Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What Are Parents Thinking??

What is it with parents and giving their kids big candy bars and bags of cookies for everyday snacks? I don't get it. I really don't. I am not a junk food Nazi, not by a long shot. We've had our share of Oreos and ice cream and potato chips at our house... the older ones more so than the younger. We have birthday cake and ice cream and even soda on birthdays (no soda for me, thanks) and I bake cookies with the kids for Christmas. But in my mind, those are *not* everyday foods. They are special, once-in-awhile treats.

I get that many people don't even give candy or cookies to their kids at all. I am good with that. I have a friend whose child cannot have any artificial colors or flavors, and I have no problem making sure he gets the kind of food he can have when he is at my house or at a party with us. I even try to keep the artificials out of our diet for the most part. I respect those who only give fruit to their kids for dessert and eat baked kale in place of chips. That is awesome! I was on a similar path until my daughter started doing classes of various types. The cookies at preschool, the Capri Suns and Rice Krispie treats at soccer, and the donuts at ballet were her first real tastes of junk. Then came the cupcakes and candy at school parties and friends' birthday parties, and the candy at Halloween. It happens. I am okay with it. I taught her to be moderate and she thinks ONE small cookie is a serving, five M&Ms is a rare special treat, and Sun Chips are something she gets once a month when we have sloppy joes for dinner. I can count the number of times she has had soda in her life on one hand. And the one time I gave in and let her have a WHOLE Snickers candy bar, the spent the evening on the toilet regretting it. She's never asked for that large of a portion since.

At school she usually brings a packed lunch. I send a hummus sandwich on whole wheat, or some whole grain crackers and cheese, or a bean and cheese burrito. She gets some pumpkin seeds or Snapea Crisps on the side and maybe a fruit leather once in awhile. I send fruit/veggie juice or milk, and for her "special dessert" I sometimes send her ONE piece of candy. One. As in, A Pez. Or A piece of saltwater taffy. Or A miniature baby Tootsie Roll. Or maybe a little homemade mini muffin. But when I go to school and have lunch with her, the other kids... kids who are 7 years old, even younger... have full sized candy bars in their lunches. Or whole Little Debbie cake packs. Or five cookies in a bag. They open their lunch boxes, eat the candy or cookies while drinking their pouch of Tang or Hawaiian punch, and throw the rest of their lunch away. It drives me crazy! And they wonder why there are so many behavior problems in the classroom.

I am no paragon of eating virtue, here. I have eaten a whole bag of Oreos myself in the past. I used to make dinner out of a box of Pizza Rolls, a bag of Doritos, and a Coke. I am not any better than anyone else. But for the life of me people, don't you want better for your children than for yourselves? Don't you know that a candy bar and a bag of sugar water for lunch is not even remotely healthy? Please, please try, mothers and fathers, at least try! We are 100% in control of what our little ones put in their mouths for several years, and then once they start classes we still have a lot of say. Okay, so they have a cupcake in the afternoon for a classmate's birthday. Fine. But not if they had a candy bar and Tang for lunch! It is just so frustrating to me. I don't know what people are thinking.


Kara said...

I had a friend years ago who used to send Mtn Dew to school with her 7 year old son in his lunch box and then wondered why he was having behavioral problems in his afternoon classes. I said something to her once about it and it nearly destroyed our friendship, so ever since then I've kept my mouth shut.

Vickie said...

I think they are thinking "kid food" and there is no such thing. I don't think most people understand the health and behavioral problems they are causing now and the patterning they are setting for a lifetime struggle.

Anonymous said...

Lyn, I respect your efforts to teach your kids to eat healthier than you did, but I think you're on the wrong track here. My bag lunch was always a sandwich, a fruit, a boxed drink and a Little Debbie type snack (or a few mini candy bars). I usually had dessert after dinner - cookies or cake. I was also running track at age eight, playing soccer and doing gymnastics, and always skinny. I was a tomboy. I'm heavy now for the first time in my life -- because I'm eight months pregnant.

Teach your kids as you see best, but don't judge other parents if the results are okay - active, growing, healthy children.

Stephanie said...

