This post has been sitting in my head since Thanksgiving, but I haven’t had time to sit and put ‘pen to paper.’ I am pretty passionate about this, so I may ramble…here goes!
Just before Thanksgiving, Lisa Leakes (author of 100 Days of Real Food blog) posted a simple question on Facebook, asking for ideas from her readers (all 274,000 of them) for healthy alternatives to a ‘Popsicles with the Principal’ event that takes place at her school. (if you check out her Facebook page, it is the post on November 15). Lisa is very active with the health and wellness committee at her children’s school and is always thinking of activities that do not involve junk food. Kudos to her!!!
The comment storm that ensued was quite crazy. People getting upset that ‘it’s just a popsicle…back off’. Readers suggesting that people, like Lisa, who are advocates for real food and healthy eating are infringing on the rights of others to eat junk. Commenters started criticizing each other. It was a really intense Facebook reaction to a simple question and plea for alternative ideas.
It got me thinking…is a popsicle ‘just’ a popsicle? Is a lollipop ‘just’ a lollipop? Is (insert processed garbage food here) ‘just’ a treat?
I really struggle with this line of thinking. On the one hand, I somewhat understand the ‘it’s just a…’ argument. One popsicle is not going to do much harm to someone. However, I think this type of attitude goes much deeper than that.
1. I somewhat get the it’s ‘just’ a _____ argument. As clean and real as I try to feed my family, my daughter definitely gets her fair share of junk food. (Heck, my husband and I get our share of junk food and food with inferior ingredients.) And, I am okay with that. We are healthy, don’t have any food allergies or illnesses. We eat well enough 80-90% of the time that I think for us it really is ‘just’ a popsicle. Occasionally my daughter does get the lollipop at the bank, the bag of gummy snacks at a playdate or the gmo laden meal off of the kids menu. In the grand scheme of her diet, it is ‘just’ a once in awhile thing, a ‘treat’ if you will. And that is fine and is what works for our family.
2. These ‘treats’ are a CONSTANT parade of garbage for most children. The ‘just a treat’ can easily become 10 treats on any given day. They are the overly processed breakfast cereal, the candy or chips from a vending machine at school, the cookies and juice at church, the gatorade and cookies after sports practice (here’s an awesome post on soccer snacks), the lollipop at the bank, the gummy snacks in the car while running errands. They are the birthday treats, the Halloween candy, the Valentine’s party, the Christmas cookie onslaught. The fast food, the kids’ menu food, the dessert at restaurants.
Everywhere we go, someone is trying to give my daughter a ‘treat’…the bank, the dry cleaners, the sports classes, even department stores while holiday shopping. She just started after school speech therapy for vocal cord nodules and after her first lesson, she walked out with a roll of smarties! Why does she need a roll of smarties for completing a class?
3. These ‘treats’ are full of inferior, fake ingredients. To me, this is really the main problem with these ‘treats.’ They are full of chemicals, artifical colors and flavors, genetically modified ingredients and other garbage. I have nothing against cookies, popsicles and ice cream. but I would like to be able to eat (and feed my family) food that IS real. I will never forget when I showed my daughter a tub of ‘garbage’ ice cream and she couldn’t pronounce the ingredients. She looked at me, confused, and said ‘that’s not ice cream.’ Out of the mouths of babes! (Learning to read ingredient labels is a must for Real Food!)
4. We eat junk occasionally. Now, to be clear, we are not purists when it comes to real food. We do the best we can in our own homes. But, we do eat at restaurants. We do accept snacks and meals when they are provided at friends’ houses, at parties, at holiday events without batting an eye. Occasionally we even take the lollipop or the cookie that is offered at the store. We get lollipops and popcorn and ice cream bars at Disney World. You will even see me eating french fries or cheese sticks at a bar on occasion! (Gasp!) I feel we have a clean diet most of the time and for our family we have not made the commitment to avoid this type of food entirely.
5. These overly processed, chemical laden concoctions are causing a health crisis in our country. I have a friend who always says that we grew up on this food and we are just fine. Really!? ‘We’ may be fine as in I am healthy and she is healthy (now)…but is our society ‘just fine’? Hardly? With 70% of adults obese or overweight, with our children having a 1 out of 3 chance of developing diabetes, with ADD/ADHD, autism and food allergies running rampant, with our children being the first generation not expected to have longer life expectancies than their parents…I hardly think we are ‘just fine.’ I strongly believe that much of these problems have to do with the food that we eat…the ingredients (many of which are new chemicals and genetically modified, which did not exist 20 years ago) that are in our food…the onslaught of fake food in our diet.
I get the idea that it’s ‘just’ a popsicle…if it stopped at that. I encourage you to observe how many ‘treats’ you or your child get offered each day. Look at the ingredients of your favorite snacks, breakfast cereals, and lunch items. I think you will find that it really isn’t ‘just’ a ______ anymore at all.
What about you? How do you feel about the amount of processed junk food your children are given? Do you think it is ‘just’ a popsicle? Comment below!!
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