Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Birthday Cake Debate - Should you feed your toddler sugar?

This started off for me as The Birthday Cake Debate but given we are fast approaching Easter it could be The Easter Egg Debate.  I took my two children to the park one afternoon last week and there was a little mums group gathering to celebrate their babies 1st birthday.  It was a beautiful day and of course as tradition has it one of the mums had baked a #1 birthday cake - a big blue number 1 with smarties all over it.  The kids were playing and clapping for the singing,  having fun but not really interested in the cake.  Of course the cake was cut and pieces handed out and every single mum started to feed her child some of the cake.  I am sure that at this point some of you are asking what the big deal is but I happen to feel quite strongly about this argument.

Should your child be fed cake, chocolate, any other sugar laden item before they even know what it is or show an interest in what it is?  When a child pulls his face and moves away from the cake yet is then offered more by a grown up, or a child that clearly isn't interested in the chocolate that his mother is following him around trying to feed to him just to make sure "he doesn't miss out"!  Miss out on what exactly?  The sugar high that sends him crazy?  The completely empty calories that do absolutely nothing for his young, growing body?  

I often think that the thought that a child is missing out on a sugary treat excuse is purely about the parents emotional attachment to that item.  A young child doesn't know he is being handed a healthy sugar free muffin in place of the junk food birthday cake.  And those of you that tell me "he wanted it and I had to give it to him".... I ask you - when your child comes and tries to drink out of your beer or wine glass do you let them because they might scream if you say know?  Of course not!  You tell them it's not for little boys and girls; "This is Mummy's drink - you have your water"  

It isn't brain surgery, we live in a world that is getting fatter and fatter and one of the huge contributors to this epidemic is sugar.  Sugar is a huge but unnecessary part of many people's diet in the western world and it is us, as adults and as parents that have a responsibility to educate ourselves and our children to make a change and make sure they don't fall in to the trap that many of our generation and those before us have.

Your children are not missing out when you give them an education into the different types of sugar found in foods, when they ask you if something is good for them before they eat it,  when they would rather reach for the fruit or cheese and crackers over the lollies, when they think that chicks come out of eggs at Easter rather than chocolate because they haven't been exposed to other wise.  You are not being a mean parent, you are being a great parent - give your child a reason for your choices in what you recommend they do and don't eat, they are smarter than you think and they absorb everything you teach them.  Set them up for a healthy life, don't run with the majority just because they might 'miss out'.

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