Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Food Fallacy Number Three: My Kids Won't Eat It

Consider the chicken nugget.

It's really a work of art. This little finger food is the product of more scientific engineering than Dolly the Sheep. When you buy them, you think--no, you HOPE--that it is a piece of chicken rolled in wheat breading. The "chicken" is actually a carefully honed mixture of chicken skin (for mouth feel), tons of salt and a laundry list of mysterious chemicals (for flavoring and preservative), and gluten (to bind the whole thing together and give it that squishy texture). Often corn syrup is added to give it a slight sweetness.

It seems like making nuggets out of plain chicken would be easier, so why does the chicken nugget company go to all this trouble? Because they want your kids to LOVE their product. To crave it. To want nothing but it. They have a staff of scientists that has informed them that humans have evolved to crave sugar and fat because of their high calorie value. Back when we were hunters and gatherers, we needed high calorie foods to put fat on our body for lean times. Now, of course, there are no lean times so the fat stays on and accumulates until it causes disease--but that's not their problem. Ditto for salt; the pre-civilization diet was low in it so the love of salt was a good thing, while now it's so pervasive we are literally poisoning ourselves with it.

An entire book could be written about chicken nuggets, but you get the idea. This food, along with other "children's" foods have been designed to appeal to your child. They aren't healthy, but the manufacturers know that most modern parents simply buy what their kids ask for.

This is where good parenting comes in. Your two year old doesn't know that the processed food dancing across her television screen will make her unhealthy and eventually kill her. You do, and you're conveniently also the one who shops and cooks. Apples and lentils aren't as 'tasty' as chicken nuggets because they lack the chemical that adds that 'tasty' flavor, but they can taste very good if your pallate isn't trained on the other stuff. Of course your kids will ask for crappy processed foods, because they are marketed to children and shoved down their throat at every opportunity, but that doesn't mean you have to give in.

It has been proven over and over that children will not starve themselves to death. Although we are programmed to crave fat, salt, and sugar, we are also programmed to want food and feel extremely uncomfortable without it. Buying your kids processed crap because they won't eat whole foods is like saying your 10 year old must have Penthouse magazines because he won't read literature. Given the choice, a prepubescent boy would always opt for the Penthouse, and that's why parents make the choices. It's your responsibility to know what nutrients children need and make sure every meal is chock full of them. It's also cheaper, so you'll save more than medical bills in the long run.


Arienne Arnold said...

Hear, hear! My kids just wolfed down "Jacob's Guile" tonight--lentils cooked with onions and rice, piled with lettuce on top--and have never had a chicken nugget. They don't miss it, either, because we've told them what's in them. Of course, they had homemade cupcakes after to celebrate the end of the baseball season, but hey, everything in moderation, right? I love your blog. Thanks for all your posts!

A said...

I love your blog...it is an almost daily reminder why I should say no to the kids and why we have choosen this road. Thank you again for being the support needed in a world of crud.