|This “wonderful child” isn’t anyone I know|
I know there are some people who think all children are wonderful. After nine-plus years of parenting and plenty of play dates I know this is not true. There was one child who expressed his disappointment at having to leave our house by biting my babysitter when she tried to comfort him. There were others who not only played “army” but concocted battle scenarios with such detail I know I will be reading about them one day and not in a good way. All children “have their moments” but some are just not good.
There’s a food equivalent of all “all children are wonderful” and this is a belief system that holds there are no bad foods. I’ve questioned this one for a while but felt validated to read a recent Jane Brody article. The article focuses on the habits of 120,877 health professionals followed for 12 to 20 years. Periodically the subjects answered in depth questions about their eating, exercise, sleep, alcohol and television habits. Participants weren’t obese at the study’s start but steadily gained an average of 16.8 pounds in 20 years. One of the lead researchers, Dr Mozaffarian a cardiologist and epidemiologist had this to say about the results:
“There are good foods and bad foods, and the advice should be to eat the good foods more and the bad foods less. The notion that it’s O.K. to eat everything in moderation is just an excuse to eat whatever you want.”
In this study foods that contributed to greatest weight gain were French Fries, potato chips, sugar-sweetened drinks, red meat, processed meat, other forms of potatoes, sweets and desserts and refined grains. My bad food list, not solely concerned with weight, would include artificial sweeteners and anything artificially sweetened (diet soda topping this list), bagels, bottled salad dressings, foods using dyes, TVP and products using processed soy and factory farmed meat.
Many people have items on my list and the items from the study’s findings they eat. Lest people accuse me of advocating dietary perfection, I will confess that I adore a crispy French fry and really enjoy chocolate (and not only the dark kind). Having said this, when I consume these foods I am aware they are a deviation from my healthy diet and know they are bad (if the criteria has to do with health) foods. We need to move away from the Pollyannaish food thinking.
The retort to any acknowledgement that all foods don’t fit is that deprivation leads to disordered eating and eating disorders. With all due respect to eating disorders and the struggle ED individuals endure, we are not a deprived nation. Telling people they can have fries and chips and hot dogs and soda “in moderation” is akin to telling the “wonderful” boy above he can bite every so often.
As important as it is to acknowledge that certain foods lead to weight gain thereby affecting our health, that isn’t the only message. When I meet with a new client I first focus on what needs to be added to their diets. “Eat more fruits and vegetables” suffers from vagueness. Dietary advice needs to encourage people to snack on sliced watermelon in the summer, roast Brussels sprouts in the winter and bake some French fries. It’s not dietary doom and deprivation but honesty and inspiration that’s needed. We cannot wait for people to be ill or obese to embrace significant behavioral changes, the writing is on the wall we just have to read it.
Do you agree or disagree there are bad foods? If you agree, what foods would you add to the unhealthy list? What’s your biggest pet peeve when it comes to children’s behavior? Or do you think all children are wonderful?
The winner of our Travel Snack Bundle is Erin from The Healthy Apron, thank you to everyone for entering and for spreading the word about our new store.
The winner of our Travel Snack Bundle is Erin from The Healthy Apron, thank you to everyone for entering and for spreading the word about our new store.
Working at a grocery store, I see a lot of kids who are FAR FROM good. I can't stand rude kids, who will just come up and grab a sample I am handing out, and not even say thank you, or even ask!! Ugh.
As for the bad foods, I like to say there are no bad foods. I am sick and tired of being considered someone who "ruins eating for everyone". I believe it's ok to eat anything, but if you are eating something that doesn't provide good nutrition, and you are doing it to a point where it affects your mood or health, then it becomes a bad food. There needs to be a clear-cut definition of the phrase, "everything in moderation". To me it means that you can eat your "extra calories", whether it's beer, cake, cookies, a soda, as long as it FITS into your diet. If the soda is the only sugar you've had all day, and you've already had your three or more whole grains, your 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies, etc. then by all means, have the soda! If you're addicted to sugar and the soda makes you crave more sugar, then it's not the best choice. I like to look at this on a case-by-vase basis. I have a beer and a piece of chocolate every night, almost, and I'm certainly ok with that. It fits into my diet. I also had a 3/4th pound burger the other night, with a 16-ounce beer. I NEVER do that, but I did that on this particular night, and enjoyed every bit of it.
Ha Gina- glad we agree on the kid part. The problem, I think, is that most people don't balance and fit things in as well as you do. The trading off for your beer or chocolate is perhaps a later step for people having soda and juice and pizza and fries. I can go on a case by case basis in my office but we can't to the country. I think more of message needs to be, first change your relationship to these foods and then we'll talk about when they can fit in. I cannot imagine what you see in the supermarket (would love to be a fly on the wall).
