Thursday, July 12, 2012

In defence: Junk Food

As a mother, I have to frequently defend the choices that my husband and I make with Puttachi, to well-meaning well-wishers who think that we are going about certain things wrong. 

Junk food tops the list.

Why don't you give Puttachi Junk food? Poor thing!

I do give her junk food.  We love our junk, so why would we deny her those little pleasures?  The only thing is that I have very strict rules about when, what, and how much she can eat.
- No junk food before mealtimes, or on an empty stomach.
- No junk food after six in the evening
- Each serving is very small.  Just enough to satisfy the urge, and not to fill the stomach.  No more than two biscuits, no more than one piece of chocolate, no more than 2 tbsp of mixture - do you get the drift?

Why do you do this? Poor thing!

Junk food has no nutritional value.  It is eaten for enjoyment.  And so too much of this food in the tummy means that much less of nutritious food.  I'd rather she eats full balanced meals than fill her stomach with sugar and carbs.

Does she listen to you?

She does.  In fact, she now takes decisions herself.  Recently, when she was offered a third biscuit in the same sitting, she said, "I think I have had enough junk for now." 

How do you make it work?

From the very beginning, we've ensured that she doesn't even have the concept of eating so much at one go.  And more importantly, we follow those rules ourselves.  She frequently sees me decline a sweet because it is mealtime.  When she observes us following these rules, she realizes that this is something that is followed for a reason.

In fact, once, we were unexpectedly stuck somewhere and I didn't have any food on me, and Puttachi had become very cranky with hunger.  I had a Munch in my bag, and I gave it to her to eat.  She said, "Amma, the whole thing?  Are you sure?  Did you see how much you gave me?  The whole thing?  Is it okay?"

You're going to have a tough time later.  She's going to rebel and eat lots of junk food.  You have to give her whatever she wants now.

If you have a picture of her begging for junk food while I stand with my feet apart, hands on my hips (and horns on my head) and shouting, "No," you are wrong.  I never deny her junk food when she asks for it.  In fact, she even asks for it this way, "Amma, can I have a chocolate after I eat a banana?"
If she asks for something at an inappropriate time, I tell her why I cannot give it to her at that time, and she immediately modifies her request to - can I have that after food?

So it is not a question of my denying her something she craves for.  So I don't think this will cause her to rebel. 

But I know that many things are not in our control.  So if later in life, she actually does take to binging on junk food, we'll deal with it later.  Why get it started right now?

When we offer her junk food, she looks at you for permission.  We don't like that.  Aren't we responsible enough to know what is good for her and what is not?

If she wants to ask me for permission, it means that you are giving junk to her at at an ambiguous time - it has been a while since she's eaten, and there is still some time to go for the next meal - so she cannot take her own decision.  So she looks at me for help on taking the decision.  I cannot do anything about that.  In fact, I think you must appreciate her sense of responsibility on this, instead of labeling me Hitler.  I have in fact, never told her that she must ask me for permission if somebody she KNOWS gives her something to eat.

Some people even give her something and ask her not tell us.  That is a very dangerous trend, so please don't do it.

I think even the fact that I had to write this post speak volumes about the junk food culture that is so prevalent now.  People think nothing at all about eating anything and everything at any time of the day.  In previous eras, there was no junk food available commercially.  When somebody wanted to eat some nice yummy fried stuff, they had to make it at home!  And that is the biggest stumbling block!  And even if they did get around to making it, it was naturally way better than the stuff we get outside for the simple reason that they knew what went into it!

Gosh the things in junk food now - colour, flavouring - studies keep coming in about how this or that flavouring has proven to have ill-effects on children, yet the food flood keeps pouring out of the factories, and there are a million people standing with their mouths wide open to take it all in......

It scares me, it does.


Anonymous said...

Very good post Shruti! You don't give junk food simply because of health reasons...look what's happening in US....obesity is a pervasive health problem, and Indian kids are becoming more obese...recent TV program showed this trend in India...stop patronizing this junk food culture...we can do better than that as Indians, and stop pouring this obscene money into junk food industry....stand up for the healthy food habits, and start a movement banning junk food from school premises, malls etc. It's happening in California...parents have forced legislature body to introduce a law banning junk food wending machines, and school should start an awareness campaign in schools around your to parents and start the campaign...all the best.

Sowmya said...

I totally agree with your post, having a 2 year old myself I keep wondering how can I avoid junk food for her without forcing it upon her. Nice post!!!

Sumana said...

All i can say Puttachi is growing up wonderfully. Now hats off to you and you must take credit for, 1)you can stop yourself from eating junk at ambiguous times, because unless you practice all preaching goes waste. I need to do that.

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Radhika said...

Good one Shruthi. As I said earlier, there's nothing you need to explicitly teach/instruct Puttachi as she is learning by seeing. And junk food, wonder what's in it that even everyone is drawn to it. My husband doesn't like Ananya to eat Maggi, so I tell her it's just once a month that she is allowed to, and she is okay too. She did complain that her friends bring maggi for snack break, but when I gave her a choice between her favourite fruit and maggi, she chose the fruit! But this doesn't always work. Especially when we are visiting someone, if I say she doesn't eat biscuit or some such thing, she would say I want to eat! So I've changed myself now. I will rather say, if she wants to have, you can give it.

Veena Shivanna said...

Nice Post Shruthi. All parents should read. I would love to hear more about this food stories, my boy is a fussy eater..

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Achu said...

Puttachi is a darling! Hats off to you for teaching her things that's best for her.. You should be proud of it!

Wanderer said...

You know what? Your kid your wish. As is said, mother knows best or her child. Dont bother about what others say.
That said, I say healthy eating has taken a backseat in our lives. Adults don't eat well and I've seen obese children binging out at pizza huts. Really, what is that we are teaching our children? We need to set example by eating right so she can follow. But school and friends can be an influence too. Can you do a post on how you neutralize any bad influence she picks up at school or from friends?
I have seen my sil sitting at their shop when her son takes whatever he wants (mostly chocolates) from the boxes and eating right there. It happens daily. Which I can't stand, so I tend not to be there when that happens.

Wanderer said...

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Shruthi said...

Anon, yeah that is something that is really necessary. Awareness campaign.. hmmm...

Sowmya, all the best! :)

Sumana, exactly!

Radhika, great approach. LOL kids are such experts at contradicting you in public!

Shruthi said...

Veena, sure, I'll share some of the things I have seen - maybe in a mail. Too many parenting-preachy posts lately, don't you think? :)

FB covers, thanks!

Achu, I'm trying! :)

Wanderer - I so understand. It is very difficult to sit and watch when a child is eating junk and nobody is stopping him!

Noodlehead said...

Nodding in agreement while reading this. In fact, I suspect they've been told about junk food at school. And I'm assuming this because "junk food" is not a term we've ever used in front of my daughter but she still points out to me that french fries are junk food! When my husband's back from work, he ravenous so he'll head to the junk drawer (where all the junk food is kept!) and strat on something and my daughter comes along and admonishes him for eating junk food just before a meal! Makes us both so happy :) That doesn't mean she doesn't eat junk food, she understands that it's a treat and not a meal by itself and shouldn't be either!

Unknown said...

Oh my God! This is like a scene from my own life!! I think exactly the way you do!

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