Thursday, 10 October 2013

How not to raise your child on junk food

Well over 6 years into this parenting experience, it feels like either I'm on a different planet or that the gods of profit and consumerism have conspired against me.

Was I naive thinking I could raise my kids on a reasonable diet, that is nutritious, varied and does not destroy their precious bodies?

Every day, the pestering is endless, the black and whiteness of liking or hating food is doing my head in and it feels very much that as a parent I have no influence on my children's diet.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not the exclusively organic cooked from scratch with no sugar, salt or additives kind of mum. Like other working mums, cooking has to be quick and I'm also not exactly someone who gets satisfaction out of preparing a complex meal. I do think I'm the average mum who simply wants her kids to eat reasonably healthy, with a decent variety, while instilling positive eating habits and a joy of food.

However, I'm on my own.

All around me, there's junk food.
There's junk at school and nursery. They call it healthy meals. But fish comes in fingers, burgers without veg, and pizza with pasta.
There's junk at the swimming pool/sport centre. Every single vending machine sells junk. Every Glasgow Life cafe counter is filled to the brim with junk.
There's junk at the supermarket/kiosk/ every effing shop that we pass.
There's an icecream van parked between school and swing park that has to be passed on the way home from school.
There's junk at the school disco.
There's junk at every single school event.
There's junk at parties and those parties are plentiful.

Home becomes a bubble and because of the amount of junk food virtually everywhere, I feel I cannot even allow a treat at home anymore because they had so many elsewhere already, and I become the bogeywoman who doesn't let her kids have a treat.

Any food that is not a favourite is hated. And favourites are demanded. The cry for sweeties, snacks and treats is constant (my youngest had a phase where she must have had the idea she could have marshmallows for breakfast and every morning began with a tantrum when there were none). My "no's" are constant too.

At school, the children are taught about making healthy food choices. Just that they can't actually make healthy food choices. It's simply beyond a 6 year old to choose salad over a bun, and it doesn't help that the message is received in a very warped manner (apparently, because bread is healthy, as is milk, it's enough to just eat bread and milk).

It's not a secret that an ever increasing number of children are overweight, that we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic that brings with it heart disease, diabetes, cancer and possibly other illnesses. It's costing us as a society a lot of money. Yet we won't bow to the pressures of the profit makers who sell us rubbish food, and let them market the food to our children in an unashamed way. They give the illusion of healthy snacks (cereal bars anyone? Fruit juices?). There's the argument that kids wouldn't eat the healthy options (yes, maybe for a while until they realise that's what there is and if they are hungry they'd better eat it). But really, are we so keen to just give up on our kids and let them indulge as if there was no tomorrow? As a society, we are reducing the life expectancy of our children significantly, and nobody seems to care because it's all big business.

So the school fundraisers have junk tuck shops to raise funds for the school (I'd be happy to pay for my child not to be exposed to the tuck shop). If I don't give money for the tuck shop, child feels excluded and is upset, and a teacher or parent is sure to give her some money to make her happy again. School dinners establish questionable food preferences under the health umbrella, or offer so many choices that every child is sure to be able to avoid all fruit and veg and binge on simple carbs and processed junk.

And here I am little mummy average, trying to fight a losing battle, with only two choices left: give in or take it on.



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