The last couple weeks have been eye-opening for me in regards to children's nutrition. Two distinct and independent events occurred opening my eyes to the severity of the presence of sugar, fat, and salt in our children's diets. The first event came along during my son’s first soccer game of the season. He is not new to soccer, he has been playing since was three; he will celebrate his fifth birthday in a month or so. The second event was at my son's school for their end of the year party.
Let's start with the soccer, last summer the children would play soccer and at the end of the game they got a snack and drink. The snacks were usually sugary junk food like little Debbies cakes, Rice Krispy treats, gummy fruits stuff paired with even more sugar in a Capri Sun juice. I did not care for that practice but I was expecting it. The new snack policy for soccer this year completely blew me out of the water. Now let me explain how soccer games for these little kids’ works, half of the team plays while the other half sits. They play in 10 minute shifts and the game is 40 minutes long; most of the time the kids don't even break a sweat. Even though the game is 40 minutes long, in reality each child only plays for 10 minutes at a time for a total of 20 minutes. Now this year they switched up the snack policy, halfway through the game the children get a snack for example a piece of orange or watermelon and some water or a juice box. Then once they finish the second half of the game they are given a second snack usually an unhealthy one like a fruit rollup, cookie, or Rice Krispy treat with yet another box of juice. Now let's be reasonable here little kids jogging around the soccer field for 20 minutes might burn 200 calories if they're lucky. Between the fruit, juice, and treat these children are given over 400 calories of food. Is that really necessary, is the US experiencing an epidemic of malnutrition or obesity?
The second horrific experience was at my son’s and of the year party. The teacher provided the goodie bags and she asked the parents to bring snacks for the children for the party. I took a cantaloupe expecting there to be lots of sweets but when I walked into the classroom that morning I was completely astonished. There were nine different cakes for only 12 students! On top of that, the goodie bags were full of Twix’s, Kit Kats, M&M’s, Cheeto’s and many other candies. Wasn't the cake enough? Nobody brought a fruit or a vegetable except for me, why? And that was only one class, how about the bus driver, the gym teacher, and anyone else who visited the class on their final week? Every where they turned they were being showered with candy.
I understand that children like candy, I'm not a kid and I like candy too. Isn’t all that overdoing it? Is there no limit anymore? Why do we always have to tie happiness and celebration with food, especially sweets? If the children made their own kites, decorated them, then went outside and flew them, wouldn't that be a fun celebration for the end of the year? Or if their teacher gave them a free period to play outside or play board games in the classroom, isn't that fun too? Why must we shower them with sweets?
Not only are we turning our children into materialistic creatures feeling they must receive something in order to be happy or celebrate but we're teaching them detrimental habits. We are branding it in their brains that in order to celebrate or be happy food and candy must be available. Without sweets, fat, and sugar there is no happiness. Is this the message we want to send our children?