Never say never; but you do need to say how often and how much.

August 5, 2013 BY: LISA

Never say never…

 This thought came to mind following a conversation on the weekend about buying food on special. I was at a get together at a friend’s house with my  kids and had commented that I bought a 6 pack of ice creams for the children for dessert that were on sale for half price.

I am a firm believer that banning all “unhealthy” food is a sure fire way to make kids run toward the party food whenever they get the chance and to create some unhealthy obsessions in adolescence when they have more control over their food choices. So never say never- it’s unrealistic to expect that you or your children will never eat some form of less than healthy food – but it needs to be in perspective.

So the conversation continued and my friend said “Why didn’t you buy two packets if they were on sale, then the kids could have had two ice creams”, my other friend agreed that she too would have bought two packets. Because of my upbringing I would never have dreamed of buying, let alone bringing two packets of ice creams. I was brought up with the philosophy that you only have one (of anything!)- the more I learn about how people think and shop and eat the more I understand that my upbringing has had a lot  to do with helping me to maintain weight as I am getting older – being a dietitian probably helps too.

While it’s true that children eat intuitively and that you shouldn’t force anyone to finish everything on their plate, it’s also true that kids need some advice and guidance on how often and how much. Many parents argue that their children can eat two icy poles because they don’t have a weight problem and they are so active but what happens when they grow up? It’s highly unlikely they will all of a sudden change what they have learnt as kids.

Food rules, core beliefs and ideas stick with us forever and we don’t tend to change unless we are given a really good reason and then we still may find it hard.

The same thing can happen with left-overs. Do you see only a small amount left over, or one biscuit left on the plate so your natural instinct is to eat it because it isn’t much or do you wrap it up for later or chuck it out? Often there may be the thought that if you eat it all now that you won’t have any more of that unhealthy food in the house – start fresh tomorrow.

 If you are over eating to deal with waste or to “get rid” of a food from your house or buying and eating two because they are on special then you could be setting yourself and your kids up for some difficult times with maintaining a healthy weight.

We have more access to take away food than ever before:

I had a client come to see me the other day who had emigrated from South Africa- she and her other family members had put on a lot of weight since coming here and she commented that access to fast food was mind blowing in Australia. She said that in South Africa if you wanted fast food you had to go out searching for it however in Australia you had three different choices on every street corner.

This” advancement” in our culture was not such an issue 30 years ago so more than ever we need to teach our kids how much and how often to eat these extra foods- it’s not never but it also shouldn’t be as much and as often as we like – this will surely have an impact on health and weight later in life.  If our overweight and obesity statistics are anything to go by then it already is impacting on our children.

How often is sometimes?

How often should we give these “extra” foods to our kids – those that are high in calories, saturated fat,salt or sugar and don’t really have much goodness – you might think back to your own childhood where take away food may have been once per week and lollies on the weekend and soft drink was had at parties. The lunch box did not have to contain an “extra” food everyday but was more like a special treat. The current dietary guidelines say between 0-2  serves of discretionary (extra) foods each day where a tablespoon of jam is considered one serve.  Perhaps if we move back to the old days and start teaching our kids that one is enough they may thank us in the long term – just like I did  my mum the other day.


Lisa APD


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