Postcards from Mommywood: I’m Sick of the Food Police
I’ll decide what my daughter can (or can’t) eat!
Last week I went to orientation at the kindergarten my daughter will attend in September. At the end of the session, we were handed a list of “forbidden foods” that the kids aren’t allowed to bring to school in their lunch boxes. They included all forms of nuts (the most terrifying snack of the modern age), popcorn (a choking hazard), hot dogs (ditto), string cheese (”too stringy and unsafe”), any type of candy and fruit snacks and fruit roll-ups (“candy in disguise” and “all sugar!”). I’m down with the candy ban, and I’ll even give them the string cheese, but fruit snacks? Just who is in charge of deciding what my child eats?
The answer is obviously not the parents.
I get that there are plenty of studies that show kids are getting fatter and are less physically fit. I personally believe that rather than too many calories, it has more to do with our children’s ridiculously over-scheduled lives that barely allow for ten minutes of physical activity on the playground. Kids have pretty much eaten the same things for decades: chicken nuggets, pizza, pasta, burgers and the occasional ice cream cone. Why is it such an issue now? I’m guessing the fact that we barely let them move without someone tethered to their jackets plays a significant role.
As someone who grew up eating Entenmann’s cupcakes and Ritz crackers while sitting happily in front of the television on Saturday morning, I know it’s a different world today when it comes to nutrition. I would not allow my daughter to eat the junk food that I did. My parents, like virtually all others of that era, took a much more laid-back approach to nutrition – and child rearing, for that matter.
I think I pretty much fall in the middle when it comes to my degree of vigilance over what my daughter eats. She’s allowed one small healthy snack when she gets home from school and never gets candy except for the occasional lollipop from a bank teller or a receptionist at my hair salon and on holidays. She’s never had soda and gets low-fat milk or water with all her meals. Juice (organic, if possible) is strictly a once or twice a week treat in her lunch box.
I’m a grown-up and I’m perfectly capable of deciding what my daughter should and shouldn’t eat – and I think other grown-ups should respect that. In other words, as much as I love Chef Jamie Oliver and his effort to get American kids to eat right, I don’t want him showing up at my door telling me what to feed my daughter. I’ve got it covered, thanks.
At the Children’s Success Academy in Tucson, Arizona, the rules go way beyond forbidding foods that might cause allergic reactions or choking. Nanci Aiken, who once worked as a cancer researcher at Johns Hopkins Medical School, is the self-proclaimed food cop of the ten-year-old school, and she takes no prisoners.