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fear-mongering and food

Posted by on Sep 9, 2011 in Blog Posts | 8 comments

“Peanuts in pregnancy may lead to allergy!”  But, the article concludes, “thus far no recommendations have been made that mothers avoid eating peanuts during pregnancy.”  But the headline screams, “Hey, pregnant woman, if you are at all going to be a good mother now you can’t eat anything containing peanuts, add that to soft cheeses, and oh, right, lunch meats, oh, and soda and all sugar-sweetened beverages and food dyes… Basically you can just eat organic, free-range lamb and brown rice…” (The data on allergies and why there is an increase is beyond confusing it seems. Start solids late, no start them early, avoid the foods altogether, no start them early! As an aside, I am looking forward to speaking about feeding at the AFAA of Minnesota Food Allergy  conference in Minneapolis on the 17th, and will try to find the allergy doc gurus to get some of their thoughts on the changing recommendations re kids and food allergies.)
Or the article that hyped up pretty bad research on the dangers of sodium so they could spend four pages on a spread showing ways to reduce sodium (in Real Simple magazine.)
Chocolate sundae solution? Add more ice-cream!
Donut solution? eat a donut hole…

Not kidding. That advice was given in all seriousness. I suppose it is simple to just eat less of the salty item. (FYI, an exhaustive  Cochrane review found very little evidence around the hyped dangers of sodium.)

Or the call I got from the mom who was waiting to feed her home-made lasagna to her toddler because she read an article online about too much meat causing kidney failure. (I have to wonder if PETA didn’t hack into that website.) I reassured the mother that if her son was healthy, did not just run a marathon in 100 degree weather and didn’t eat 12 pans of lasagna he would be fine. Well, I said it in a nicer and more thorough way, but my point is she had an unnecessary worry from reading an unnecessary article and it was messing with her mind and her feeding.

I suppose my rambly point this morning of the last day before school starts of a week with no camp, and spotty childcare- is that our culture has added food to the list of things to be afraid of. Every parenting magazine, every nightly news (“What is in your kid’s lunchbox that could kill them? Tune in at 11!”)  every other magazine from Newsweek to Real Simple wants to scare you into buying their products or watching their show/advertising. So, the next time Woman’s Week, or Family Fun has a story about scary food or feeding issues, please, skip it, recycle it ASAP, take a deep breath… (An old post on “threat level orange” and fear and feeding)

Do these stories scare you? What worries you? Is it justified?

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  1. jennifer

    My comment wasn’t so much as trying to solve a problem with my daughter’s eating, but rather trying to wrap my head around this method of feeding. By hardwiring, she just isn’t much of an eater, and when she decides she is going to eat, cheezits and dessert are the preferred food. Our rule at dinner has always been to have dessert you need to eat some vegetable. And she would, a pretty good variety too, and often times takes seconds on her own, but it was always a discussion/argument to get started, which I hated. And so I have been trying to implement the DOR. Alas! No more arguing! Yay! But also, no more vegetables. So as I am trying to grapple with this method and have been reading Satters books, her website, and this one, it has brought up so many questions. I feel like some things I am reading are at odds. Like in my original comment, it seems hypocritical to say that a mother is not supposed to require a child to eat some veges before dessert (for the sake of needed vitamins/minerals and fiber) but that I should then give her a vitamin and expect her to take that? Over on Ellyn Satters facebook page I have read some things that (to me) feel like even thinking about buying/preparing food that is just a little better for our bodies is wrong because it is in a way “restrictive.” But then I have also read in one post or another that a vitamin was recommended. Isn’t that the same as buying and offering healthy food? And by healthy I mean organic meats/fruits/veges/dairy and low on the processing, not “low-fat.”

    I totally realize that I may be splitting hairs. But I am looking for a discussion and some clarity. It is how I learn.

    • katja

      yes, this is so important. I will get to it in the next few weeks, if I don’t, remind me! Maybe I’ll do a quickie video on FB… Anyway, this is also the kind of thing that many moms find that talking through with me for 30-60 minutes can be really helpful. I know when I first did this, I chatted with Ellyn twice for under 20-30 minutes each call, but it was tremendously helpful in my early months to have some reassurance that I was “doing it right” and that what I was seeing was normal. Feel free to email me privately to set that up if you think it would help…

  2. Camilla

    Where the fear of peanuts fell apart for me is when my cruising 11-month old, who wasn’t supposed to be eating either wheat or peanuts stole my PB&J sandwich and took a bite. At the next visit, I asked the pediatrician whether his evident lack of reaction to it meant I should make him one of his own next time.

    (She had no answer that she could justify in the slightest, so I concluded she was full of it.)

    • katja

      “Full of it” may be a bit harsh 🙂 but maybe not knowing would be better, and maybe we should just come out and say that? I have yet to see definitive evidence of anything that prevents food allergies. Living on a farm and owning pets seemed to help with allergies in general (atopy) but that is not an option for many of us… I think we don’t know, and it might be refreshing if docs would just say that…

  3. jennifer nelson

    Just not getting basic nutrition scares me. If I allow my daughter to pick and choose at dinner, and all she chooses is bread or pasta with butter, where is the nutrition provided by the vegetables and meat that she is not “required” to eat. A multi-vitamin? Shouldn’t that be a choice too? If I am not supposed to MAKE her eat three bites of vegetables, then why would I MAKE her take a vitamin.

    • Camilla

      My kids seem to find the chewable Flintstones vitamins pretty tasty (likewise the gummy fruit fish oil thingies). I think if you’re going to use vitamins, then you’ll have much better luck if you don’t associate them with eating or not eating dinner. Just hand them out before breakfast.

      (I don’t think vitamin tablets are necessary; I buy the gummy fish because my husband likes them, and my older boy is taking an “iron containing” multivitamin at the pediatrician’s recommendation after testing borderline low. Can’t give it to one child but not the other without a fight, so they each get one of each.)

    • ako

      Do her food habits tend to average out, or is she consistent in going for nothing but plain starch every meal? A lot of kids tend to eat in ways that look unbalanced and worrying on a particular meal, or even all day for a particular day, but average out as fairly balanced.

      If the kid is actually eating in a way that’s causing genuine nutritional deficiencies, and not just “From the outside, that doesn’t look like it could be healthy”, it seems like a mandatory multivitamin would lead to fewer long-term food issues than mandatory vegetables. It’s a pill, and not usually served at the dinner table, and it’s over in one gulp, so there’s less of an association with meals and regular eating.

    • katja

      This is a long one, and I am swamped, but I will get back to this thread soon! In short, she will eat “worse” for awhile, and will get back to it soon. She is testing the process. Also, in winter, I do a chewable MVIT, and we have never had a problem with it. there is nuance though…