Organic? Whole wheat? Whole Foods? Who cares? A lot of us. But maybe we shouldn’t. Or at least, maybe we shouldn’t burden our kids with all our nutritional correctness.
When my older son (now12) was in kindergarten, he came home with a keen interest in cans. Not to build towers with, or roll down the stairs. He wanted to read the labels, because his teacher had been showing the class all about sodium, fructose and calories.
So much for story time.
Anyhow, those kindergarteners must’ve been mighty advanced, because I’m a grown-up and I still have a hard time figuring out those labels — especially when the can contains 3.79 servings. (Long division!) I’m also grown-up enough to know that a few years from now, whatever ingredient has been declared bad will probably be good again, and vice versa. Think: trans fats, wine, pasta, real sugar, fake sugar, chocolate — even lard is making a comeback.
But the bubby young teacher’s interest was enough to excite my son (also several of the dads – but that’s another story), and for a while he was talking so much about carbohydrates, it was like living with Dr. Atkins. Slowly, his interest tapered off (why ask about nutrition when all you eat are salami and Mint Double Stuff Oreos?). But an article in last week’s New York Times got me thinking about kids and “nutrition awareness” again.
The article – “What’s Eating Our Kids? Fears About ‘Bad’ Foods” (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/26/health/nutrition/26food.html ) – talked about whether young children are getting too concerned about things like calorie counts and sodium content. Some eating disorder experts said that parents are so worried about their kids eating only the “right” food they’re turning the moppets into “orthorexics” – people afraid of eating the wrong thing, ever. Maybe afraid of eating, period.
That seems a bit of catstrophizing, on the experts’ part. But parents who obsess about food indulge in bit of catastrophizing themselves. The truth is: A kid can eat a standard-issue hot dog without it throwing his whole life off balance. An unwashed grape is not a crime against humanity. Even a little roll of fat on a kid doesn’t mean he, or his parents, have failed.
In our quest to be perfect, we forget that kids can survive on less-than-perfection. They can survive on stuff Whole Foods wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot loofah. I know from personal experience they can survive on a diet of Double-Stuff Oreos and salami. On Wonderbread!
Speaking of which – did you know that, thanks to all its vitamins and minerals that build strong bodies 12 ways, the much-maligned Wonderbread is credited for silently eradicating beriberi and pellagra in America? Yes indeed. Everything bad, even super-processed white bread, was once good, and vice versa.
So when we start fretting out about our kids’ eating habits, and worrying that last night’s kale wasn’t certified organic, let’s try to chill.
I’ve found that a little bag of M&M’s helps.