Interesting debate, for sure! Yes, there are bad kids but, in my experience, they often stem from "bad" parents. 🙁
Bad foods, I agree. There are foods that I personally stay away from. I don't find it particularly useful to instruct others to not eat the foods that I don't eat, but I do explain the negative effects of eating these foods and let them decide for themselves. That way, it comes from them and not from the so called "food police." Some of my "bad" foods include processed cereals and crackers, soda and juices, and fast food.
Thanks Danielle. Hmn, I have seen bad kids from seemingly good parents but they may be good people and not good parents. As for food, I love what you say about explaining about foods and letting people decide. I think "food police" has a terrible name but without the police (or as I would say honest, frank advice) you have food anarchy.
I think there are bad kids but I do think it begins with parents AND FOOD! Kids are being jacked up and then crashing on a daily basis. Good nutrition can really aid in "good behavior". This works with adults too. As for bad foods, the lists very long. My vote is anything that turns the mouth and tongue "blue". I always tell my daughter, 'We don't eat blue food in this family"..
Love the food/behavior connection. I behave badly when I eat bad food (or no food too). Funny, when I was researching color and appetite found out blue is an appetite suppressant because so few blue foods in nature, good one.
Absolutely there are bad kids. And yes people can be good people and bad parents. Often its inconsistency and lack of establishing rules.
bad foods….I try and avoid things with high fructose corn syrup. In this day, that can be difficult or expensive or both. It's unfortunate that generally the cheaper food option is processed and/or genetically altered food.
In the grand scheme of things, some people can do alright with the "everything in moderation" and some people need to have specific foods outlawed.
Also, I think they've linked food dyes (specifically red dye) to ADHD in kids. I've seen studies showing it's less about sugar levels and more about these coloring additives.
I openly say that there are foods that contain ingredients that are bad for you. I know it goes against what we are taught in school (everything in moderation… no good or bad foods…) but seriously…. artificial food dyes, hydrogenated fats. Why should I recommend foods with these ingredients in moderation if they are linked with disease??
I like to view healthy eating as nourishing the body with whole and real foods that do not contain artificial ingredients. I think this is a healthy view… not deprivation because I'm avoiding certain bad ingredients.
Micah- such a good point about cheap and processed. If we go less packaged food, we can avoid a lot of junk. Lisa, I fully agree. Once we realize what foods do to our bodies is causes a lot more stress for many people to eat (dyes, carcinogens) than to avoid.
Funny about the blue foods! On my birthday this year we were at the beach with some friends. One of them is a mixology enthusiast (really) and made me a blue cocktail "because he'd heard I liked blue drinks." Don't know where he heard that – made me seriously queasy! I thanked him and took one tiny sip and put it down, where it sat for the next several hours. Ha!
I think you're right, though, that most people don't balance well. I like to think I'm getting better at balancing my own eating, with far more good foods than bad foods. I fully agree with the behavior connection, too. The older I get the more I notice the effects of this in me – and it serves as motivation to keep the balance (and keep tweaking it).
Just read the last couple of posts above, and I want to highlight Micah's point about it being expensive to eat well. As a grad student who is very sick of paying other people to allow me the privilege of doing work rather than the other way around, I have to agree I find it really difficult to eat a lot of healthy, fresh foods when trying to conserve $$.
One of my teachers said "you wouldn't give your kids a cigarette, so don't give them a hot dog. Hot dogs are bad for their health and you don't have to give them stuff that is bad for their health." It was refreshing to hear something so black-and-white, to be honest.
I absolutely agree that there are bad foods that one should completely stay away from, and then there are good foods which are okay in moderation. In India, people eat parathas (which are basically fried bread) and they dip them in malai (which is basically straight up cream). Now that is just disgusting. Either one, on it's own, is probably okay but together? That is just wrong.
Seriously? A kid bit your babysitter? I don't even know what I would do in that situation?
I think that sometimes DNA just goes BAD. I don't have children, but I have observed lots of kiddos in my time (I once taught acting classes to kids ages 5-18)and some were just inherently well-behaved, some had great manners and others did whateva the eff they pleased. I think it is most often a combo of nature and nurture, but am of the opine that the parenting skills are a major part of the eqaution.
As for food, absolutely believe that there are BAD and GOOD foods. I think people should stop trying to rationalize eating crap and recognize how vital proper nutrition is to our well being, not to mention the well being of our country.
