We need more angry voices to save our kids … from us
At a recent health-food conference and tradeshow, I was reminded of a Jimmy Buffet song that says, “We are the people our parents warned us about.” Three acclaimed speakers at the conference agreed that when it comes to feeding our children nutritious foods and keeping them as healthy as possible (both of which are lacking) we have no one to blame but ourselves.
Though there are healthy foods and healthy lifestyle options out there, as parents and adults (supposed models of good behavior), we’ve become spineless puppets.
We’ve given in to nutritionally void lunch programs; we given in and accepted that it’s okay for our most vulnerable – pregnant woman and newborn babies – to carry hundreds of chemical compounds in their bodies, and we’ve given in to advertising and marketing food campaigns by loading our cupboards with junk food, just to keep the kids from whining too much.
As one of the speakers, Chef Ann Cooper, said, “When did we decide that the kids get to decide what they get to eat?”
What would you change?
Cooper and the other speakers, Dr. Alan Greene, a pediatrician and Stanford professor, and Gary Hirshberg, CE-Yo (as he calls himself) of Stonyfield Farms Yogurt were asked by Sylvia Tawse of the Fresh Ideas group their thoughts on, “What one thing would you change?”
Cooper kicked it off with these words: “I want everyone who cares about how our kids are being fed to get really pissed off.”
Too many adults have caved in to big business and politics, by allowing them to tell our kids what they should eat, she said. Cooper says that even in Boulder, Colorado, where she is working to improve the lunch program (hence her nickname the Renegade Lunch Lady), parents in this notoriously granola-crunchy health town have caved in to the million-dollar messaging, and are afraid to feed their kids real food for fear of a tantrum or two.
“Organic gummi bears and organic Twinkies are not real food,” she said. “And, if all we [the health-food industry] are doing is making organic chicken nuggets and organic hot Cheetos, then shame on us.” Cooper wants parents to be pissed off enough to tell the food industry to make better food, and pissed off enough to tell their kids, enough is enough.
Even our infants are obese
Dr. Greene drove the message home with a sobering discovery, 33 percent of infants are obese before they are nine months old. Yes, before they’ve eaten Cheetos for breakfast and chicken nuggets for dinner, more than one third of infants are obese.
Greene thinks he knows at least one reason why. Rice cereal. Greene explained that white rice cereal, a baby’s first solid food, is nothing more than pure starch, which is converted to sugar in the baby’s mouth. This alone is creating a country of sugar-addicted children from a very early age.
“Taste preferences happen at a very early age,” said Greene, “and we are setting children up for a lifetime of sugar cravings.”
Greene wants parents to change a baby’s eating habits from their first bite. He wants parents to feed their kids real food, like a soft avocado, not a pulverized mash of pure white starch.
He is also most concerned about a study showing that the weed killer atrazine may be leading to weight gain and obesity.
Green cited a 2009 study showing that when rats were fed food treated with atrazine, they gained 10 percent more body weight than rats fed a diet clean from the herbicide. Greene is particularly concerned that this herbicide may be but just one more cause of infant and childhood obesity, in addition to processed rice cereal.
The last speaker, Stonyfield’s Hirshberg, closed with a message of hope saying that as a founder of an organic-dairy company there are many issues to consider other than the bottom line, such as how the company affects the growing obesity crisis, how organic foods reduce chemical exposure in infants, how company practices affect climate change, and the health and wealth of the small farmer. Hirshberg said that there is hope because the price of organic ingredients is getting closer to conventional prices, making his yogurt and other products a reality for cash-strapped families.
Change comes from us
All of the panelists agreed, the true power of change will come from the power of one – one consumer, one parent, one child saying no to genetically modified foods, saying no to processed junk foods, and saying no to the pressures that make eating poorly so much easier. But only if we all get a little more pissed off.
Kimberly Lord Stewart is an award-winning investigative food reporter, the former editorial director of Functional Ingredients magazine, and the author of Eating Between the Lines, The Supermarket Shopper’s Guide To The Truth Behind Food Labels.Complete bio.