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what have your kids learned from school nutrition programs?

Posted by on Mar 30, 2011 in Blog Posts | 17 comments

This quote from a reader on my facebook page had me laughing and angry…

“The kindergarteners at our school had a nutrition unit earlier this year. Z. came home spouting maxims such as “vegetables are healthy! Cookies are bad!” and then, contemplatively, “I hate vegetables.” This from a boy who loves broccoli, green beans, celery, carrots, edamame. . . thankfully, the unit was brief so the damage was minimal.”

Just wait until it is integrated into every subject, like math (“hey, kids, let’s count calories!”) or biology, (“hey kids, if you just ate less junk food you wouldn’t be chubby! Let’s look at this five pounds of fat and all be grossed out!”)

My kiddo has talked about how the folks who eat with her make kids eat their “good” food before the “bad.” Sigh…

What have YOUR kids come home with from school? (Other than pink eye and gastroenteritis, though some of the “nutrition” info is just as bad!)

If you haven’t already, feel free to pop over and fan Family Feeding Dynamics on FB. We have fun discussions about all kinds of things, from Mayo vs Miracle Whip, to what you had for breakfast to different kinds of feeding therapy intervention! Check it out and tell your friends!

*By the way, the photo is there for what is being done and should NOT be done. I am not advocating the message in the poster for those who are new readers…

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  1. A.B

    I forgot to add that last summer I searched for the website and it looks like the site was taken down. I guess perhaps many parents complained about the wording in the “Health” section, so the company finally took down the site despite them ignoring my e-mail.

  2. A.B

    While writing a paper for a women’s study class I was surprised with what I found on websites geared towards pre-teen girls. In the “Health” section of one website it claimed that eating fruits and vegetables, and taking showers, will make one’s body and hair “sexy”.When I was a kid (pre-Internet) I had some books about health, but they never said if I did everything in the name of health I would become “sexy”. After writing the paper I sent an e-mail to the animation company about taking down down the site and removing the word “sexy” as its inappropriate for kids to focus on their bodies and how “sexy” they are.Also i sent them one of the studies I found while researching my paper about the affects of precocious sexualization and focus on dieting in children’s media. it’s been almost three years and no one from the animation company has ever sent me any e-mails concerning their site.

    Sadly, people think I’m crazy because I tell them when I have kids I’m going to have to be stricter than my mother was with me when it comes to media because of the inappropriate messages in kids’ media these days.

    • katja

      It is, so, so sad. Maybe you can get more folks active. I applaud your email to that company, with the “sexy” message. Can you put something on FB with a link? Maybe if 200, or 500 people write in, then things will change. there are lots of folks in the ED and HAES, and just people who care about kids in general who would take a few minutes. It feels so hard to fight this, but what do you think? I’d re-post it! I tried to click on the Abercrombie link to the padded bikini top for kids, and the page was gone, maybe the outrage made them think twice and remove the product…

  3. Michellers

    Last night while eating fish sticks for dinner, my 5-year-old daughter said–with a flip of her hair–that her dinner was going to make her hair super shiny (and more shiny than her friend Emily, but that problem is not my point here). I looked at her blankly and then told her that getting shiny hair is more complicated than just eating fish or anything else, and that we should just eat food because it tastes and feels good in our body, not for any other purpose. Is this the new “eat carrots so you can see in the dark”?? Are there still people in the world who believe it’s okay to bribe our kids to eat certain foods because it’s going to make them pretty?! Argh!

    • katja

      I was horrified to find a WIC training for mothers that said, “how would you life be different if you love fruits and vegetables” The answer was literally, “clear skin, shiny hair and a slim body…” I love veggies, but I still need Proactive, and my hair isn’t too shiny. That kind of sneaky “benefits” of foods is harmful on many levels. As if a five year old needs to value shiny hair. Eat for how it makes you look, not how it tastes or makes your body feel. It makes me want to barf.

  4. Bobbini

    My son’s kindergarten class had each kid make a list of “good” foods and “bad” foods. Ugh. His list was very amorphous–some foods were on both sides! He clearly doesn’t get the concept. He’s very aware that “sugar is bad for you”, but he’s really not clear what that means, exactly. We keep talking the talk (no good foods or bad foods–lots of variety is good for you) and walking the walk (varied meals, division of responsibility) and hoping that it grounds him.

    My 10-year-old nephew asked my husband “What makes fruit taste so good?” and my husband responded “It’s the sugar!” My nephew was horrified. Fruit is supposed to be good for you! It shouldn’t have sugar! Cognitive dissonance!

