Recently, there has been a lot of hype about sugar and the high levels of consumption of sugary drinks in schools which has led to the decision to ban all such drinks. While I applaud this move I do think that we need to look deeper and to address this “culture of snacking.”
I do not believe that it is just about the over consumption of sugar (and I spoke about this in a previous post). I strongly believe that it is about the choices we give our kids.
Lecturing our kids on healthy eating and suddenly banning them from sugary or salty snacks will not automatically change their minds about food. We, as adults, as parents, as teachers, need to provide the best options for them and then allow for dialogue. My son will eat all his veggies and fruits but he still loves chocolate and this is where the choices become important. He gets to pick from a selection that is 67% (or higher) dark chocolate and only one to two blocks. The idea is not to deny them but to provide better options.
I am always appalled and, I will admit, a little bit angry every time my 5 year old comes home with a party bag filled with candy and chocolate and cookies because a kid was celebrating his/ her birthday. By all means, celebrate the birthday – a bit of ice cream and an appropriate sized cupcake is enough. There is no need to send home a bag of snacks that have no nutritional value.
Finding the balance
My point is, we need to curb the excesses. If we’re celebrating birthdays and Valentine’s and Easter in school there a many alternatives to candy and chocolate (Here’s an awesome list from Super Healthy Kids). Our schools should and must take a stand and create guidelines for parents about appropriate/ alternative items. I am certain parents would be open and willing.
We have staggering statistics about the number of adults and children living with Type 2 diabetes and we have to do our part to stop its continued rise. Kids need to be shown that candy and cookies are special occasion treats and that default snacks should be whole foods like fruits and veggies, granola, cheese, yogourt (unsweetened), etc.
Like anyone else, I too like the occasional sweet treat but I believe in balance and in moderation. I know it’s easier and quicker to hand our kids a package of chips or cheese sticks but I think we can just as easily give them an apple or some carrots. Pick water or milk over juices and sodas. Most importantly, let your kids see you enjoying whole foods.