I think they just aren't - thinking, that is. I know that I used to get in that mentality of babying my son and giving him "treats" and making him happy with my special lunch box surprises. Yeah - until I started looking at my OWN eating habits. We do a much better job now but it is still hard because they are exposed to so much and they want it and it is hard to say no but we just have to. Sometimes! I am with you - we have birthday cake and ice cream, occasional cookies, etc. We are not "strict" per se, but we do try to think carefully about the effects of sugar on our son's little life. If I can limit it in his "regular" life, I do. Special occasions then remain just that - "special." I don't look down on those who feed their kids tons of sugar and I don't look down on those who feed their kids kale and water. We have a chance to influence our kids - it's a short span of time. After that, the little buggers are on their own and they will make their own choices. I hope that my son will follow me and my husband's lead and choose a healthy lifestyle that includes high quality protein, veggies, fruits and occasional "treats." I enjoyed your rant. You should rant more often. If you want to read some really good rants, go take a look at stumptuous.com. That woman is an awesome writer and man, can she rant.

Liz said...

At our house we call those treats, a "sometimes" food for our little ones. Yes, it is ok to have a treat once in awhile and to follow moderation rules.

My daughter will say to other children, "that is a sometime food." You shouldn't eat too much of it. My son takes an apple to school for snack time and he said everyone else has chips or candy. I'm hoping these good habits will stay with them through life. It is so important to build a healthy foundation. I wish I would have been taught the same as a child.

Anonymous said...

I used to have as much soda as I wanted when I was a child, and I was at a healthy weight then, and I have never struggled with weight as an adult. So I guess there are many different ways to raise a child.

Forty Pound Sack said...

It's great that you've done so well teaching your youngest about nutrition, but even you admit that the older kids got junk all the time growing up. We can't all live up to your standards, and some folks don't have the luxury of time to research nutrition the way you do. Some parents probably don't know, or are so stressed from working, whatever, that they buy what their kids ask for without questioning how good it is for them. It's also possible that those kids are packing their own lunches, as I used to. My mom had no idea that I was stopping at the gas station on the way to school to buy gum and candy whenever I had a quarter in my pocket.
In case you're wondering, I don't have kids, so your post did not strike a nerve with me. I just think, from following you for quite a while now, that you are being pretty judgie on those parents.

Kristi said...

Are those crisps really $29.00? Holy moly! I do know that the lower income kids at school bring lots of $1 snacks. They get the free lunches but bring junk food for snacks that mom picks up at the dollar tree. I bet those crisps aren't at the dollar tree. There is quiet the difference between what poor households give to their children unfortunately.

Diana said...

I agree with you 100% on this one. I was appalled by what my niece packed in her 9-year old son's lunch. It was exactly what you described but worse. He was diagnosed with ADHD. I wonder if a lot of this ADHD and ADD are really sugar overload.

Unfortunatley, I have a feeling the people that need to read this and follow your advice, aren't going to be reading a weight loss blog.

Karen said...

Best place to start is at home. Straighten out what you eat, what you buy, and what you send to school. And what you cook for dinner counts, too.

Recently you had stated that your kids were grabbing sandwiches, burritos, or pizza for dinner. Start right there. It starts with food, it starts at home. Own it yourself first. And your kids will model after you. Habits are key. You get healthy yourself and you model healthy habits for the kiddos. Life changing for the better for you both. It's never easy.

There are truck loads of great family friendly paleo cook books out there. Sarah Fragoso's lasted cookbook came out today -Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook. Her kids are teens, elementary and Pre school aged. Great jumping off place for busy on the go families.

Great topic , Lyn.

Steelers6 said...

Wow, very sad Lyn. I'm sure it would be very hard on me to be in the lunchroom & see all that. So sad.

Have you heard Jillian Michaels is returning to TBL for this season? And teens are included this time? (age 13-17) I believe there will be a strong focus on childhood obesity as well as nutrition. Not sure if you are a fan, but it sort of pertained!


Fernanda Gonçalves said...

Parents don't see that sometimes they are a huge part on kids being obese when they grow up. Unfortunately it's sad and I have seen a kid no older then 5 years old throw a temper tantrum over coca cola at a cafe once. It was sad to see it but then the parent gave up and let him have the coke. But oh well I guess the parent is the one that knows what's "best" for their own child....

Lyn said...


Most of the kids in school who eat this way aren't obese or overweight, either. My daughter is very thin. To me this is more about health than about weight. Eating that much sugar (and other artificial stuff in those foods) can't be healthy. Can it?


