This is going to be really ugly and I may partially regret the bluntness that's about to happen here. So please excuse the mother bear claws now pounding on my keyboard. But I've had enough and need to get it out. First let me explain: I don't post on this blog much anymore because I feel like since we started our paleo/primal journey over 2 years ago (and still going strong!), that arena has exploded with bloggers who have much more time to devote to it and provide wonderful resources, etc. to those who are looking for them. Why just be another voice saying the same thing when I've got a lot of other stuff on my plate?
But if there is one area of healthy living that has me itching to write (and scream from the rooftops), it's our children and their health and the poison being shoved down their throats by schools, sports teams, etc. There have been a dozen times I almost came on here to write about it. Actually...I have a rather sharply worded post started last August regarding swim lessons and a party. Maybe I should post that next. But last night's events just sent me over the top.
When you have kids and live a paleo/primal lifestyle, you are in a constant battle with well-intentioned forces around them offering your children a myriad of crap food. I full out LIE on my kids' health forms for school and say they are allergic to grains, sugar, and dairy. It is the only way I can try and influence what happens at school. But even that fails. Maybe if I say it is a life-threatening allergy - like other kids' nut allergies - I'd actually get some reaction. It's pathetic that I have to resort that that.
I pack their lunches 100% of the time so I'm in charge of that meal. But it's the other things like the pizza party to celebrate the classroom who raised the most selling gift wrap or frozen cookie dough. It's the cupcakes and candy brought in by the room moms for the Halloween/Christmas/Valentines/Anyday party. (Our school does not allow food for Birthdays, but the policy ignores the frequent parties all year long). It's the pasteurized, 1% chocolate milk offered to all kindergartners for free each day (yeah...your taxes pay for that) at snack time. And let's not forget the food incentives for jobs well done. Technically, teachers are not supposed to give our students candy and treats, but they do. Almost daily. Good job on a test - here's some licorice. You worked on that lesson. Have a jolly rancher. You did your homework. You get a tootsie roll. You all battled through those standardized tests - who wants ice cream?? You showed up to school everyday. Cotton candy for you! I love teachers - I was a public school teacher myself - but this goes out to all teachers in the world: OUR KIDS ARE NOT DOGS. STOP "TRAINING" THEM WITH TREATS.
It gets even worse in middle school where kids have more freedom and vending machine lobbyists - yes...I recently learned there is such a job - keep those sugar dispensers easily accessible to willing dollar bills. Even if you were able to impart a strong enough message on your child to stay away from such crap, they're still not immune to the abundance of sugar and chemicals thrown at them. One of the worst examples: My daughter's school has a "Day Maker" program where if you are seen doing something above and beyond to help others, you get a "Hi Card" which entitles you to two pieces of candy and a Mountain Dew. Great program, but why are you rewarding our children with poisonous crap for good behavior? Again. THEY'RE NOT DOGS. And food like that is 100% compromising what you're trying to get them to do in school: focus and learn. Why oh why are these connections not being made by educated adults???!!!!
Then there are sports and clubs. This one has me fuming. Remember when being "snack mom" meant bringing a thermos of ice water, some cups, and orange wedges to the soccer game? Yeah...not anymore. I actually did that for my first ever soccer snack sign-up years back when my oldest daughter started in youth sports and the parents and kids looked at me like I had 3 heads. I brought home an untouched bag of 20 cut up oranges and was baffled. It was the next game when I saw was proper post-game snacks are supposed to look like: bag of Doritos and a Capri Sun pouch. Oh. Got it. Reward physical activity with chemicals, petroleum based "food" products, and copious amounts of sugar. Makes perfect sense.
