I'm well aware of what an uphill battle I have to get my family to eat better, particularly the kick I've got going with no-meat, WAY-less-dairy, and WAY-less sugar. It's a trifecta of challenges that few parents want to take on, simply because the whining is so bothersome. It's easier to hand the kid the hot dog, the string cheese, and the fudgsicle than it is to make (and get him to eat) the spinach-brown rice casserole, the side of Brussels sprouts, the homemade applesauce, and the (also homemade) carob cake sweetened with agave or stevia or honey or molasses instead of sugar. And, unfortunately, many (perhaps most?) parents choose the easy road, because our society has made it SO easy and SO cheap and SO "normal" that parents don't think much about it, saying to themselves that "all kids eat like that" and that they "don't have time" to feed their kids (and themselves) better. Also, as more and more children are fat, more and more parents tend to see their chunky kids as "normal," rather than unhealthy.
It's NOT true that ALL kids eat poorly, though a shocking number do. It's also NOT true that all healthy meals take a long time to prepare, though learning to shop for and cook new foods does take a little effort, particularly if you've gotten into the rut of Monday-it's-chicken, Tuesday-it's-beef-tacos, Wednesday-it's-spaghetti-with-meatballs, etc. I'm up to the challenge and think more people could do the same, were they not making 100 excuses for themselves about why they cannot.
Yet, what my husband and I do is only part of the solution to improving our kids' diets. The part we can't control is getting others on board with how to feed kids -- particularly schools and day camps and other facilities that cater to (our) children. This hit home (again) tonight, when I found my son asleep, clutching a "Day Camp Cafe' Order Sheet" in his hand, which I had not seen.
I knew that part of the camp "experience" was purchasing snack food daily at the Camp Cafe. I gave him $10 in his account for the week, figuring $2 per day was pretty darn generous. I don't want him to be the kid whose Mom won't cough up a little money for some fun food.
However, I (NAIVELY) thought the Cafe would have things like icepops and Sunchips -- junk food that is, as far as junk food goes, not too bad. Imagine my surprise when, today, I read the following list?
DAY CAMP CAFE ORDER SHEET
LIMIT 2 ITEMS PER DAY
Soda Pop: Pepsi, Mt. Dew, Root Beer, Dr. Pepper, Diet Pepsi
Italian Sodas (thirteen different flavors listed)
Whipped Cream (Y/N)
Ice Cream Cone or Cup: Chocolate, Vanilla, Swirl
Ice Cream Sundae: Chocolate, Vanilla, Swirl, Chocolate Sauce, Caramel Sauce, Whipped Cream
Snow Cone (several flavors listed)
Floats: Root Beer, Mt. Dew, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Dr. Pepper
Other: (I'm assuming this is where he writes in that he wants Skittles or Twix or similar -- things I also discovered today he has eaten at camp.)
GOOD LORD! There are NO healthy choices here at all, and an alarming number involve caffeine. What the hell? Am I the only parent who would prefer her kid NOT be offered a caffeinated beverage?
I'm thinking of writing the camp a letter, kindly suggesting that they offer other snacks and perhaps only let a camper choose ONE of the really bad-for-you choices per day. However, I can already anticipate the responses: 1)Parents, not counselors, are responsible for telling their children what they prefer them not to eat; 2) The camp cannot be responsible for children purchasing items that their parents would prefer they not consume; 3) the camp has too many children to be able to monitor which kid has already purchased a "really junky" food.
I can also anticipate why the camp offers these items: They are, in bulk, WAY cheaper than healthier items. And they store well. (Imagine enough oranges purchased for a day camp, and how many would go to waste because the kids wouldn't purchase them.)
I can also anticipate what other parents might think of me if I were to write such a letter: "Oh, for God's sake! It's just a little junk food! Let the kids have fun!" If I write the letter, I'll come across as a real curmudgeon, a scrooge, a party-pooper. Mind you, I could live with the kids being allowed ONE really junky food per day, but TWO? Come on! I don't need this kind of challenge to my parenting from a camp that I pay for!!
- My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.