You wouldn’t dole out fags to kids, so why hand out sweets?

16 Nov

Yesterday I interviewed a parent for my feature about how parental attitudes to eating and food knock on to their children. “I don’t stand in the playground handing out cigarettes to other people’s children, so why do some parents hand out sweets and cakes to mine, which in my view are just as bad for them?” she fumed. 

Basically, she was livid that the school, which boasts about its healthy eating policy, seemed to be so schizophrenic about enforcing it. The headmaster gives kids sweets as treats when they do well and are sent to see him for praise and the school holds regular ‘teas’ where cakes and biscuits are legion. On birthdays, the other parents bring in cakes and sweets for the whole class.

 “My children have no added sugar or salt in any of their foods, they don’t eat sweets or cakes – I want them to grow up with a balanced palate, eating healthy food not empty calories. But while lots of other parents pay lip-service to that, they don’t enforce it,” she explains, going on to tell me how she routinely throws away all the sweets in party bags after her children have been to parties and warns the host parent not to give her kids any cake at parties. The thought of inches of butter icing on cupcakes makes her start to hyperventilate. 

 It’s not a popular view – she begged me to keep her anonymous to save the school-gate wrangling – but doesn’t she have a point? We all pay lipservice to healthy eating, but many of us are petty slack on really enforcing it.   I am often thwarted by grandparents, sweets at parties, trick or treating (we had SACKS of them after that) sweets handed out in the school playground…. The bigger problem is that our culture promotes sweets and cakes as a big treat. Often, although you know they are bad, you feel that by denying them to your kid you are a cruel and horrible parent. (When i told my nine year old about this mother, she said not allowing kids sweets – ever – was tantamount to child cruelty)

What do you think?


8 Responses to “You wouldn’t dole out fags to kids, so why hand out sweets?”

  1. MmeLindor November 16, 2011 at 12:31 pm #

    That is not a balanced diet, is it?

    I am very against the sorting of food into “good” and “bad” as I feel that it sends the wrong message to children.

    There is no good and bad food, there are good and bad diets perhaps.

    Going to McDonalds once a month does not cancel out the 27 days of healthy eating and stops the children craving chips.

    I bet her children sneak treats when they are away from her, which I find quite sad. I want my children to have a healthy relationship both to me and to their food.

  2. claire at crumbs November 16, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    I let the kids have a couple of the sweets from hallowe’en and threw the rest away when they weren’t looking. I get annoyed when people bring a bag of cheap sweets as a “present” for my kids. I try and keep sweets to the minimum as basically, they are just crap. On the other hand good cakes, chocolate etc…yum, I’m all for kids developing taste and eating sweet stuff, as long as it’s got something else going for it, not just sugar. At school they’re not allowed to even bring crisps in, but they let kids hand out haribos etc after school for their birthday. It irritates me, but you can’t say no, that just makes a big deal out of it. I let the kids have them and when possible surreptitiously throw them away when they’ve had a few. They are still young enough not to notice! Not sure what I’ll do when they’re older.

  3. Supermother November 17, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    Yes, and sugar works on the same bit of the brain as cocaine.

    It is peddled all over the planet. Search the Big Sugar videos which are worth watching. One goes through the slave trade and its connection to sugar plantations in the Caribbean. The second looks at the effect today of sugar.

    My children are too old now to control their food but it’s certainly an issue for many parents.

    Even taking the children skiing last year on the slopes there was an inflated promotion bouncy castle for.. wait for it.. that hugely healthy product “nutella”.

    As with most things it is mostly about money.

    It is certainly hard to protect your children from it particularly as they get older. My oldest – one ran the marathon this year – eat pretty well.

    I’ve had small children in this house searching the cupboards for something sweet looking more and more puzzled because they expected to find stashes of biscuits, sweets or whatever else their parents have at home.

    Addiction to sugar is not taken seriously probably because it affects women more than men and yet it can lead to depression. Most psychiatric clinics recommend 3 healthy meals a day without sugar and white flour consistently the planet over – like promis and . It’s a huge issue but of course as it is often a woman problem it’s a huge joke that someone might not be able to resist the chocolates rather than cocaine or alcohol.

    • Anna December 6, 2011 at 12:01 am #

      My mother didn’t particularly restrict treats but she always seemed uncomfortable about the very idea of people putting on weight and she always mentioned a person’s size or shape when talking about them. She idealised very slim people. When I needed a way to break away from her I developed a binge/diet eating disorder at the age of 16 and it lasted for 17 years. When I finally got over it, food started to actually be a bit boring as I’d spent so many years obsessing over it. I simply cannot summon up the energy to obsess about what my children are eating. I do push fresh fruit and veg but I don’t ban anything. Yes, if there’s a huge pack of haribo that finds its way in I’ll chuck some of it away, but that’s about as far as it goes. I think there’s a level of control-freakery that some mums exert around their children’s diet that says more about their own uncomfortable relationship with food than it does about their children’s health.

