My almost 4 year old has just started a different preschool. Recently she came home and announced, “McDonald’s has chicken with poop in it”. Followed by, “does McDonald’s chicken really have poop in it?” Her father and I simultaneously said, “probably” without thinking about it. Then I thought about it and felt frustrated. She never even knew that McDonald’s existed until last week. Sure, I think McDonald’s is complete crap on so many levels but it had always been a non-issue for our family because we don’t eat there.
This is where so many well meaning parents and educators go wrong while teaching little ones about food in my opinion. At her previous preschool they taught the children “growing food” and “junk food”. Sounds good right? Well it became confusing. They were required to eat their growing food before they could have their junk food. It was the rule. The problem I had with that was the teachers decided that her peanut butter and jelly sandwich was growing food and her applesauce was junk food. Applesauce is far more nutritious than jelly as far as I’m concerned, but I decided not to press it.
Then came all the questions, “is this junk food? is this….is this”. Finally I tried to put an end to it and said “there’s not really junk food but rather sometimes food.” Ice-cream makes it on the list as a sometimes food and strawberries can be an everyday food. Balanced eating is a much better approach than making foods bad. I far too often eat desserts not because I want it, but because I was taught to think of them as high calorie forms of naughtiness. And maybe it’s naughtiness that I need especially after 8 years of a deeply committed marriage and 4 years of striving to be a peaceful parent. But I wish I had been taught at an early age that release can come in the form of aggressive exercise or scheduling a massage. It’s dessert that’s my drug of choice and I must remind myself daily to think of it as a sometimes food.
McDonald’s is completely evil, no doubt. Bad Bad Bad. But that’s not the message I feel my kids should get because it only sparks interest. The last thing I want my daughter to eat when she’s depressed or worried is chicken with poop in it.