When I talk to people about soccer snacks or class parties or more recently, candy Valentines (read: “I Have No Love for Candy Valentines“), the discussion invariably turns to how how things were when we were kids: “But we had class parties, ate candy, and washed down birthday cupcakes with cherry Kool-Aid. And we turned out just fine!”
Maybe. Rates of obesity, cancer, diabetes, and hypertension among adults may tell another story. But for the sake of debate, even if all that stuff left us completely unscathed, does that mean it will be the same for our kids?
No. Because life was different when we were growing up in the ’70s and ’80s.
How different? When we were kids…
- We didn’t eat three snacks a day (we ate about one).
- We didn’t gobble up frosted cupcakes when we ran off the soccer field. We had orange slices. Or nothing.
- Food marketers didn’t spend $10 billion marketing their unhealthy products to us. We didn’t interact with junk food manufacturers every day through online games and social networks. We saw commercials in the limited hours that kids’ programming was actually on TV.
- One out of every three kids wasn’t overweight or obese.
- There weren’t guidelines for treating Type 2 diabetes in children. And Type 2 diabetes was called “Adult Onset Diabetes” because it didn’t happen to kids.
- The government didn’t recommend that kids be screened for high cholesterol–and treated with medication for it.
- We weren’t expected to have a life expectancy shorter than our parents‘ because of our health.
Did I eat some junk food as a kid? You bet. And my two boys sometimes do too (read: “My Kid Likes Junk Food. And That’s Okay.”). But we can’t hide behind the notion that the now-constant availability of junk is just like it was when we were children–and that everything will be okay. Because it’s not the same. And it might not be okay. Times have changed, and so should our attitudes and practices. We need to do better for our kids.