As a Registered Dietitian student, I believe food can be related back to any topic. Although this blog won’t talk about the health benefits of the herb thyme (which I fully could), I would like to discuss a recent which relates back to good health and proper nutrition. I am a nanny for 5-year old boy, who lives in a Chicago high rise with his sister and parents. Just right there, our childhoods are different. As he grows up with a doorman and elevators to the 39th floor, I grew up with caul da sacs and tree houses. However, this isn’t even the big difference. This 5-year old boy knows about healthy eating better than most, and he practice what he preaches. If you offer him chocolate, he will lecture you about chocolate being a “sometimes food” due to the high sugar. What? Did a 5-year old just tell me that? The other day happened to be his birthday, so naturally I asked what he was bringing to the classroom to celebrate. His answer, applesauce. Impressed yet? Well this attitude apparently isn’t new. Just recently, New York Times published an article called “New Rules May Curb Classroom Cupcakes”. Just this past summer, the federal government now requires school districts participating in federal lunch or breakfast programs to come up with a nutritional standard for all foods and drinks offered to children at school including those served by parents at classroom parties and treats awarded by teachers as prizes for a correct answer.
This is incredible news everyone! I know, it seems unfair to take away sweet indulgences from our young children but that’s not the case. We are simply redefining the terms here. Why can’t applesauce be considered a treat for the students? More children need to follow the perspective of the little boy I nanny, and understand why chocolate should be referred to as a sometimes food. I think we put too much pressure on sweet treats being rewards for good behavior. How often did you hear your mother say you can have dessert if you finish your dinner? Although it is a good trick to getting your children to finish dinner, it sets up a bad habit for craving something sweet after finishing a meal. These habits begin in early childhood and translate into adulthood diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic illness.
Therefore, I was beyond proud to see this New York Times article. It’s about time we start reshaping the meaning behind “indulgences.” Take one bite of a fresh, in season fruit and tell me the explosion of sweetness it offers. Let’s make that an indulgence; not a processed, high fat and high sugar pastry. Don’t get me wrong though, there are times and places for unhealthy, “sometimes food” desserts. Life wouldn’t be enjoyable if those didn’t exist. However, I do believe we can swap many of these desserts with healthier alternatives and what better way than to start in the classrooms.