I’m talking about the government authorities, doctors, TV personalities, special reporters and school nutritionists. You haven’t been leveling with us. All that talk about healthy diet, and the food pyramid – you just happened to leave out the little part about the kids themselves. Why does nobody mention that youngsters are basically cute little appetites on legs, automatically set to hunt down sweets and fats to eat or hide under the mattress? It’s a known fact. Babies are born craving sugar. They can’t help it.
Keeping this vital information from parents makes no sense. If I drove out of the dealership and my new car had an automatic and natural tendency to steer towards cliff edges, deep water and heavy immovable objects, I’d want to know about it BEFORE we were moving at speed down Suicide Mountain. I’d want a warning, flashing right up there on the dashboard in big red letters. Not some pretty colored signs halfway down the grade, suggesting that I use sensible driving tips to try and persuade it not to fly, smoking, off into the void.
And I’d have something to say to the folks making money selling them.
I don’t normally take all four kids at the same time to the grocery store. Or promise them on the drive that they can each pick out one small treat. I’m now up to speed why it’s a really bad idea.
We hit the aisles with one basket, and they split up chittering, happy as birds. My idea was, they’d go find some favorite snack or food not usually allowed as part of the house menu. Their idea was to inventory the food mart, and come up with the largest, lowest nutrient content, processed, food-like calorie bombs they could find. The one’s with the big “Mom Would Never Let This In The House” stickers. They set up a relay and proudly dragged their prizes to the cart.
‘Wait’, I’d say. ‘What’s this?’
Through the bag I can make out colors I’ve never seen in nature before. Before I get an answer, another box flies in. It looks like a month’s supply of sprinkle covered, chocolate coated, fudge filled, artificial ice cream stuffed cones with nuts on top.
‘That’s not small,’ I say.
‘Look, Dad, they’re really, really small,” she says. All fifty of them.
‘This is what I want’, I hear behind me. My son with a cart of his own. I didn’t know they sold chip assortments in 30 bag family sizes.
‘Hang on, everybody’, I say, holding up my hands. ‘Huddle up. The deal was, one little snack or treat, not the biggest thing you can carry. Take all these back and we’ll go check this out together.’ They roll their eyes and slowly, painfully, unload the basket.
I deliberately steer to the fruit. ‘Look, ripe mangos!’ They exchange looks, and I can see we’re in for a tough negotiation. Before long we start attracting attention from moms, who look at the kids, look at me, turn away with a hidden smile and shake their heads. They can see I’m out of my league.
‘Can I…’, ‘No’, ‘How about…’ ‘No’.
Without thinking I turn into the cookie aisle, and instantly realize I’ve made a huge tactical blunder. It’s the longest aisle in the store. Spilling boxes from floor to ceiling. You can smell the sugar. The kids bolt like horses at a desert oasis.
Now, it’s a marvel of modern engineering that you can put just the same few ingredients together, and make endless varieties of products. And it’s a testament to how skilled and expert companies have become in knowing what kids are wired to want to eat. Let’s just say, they have it down to a fine science. A very profitable science. If the health and nutrition groups were half as good, we wouldn’t have an obesity epidemic.
I won’t go into the details of how this little expedition turned out. There was upset, threats, and a shouting tantrum. The kids stayed calm and polite, I was proud of them. We compromised and took some vitamin fortified treats home and weathered mom’s disapproval.
But I’m still angry.