Good to know every culture has bad foods. Yes, child bit my babysitter. My nice, sweet, forgiving babysitter thought "the child just needs love." I did what I did when I found out how bad food dyes were- banned them from this house.
Cameo "rationalize eating crap" is really what it is. All the energy spent fighting the pro-crap battle could be spend feeling good, cooking, living.
Bad kids: while saying 'thank you' and 'please' are very important in my family, I can live without them. What I can't tolerate are kids who hit/bite/aggressive and kids who curse.
Interesting that someone brought up the connection between bad kids and bad food. I'm not making a generalization here, but parenting takes time and patience: to listen, to address bad behavior, to teach manner, to role model, etc. And those parents who don't have the time or patience to teach their kids probably don't have the time to plan healthy meals.
Bad food: yes there's bad food and good food. But I prefer to use 'everyday' and 'occasionally' foods. I think for RDs, we've been in this field for so long that we can naturally balance our meals out, but it doesn't come that easy to everyone. My list includes sodas and drinks without any nutritional value (slush, for example), candy (ok with chocolate but I never bring hard candy, lolly pops, and gum home), processed meats, and fried food. I try to limit cereals and crackers.
And about food police: I NEVER comment that a food or meal is bad in front of friends or family unless they ask for my advice. When a hostess pulls out a dessert she made following Paula Deen's recipe and made with 3 sticks of butter, tons of wafers, and heavy cream, I do try it. It's funny that everyone else comments how bad it is for them, not me 🙂 But when someone is working with me as their dietitian and investing their time and money, I have to be frank and idealist. They can try to incorporate as much or as little as they want.
Nour- such a good point. I am cracking up of the Paula Deen reference. I'm the same way I NEVER impose my food views on others in a personal setting. It's funny the contrast professionally, I'm intrigued by that. I'm the same way you are.
There are definitely bad kids. I have seen plenty. A lot has to do with parenting because these kids act up and their parents give them all this free reign.
Coming to food, I completely agree with you. There are good foods and bad foods. I will have to quote the meal Ameena described above because it is a staple in my in-laws' house. I keep telling them how disgusting and utterly unhealthy it is but to no avail. I am with you in that the relationship with these foods should be defined first. Acknowledge that they are bad and then talk about fitting them into your life.
Is it really true about blue? Because I can down blueberries by the bucket. And I had a 'Blue Hawaii' phase at one point in my life (although maybe it was more about the cream of coconut. Either way, still a "bad food"!). Hmm, maybe I'm the anomaly here.
I think the difference between foods and kids is that kids change. A kid can be a deeply good, lovable little person and still have a moment of rotten attitude, disobedience or self-centeredness now and then. (So can adults, although we should not be excused so easily.)
But a bowl of Froot Loops can only be what it was when it left the factory–sugar and food coloring and that nasty artificial flavor held together with a sprinkling of white flour–without ever learning to do better.
As the ice cream man said in the Muppet Movie, "Don't get 'em mixed up." =)
So true, Froot (is it really froot not fruit) Loops don't change, nasty forever. Love it, thanks for the comment.
I remember going to a physicians house I worked with and her kid bite me she was about 7 years old and I didn't go back not impressed he he
I agree that "everything in moderation" is a bit tired, and after the research we've done on the absolute DANGERS associated with food dyes, I do not agree with the statement either. I try to revolve my diet and days around unquestionably good foods and as a result I am usually left feeling good. It's a vicious cycle that many see bad foods as a treat, and usually feel bad afterwards either physically, emotionally, or both! The truth is, the bad foods — processed and colored, probably shouldnt even be called or considered food in the first place.
I think this depends on the person. There may be some people who can hear that it's ok to eat fries and chocolate in moderation and then really only eat stuff like that once or twice a month, in very small portions. But I agree with you (and the NYT artcile) in general that most people hear this advice and interpret it as carte blanche to eat whatever they want. As a society we need a more strict eating plan. Americans eat way too much junk, and the reason is a combination of the wide availability of said junk, the sense of entitlement, and the lack of education that eating junk is really bad for you. It's also a problem of determining what foods are really junk. My MIL fills her house with those 100-calorie packs of cookies and crackers and considers them "healthy foods" when in actuality they are not foods at all but "edible foodlike substances", to quote Michael Pollan.
Good point Jen, individually we can tweak our treats but advice for the masses needs to be clear. We can't assume everyone can monitor and balance.
I think it is so hard to put foods in a good – bad catagory. OBVIOUSLY there are ones that have positive health benefits and ones that most certainly do not. What kills me is when I see kids acting out in public and their parents hand them a bag of candy to quiet them down. I think there is a def. connection that can be made (though of course not realized by the parents) between sugary snacks and those bad behaviors. 5 minutes later when their kids are running wild instead of screaming they wonder why! In the end I think it comes down to education and balance on the parents part.
