SUGAR. The new “bad word.” Yes I said it. And we’re going to talk about it in todays guest blog.
As a child I had a friend who was forbidden from eating sugar at home. Her house NEVER contained anything that might fall into the category of “unhealthy.” I can still remember her coming to my house and looking for sugar with a kind of desperation that as an 8 year old, actually made me uncomfortable. Why did she want that chocolate syrup so badly? And when she got her hands on it, why did she dump the WHOLE bottle into her milk? Yuck, I thought, now that’s not healthy. And then on the flip side, as I got older, I watched so many girls and friends suffer as a result of their complicated relationships with food. Food became the enemy as everyone tried to meet standards for themselves that were driven by fashion magazines and peer pressure to be thin.
Fast forward to today. I’m a mom of two trying to set up healthy eating habits for my kids. I often think about these “food relationships” that I observed as a child. I have always loved registered dietician and mom Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD and her take on “sometimes foods” and “all the time foods.” And we’re so glad to feature her as guest blogger to lay out some tips and her thoughts on helping your family form healthy habits and relationships with food. Thanks Laura for sharing your thoughts with us!
Nutrition Comes in All Forms AND the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Agrees!
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD and Mom
Sugar has definitely received a bad rap this past year. Its poor reputation is very similar to the negative press that fat received in years past. Research is constant and correlations are often made—while causation is rarely determined. As mothers and fathers, how does this affect they way you feed your child? Do you go with the latest diet trend? Do you impose your food beliefs on your children? If so, how are you talking with your children about these beliefs? Remember, when all is said and done, these are just beliefs—not necessarily black and white facts.
With this is mind, remember all food provides nutrition—even Skittles and saturated fats (i.e. coconut oil). However, I am not implying you should feed your kids a diet of sugar and saturated fats. Rather, I am suggesting that as parents, we must watch our wording and behaviors associated with various foods. Our children are smart and pick up on our food issues. Yet most children—like many adults—are not (yet) capable of separating food and feelings or such strong statements into rational thoughts.
Many RDs and parents want to scream, “Corn syrup is bad!” but telling your child this may be more harmful than helpful. I am trying to write this as delicately as possible, but think about it: Does a pack of candy or a bread made with corn syrup versus rice syrup really matter? No. Yet many moms label these as “bad.” As a mother of two boys, I do not completely negate these foods and constantly prefer that my boys eat more wholesome foods. As parents we must walk a very fine line in how we convey healthy habits to children. We may use different educational tools to discuss nutrient density, food processing, and overall diet quality, but it is also our job to prevent children from fearing their food, fearing weight gain, and fearing feeding themselves.
Instilling fear of food and feeding in a child can even be one of the contributors to the feeding disorder known as “Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder” (ARFID,) especially if a child is already prone to anxiety or is a picky eater.
You can be the mom that hands your children M&M’s some of the time. Know that sugar candy is converted to exactly that, sugar in the body. The brain only uses sugar; our muscles store sugar for easy access during long bouts of exercise (playing a long soccer game, playing outside all day long, or swimming in the pool for many hours as kids are wont to do). While not an ideal food for growth, sugar still provides energy. Take into consideration that when we don’t make a big deal about these sugary foods, kids will be less likely to ask for them in the first place.
I have to admit, this is much easier to do in session with a client than in the everyday setting of raising my kids, but I try. And, I hope you will try your best too. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics relays that “exaggerated negative messaging that comes with oversimplification of foods classified as “good vs. Bad can easily translate to guilt, anxiety, and fewer about appropriate food choices.” Instead AND encourages a total diet approach and avoidance of blanket statements.
Hopefully, the message eases the guilt that some parents feel when they give their kids cookies at snack. And for parents at the other end of the spectrum, perhaps AND’s message will relieve your anxieties when your children may eat a less nutrient dense meal at the neighbor’s house.
TIPS and TOOLS TO USE:
- Neutralize foods; rid the food hierarchy; avoid labeling food “good” and “bad”
- Instill a focus on learning to take care of your body
- Focus on how you feel after you eat (not you, but the child—do not impose your feelings on the child; he or she needs to make his or own decisions)
- Read the Mom Dishes It Out selected books
- Keep in mind – the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics emphasizes eating patterns not specific foods and nutrients
Stein, K. Severely restricted diets in the absence of medical necessity: the unintended consequences. J Am Diet Assoc. 2014;114(7):986-994.