A new trend piece in the New York Times suggests that too much parental emphasis on healthy eating could create neurotic kiddies
who are too scared to eat a slice of birthday cake.
Nutritionists and eating disorder specialists say they're seeing an increasing number of children who are terrified of "bad" foods, whether that means non-organics, trans fats, or just regular old sugar, to such an extent that it disrupts their daily lives. "We're seeing a lot of anxiety in these kids," says Cynthia Bulik, director of the eating disorders program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "They go to birthday parties, and if it's not a granola cake they feel like they can't eat it"
Some say that "orthorexia," as one specialist has dubbed the extreme obsession with healthy eating, is a pathway to anorexia and other eating disorders. They say the problem is in rigidly categorizing foods as "good" or "bad" instead of talking about moderation - children often take moral categories very, very seriously. Of course kids shouldn't be downing liters of Coke, but nor should they be paralyzed by guilt over eating a "bad" Oreo or forced to binge on potato chips in private because eating fatty foods is "naughty."
I had two friends growing up whose parents wouldn't let them eat refined sugar and who never had anything in the pantry tastier than whole wheat crackers. When they'd come to play at my house they'd plunder our kitchen cabinets for chocolate and cookies, which they would sneak home in plastic bags to eat under the covers at night. I can't help but think that being allowed a small dish of ice cream after dinner at their own houses might have taught them better eating habits.
How did your parents teach you healthy eating habits (or not)? How do you try to encourage your own kids to eat right?