Since that first experience - and many, many sports seasons since - I've walked this delicate snack line carefully. From Girl Scout meetings, to play dates, to soccer/tennis/swim/baseball/gymnastics/dance/theatre/whateveractivitydujour - snack sign up has been met with trepidation on my part. 1) What the hell do I bring in that doesn't offend the other kids and their parents like apparently water and orange slices clearly do, but still is not crap? 2) Even if I manage an answer to that one, what do I do when other parents are so clueless that they hand out crappy non-food to my kids who will inevitably be disappointed when they have to refuse the offering.
Two days ago, I sent my middle two kids to Summer Rec at the
park - 3 hours of games and fun with a healthy snack provided. I packed
organic apples and water for them just in case. They ate their apples.
AND the bag of flippin' cheetos provided as their "healthy" snack. Are you kidding me? I could have screamed at the counselors. When I went to sign them out, a counselor
asked me to sign-up for a snack. Sure. Happy to do so. But it wasn't a
snack day where I was in charge - they had preplanned the "healthy"
snacks for the summer and my choices were licorice, oreos, pretzels, or
chips. "Two bags of your item is requested." Livid doesn't begin to
But last night. Last night's end of soccer game snack sent me over and resulted in this diatribe you're reading now. At the end of my son's soccer game he was given a bag of Nilla Wafers and TWO Kool Aid "Bursts". Want to know what's in these items? Click here or here or here or just google it yourself. NOT ONE INGREDIENT I WANT IN MY KIDS' BODIES. Nor should you want it in your kids' bodies either. What were these parents thinking? Did it not occur to them? Do they not get it? Or, what I suspect, they are lemmings blindly following the increasingly successful and adaptable food marketers calling out to them from the TV and the grocery store shelves. And for this reason alone, other adults should not be making food decisions for other people's kids.
HERE'S THE THING....We're not perfect. We eat approved-by-me treats now and again for sure. We're not purists 24/7. I am constantly and carefully balancing the uptmost importance of clean eating with living in a modern, mainstream world. It's such a hard battle. It's a daily battle. And I work freakin' hard at the battle. So it angers me to no end when others come in to my kids' lives and muck my hard work up with poor food decisions - intentional or not on a very regular basis. I am in charge. I am the parent. I decide what my kids eat and when. Not schools. Not camps. Not sports. Me.
My kids - more than any other children I know - are well versed in proper and smart health choices and the science behind it. It's a constant topic of conversation. But they're kids and observant as hell. They notice differences between the food choices we make and their friends, neighbors, and peers. And they question it constantly...that overwhelming biologically based need kids have to be normal and fit in. And our diets don't fit in. Our paleo/primal choices completely clash with SAD (Standard American Diet). So when a trusted adult offers them a pouch of sugar, they're not going to refuse. This is due to a mixture of respect and trust of adults coupled with the desire to do what everyone else is doing mixed in with the addictive pull of sugar, chemicals, and preservatives.
Statistically speaking, my kids and your kids, have a lifetime risk of diabetes of 1 in 3. That's insanity. Thirty percent of the people around them - at their current young age - are severely obese. Who knows what that number will be in 10 years. One in 8 of their peers have a severe food allergy! They are growing up in a society that is more advanced than ever, yet insanely enough, also sicker than ever. We are so focused on helping adults with their health problems, but how often do we ever examine where it started? I want to scream STOP. STOP. STOP. Back it up. Look earlier. Look to the classroom treats. Look to the seemingly harmless "all American" bake sales. Look to the "cute and innocuous" arsenic...err...juice boxes. Look to the soccer moms innocently offering up Gatorade and granola bars. THIS IS WHERE IT STARTS.
I'm not blind enough to believe other people's food choices don't affect me. I may not be eating what they're eating, but it certainly does affect me. But that's a huge other post. Right now, today, my top priority is raising the healthiest children possible. And I'm being sabotaged. Daily. I'm being sabotaged daily by other parents, trusted teachers, and respected coaches - all of whom I am thankful for being involved in my kids' lives. But I am making this plea: your job is to help care for, teach, coach, and guide my children in a given circumstance. But they're health and food they consume? That's my domain. Please. Hands off.