Kids And Healthy Eating: Are We Overdoing It?
I grew up eating junk food. Not every day. Not even every other day. But it was in my life and today, I’m a very healthy person. I live a healthy lifestyle. I enjoy and even crave healthy food. I cook most of my meals from home. Over half of my grocery cart is fruits and veggies and so over half of each of my meals is, too. I know about checking for tons of artificial ingredients, high sugar, and high sodium. All of that being said, I have quite happy and nostalgic memories from my childhood of eating “bad” food. I have memories of ice cream cake at birthdays and fast food on road trips and candy during movie night. Isn’t part of being a kid just not living by the rigid rules adulthood will impose on us? I’ve caught wind of the new healthy “standards” for children’s diets and I have to wonder: are we overdoing it? I know parenting has changed over the years, and in many ways for the better, but are kids too healthy now?
Only fruit for birthdays
At my friend’s child’s school, things like cake and cupcakes are not permitted for kid’s birthdays. The only sweets allowed for such events are fruit. What? These poor kids can’t even enjoy some cake on their birthday? It’s a special occasion—they eat fruit every day of the year.
Or at least no artificial sweets
Several schools I know might allow cookies and cake at school but they cannot contain any artificial…anything. Those deprived kiddos can’t just enjoy some classic gooey, frosting-smothered, moist, and fluffy cake from a grocery store. They have to eat bland, flavorless, dense cake.
Healthy Halloween treats
Halloween is for candy. I have so many fond memories of eating a little too much candy on Halloween and falling asleep with candy wrappers all around me. My parents would set limits on how much I could eat, and then I saved the rest for the rest of the month. But it was a happy time. Now, many parents prohibit their kids from even trick or treating.
No packaged food in the house
Several of my mom friends don’t allow packaged foods in the house. Not a one. They only allow whole ingredients like millet and carrots and raw tuna. Growing up, we had a pantry with the packaged goodies like chips and pastries. I had to ask permission to have something from there and there were limits, but it was there—and sometimes very convenient when we were in a hurry.
All vegan hot lunches
I know of multiple—multiple—kindergartens that only allow for vegan hot lunches. That is correct. If the families pay for their kids to eat on campus, they will be eating vegan, Monday through Friday. God forbid the vegans even suffer the presence of turkey sandwiches in the vicinity.
No packaged snacks on campus
Growing up, we had vending machines on campus. Sometimes, in a hurry and when my blood sugar was low, I’d grab some pretzels or something like that. My friends and I loved relaxing on the grass during free period and munching on vending machine snacks. It was part of how we unwound. But many schools do not allow packaged snacks to be sold on campus anymore. Have we given up on allowing kids to make choices for themselves? Some days I ate from the vending machine—others I didn’t. I think it’s good I had to make that choice.
Dietary restrictions at play dates
My friends with kids say that play dates come with a lot of rules. Their kids’ friends will come over with a list of foods they aren’t allowed to eat—and the list is long. So much for that carrots, celery sticks, and ranch dressing snack. Carrots have too much sugar and this kid can’t touch dairy.
No fast food sold on campus
At my middle school and high school, there were hot lunches served every day. We had the option to purchase either a healthy lunch from a catering company, or the fast food option. We had the choice, and we were taught about making the right choice. But, sure, once a week I got the fast food option and it didn’t ruin my life.
No snacks between meals
Some parents I know have a no-snacks rule. Their kids are not allowed to have snacks between meals. I understand that that’s how the parents stay svelte but…kids have fast metabolisms. They need snacks!
Flourless, sugar-free bake sales
The bake sales are starting to look bleak. How is a school supposed to raise money for their new gym equipment by selling sugar-free, flourless, vegan, gluten-free cupcakes?
No old-fashioned lemonade stands
I loved putting on a lemonade stand with my sister growing up. It taught us a bit about entrepreneurialism and earning our keep. I recently stopped by a lemonade stand and the kids were selling “lemonade” which was water mixed with lemon juice, and then I had the option to flavor it myself with either stevia or agave. What? This lemonade wasn’t ready to go?
Lectures on GMOs and cancer
There are schools inviting nutritionists to speak to their elementary school children about how unhealthy food can lead to colon cancer and things like that. These adorable little nine-year-olds are just trying to enjoy childhood and they’re hearing about rectal illnesses.
Plenty of forbidden foods
I fear that calling something “forbidden” only makes it more enticing to children, and there are a lot of forbidden foods these days. Nothing was forbidden when I was young. Things were limited—like fast food and candy was for the weekends—but I never feared I’d never see a cupcake in my life. Which I imagine would have driven me to sneak out and gorge on cupcakes.
No eating junk food in front of kids
Parents get chastised for eating junk food in front of kids. I know one mom who got a call from the school because she had visible McDonalds bags in her car when she arrived to pick up her kid.
Only healthy, homemade road trip foods
Part of a family road trip is enjoying some classic road trip foods, like beef jerky and chips from the gas station. We always did that when I was a kid. I still do it on road trips today. I’m not addicted to the stuff.