Yup, you read that right. Cake. And chocolate. And hot dogs.
“That’s ridiculous!” you say, “Those things *cause* obesity in children! My child is not allowed to eat any of those things and will be healthier because of it.”
Well, that’s what I thought too.
Keeping Kids Healthy
With obesity in children reaching epidemic levels in the U.S., parents are concerned. And rightly so. We are warned about the dangers of processed sugar, trans fats, gluten, processed foods, dyes, non-organic foods, canned foods, microwavable meals, salt – it’s enough to make your head spin.
So it makes sense to eliminate all of the dangers that these foods could potentially cause, we should eliminate those foods. Moms and dads today scour food labels, search birthday treat bags for unauthorized foods, and carefully screen everything that passes the child’s lips. It is a great amount of effort, but they feel that lowering the risk of obesity is worth the extra time and money.
And studies show that for the first 10 years or so, it has exactly the effect that parents intended. Moms and dads who monitor their kids’ food and eliminate certain things from their diet will generally have fewer obese children.
But then they grow up.
However, this strategy may have the exact opposite effect of everyone’s intentions later.
When the children reach their adolescent and teen years, studies show that the obesity risk actually increases in children who have a carefully monitored diet. Not only do they eat more food, but they also begin eating worse foods than their peers. Their obesity rate begins to overtake the kids who were allowed to eat sugar, salt, and fried foods.
How does eliminating certain foods work against parents?
With so much emphasis on eating the “right” foods coming from the parents while seeing friends eating “forbidden” delicious-looking foods, adolescents and (even more likely) teens will rebel. And when they do, they will begin sneaking whatever “bad” foods they can acquire.
This can cause binge eating and may alter the child’s ability to identify whether or not he is hungry. Not only do these things create an unhealthy relationship with food, they can produce a lifetime of obesity.
For example, if processed sugar is never allowed in the house, a pre-teen will find ways to acquire sugary treats when the parents are not around, such as raiding friends’ houses or buying candy bars at the nearby store. And when he does, he may gorge himself on those snacks even if he isn’t hungry so that his parents don’t find out his secret. This sneaking and gorging are common aspects of compulsive eating, which may become habit and their way of eating throughout their life.
Let them eat cake! (And hot dogs. And chocolate ice cream.)
This doesn’t mean that we should allow our children to eat whatever they would like. Drinking soda and eating chips every day is a sure path to an unhealthy body, of course. But allowing your child to eat a slice of store-bought birthday cake at a party, a hot dog at the ball game, or even a fast food sandwich once in a while will not do them harm. When they see that it’s okay to have those treats occasionally, they won’t feel like they have to hide them. Experts say it will teach them to have a healthy relationship with food and to appreciate what they eat even more.
So, let them eat cake! Every once in a while.
If you want to treat your kids to eating at a restaurant, be prepared to keep them entertained using these tips!Photo courtesy of Jacob Michelsen on flickr.com