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The Great Candy Debate

I have to be honest, it has never occurred to me to put candy in my daughter’s lunchbox.

 

I didn’t need to hear the teacher’s discussion about healthy choices and please no sugary treats during orientation.  I don’t need the repeated mentions in the weekly newsletter…

 

Please give your child protein in the morning.

 

Please send healthy snacks.

 

Please reinforce that they should eat their protein first.

 

I was raised by a mother who saved potato chips for the weekends.  Dessert was awarded based on dinner consumption, and in the summer…sweet, dripping watermelon was among one of our favorites.  Twinkies?  We had to go to Nana for those.

 

I never felt deprived.  We did have ice cream, cookies, and brownies.  We ate our candy after Halloween, and Santa brought the most amazing candy canes ever made.  I can still taste the memory.

 

But candy in a lunchbox?  No way.

 

It’s not just my family history that shaped my belief that candy should be a special treat for kids.

 

I love a family trip for ice cream cones.  It brings me back to a simpler time.  Everyone smiles.  Everyone wins.  Memories are created.  Until about fifteen minutes post ice cream cone…when two family members (the small ones) go just a little bonkers.  They’re silly.  They’re funny.  No one gets hurt (usually).  But they are, in fact, reacting to the sugar metabolizing in those little bodies.

 

While I do hand out treats on occasion, my kids have never questioned the fact that they only ever get one candy corn at a time.  They are so happy to get the candy corn that they run off without stopping to wonder if maybe, just maybe they could negotiate for more.

 

Also?

 

I’m honest with them.  I tell them that ice cream; peanut butter brownies, candy, and other sweet treats are yummy and fun but not particularly healthy.  I explain that treats in small quantities are fun once in a while, but eaten every day could lead to unhealthy habits.

 

They know that green is great and protein keeps them going.  They know that they have the right to say no, but that trying is important.  They understand that what we put in our bodies fuels our brains and gives our muscles the strength to run, play, and have fun.

 

They know what it means to make a healthy choice (even if my little picky eater only ever makes one of four healthy choices).

 

So I was a little surprised when my sweet girl quietly stated the following at dinner tonight:

 

Mommy, some kids get things like M&M’s and other candy in their lunch pails.

 

A moment of silence.

 

Maybe you could give me a Twizzler or something, since I’m allergic to chocolate.

 

I didn’t have much time to really think this through.  She is observing the differences around her, and wanting to make some changes.

 

Well, sweet girl, we talk a lot about making healthy choices.  We also talk about how food fuels your brain and gives you energy.  One thing that makes me really proud is that you make really healthy choices, even when I don’t say anything at all.  When I ask what you want for dinner you ask for chicken, vegetables, and fresh fruit.  I let you choose because you know what you need.  Everyone is different.  And some kids will have different snacks.  But lots of sugar makes you feel a little unsettled, and it’s not great to feel unsettled when you’re trying to learn.  So we save those treats for home.

 

I expected more of a debate.  I was ready for further questions.

 

Well, chicken gives me the energy to run really fast at soccer.  And raspberries are even sweeter than candy!

 

I would be a fool to think that this will be the end of it.  But I can’t help but wonder about the choice to include a “bowl of M&M’s” in a lunchbox.

 

We know that kids react to sugar.  They experience a sugar high that is quickly followed by a very low crash.  It alters their brain chemistry as their bodies work to metabolize it.  And chocolate?  Includes caffeine.  It’s a double stimulant.

 

It’s difficult to sit still and learn under the best conditions.  Kids bodies are meant to move.  And while they have plenty of time to move around and play, they do have to attend to lessons throughout the day.  They have to be alert and they have to listen.

 

I just can’t imagine that giving them that kind of refined sugar mid-day is good for their learning process.

 

And while I respect that every family is different and every mom needs to make her own choices, I do wish schools would ban candy from school lunches.  Between childhood obesity, hyperactivity, and poor sleep habits, our kids need some healthy choices made on their behalf.

 

Sometimes…a school-wide rule can really make a difference.

 

No matter where you side in the great candy debate, consider this:  Unhealthy habits are easily formed but difficult to break.  What do you want to teach your children today?

About Katie

Katie is a Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist/Parenting Expert in Los Angeles, CA. She has a five year old daughter, three year old son, and a rock and roll husband who makes her life complete. Katie has a parenting advice blog, Practical Parenting, an infertility support blog, Clomid and Cabernet and can be found on Twitter. She also writes for moonfrye.

Comments

  1. I agree..candy should be a sometimes food. I am shocked when I see kids eating candy at school and upset when the teacher actually gives them candy. My son is in gr 1 and knows candy is a sometimes treat. I don’t even give him candy. When he gets it, it is because he has gotten it from someone else. I am proud of my son that when he does get a candy at school he will put it in his pocket and bring it home and put it on the counter….unlike most kids that I see after school scarfing it down. I think all school boards should incorporate a junk free policy. Nice to read someone else feels the same way I do!

  2. I hear stories about what other kids get in their lunches on a daily/weekly basis! It makes me sad :(

    I love the saying that fruit is nature’s candy!

    Great post – thanks for sharing….and now, let’s tackle Halloween, I’d love to hear how you handle the post trick or treating desire for treats!!!! Do share.

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