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Shara Blog

Kids' Food Fears

There are kids out there who wake up screaming from nightmares about…. sodium. A New York Times article this week reports on kids like Greye Dunne, an eight-year-old who apparently quakes in his Underoos in dread fear of salt. He’s also scared of calories. The story quotes Lisa Dorfman, a dietitian and director of sports nutrition and performance at the University of Miami, who says she often sees kids who are terrified of foods that are deemed “bad” by parents. “It’s almost a fear of dying, a fear of illness, like a delusional view of foods in general,” she said. Holy cupcakes, Batman. How sad. Kids should be free to tremble at those things they really should be afraid of: Monsters under the bed, the dentist, and mommy’s temper when she loses her keys for the fifth time in one morning. The Times story talks about parents who are obsessed with health food, “orthorexic” people fixated on “righteous eating.” I’ve seen evidence of this here in the bubble of Boulder, Colo., in parks and in store aisles, where some parents righteously squash any joy of eating out of their kids' world. It reminds me of the study where people of different nationalities were asked what came to mind when they heard the phrase “chocolate cake.” French people said “celebration.” Americans said “guilt.” The researchers found that Americans worry more about food and derive less pleasure from eating than people in any other nation they surveyed. But at age 8? Anxiety’s gonna hurt them more than Oreos. Of course it’s critical to teach kids how to eat well. But it’s also critical to teach them to find pleasure in food. Put the fear of god into your kids about swallowing Legos, not cupcakes.

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