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Beware of Broccoli

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Guest blogger Ronda Kaysen: It's official, moms. We never do the right thing. If you've got an organic only fridge and a pantry entirely trans fats free, then you've got a problem, the New York Times reports.


Parents who tell their kids that white rice is akin to candy and who treat french fries like poison might be doing their kids more harm than good, or so says doctors, dietitians and eating disorder experts. They might be dishing out a heaping serving of an eating disorder along with that veggie burger.

"We're seeing a lot of anxiety in these kids," said Cynthia Bulik, the director of the eating disorders program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "They go to birthday parties, and if it's not a granola cake, they feel like they can't eat it. The culture has led both them and their parents to take the public health messages to an extreme."

Before you run out and order pepperoni pizza for dinner to atone for your health nut ways, read on.

"Certainly, not all parents who enforce rules about healthy food -- or any dietary plan -- are setting their children up for an eating disorder. Clinical disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia, which have been diagnosed in increasing numbers of adolescents and young people in the last two decades, are thought by researchers to have a variety of causes -- including genetics, the influence of mass media and social pressure."

Well that's a relief! But the article goes on to say that parents who are too rigid in how they talk about food with their kids and too restrictive about what they offer might be creating neurotic eaters who freak out if their rice isn't brown or they get served Oreos instead of Newman's Own.

"We're driving our kids absolutely crazy," said Katie Wilson, president of the School Nutrition Association. "All the stuff about preservatives and pesticides. All an 8-year-old kid should know is that he or she should eat a variety of colors, and don't supersize anything but your water jug."

So there you have it. You can, in fact, never win. If you spend your time reading labels to make sure your kids don't consume partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil or high fructose corn syrup, you're a nut with a neurotic kid doomed for a life spent purging over the toilet bowl. But if you throw caution to the wind and serve mac and cheese for dinner every night, your kids will be obese with type II diabetes before they finish the fifth grade.

At least one thing is certain. We can rest assured that whatever we do, it's all our fault.

next: Woman, 70, Fights Off Intruders with Sauce Pan
6 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jill February 27, 2009, 2:57 PM

Interesting article; however, why does it have to take the tone that its all the mother’s fault? My daughter is 6 and while I know that I’m not a perfect parent, I don’t ever think that “I never do the right thing”.

I did the right thing when my daughter was weened, potty trained, taught to be nice to the cat and use manners with strangers. Those are all great and right things I have done.

Mothers, take a moment to remember all the *right* things we do with our kids! (In light of some of the only moms that get terrible press coverage).

Pat your selves on the back once in a while.

The Mother February 27, 2009, 3:13 PM

Oh, so true. Every kid I have ever met whose mommy is a health fiend is a little weird/neurotic.

But I do have to wonder if it’s the food, or the genes.

Dee February 27, 2009, 3:27 PM

That’s funny lol but good point.

Betty February 27, 2009, 8:46 PM

“If you spend your time reading labels to make sure your kids don’t consume partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil or high fructose corn syrup, you’re a nut with a neurotic kid doomed for a life spent purging over the toilet bowl.”

I spend some time reading labels to make sure my kids get the healthiest, trans fat free food. And, I’m very proud of it! So you’re saying my kids are doomed for an eating disorder? Your nuts! My kids get enough unhealthy food at school lunches, birthday parties, at the grandparents, and most times going out to eat when not in the house. My effort to restrict it at home is a help! And I’m proud of it! My kids don’t like white bread because we always have wheat so they are accustomed to it. And now, because of my tactics, they prefer it. I’m thankful for labels and healthy choices most times in the house. It’s an unhealthy, FAT nation here and I’m glad I can teach my kids good nutrition. And a special treat every once in a while is okay!

Theresa February 28, 2009, 11:38 PM

Betty, you’ve hit the nail directly on the head saying, “a special treat once in a while is okay!” I agree wholeheartedly. Its good to feed kids natural things, but no one needs to hang over their kid making sure anything processed ever touches their lips. I feel most mothers (and fathers!) are only doing the best that they can, and yeah, we all deserve a pat on the back sometimes.

Cindy Bulik March 2, 2009, 8:34 AM

In commenting on this topic for this article it was so important to me that it not be interpreted as mother blaming. I have spent my entire career trying to reverse the mother-blaming stereotypes that have damaged moms, kids, and their relationships! I am all for healthy nutrition and we all have to be vigilant about what our children (and we!) are eating in this world. What concerns me is the culture of fear that public health messages can create when taken to an extreme. We rely on the “experts” for guidance. The media have to work with the experts to convey balanced and health-promoting messages. The key is to support moms, not to blame them!

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