In an obesity crisis, one size does not fit all
Friend and reader Casey Hinds pointed me towards Casey Seidenberg's post for the Washington Post lifestyles blog "On Parenting" and asked my take on its "all food should be enjoyed" message, vis a vis children and addiction potential.
I'm glad to say, I am pleased and impressed with the piece, and I hope my parenting will meet the measure of Seidenberg, identified at article's end as co-founder of Nourish Schools, a D.C.-based nutrition education company.
Among her six tips for helping children develop a healthy relationship with food are suggestions not to label as "treats" the processed foods that so many people eat so often, and not to use foods as either as rewards (i.e. eat your veggies if you want dessert) or punishments. I also agree with her guidance not to make kids eat when they say they're not hungry (though, of course, there are limits to not eating, just as there should be limits to eating).
Where I begin to hesitate is when she says not to label some foods bad. She'd prefer to call them "sometimes foods," 'cause they're OK sometimes. Though of course, inanimate objects are neither good nor bad, it's what we do with them, I do think that there are foods that are best never eaten, and that the world would be a healthier place without processed foods.
That doesn't mean I'm going to forbid my son from eating them. Despite what I just said about processed foods, I don't think they are unavoidably injurious to everyone, and I do believe that I can give them the allure of the forbidden in my son's eyes if I make too big a deal out of avoiding them.
Therefore, I expect I, too, will turn "hide [my] grimaced face and keep [my] mouth shut" when Joe grabs for sugary/floury crap at a party. But he's definitely going to know that I choose not to eat it and that I think he shouldn't eat much of it.
If the time ever comes where I begin to suspect/fear that Joe is developing a dependence on processed foods — and, from this narrow perspective, I'm pleased he's adopted and therefore doesn't share my genetics — my attitude will change.
Meanwhile, I retain my abhorrence for the stock "everything-in-moderation" advice handed out by most registered dietitians, which echoes the no-bad-foods contention of the processed-foods industry. (That might be a coincidence, but Big Food funds the RDs' governing body.)
The distinction is that I think guidance should be informed, both by the science and by who's receiving it. In an obesity crisis, one size does not fit all.