  4. Jane November 25, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

    I’m sorry but she sounds like a po-faced pain in the arse. A few sweets or cakes are nowhere near in the same league as ‘handing out cigarettes’ and as Mme Lindor pointed out, dividing food into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ does no good at all.

    I want my daughter to grow up enjoying food, eating three decent meals a day, cooked by me or her dad, with veg as par for the course, nothing forbidden, and not seeing food as ‘medicine’ either. It’s always those who police food and squeal hysterically about sugar as a ‘poison’ that are as likely to create fear, and guilt in their children. By the way I’m a size 10 and have been all my adult life. Now i’m off for a mince pie.

  5. anonymous December 1, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

    I agree to a point, particularly the giving out sweets etc at school. However, to allow a child to go to a birthday party and request that said child is not allowed any sweets or birthday cake takes things a bit far.

    Children need to be taught “everything in moderation” and I’m not sure how a complete ban on all things with sweet help that. All it does is make the sweet thing appear to be something much more than it actually is. I wonder if those children who are banned from eating anything sweet then become fixated and will hide what they have eaten from their parents as they get older.

    My child is allowed sweet things. I do control how often she eats chocolate etc, but given the choice, she will often choose fruit or a yogurt instead of biscuit or cake. I do think that’s because she has a choice rather than cake becoming the “forbidden” food. And I have seen other children eat vast amounts of sweets and cakes at parties when their parents are not there as they are normally not allowed to eat it, whereas children who are allowed to eat sweets etc, naturally choose a combination of different foods.

  6. Freya December 11, 2011 at 11:01 am #

    Hello Mother’s

    I’m actually not a mum, I’m a child. I read about this website in ‘The Sunday Times Magazine’. And I wanted to point out that I am 13.
    I think a lot of mum’s worry about feeding their child the wrong thing, but here’s what my mum does for me, and my younger brother. Before I start I just want to say, me and my brother are both healthy and non-fussy eaters. So, from as young as I can remember my mum has always lived by the rule when it comes to everything is ‘In proportion’ meaning, if there is 3 cakes on the table, have one and give the rest to others, or at least offer them around. Don’t overfill yourself. I don’t know how many mum’s have heard about the ‘food pyramid’. It’s basically a guideline of which foods to eat and how much. At the top, the smallest section, is fats, oils and sweets, and at the bottom (the biggest section) is bread, cereal, pasta and rice. Now, when I saw this first, I was confused, why is bread at the bottom, but remember this is developed for KIDS as most of us exercise more than adults. The comments above I definitely agree with but I know, for example, that sweets are bad for you, but not bad foods, meaning: Yes they have a lot of sugar, but they are not something to be completely avoided as they can be VERY nice once in a while. Now, you mother’s may think ‘what could a 13 year old possibly know about food?’ Well, my mum teaches obese people to eat healthily, therefore encouraging me to learn about food too. I am also a healthy weight as I said before, 44kg or 7 stone. If adults feel the need to chuck food away to stop children stealing it, I find that quite alarming. My mum only does that after Halloween and to be honest, most of the time the sweets are the cheap disgusting ones. If you don’t want your child to steal sweets, don’t buy them in large packets. If your child starts demanding sweets (I have, I’m ashamed to say, done this myself) sit them down and explain how fatty they are and how they will affect you. Show pictures, make them aware of the effects of obesity from a young age. Then the rest is up to you. Please tell me your opinions on what I have written, I would love to hear… 🙂 All the best to mum’s out there and try not to be too hard on yourself’s if your child doesn’t do as you want all the time, we are still young, though we hate to admit it, and still guided. Thanks x

  7. Bryony December 11, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

    Ironically, the mother’s neuroticism is probably going to do more damage (psychologically) to her children than a normal level of sugar intake could ever do. Ostracising her children by not allowing them the same thing as other children at social events will make them feel weird and excluded- they might even take on her superior attitude as a defense if other children comment (which they will at some point; it’s bound to come up) which will ostracise them further.

    Cutting out sugar completely and making a big deal about it being ‘bad’ is a very dangerous route to take in a society where it’s a norm. You also don’t want to make an impressionable child anxious about food. The best thing to do is set a good example by eating heathily yourself and chat casually to your children about nutritious food.

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