is too much junk food for kids the new normal?

is too much junk food for kids the new normal?

This is something I've struggled with as a parent. It always seems so innocuous - a cookie here, a piece of candy there, birthday cake, root beer, after dinner dessert, sports drinks.. Nothing extreme, and nothing out of the ordinary.

mini sized candy bars

The problem is it becomes a steady stream of sugar - might as well hook the kids up to a sugar-drip IV once they get to be about 3 years old. And the older they get, the less control we parents have - we're no longer with the kids 24/7.

My wife and I have tried to teach our kids right from wrong, good from bad, and healthy from junk, but the fight against sugar's pervasiveness can seem like a losing battle. I'll quote Dan Patrick: "You can't stop it; you can only hope to contain it!"

I read an article yesterday from Yoni Freedhoff on the Eat + Run blog (Why Is Everyone Always Giving My Kids Junk Food), where he discusses the subject:

" Last week my 3-year-old's pre-school had a "color war." An email sent to parents explained that there would be a fruit snack and "a treat of course." It's not so much the treat that's the problem, it's the "of course." 
To be fair, I can at least see where junk food and holidays and birthdays come together, but I truly scratched my head when my 8-year-old joined a reading club, went to the opening meeting excited to talk about books, and came home to tell us about the candy they were given to commemorate the event. 
For us anyhow, it never seems to end. Saturday skating lessons often include lollipops, kids' grab bags from community races regularly contain chocolates, loot bags from friends parties might as well be renamed candy bags, libraries host events with names like "Donuts and Dads," bending a blade of grass with soccer shoes leads to sugar-sweetened sport drinks on the field and often ice cream or popsicles when the final whistle blows, and so on and so forth. And don't even get me started on juice. No doubt too, each and every time I speak up, there's someone out there telling me I shouldn't be so frustrated, as it's just "one" lollipop, it's just "one" ice cream sandwich, it's just "one" chocolate bar. If only it were just "one." 
My conservative estimate is that my children, no doubt with the best of intentions, are being offered an average of at least 600 sugar-spiked calories of junk each and every week–junk that we had never intended on giving them in the first place, and in many cases, couldn't decline if we wanted to, since we wouldn't have been present at its offering. Assuming a conservative 70 percent of that junk's calories are coming from sugar, that's 26.25 teaspoons of added sugar a week or more than 14 pounds of the white stuff a year. 
It's never just "one."

This all brings up some good parenting questions:

  • Is teaching kids about the dangers of excess enough to help them make better choices as they get older?
  • How do we, as parents, wage a war against sugar for kids, without becoming an anti-sugar militant social pariahs?
  • How can we, as a society, get back to sugary treats being "treats", rather than being routine?
  • Or, am I just talking crazy about all this?

Seems to me that if we can teach our kids better habits, we wouldn't have so much trouble teaching our adults better habits... But who knows - maybe I'm just thinking too much. Maybe it's from being hopped up on sugar!

What do you think?

-Chris Butterworth