I have been doing more thinking about kids, eating and the wrath of forbidden foods lately, hmmmmmm. You know what I’m talking about: totally removing high energy dense, low nutrient foods, aka junk. The intent usually has noble roots, wanting to do better for our kids as they mean the world to us. They are our future, after all. But extreme measures in this regard could create the opposite effect and even unintended consequences.
Being a paediatric dietitian many years ago I have learned the delicate balance of the feeding relationship with kids, not only focusing on “what” they eat but behaviour and “how” they eat in their food environment. Ellyn Satter, a guru on the subject has provided a multitude of sage advice on offering kids a variety of food which they choose “the what” and “the how much” to eat from your offering, ideally in a stress- and emotions-free place. Day by day kids’ eating waxes and wanes, sometimes eating more, sometimes less, soldiering on through food jags, pickiness and those “hollow leg” periods as they grow.
Food also means so much more than simply the vitamins and minerals it contains, but has a place within our social and physiological fabric. Kids are sharp as tacks too being intuitive, sometimes more than we adults ever realize. When we the “gate keepers” cleanse and purify our food environments or worse punish kids for eating treats, kids go into “food seeking” mode and will gorge on it when they get it. Research has shown this. This unintended consequence not only creates the opposite effect by ingraining food seeking behaviour of these foods but could result in psychological eating issues which could shackle kids in a vortex of disordered eating for decades.
A teacher once told me how they now catch kids in the bathroom stalls at school scarfing down Doritios. An act they often get punished for. In my day, kids would be caught smoking there. Good grief, times have changed. My Italian grandmothers would roll over in their graves if they knew kids got punished for being caught eating…..
Ideally we all want kids to establish a positive relationship with food or as I describe in my e-book “establish a love affair with food”. This involves coming together, eating and enjoying food, some treats, guilt free. This is not a black or white issue, not all or none, but grey zone. When we deem foods as forbidden or shame anyone when “caught in the act” of eating it, the unintended consequences could be staggering. That’s not the goal is it: to create a bad situation by being so virtuous?
Our collective conscience might feel clear when we applaud total removal and cleansing of every treat in kids environments. Consequently this may certainly be creating a bigger problem: a defect in the cause and effect, don’t you think? Some food for thought to digest as Halloween approaches….