They are cheap at Walmart and grocery stores. I pay $2 for a 9 oz bag (they are light/airy so that's a fairly decent sized bag that lasts us a month). The amazon price is for 12 smaller bags... but I don't buy then on there. My older kids were on free lunches when they were small but I couldn't afford to send them snacks, so I do get that struggle.

Not trying to be judgey... but literally asking myself WHAT are they thinking? I know when my kids had to eat donuts from the food bank for breakfast because that's all we had, I felt bad. I get that there are circumstances sometimes. But the poorer kids all eat the free lunches. The kids bringing candy bars and cookies and sugar drinks are not doing it out of poverty. It is a choice, one I am trying to understand. Lack of knowledge? Do they truly not know that those things are unhealthy? Are they just wanting to make their child happy by packing those things? I dunno... with all the education around us (even in school) about better nutrition, you'd have to think they KNOW. But I could be wrong.

deezer said...

Hi Lyn,

I think you're right - its not just about weight gain, its habit forming, and although there were lots of kids in my class that ate snacks that were bad, and i ate oranges, and mangoes and whatever else that was healthy. There are other downsides, the hyperactivity is one, and tooth decay is another, there are tons of side affects.

The schools here have effectively changed the rules (primary) for parents, and now NO kid is allowed to bring anything other than fruit to school - and thankfully fruit here is not as pricey as it is in other countries. Same with drinks, no sodas, only fruit juices - which are often high in sugar, but again the juice companies are moving to a 'no added sugar' policy with the support of the dentists.

Well done for teaching your kids right, and them respecting you - and they will appreciate the cookies as treats, and rightly so!

Rads said...

Umm, I don't know Lyn. I was raised in a family that ate very healthy. We rarely ate out. My mom fixed healthy meals from scratch every single day. So when I started living by myself during my college years, I sort of went crazy with the fast food since we had never had any at my parents'. The pounds quickly piled on.

I think the best path to follow is to not prohibit ANY foods. That only makes kids go overboard on them later, when parents no longer wield total authority. Case in point: my daughter eats both junk and healthy food. Sometimes, she actually craves the healthy stuff, even preferring it over the junk. Children's bodies are wiser than we give them credit for. It's best not to colour any food as "good" or "bad."

Diandra said...

My younger sister has got a foster child who was addicted to sugar. At the age of 2. Needless to say, her early crappy eating (plus the junk her mother drank when she was pregnant) has left her with some medical conditions. Why do people do this, when it is so easy to feed kids with healthy stuff? Unless you introduce them to chocolates, they won't even like it all that much.

Anonymous said...

I mentioned weight because it can be a red flag that demonstrates when people are unhealthy. I agree that thin children may be unhealthy for various reasons. But if the kid eating all the sugar and artificial stuff is also a good student, very athletic and generally happy, how can you judge that their diet is *wrong*?

Anonymous said...

Meh I have mixed feelings about this, when I was a kid I never had chips, cookies, pies or any of that stuff, my parents treat on the weekends was cheese and crackers, we had pie at holidays only, but the minute I could walk to the store by myself I would buy cakes/cookies/candy and hide it in my room. I think you can go to an extreme on everything. We have no idea if the kids grabbed their own stuff waiting for the bus. Some kids wait for the bus right by convenience stores. While I do think junk food is not good, I think the bigger concern in todays society should be focused on getting kids out of the house and playing rather than sitting in front of TV, playing on the computer or playing video games as well as not doping up all the kids on prescription medicines the minute the doctor says they have ADD.

Ann said...

I think there are several factors that contribute to this phenomenom.

1. Parents are giving these junk foods to their kids because they were led to believe through social conditioning (commercials) that it is accepted "kids food" i.e. overly salty/greasy/nutritional devoid goldfish crackers.

2. These were the type of food they were fed growing up, so they are continuing the tradition.

3. Cheap and convenient, no prep time

4. The kids become addicted to these high salt, high sugar, greasy, flavor hyper-enhanced "foods" and start demanding it or throwing tantrums when it is withheld, so easier to give in than fight them on it.

You do not see children eating and demanding this in other cultures. Kids palates are developing, and they can be taught at a young age to enjoy almost any food - be it "junk, processed" crap, or whole foods. Unfortunately, once kids are fed and become addicted to junk, processed foods, it is really hard to break the addiction (as many of you know).

It may not show now, but a lifetime of eating this stuff WILL catch up with their bodies sooner rather than later. Many children/young adults' fast metablism may allow them to eat this without adverse any weight gain, but let's see what happens when their metabolism change without changing their eating habits. So sad for the children.

