Monday, December 13, 2010

Double Chocolate

People often say to me, knowing that I am a nutritionist, “your kids must eat really well.” For the most part, my boys are good eaters. I find the biggest struggle with balance. I make an effort not to present healthy foods as the only foods and not to have treats off limits. Now that my children are a little older, I find they take less policing as they understand why certain foods are less healthy, at least I thought that was the case.

Our family skis most (ok pretty much all) weekends from December through March.  My sons are in a ski program. They are with the same kids and teacher each weekend and really get to know their way around the mountain. Most parents choose to put money on the kids’ lift tickets so that they can purchase snacks when they come in for breaks. Unlike ski school, the kids don’t go to a separate building with specified food. They may take a break at the summit or one of the base lodges, wherever they are they tend to come in mid-morning hungry.

I was thrilled when I found out about this debit card option. It eliminated the worry of either boy losing their money or us forgetting to give them money. Plus, the kids love what they think is a “credit card.” This was the first weekend of their program and they had a few snack questions before drop off. “Can I get candy?” I told them candy wouldn’t fill them up and maybe they should get something else like cereal. “Can we get Gatorade?” I told them it wasn’t the best drink and to stick to water or some hot chocolate (probably as sweet as Gatorade but no coloring, better ingredients).  They had a great first day skiing, chose pretzels and sun chips for snack. Given the less-than-stellar options, it was fine.

Yesterday was rough weather for skiing. It started as snow, progressed into hail then sleet and finally rain. Marc and I went inside after a few (ok 2) runs with zero visibility. Our friends told us most of the groups were upstairs and some parents were pulling kids out. We went to check on them. We located one boy, I’m purposely not telling you which one. This son was wet from the weather and diplomatically, in front of his instructor said, “I’m having fun but I can leave.” Our other son’s instructor told us the other child was downstairs getting something to eat.

I turned to head down the stairs and collided with this rosy-cheeked child of mine. His hands were full of food and drink and he had that guilty/busted look on his face all parents know.  Clutched in one hand was a bottle of water and in the other? A snickers bar AND a brownie. My initial reaction was to laugh, I did and told him to have his snack and meet us downstairs. The more I thought about it though I was a little upset. I do not pack a snack for the boys, do not expect them to choose the apple every day and know my children come by their chocolate love honestly; it’s genetic. My issue was with the volume. Choosing both the chocolate and the brownie seemed like the mouse really playing when the cat was away.

I later asked my son about his snack and he said, “it wasn’t candy or Gatorade.” Technically this was true, I didn’t make too much of it. I told him that one snack is probably sufficient and if he wants a second item try for a fruit. Of course chocolate guy’s brother chimed in “next weekend I am going to get an apple for my snack.” The truth is, all children will go to school or camp and will be left to make their food choices eventually. When I think back, I can think of snacks around the swimming pool or at canteen at camp with fond memories. My realistic hope is that some of this Foodtraining my kids have received will rub off. I hope that they will be able to strike a healthy balance for themselves where chocolate and apples can coexist.

P.S. In full disclosure, I came to these somewhat rational conclusions only after “with all I taught him he chooses this” and other thoughts were cleared.
What do you make of this episode? What were your favorite childhood snacks? Do you think most kids go overboard when parents aren’t present? And finally, snickers or brownie?


  1. Lauren,
    I love your reasonableness.

    Expecting kids to pick fruit and water when there’s candy and cookies is almost magical thinking.

    But hey, it’s vacation, it’s ski, this isn’t every day.

    My problem is that so many of our schools sell high calorie junk-food and sugary drinks (in vending machines and a-la-carte), and when kids eat that way in school that will establish bad habits.

  2. this one hit very close to home (as most of your blogs do). As a mother of a girl, and I think I'm not alone in this one, I would love to think that after endless "talks" my daughter will gravitate towards healthy choices almost instinctively, and can't help but feel disappointed when I see her making not so "healthy" choices. So it helps (sorry, but misery loves company) to know that the sons of my favorite nutritionist also enjoy their not so healthy choices every once in a while...

  3. Dr Ayala, I try to be reasonable but, as you know, I feel as though I become a food nazi or give them too much leeway. And we ski EVERY weekend so it's more than 1 vacation. Mariel- thanks for the comment! You totally got what I was saying. You really can guide your children, teach them and like everything else it's ultimately their choice. These "chocolate" choices were made by my healhier, veggie-loving child too!

  4. To be honest, I don't think it's a big deal. I wouldn't take this one incident as a sign that your training hasn't taken hold. Children can be really inconsistent at times and act impulsively. Maybe he saw the two choices and had a sudden hankering for both of them. Many adults could not practice restraint in a moment like that, so not surprising that even the most diligent of children could not. A treat here or there (even during weekly vacations) is not going to make a child "unhealthy." If this was a day in and day out kind of thing then maybe there would be reason for concern. As for what I would choose -- definitely the brownie.

  5. Ah, kids will be kids. I remember racing around the corner after school to buy as much candy as I could grab and pay for before hopping on the school bus. The interesting thing? My father did not allow us to have candy. And so? That is exactly what I wanted...

    I deal with this already with my girls. My kids are not the best, most adventurous eaters, but they are fine. I try not to make a big deal about sweets and do not want them to think about them as "taboo" but it is hard. How to send the right messages about food, particularly to little girls, without creating a "food issue?" I don't pretend to know.

  6. Tands, I appreciate your opinion as I didn't initially think it was a big deal either. Aidan, it's funny you mention little girls, I feel moms of girls are so keyed into not making things "an issue". Parents of boys seem less concerned somehow.

  7. During the two years that I was a nanny in New York in my mid-twenties I spent time working for a family -- single working publicist mom with two kids, a 13 year-old girl, and a 9 year-old boy. The girl had that prepubescent Kate Moss thing going on and could eat anything she wanted, she also was very active and played sports, volleyball...etc... Every other day her mother would make me a grocery list and on it was ALWAYS two pints of chocolate Haagen Daz for her daughter. I had strict instructions to make her daughter eat at least half a pint every single day after school with chocolate sauce on it while she watched TV... Her mother told me that "she won't be able to eat like this after a certain age, so I am making sure she gets it in and ENJOYS IT AS MUCH AS SHE CAN NOW."

    Can you guess how long after that statement was made that I jumped ship?