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Are we scaring the appetite out of our children?

4 March 2009 687 views No Comment

This recent NY Times article brings to light the potential danger of passing food fears along to our children.

In this age of nutritional enlightenment, it’s easy for parents to become hypervigilant about what their children ingest. From salt, to sugar, to food dyes and other artificial ingredients, children are more aware about what they put in their mouths and how it affects them than ever before.

This in turn, if not monitored, can lead children to avoid foods entirely and harbor irrational fears about eating “bad” foods. This is a far cry from the days of feeding your kid a steady diet of Chef Boyardee, Pop Tarts and Count Chocula.

The article suggests a “possible connection” between anxiety and even future eating disorders and how children are raised to think about food.

“While scarcely any expert would criticize parents for paying attention to children’s diets, many doctors, dietitians and eating disorder specialists worry that some parents are becoming overzealous, even obsessive, in efforts to engender good eating habits in children. With the best of intentions, these parents may be creating an unhealthy aura around food.”

While I’m by no means a total health food freak, I’m certainly guilty of a bit of food neuroticism. I realize it when my daughter sheepishly points at the rainbow sprinkles at the ice cream parlor and says, “I know those are really bad for me, but can I have some on my ice cream cone?”

I let her eat the “evil” sprinkles and explain to her that if we ate parlor cones every day, then I might not let her. It’s all about moderation. I grew up on Lucky Charms for God’s sake. Who am I to insist on a pure, organic, whole- food diet?

While I know that there is a load of crap disguised as food on the supermarket shelves, and what with all the news about mercury in high fructose corn syrup and lead in vitamins, it’s best to be vigilant. I also know that it’s not realistic to expect my kids to thrive on kale and brown rice. And since parents should practice what they preach, how would I explain my penchant for Swedish fish, Sweet tarts and salami.

That said, how do you know where to draw the line with nutrition? Are your kids more aware than you ever were about food ingredients and nutrition? Do you ever notice them worrying too much about it?

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