Lyn said...


Because we know the effects those 'foods' have on the body. And we know what kind of nutrition a growing child needs to be healthy. Our bodies are flexible, some more than others, and we can 'take' some junk food here and there. Giving this kind and amount of food to a young child on a daily basis is not a recipe for good health and has detrimental affects on their organs and immune system whether you can see it in their behavior or not.

BTW I am distinguishing between 'unhealthy' (a factual assessment) and "wrong" or "bad" (moral judgements). I am stating the former, not the latter.

Anonymous said...

I'm lucky to live in a community that advocates healthy eating. My 10 year old does not like soda, chips or McDonald's, and I'm grateful that we are not permitted to send in cupcakes, etc. for birthdays (just pencils, stickers or other non-food treats.)

I'm also not a junk food villian, my son gets cookies, ice cream, and other desserts sometimes (and in moderate servings) at home, at parties, etc. but he also gets a healthy lunch (my version of a Subway turkey sub) and fruit, with water. When he buys lunch, our county follows healthy lunch guidelines.

All the kids here are active (my son plays two sports year round at a very competitive level). Surprise surprise, there is very little obesity here.

My husband grew up eating junk, and was always very active and has good genetics, so he was skinny -- until college, when he stopped playing sports and gained a lot of weight. He lost 60 pounds after a diabetes diagnosis, and struggles to keep it off. His brother also grew up eating junk, stayed skinny due to exercise, but at 42, now suffers from conditions like high cholorestol a conditions (clogged arteries, for example) that his doctor has linked to his poor diet.

Teaching your children to eat well and stay active is a lifelong gift. I wish someone had done that for me.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you and have been trying to pack lots of fruit and other fresh foods for my kids this year. I have been lax in the past. I let my daughter buy lunch every day and she later said the food was just terrible. Now I get up early to chop up a salad or I give her chicken noodle soup in a thermos. She has thanked me for it which made me feel guilty for the past. I do the same for my two boys. I will tell you why people just throw crap in there: it's EASIER. Chopping up fruit and veggies and trying to make nice creative and healthy lunches takes time as opposed to throwing in prepackaged stuff. One quick question for you: how do you pack and bean and cheese burrito? It sounds yummy but how do you keep it hot until lunch? Amy

Lyn said...

Anonymous (Amy)~

I am lucky that my daughter loves COLD bean burritos! Beans, shredded cheese, and hot sauce on a whole grain or Carb Balance tortilla, folded up. Although I bet if you put a warm in a Thermos, it would stay warm in there!

Margaret said...

Anecdotal evidence from my own family is only one of my cousins (out of 14 of us) is morbidly obese and her parents were the only parents fanatically strict about food: only the healthiest, never saw a McDonalds in her life types. Totally backfired.

On the other hand, the punishment the world has in store for overweight kids/teens is vicious.

So, those are the two sides. Too strict and the junk is glamorized; too lax and the kid is going to have to live some very difficult years and there is nothing a parent can do to take that pain away.

I try to stay in the middle.

PS -I'm raising my sixth kid now and thank God all are healthy and normal weight, though a couple of times I've had to look slippy and intervene.

Anonymous said...

Hey, that sounds like a great new invention: the burrito warmer for lunches. A thermos specially designed for today's "healthy lifestyle" lunches. Could be a new craze! :)


Kerry said...

Lynn, I agree with the sentiment of your post, but it does come across as a little hypocritical when you are feeding your own daughter DIET FOOD for adults. Carb-balance tortillas contain 13 GRAMS of fiber each in the SMALL tortillas - that is WAY more fiber than a small child needs at once, especially if they are eating an otherwise healthy diet. I am a petite woman and that would be enough to make me feel sick if I filled it up with beans and veggies.

Children do not need to be eating bulked-up cellulose diet product - not even just for nutritional reasons imagine what kind of message that might send to a young child of a normal weight!

Lyn said...


Thanks, but her doctor recommeded these tortillas for her specific medical issues. The fiber is beneficial to her and not causing her any problems. BTW Carb Balance is not a 'diet' product; they have 120 calories, 3 g fat and 5 g protein each.

shannon said...

