I think it’s clear that we have a problem with eating in the US. Either we are obese McDonald’s-eaters, or we are anorexic-bulimic fashion model wanna-be’s. Somehow we have lost the ability to just enjoy a variety of foods in moderation. And not surprisingly, this problem has filtered right down to our children.
When I read about 6-year-olds worrying about their weight, I feel sick. Children should learn to love food and to eat in a reasonable fashion. They should not worry about being too fat or too thin, or about calorie intake or fat grams. They shouldn’t have to think about food much at all, other than how yummy it is.
Evidently even those public officials concerned with our children’s health can’t seem to see clearly:
Here, in the rural Southern Tioga School District, the schools distribute the state-mandated [body mass index] reports even as they continue to serve funnel cakes and pizza for breakfast.
Um, OK. Part of the problem is economic: the article goes on to say that the district tried to offer field greens and kiwi fruit in cafeterias, but due to high costs they went back to the old iceberg lettuce and canned fruit. Because of government subsidies, processed foods are often much cheaper than whole fruits and vegetables, undermining any public health drives toward better nutrition.
Part of the problem is cultural. I remember savoring baloney/mayonnaise/white bread sandwiches as a child. Now I couldn’t choke that down, but that’s after many years of reprogramming my taste for healthy food. I imagine many of the kids in the NY Times article eat more pizza at home than kiwi fruit.
I’m doing my best to encourage my kids to have healthy appetites for a variety of foods. I acknowledge that I have unusually game children: for lunch we had homemade seaweed salad sushi rolls made with brown rice. For dinner we had homemade split pea soup and whole wheat biscuits (savory scones not cookies, for my UK and Australian blog friends!). They regularly chow down on mixed green salad. I know it’s not uncommon for small children to want nothing but, say, yogurt three meals a day. But I think the key here is to serve nutritious food, model the behavior of enjoying the food, and not make a big deal of it.
And get off your duff and play outside!