Wellness Wednesday: Childhood Nutrition

by Ashley on October 30, 2013

Hi friends! How are ya today!? All is well over here. It is sunny and 82 where I am right now; how in the world is it about to be November?! If you missed it yesterday, be sure to check out and join in on the giveaway announced; it will close Friday (Nov. 1) at midnight.

Today, I want to talk about a topic near and dear to my heart: childhood nutrition. I’ve talked about it a little bit in the past like in my Childhood Vegetarianism post, as well as answered some questions regarding children’s diet here.

While in school and even throughout the majority of my internship, childhood nutrition rarely sparked my interest. While I understood its importance and wanted to learn as much as I could during the time that it was being discussed and taught, it was never a subject that I went back to. It wasn’t until toward the end of my internship, during my school nutrition rotation to be exact, that I began to grow more and more interested in the topic.

Childhood nutrition

I’m not sure what it was during that rotation that really opened my eyes to childhood nutrition, but something reeled me in like nothing else had ever before.

  • Maybe it was the fact that I stood face-to-face with so many adorable children and realized just how innocent and naive we are as youth when it comes to what kind of “food” we eat. During that time I realized how valuable it is to come from a family or caretaker who understands the importance of good nutrition.
  • Or maybe it was the fact that for the first time in my life I realized that I (as a future dietitian) could have a large impact on what we serve our children at school, and thus mold their future eating behaviors and preferences.
  • Or actually, maybe it was the fact that I realized that regardless of how much I wanted to change every single thing about the food that was being served during my time in the school system, there was and is really actually very little that I could/can do in a government run school system with no desire to change.
  • Or lastly, maybe it is the fact that I am getting older, well, at least old enough to even consider having children of my own, and couldn’t stand to think about someone ever serving the kind of food offered that day to any child of mine, especially considering how passionate and fervent I am about the role of food on our health.

Regardless of what it was, as each day goes on, and I learn that in fact, one day, I too will have children of my own, childhood nutrition becomes even more important to me than the minute and day before.

This past March, Julieanna at Plant Based Dietitian wrote an incredible article titled, Redefining Normal, that I truly hope you will take three minutes to read before continuing any further. This article is absolutely amazing and is worth every second of the three minutes that it will take you to read. Julieanna is an eye-opening dietitian whose words I can truly relate to. She is real, honest, and has the people’s (you and me) best interest in mind. Needless to say, she is a role model to me in so many ways.

There are so many phenomenal points mentioned in this article, however, since I can’t discuss every single one of them with you today, I want to take a minute to hit on three of the points that so closely struck home to me, not only as a dietitian but as a future mom as well:

The article read…

I was put over the edge recently, when my son was handed a snack pack of oreos and goldfish crackers with a bag of juice-like liquid as the post-game snack, dutifully provided by another kid’s Mom. Being the neurotic, over-concerned Mom/Dietitian that I am, I quickly snatched the items out of my son’s hands and snuck them back in the other Mom’s bag before she even noticed what happened. Yes, that may have been a reaction that was beyond rude and I did cause my son to cry and feel deprived. My husband all but cursed me out and blamed me for making our kid the one person on the team who was left out. But why should I feel obligated to enable my son to bond with his teammates over high fructose corn syrup, trans fatty acids, and artificial colors? Why is that the new normal? Why am I the bad guy for trying to protect my child from the deleterious effects of eating C.R.A.P. (Calorie Rich And Processed food, according to my dear friend Chef AJ)?

I feel like I am speaking to one of my college professors all over again. She, too, lived out this exact same situation. What saddens me the most is that Julieanna is having to classify herself as a “neurotic, over-concerned Mom/Dietitian” before telling us her actions. She’s “neurotic” and “over-concerned” because she is well educated on the role that nutrition plays in her child’s body and cares enough to want better for me? Not in my mind.

Another thing that bothers me about this situation is that her son has to “cry and feel deprived,” and her husband “all but cursed {her} out and blamed {her} for making {their} kid the one person on the team who was left out” all because of her family eats differently. I don’t know her husband, but I truly believe it’s not because he isn’t the greatest of guys, I’m sure it’s that he didn’t like seeing his child upset in this situation. If anyone of us were to feed our child a fast-food cheese burger, large fry and soda, no one would bat an eye; however, the second one of us try to give our child water, a piece of fruit and a homemade granola bar instead, everyone loses their minds. What is the deal? This has got to change.
She also wrote…

I am constantly told the following justification tactics:

  • “They’re kids…they should enjoy themselves.”

  • “It’s just a little bit, here and there.”

  • “It’s a special occasion.”

  • “Let them feel normal.”

As a dietitian and healthy food advocate, I hear all of these excuses quite frequently and dislike them all equally. Oh, just because “they’re kids” they don’t deserve the best possible chance to live a long healthy life? “A little bit, here and there?” Clearly moderation (or at least this kind of moderation) isn’t working for us in this country. While I am advocate for moderation, let’s be moderate with REAL sweets and REAL treats made from ingredients like pure maple syrup, honey, dark chocolate, etc., not things that are greatly damaging to our health such as trans fats, high fructose corn syrup and and artificial colors.

The same goes for “It’s a special occasion.” Okay, so give them REAL treats and let that become the new “normal” for special occasions. Why does anyone want to save garbage for special occasions?

Think about this. Let’s say you are a nonsmoker who is well-educated on the negative effects of smoking and one day you happen to find yourself in a room full of smokers. Would you start smoking just because it was “normal” for that particular group. No. In fact, you might even try to help a select few stop smoking (those receptive and responsive to your ideas). It’s no different.

Julieanna went on to say…

  • Or is it because we see this standard American diet as normal?…

  • Normal is as normal does and our idea of normalcy has shifted with our growing landscape of increased chronic disease and obesity….

  • …Researchers predict that more than half of the population in the United States will be obese by the year 2030. Diabetes incidence is rapidly increasing in children. Behavioral disorders, like ADD and ADHD, are dramatically higher than ever before. Is this the normal we want to adapt to? We have been…as we make larger airline seats, hospital gurneys, and even coffins to compensate for the new normal size….

  • …We have the chance to redefine normal. Let’s be the revolutionaries and reclaim our children’s health and their future….

As mentioned earlier, we can define a new normal. Normal shouldn’t be confined to any of the following conditions: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, behavioral disorders, etc. Normal should be healthy, happy, vibrant, active, alive and thriving. I certainly want that for my children, don’t you? 

If you still haven’t checked out Juilieanna’s article, please at least take a look at her proposals and action steps at the end of her article. There, she is telling us the things that we can do to make a difference. Together, we CAN change and redefine “normal.”

Will you join Julieanna and I help create a new normal when it comes to feeding our children? Are you already doing things in your communities to help make a healthy change? If so, please share what it is you are doing or name something that you could do below?

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Good health!

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