Yes I will admit that I send chips into school with my son's lunch, and yes he does have cookies and sweets, but it's not to the extreme as many parents. My 8 yr old son LOVES his veggies and salads, which is more then I can say for most of his friends. He even told me he wants to start taking more salads to school this year. Fine by me.
question...you mentioned a bean and cheese burrito....is this something she eats cold? i'm wondering if my son would like that as well. any other suggestions for healthy lunches i'll take as well.
ps...love your blog!!!

Ann said...

Lyn, kudos to you for being so aware, and putting in the effort needed to set them up for a lifetime of healthy eating habits.

I've found that it is way cheaper monetarily to pack my kids some fresh fruit (when in season) and string cheese, that both satiates them and provides them with the needed micro and macro nutrients, than to buy some pre-packaged processed junk foods.

Economics is not a factor at my kids' school, as I notice other "well off" parents sending their kids off to school with junk food.

I guess with all the nutritrional information available to us parents nowadays, it is within in our power to feed our kids whatever we choose.

Perhaps instead of demonizing junk food (and thus making it all the more attractive), we should entice them with foods that are both nutritious AND delicious.

Anonymous said...

Not trying to be judgey... but literally asking myself WHAT are they thinking? The answer to this is they're not. We think about this stuff because we have to. Almost everyone I know eats what they want when they want and don't think about it. If it looks good and they think its going to taste good they buy it.

CatherineMarie said...

There are a couple of wonderful websites out there, Weighty Matters by a Canadian physician, and NeverSeconds (a blog by a schoolchild that shows pictures of lunches from all over the world)

Part of the problem, I think, is that with the corn surplus, that corn syrup and products from that have become mainstreamed. I'll be interested to see what happens as the tide turns, and corn is no longer a cheap commodity...

LauraA said...

I am amazed at the negative and defensive comments you are getting on this post. How anyone can argue that giving kids chocolate bars and chips for lunch (and I mean when that is their ENTIRE LUNCH, not just a treat packed in with an otherwise reasonable meal)is not a problem is a complete mystery to me. Thank you Lyn for pointing out several times that it's not about weight, it's about being healthy! The fact that so many kids are getting basically zero nutrition every day is very sad to me.

i should be full said...

I hear what you are saying. It's very frustrating to me too. But, I do have a slightly different perspective based on my own childhood.

My mother never let us have any junk food except on birthdays and holidays when it was home-baked by my grandmother. We never had soda, chips, ice cream, or any of that stuff. Dessert was a piece of fruit.

This strategy backfired terribly for me. I spent years feeling deprived and so different from the other kids I knew. When I was at friends' homes to play I would binge on the junk food they had on hand. By the time I was in 2nd grade I was scheming ways to sneak food into the house and into my room.

I've taken a different approach with my own children that appears to be working. I tightly controlled everything they ate, keeping sugar and processed foods out of their mouths, until they were old enough to notice that they weren't getting what everyone else was getting. With my daughter that was about age 5. Then, I filled a snack cabinet low enough to the ground for them to be able to have access to it and filled it with snacks I approve of and a few items of "junk", like single serving potato chip bags and organic marshmallow treats. The rules were simple: No chips, cookies, crackers, candy, or cakes before lunch, and No more than 2 single servings of junk per day.

My children have learned to self-regulate in a way that I still don't know how to do. They go some days without eating any junk at all. Other days, I see them stand there and think, "Do I want this now, or should I wait until after dinner for my treat" and then they put it back. Of course, they are kids and some days they eat both snacks at lunch and beg for more, but those days are few and far-between.

I'm striving for a healthy moderation. No, I'll never pack my kids lunch box with a Mountain Dew and a king sized Snickers, but at the same time, my daughter recently told me that a girl in her class gets Hersey Kisses in her lunch box and asked if she could too. We agreed that she could have one Hersey's Kiss on Fridays. She was fine with the compromise, and so was I. I'm just too afraid of creating a feeling of deprivation and desperation to cut it out all together.

Lyn said...

i should be full~

I loved your comment! It is very similar to what I've done with my daughter... was very strict until she hit preschool age (4) and noticed the treats she got there and in dance class. We even have a "snack cabinet" like you do, with a few differences. Ours has Kashi bars, fruit leather, nuts, crackers, pretzels, popcorn, and any little bags of candy or cookies she gets from holidays or parties but hasn't eaten yet. She is pretty good about moderating too. I also have the "no sweets before lunch" rule but I like your 2-item limit per day and might implement that to let HER have more choice about when she can have those things. That would be even better than me telling her when she can have it. Great idea, thank you :)