Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Food on Our Plate

Food has been in the news a lot lately. Do we eat too much, are we eating the right things, are we poisoning our kids with an abundance of sugar and unpronounceable ingredients? All of these topics, and more, are making headlines. For myriad reasons, too many to name, Americans are obsessed with weight. Very few people I know have a simple relationship with food, and mine is as complicated as theirs. Is this what we want for our kids?

On my own blog, I’ve written more than once about Michael Pollen’s book, In Defense of Food, which encourages us, no--pleads with us, to consider the source of what we eat. Mr. Pollen argues for local foods, simple ingredient lists, and no pre-packaged “non-foods.” It’s as compelling of a non-fiction book as I’ve read, if only for its implications for our kids.

In this week’s NY Times, Tara Parker-Pope also argues for healthier food choices in her article “6 Food Mistakes Parents Make.” In my twelve years of reading about parenting, I’ve seen countless articles that begin with an intriguing title, then go on to tell me what I already know. Happily, Ms. Parker-Pope’s article doesn’t fall into that category. I began by skimming her ideas, then slowed down to read more. Although some of her advice was familiar, she included a new study from Penn State that I found very interesting. About the study, she said:

“Children were seated at tables and given unlimited access to plates of apple or peach cookie bars — two foods the youngsters had rated as “just O.K.” in earlier taste tests. With another group, some bars were served on plates, while some were placed in a clear cookie jar in the middle of the table. The children were told that after 10 minutes, they could snack on cookies from the jar.

The researchers found that restricting the cookies had a profound effect: consumption more than tripled compared with when the cookies were served on plates.”

Consumption tripled?! That’s a big difference, my friends. Ms. Parker-Pope’s suggestion is that we should stop buying the snacks or desserts that we consider off-limits. If it’s a “special occasion” treat, then we should only buy it for special occasions. Fabulous concept, for both our kids and ourselves, don’t you think? Ms. Parker-Pope goes on to suggest that we buy healthier foods and let our kids snack whenever they’re hungry.

So what do you think moms? Is this the key to helping our kids have a healthier relationship with food than we do? I think it’s a great start. What about you?


Luanne said...

I actually do that!! The only downfall is the cost of whole foods versus packaged/processed foods. But my opinion is "You pay for it now, or you pay for it later" medical costs and poor health. My kids eat healthy snacks pretty much whenever they want...unless we are ten minutes away from dinner and I'm hearing "Mom, I'm going to die if I don't eat something now...then I make them wait cause they are more likely to eat what I have prepared because of their "starvation."

Great article!

Heather said...

My thoughts on "snacks" for the kids is, if they ask for something healthy (grapes, carrots, banana) the answer will be yes 99 % of the matter how close to dinner. It's actually gotten them in the habit of asking for the good stuff instead of the bad stuff because they know the answer will be yes.