Are we seriously having a go at George Calombaris for his decision to not encourage his young child to consume high fat, nutrient poor food at a 4 year old’s birthday party? Are we really arguing that choosing to not let your small child eat rubbish is a bad thing? Are we that programmed by big industry that we now consider eating fast food as the norm? Is it not possible to have a delightful, child friendly party that does not include poor quality fried food?
If any of this is true is it any wonder that 1 in 4 Aussie children are overweight or obese?
There are two clear issues that standout in this story – the age of the child involved and the right of a parent to take control of their eating. First and foremost let us all reflect on the age of the child attending this party – the child is 4 years old. Do you remember when you were 4? Probably not because 4 year old children are lucky to dress themselves let alone make informed decisions about what they should and should not be eating. We cannot explain to a 4 year old that fast food is an occasional treat, nor can we control the impact that exposure to highly marketed fast food at such an impressionable age will have long term. At this age and stage of development what we do know is that no damage will be done to a young child by having certain foods limited by parental choice – you can’t remember what you had for lunch at 4 can you? Sure a primary school aged child will be far more impacted by active food restriction and peer pressure, a 4 year old, not so much.
Next and perhaps most importantly, as a parent of a young child, George and his wife have every right to make the decision to not let their child eat fast food and this decision and public statement is exceptionally powerful. It is a reminder to all of us that our kids are routinely exposed to high calorie processed foods as part of their day to day lives far more frequently than they should be. C’mon mums and dads, you know what I am talking about. An occasional party treat which occurred once a twice a month in our day is a weekly if not daily occurrence in our kids’ lives isn’t it? Parties are frequent – forget every 2nd year; it is always someone’s birthday at school or childcare; hot chocolates after school; Freddo frogs for ‘being good’ and weekend ‘treats’ are exceptionally common. And our kids are getting fat as a result and failing to learn that processed, poor quality ‘junk foods’ are occasional not daily treats. Let’s remember that recent data from the 2011-12 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey looking at the diets of Aussie found that 50% of calories were coming from discretionary foods ie foods are kids should not be having. And yet, we still stand on our moral high horses and have a go at a celebrity chef for daring to publicly say the word so many parents simply refuse to – no
A standard fast food kid’s meal can offer our growing kids up to 600 calories, 30g of sugar and 30g of fat. Now I guarantee you that you would not knowingly offer your small innocent 4 year old 6 tsp. of sugar and butter at a single meal yet we all allow it to happen because it represents the norm of what kids parties have become. For an older child perhaps an occasional treat is more justified but for a tiny 4 year old surely we can offer these small growing bodies better party food than that?
So, rather than claiming it is ‘bad parenting’, let’s call this what it really is – big business marketing crappy foods to our kids at a young impressionable age. Well done George for actually saying it and for making the decision to not follow the pack and questioning whether it should be normal to feed our kids like that, at a party, occasionally or not.