By Rosemary Marchese
Physiotherapist and mum of 3 fit kids
Are we killing our kids with treats?
As a mum for the past 11 years I have seen a variety of approaches when it comes to trying to feed healthy food to children. Believe me, I don’t always get it right, but I try to find a blend that consists of healthy most of the time and the odd treat from time-to-time. The trouble I find with this is that the ‘treat’ option is made available to children so much more often than when I was a kid.
Now, this might not be the scenario for every family but in any given week this is what I am faced with (or at least a combination of this):
- Birthday ‘treats’ for someone in their class having a little celebration at school.
- Party treats at a birthday party.
- Lollies after Saturday sport games, because somehow running around for 30-40 minutes means they are depleted of sugar and we should ‘let them be kids’.
- Some ‘fun day’ at school, which equates to me sending my children with money to purchase a ‘treat’ to raise money for this or that (don’t get me wrong, I am all for raising money for charity or other good causes).
- On a busy day when I want to use the school canteen as an option for lunch orders there is a hoard of sugary treats waiting for them (and that’s one of the better canteens that I know of).
When did feeding kids ‘treats’ become normal?
And that’s not even touching on the fact that if you take your kids anywhere, say the supermarket or the cinema, there is a hoard of junk food waiting and of course you don’t want to be the mum that denies them of an ice cream or lollies at the movies, do you?
And what about the play dates? Throw in a play date and somehow I am considered a little unusual for providing fresh fruit and vegetables as a snack. Not all kids look at me strangely, but some do. And who can blame them? We have become this world of people looking for packaged ‘food’ full of sugar, chemicals and other substances we can sometimes barely pronounce.
This is NOT a criticism of parenting. I too want to give my kids a little splurge now and then. Hey, I love a bit of chocolate myself! My point is that we, as parents, seem to be on this blind autopilot trip to blood sugar chaos in our families and we are just letting society take the controls.
As a mum to three kids, and one with severe allergies, I live and breathe food choices for my kids every day. I challenge you for one day to read the packet of every item your child (and even you) consumes and take note of how much sugar and processed seed oils are in those foods. Why? There is more and more evidence coming out to support the case that sugar makes us fat (and really sick) and the high intake of polyunsaturated oils we are consuming is making us sick – think cancer-type sick. I can bet you will be hard-pressed to find a packet of food that does not contain either or both of these items.
Why is it so easy for packet foods to be full of crap?
For a start, sugar and seed oils are relatively cheap. You can’t taste the seed oils either so it’s an easy add to the menu. Sugar on the other hand is a cheap way to make the food more tasty. On the other hand we also need the packaged food to last and so there is a need for chemicals to be added to make it last the distance.
Then there’s the fact that we keep buying these foods because they are a cheap and easy option in a very busy lifestyle. Throw in a packet of chips into a lunch box or cut up some carrots? I can already hear some of you saying ‘I don’t have time’ or ‘But my kids won’t eat carrots.’ And I hear you loud and clear. But for the sake of the health of your children isn’t it time to make a change?
How to make a healthy change
Filling up lunchboxes and pantries with treats means that they will get eaten. When I suggest to people that they may need to clear out their pantry and fridge of treats they look at me like I am depriving them of any joy in life. Food is meant to be joyful…look at how the Italians stop during the day to savour lunch time (you’d get fired in Australia for a long lunch, let’s face it) but this all started with real, homemade food, not packaged food made on some conveyor belt anywhere in the world.
My tips for getting your family back to consuming treats from time-to-time only:
- Recognise how often your family are having treats and cut back – so that means counting the birthday parties and play dates too.
- Cut the junk options out of your house. Bring in the treats for special occasions – eat them, enjoy and move on.
- Check the packaging on the food you are considering eating. Make informed choices rather than blindly consuming what the manufacturers want you to!
- Recognise that packaged food is cheap for a reason.
- Recognise that your kids will not ‘starve’ if you only provide them healthy options and they say no. It takes time to convert them (sometimes it’s a really long time) but it can be an uphill battle if the people around you are not on board. It’s your life and your kids…you make the decisions.
Rose is a Fit Busy Mum of 3 fit kids. She aims to empower mums who are time poor. She acknowledges that mums are ‘busy’ but tries to inspire them to regain their fitness through simple everyday habits that she promotes through her book ‘The Fit Busy Mum: Seven habits for success’.