Saturday, 17 December 2016

Toddlers' junk food

or junk food toddlers eat?
There is a timely article in this morning's paper about some "research" concerning the eating habits of pre-school children. It sets off the usual alarm bell about "not enough fruit and vegetables".
It is timely because I made gingerbread yesterday. I make it every year. One lot goes to the staff in the local green grocery. The boys who work in there have been dropping gentle hints for the past two weeks. No, I won't be allowed to forget. 
I can tease them and tell them they have to eat their "vegies" first. That isn't a problem. Everyone who works in there eats fruit and vegetables as a matter of course.
We do in this house. The Senior Cat will tease me as I put the plate down in front of me, "Not enough vegetables" and I will say, "Which one did I miss out this time?" It's the sort of in-family banter that other people don't always understand.
But, across the road, the two young granddaughters of our neighbours are now at school and still not eating "properly" in that they are eating almost nothing in the way of fruit and vegetables. They seem to exist on "Vegemite toast" and "Vegemite sandwiches" (white sliced bread only) and things like cake and ice-cream with a bit of yoghurt thrown in. No, I am not exaggerating. They will drink milk.
There is another child in this district who is still taking a banana sandwich to school each day. It is his lunch. It is all he will eat. When the price of bananas rose dramatically for a short period some years ago and his mother did not buy them he just took bread and  butter. He won't consider any other sort of sandwich and he must be in the late primary school now. 
I was talking about this with someone who called in yesterday as I was rolling out gingerbread dough and cutting out the shapes. She told me how her grandmother had helped her to do the same thing. Her grandmother brought her up after the death of her mother.  She was not quite a year old when this occurred. We talked about young children and food, how her grandchildren are "fussy eaters" at home. With her however they will eat most things.
      "When they were small I did what my grandmother did. She grated the carrot and the cheese. She sliced things and diced things so that they were small. I was expected to eat what was put in front of me but she made it attractive to a small child. We all ate together and it didn't seem rushed."
I thought about that this morning when I was reading the article. I know food habits have changed dramatically. When I was a kitten "junk food" was not common. We had sweets of course - although not as many as most children - but things like a packet of crisps were a rarity and lemonade was only had at Christmas or on a birthday...and not always then.  But, it was more than that. My mother had to prepare meals from scratch. There was no other way to do it where we lived. There wasn't much variety either. I was an adult before I tasted broccoli and courgettes even though I knew about carrots and cabbage. Fruit was a treat because we lived where it was hard to get. 
And yes, we all ate together and it didn't seem rushed. Perhaps there is something in preparation and togetherness?

1 comment:

Jodiebodie said...

There are so many factors affecting the less-than-ideal eating habits of Australian families right now including government policies and economic conditions that force both parents into the workforce. It leaves them tired and exhausted with little time to prepare wholesome food from scratch and so often it is more convenient to 'grab something already made' from the supermarket or the take-away. I know parents who know that this is not ideal but it is a regular part of their 'survival strategy' to at least have something on the dinner table in a timely fashion.

In my quest to avoid overly processed foods or those with unhealthy additives, I discovered that there is very little on offer in supermarkets. Much of the 'food' on supermarket shelves is unhealthy in my opinion.

Myself, I avoid processed foods and most take-aways. Our versions of take-aways are usually very basic like fish and chips or a roast chicken and pre-prepared salad occasionally but it is usually a pre-cooked portion of home cooked dinner from the freezer.

My children have been brought up on foods home-cooked from scratch and, after being unaccustomed to the extreme sweetness and saltiness of junk foods, they don't even want to eat junk food.

It is up to parents to teach their children about healthy choices and to lead by example. If you don't want your children to eat junk food, don't buy it! Don't give in to the pressure that marketing wants to push onto our children.

I explained to my very young children that I won't take them to a fast food chain because "there is no goodness in that food". They can understand that their bodies need good food to work. I explained that fast foods make them feel full at first but then they soon get hungry again because there was no goodness(nutrition) in it. They soon find out for themselves if they experience it through a birthday party invitation or at someone else's home. Then it's a great oppportunity to reinforce the message.

On the other hand, I always make sure that there are ample supplies of fresh fruit in the bowl at easy reach, inviting the children to choose a piece, healthy cereals and other foods available that they can easily prepare, and I make sure the pantry is stocked with baking supplies. If the children do crave biscuits or cake, they learn to bake them from scratch, thus using up calories in the making and encouraging them to learn useful life skills. When the healthier option is the easiest option, the choice is simple for the children. It is all a balance. It is a shame that many families have tipped the balance too far in the wrong direction.

I get angry and frustrated when I see a parent of a young toddler making poor choices for the child. I worry that we have an entire generation of parents who know no different.