I’ve been on a mini rampage lately in regard to the amount of candy handed out in our schools, and this Valentine’s Day was no exception. With the increasing publicity on the ill-effects of sugar you would hope that the first place for change would be with our children. Why? Because they are ity-bity, developing humans, laying their foundation for health in the future. They are not immune to the negative consequences of poor nutrition and they are ultra-vulnerable to marketing, social pressures, and addictive desires!!!
No parent wants their child to feel like the weirdo who isn’t allowed to have treats (myself included), but the line has to be drawn somewhere. We aren’t talking about a party or two a year where fun tasting foods are part of celebration. No, it’s all year long! There’s always a “reason” for junk food. There’s always something to “celebrate” – including correct answers in the classroom!! Say what? That’s right. Ninety percent of the time my kindergartener gets off the bus with candy in his hand for participating in class!
What’s a parent to do? Aside from voicing concern with the school system, how can we teach our little ones to make decent choices when so much is stacked against them? One of the methods we have used in our family when mass amounts of candy end up in our house, such as after Trick-or-treating or when their Valentine’s Day boxes come home, is allowing them to choose their favorite few to keep.
This presents it’s own challenge when Willy Wonka’s, magically color changing, Fun Dip is in the mix! A brightly colored wrapper with whimsical writing and mysterious wonder inside is sure to grab your child’s attention. It grabbed mine as well, but not in a good way. Let’s take a look at the back of the package.
Willy Wonka himself (who doesn’t love Willy Wonka!) tells us that “tremendous things are in store for you! Many tasty treats await you! Inside this scrumdiddlyuptious package you will find MYSTIC and MARVELOUS SURPRISES that will entrance, intrigue & delight you BEYOND MEASURE. So don’t just STAND THERE with your mouth open. Go On. Feed your imagination.”
Can you blame any child for wanting to “feed their imagination”? They are not worried that the “marvelous surprises” are made up of “dextrose, maltodextrin, citric acid, calcium stearate, artificial flavors, blue 1, blue 1 lake, and yellow 5”! But, I am!! What part of that ingredient list is going to support and nourish them? What part of this “treat” is even considered FOOD?! And how can Mom, telling two small children that this is a poor choice, compete with Mr. Wonka himself? Telling a kindergartener that “food dyes may be linked to numerous forms of cancer, along with hyperactivity and other behavior problems in children” (link) will likely get you nowhere. Or will it?
I do believe that our children listen to us more than we think they do. And while they may not make the choice we hope they do every time, I think having the conversation in a non-threatening way is definitely worth it. BOTH my boys brought home this very package of Fun Dip in their Valentine’s Box this year and both packages ended up in the garbage after a brief discussion about taste and how our bodies feel in response to certain “foods.” I’m not going to lie. It wasn’t the persuasion from Mom that they were hoping for. And I’m not naive enough to think that they won’t ever try Fun Dip (in fact, I allowed them a lick last year so that it didn’t become a highly sought after forbidden taste).
We often talk comparisons in our house. And while we do so, we always discuss how our bodies feel!!
• “How do you feel after a few licks of Fun Dip?” I just want more. “Do you reach a satisfied feeling at some point?” No. “How long does that ‘yummy’ sweet taste last?” Not long!
• “Compare that to a paleo brownie. How do you feel after eating one of those?” Full and more satisfied (in their own words).
• “What’s in Fun Dip?” Sugar and fake stuff (after we read the ingredients). “What’s in paleo brownies?” Almond butter, coconut butter, dark chocolate, eggs, coconut flour and some real maple syrup (the boys have helped make them many times). “Which do you think has more nutrients in it?” The brownies. Ya, I’d rather have the paleo brownies.
And that’s what the boys enjoyed this Valentine’s Day.
The rest of the boys’ meals looked this:
While I’m sure a lollipop snuck in here or there, I also know that they were mostly filled with nutritious foods (and we avoided the color-changing Fun Dip this time around).
We’ve also initiated a trade in option at our house so that the boys can switch out a piece of candy that they bring home from school or a party for some coins. They are at the age where working and saving up for a specific toy is of great interest to them. Sometimes they are willing to sacrifice something “good” for something “better.”
Does your family have any strategies for keeping the ever-growing sugar monster at rest?