What a great convo!
I definitely agree that there a good foods & bad foods. Mostly because the ''everything in moderation'' phrase, is very vague and open to interpretation for those who hear it; I've had clients report that they only have soft drinks ''occasionally''..only to find out that to them, this meant 4 times/wk! So I think that with the right approach, you can easily have the good food/bad food conversation and then decide on a realistic objective with the person in front of you. Of course, it's no use demonizing any food without offering an alternative.
And I like to think that any food a Michelin Star Chef can't replicate in his kitchen is bad food, or as Jen pointed out, a ''foodlike substance'', since it can probably only be concocted wearing a lab coat. In brief, any junk, hyperprocessed, glow in the dark food, fits into my ''Bad'' category. But, I think that oven fries, homemade burgers or homemade pizza, although normally considered "bad" because of the calorie count by some, can be a ''good'' food with some smart balance!
I am so with you Vanessa. If we're all willing to cook fries, cookies, burgers can all be well-sourced and prepared in a healthful way.
Great post and great discussion!
I've been a parent for 20 years, and yes, there are bad kids.
I totally understand why you say there are bad foods, but I personally don't like to think of it that way. Because if I think of food as bad, I tend to feel bad and that's not very productive for me.
As was stated above, I think the problem is that the phrase "in moderation" is so very vague. Also, for "bad" foods, "in moderation" really means "very rarely." For example, I eat "real" (fried) French fries maybe 5 times per year. When I eat them, I don't think I'm eating a bad food because it's literally every other month or less, and I refuse to feel bad. However, eating French fries once a week (along with other "bad" foods) is not eating in moderation anymore I think. Maybe one approach would be to work on another phrase/definition for "in moderation."
Then again, there are foods I will never ever eat (or feed to my family) such as most processed foods and conventionally raised meat. They are truly bad in my book.
Andrea- I think the goal is to know there are bad foods and then eat them i in a way (rarely, better sources etc) that you don't feel bad because…that's bad.
I could not agree with you more regarding your comment about the saying "Everything in moderation really just being an excuse to eat whatever we want all of the time". And while I think there are MANY "bad" foods out there, i.e. – most everything in brightly colored packages on the cookies, chips, and snacks aisle of supermarkets, I also think that in this country we struggle with eating way too much of the "good" foods.
A lot of foods are given the "good" label, such as nuts, avocados, hummus, whole grains, olive oil, any snack food that is baked not fried, etc that it unfortunetly gives people the green light to consume as much as they want. Sure these foods may be "healthy" but healthy fats still carry 9 calories per gram just like unhealthy fats.
Therefore, I truly think that stressing moderation in portion sizes of ALL foods (the "good" and "bad") – well except for vegetables (eat your heart out of those)is what our focus should be!
Great post! Very thought provoking.
Tanya, great point. We can overdo good foods if they are green-lighted. Portions matter. Interestingly good fats (nuts etc) were not correlated with weight gain in the study I mentioned above.
I don't focus on bad foods, but instead on balance of foods in the diet. Yes, as a dietitian, I have a better idea of what this means, but I think it is my responsibility to educate others on this as well. I think that by focusing on bad foods you miss the point. Instead, we should focus on total consumption as well as the foods to choose more often and those to avoid. There are many foods out there that I do not consider to be good or healthy or even beneficial. In fact, there are many foods that everyone can live without, but to label them as bad without the message of portion control and balance in the overall diet is a big mistake.
And, as for children, I don't have any so I will take your word for it as a parent!
Thanks for the great post – love the ones that make me think even after I am finished reading!
While I agree the whole conversation isn't "these foods are bad." I think there's a need for bluntness before balance. I think x,y,z are nutritionally useless is ok to say. Of course, for someone to know what to eat you need to flesh that out. Thanks for the comment.
If parenting was the only criteria to raise "wonderful" kids, then how do you explain siblings behaving so differently. I have a child who reacts to some food, especially the ones with complex proteins hard to digest. These are "bad" for him.
In my book, everything that comes from a box is a "bad" food. Add to that: meat with hormones/antibiotics, genetically modified organism, lab made food (artificial flavors, colors etc..). But everyday I eat chocolate (the real kind with only cocoa and cocoa butter as ingredients) and drink red wine. I have not gained weight in 20 years (except during pregnancies). For me, it is not only the food that matters but also how you eat it. I always have 3 meals a day, eat at a table and diner lasts at least one hour – not that we eat a lot, just that we enjoy our food and our family time.