    • katja

      that makes me want to scream. I would definitely write a letter on that one. Something like, “the recent nutrition program is at odds with concencus expert opinion. Labeling foods as either “good” or “bad” has never been shown to improve nutrition and health habits of children, but it has been shown to foster disordered attitudes about food and eating. Studies show that four-year-olds feel shame and guilt when eating “forbidden” foods. This is not teaching competent eating. Please cease your nutrition program until you are able to research appropriate ways to celebrate the variety of foods and help kids feel good about food and their bodies, rather than bad.” OK, I’m rambling, and too busy to give this lots of thought, but I would not let that one go… I love the “sugar” in fruit story! Perfect!

  5. E

    So scary! It took me a really long time after moving out of my parents’ house at age 18 to ever voluntarily eat fruit (except in a “it’s good for me” or dieting context). Now I actually want it for it’s own sake or for how it makes my body feel, but it was metaphorically pushed down my throat so frequently that it took a while to recover!

  6. Olivia

    I’m extremely wary of this. My 8-yr-old just started a running and healthy eating “club” that he is super excited about. Fortunately, I have experience with the teachers and both seem very realistic. He has brought home the message that some foods are “treat” foods without any overly negative/positive connotations. He has the basic idea that he won’t feel his best if he only eats “treat” food, but that treats are an important part of life. I’m not sure it’s the best approach, but given the alternatives, I don’t feel like I’ve had to do too much redirecting.

    • katja

      this is an interesting one. Developmentally they are excited and proud about what their bodies can do. I think that’s a nice thing to foster (I still remember being really happy when I beat all the boys at sit-ups and won the presidential fitness award, oh, and swam summers 2 hours a day on the swim team and had the highest “fat fold” measure in 5th grade…) I guess being watchful that it isn’t turning into something more is good. Checking out the coaches/teachers is key. Keep checking in with your son. A friend could not believe it when her daughter’s highschool track coach (a man) recommended an herbal tea for weight loss to the girls!! The “treat” food idea doesn’t sound too bad, but again, slippery slope. I like saying things like, “We don’t eat ice-cream every day, we get to eat lots of different foods. Some days ice-cream, other days peaches or apple-sauce…” (Of course, she will get my goat someday when she points out we’ve been eating grapefruit every morning for a few weeks now…)

  7. Shaunta

    A couple of weeks ago my daughter, who is also a kindergartener, was helping me make dinner. As we were cooking, she said that her and her brother and sister are “skinny” and me and her dad are . . . and then she fumbled. I said, “not skinny?” And she said no . . . ffff . . .fff…obviously wanting me to guess the word “fat.” So I did. And she said, “yes, but it’s not nice to say.” I asked her why, and she said because it’s mean and you can’t say it at school. Okay, I thought, so some anti-bullying happening at school, maybe. That’s good, right? Then we talked about how “fat” isn’t a bad word, but sometimes it does hurt other people’s feelings. And how bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and none of them are bad, and that she isn’t skinny, she’s just Ruby. She agreed. But it’s a shame to me that skinny vs. fat is already happening at age 5 or 6. I mean, really?

    • katja

      i know, it’s so so sad. They will learn all about the “obesity” monster, my M, also 5 1/2 giggles now when we read the word “fat” in Little House or elsewhere. There is a little boy in her class who made up some rhyme about a “fat woman” (I won’t repeat it here, but it is not funny.) We have had all those talks you mentioned, Daddy is fatter than me, I’m fatter than Opa, bodies come in all shapes and sizes and lots of them can be healthy… It feels like such a battle. I think I am going to rat out the little kid in class, but I am not sure how… This is all tougher than I thought! What do you think, do I rat out little Timmy (my universal name for boys) to the teacher?

      • Heidi

        I don’t think it’s “ratting out” when you’re bringing up a concern, namely, that a child is making inappropriate comments to other kids. If you replaced “fat” with “black” or “gay,” would you feel more compelled to notify his teacher? It’s not okay, whatever the characteristic being mocked.

  8. Limor

    This makes me even happier about my decision to homeschool. My daughter will be 5 next months, and she’s already picked up on this type of message from Sesame Street. She asked us if cookies were healthy. I hate knowing that the “good food/bad food” messages can’t be avoided. I just try my best to neutralize the damage by telling her that everything is healthy, especially if you eat a variety of foods.


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