I don't normally weigh in on current debates as I feel like they don't belong on my blog, but the recent "news" of a parent being sent home a note about their chocolate slice that they sent in their childs lunchbox is hitting closer to home. So I'd like to make a point- not all savoury food is healthier than all sweet food. Sweet = bad. Savoury = good...mmm not quite. There's a lot more to it than that.
I want to breakdown this problem and get all of this off my chest.
- There seems to be a current trend in which deciding that something is sweet, is therefore BAD and shouldn't be eaten. I don't know what was in the offending chocolate slice, but I have to admit, it makes me uneasy. I make cacao and zucchini muffins. While they might look delicious and sweet, they really only contain a small amount of sugar and therefore aren't actually the sweet treat they are pretending to be...but I'm totally fooling my kids with that. Sweet doesn't necessarily mean that something is bad. These muffins are sweetened only with fruit and contain yoghurt, vanilla and coconut to fill the rest of the muffin up. They aren't sweet, nor are they bad for you.
- Not all savoury food is healthy for you. It seems that without a background in nutrition or appropriate skills, people are making decisions around what is and what isn't considered healthy. Because something is savoury, doesn't mean it is good for you. Jatz crackers for example, contain added sugar. They are not by any means a healthy alternative. They contain sugar, salt, vegetable oil, GOLDEN SYRUP (another sugar), E322, E304 and E307B. Real food doesn't need those numbers.
- There is such a thing as too much fruit. My son experiences it on a regular (lol, quite regular) basis post preschool, because I'm trying to abide by their healthy guidelines, so I'm giving him more fruit to fill the void that his healthy grains in the form of a muffin or slice would normally take up. I give him extra veggies too, but realistically, there is only so much carrot and cucumber a child can eat. Fruit contains sugar too, and too much of it can result in the same sugar high that we are trying to avoid by limiting sweets and lollies.
- Yoghurt is not always a healthy alternative. I make my own yoghurt. It is sugar free and it only ever is sweetened by fruit or vanilla. That's it. But a healthy alternative is not a calci-yum pouch or other kiddie yoghurt. There are 6.2 grams of sugar in a Calci-yum strawberry squeezie pouch.
- "I want what he's having..." Part of the reasoning behind this is "little Johnny sees little Mary's cake and wants one too, but we can't tell Mary her finger bun with 15kgs of sugar on top isn't allowed if little Johnny can have his muffin". I get that, I used to be a teacher. But maybe, just maybe we should be including more teaching around nutrition and what those differences are? I recently watched The Kids Menu on Netflix, and I have to admit, I was impressed by the food attitudes of many of the kids. The schools who are actively including wellness in their curriculum and teaching nutrition aare setting kids up for success in so many aspects of their adult lives.
- Guidelines around healthy eating in preschools and schools are vague to say the least. It's easy for educators with little or no understanding of nutrition to fall into the trap of "sugar=bad" or "fat=bad". Looking at the whole picture and trying to adhere to guidelines such as these means that educators and families are confused. It's easy to get bogged down in the jargon and decide to do a blanket approach to it with "sweet = bad" "savoury = good".
Where do we go from here?
Aside from the arguments that are going crazy on facebook about "school has no right to decide what my kids eat", we need clear guidelines. Not guidelines paid for by the big corporations who have a vested interest in selling us their products.
We need education. The first time that most adults are faced with nutritional decisions is when they have kids. We aren't taught enough about nutrition during our experiences in the education system. Our kids need to be educated at home and in school about nutrition, they need to be reading labels, making choices and decisions.
We need consistency. You can't be told "no tiny teddies" and then have a canteen (supported by the education system) that is then selling icecream and lollies. That makes no sense.