when parents are put in that position. “That’s why I want [junk food] gone from the sidelines completely–so it’s not another battle parents have to fight, another treat we have to negotiate and somehow work in to the day…” she explains.
I’m with Sally. I think loading kids up with junk food at school has the potential to make life harder for a lot of parents. It also undermines our kids’ health and sends the wrong message. So let’s allow them to have their treats—but how about waiting until after school is out?
MORE STORIES THAT MAY PIQUE YOUR INTEREST:
- Just say “NO!” to food rewards in school: a must-read guide for parents
- Please don’t call me a Food Nazi–I just want my kids to eat well at school!
- The case against food rewards in school (plus, healthy alternatives!)