Thursday, May 30, 2013

Enough With the Otter Pops Already

My wife and I share a lot of responsibility with our twins.  We both work and we've been fortunate enough to have different work schedules so one of the ways we divide up some of the work is that my wife drops the kids off at their preschool and I pick them up.  Most of the time I'm there by 4pm and the vast majority of the time my kids have already had a snack.

Before I go too much further, let me say that our preschool has provided my kids with a very loving, nurturing environment.  They've met great friends, they've had great experiences and developed an early love of Judaism.  But one thing that our school needs to work on is the food they feed my kids.  

We provide lunches for them but the school often gives them snacks.  Since I pick them up I hear mostly about the afternoon snack. If you've ever met my daughter you'll understand why some people call her the "court reporter." She remembers everything and will report back to you anything you want to know about the day's events.  It's not common but there are some days that I pick them up and they have bright blue faces!  The "court reporter" yells, "Daddy, we had popsicles today!" They are smiling, excited to see me and they show me how blue their lips and tongues are.  Of course they're blue, that's what happens when you eat Otter Pops.

I know that some Otter Pops are now made with 100% juice and that they only have 40 calories per pop.  I know that some of you are saying what I've heard before, "Just lighten up." Well to be honest, I will not lighten up when it comes to feeding my kids, thank you very much.  When my kids feces is bright green the next day because of the food coloring in their popsicle, I will not lighten up.

There are plenty of alternatives to the neon glow of an Otter Pop.  Why not make some juice pops with the kids?  My colleague, Sumner Brooks, MPH, RD recommended frozen mango chunks.  I'm sure a handful of grapes or some watermelon would be equally refreshing as a popsicle.

I'm doing my best to raise my kids as intuitive eaters and I believe in the principles I've learned from Ellyn Satter.  My kids have eating habits that I'm proud of and I do not deny them any shortage of play foods inside and outside of our house but in the end the issue is this: when I see bright blue faces when I pick my kids up from school, a part of me feels like the hard work I'm putting in is being unintentionally undermined.  Dr. Yoni Freedhoff said it very well in this article he wrote, "Why is Everyone Always Giving My Kids Junkfood?"
Somewhere along the line, we've normalized the constant provision of junk food to children. It seems no matter how small the ship or short the journey, sugar pretty much christens each and every voyage on which our children set sail. 
There's simply no occasion too small to not warrant a junk food accompaniment. But for me, the strangest part of all is the outcry that occurs if and when I point it out. My experiences have taught me that junk food as part of children's' activities has become so normalized that my questioning this sugary status quo genuinely offends people's sensitivities and sometimes even generates frank anger.
I'm hoping that the status quo will change soon and that my kids will not be supplied endless amounts of sugar and food coloring in the coming years but that might not happen.  I hope that we stop relying on the highly processed food as our go-to snacks for our kids.  I hope that when it comes to treats, we make it from scratch instead of getting it from a box.

What do you think?  Do any other parents struggle with what their kids are fed when they are not with them?


  1. Nice post Aaron. Yes we struggle with this with our kids. The best progress we've made is to find less junky "junk" foods to suggest to those who provide these things to our kids. And I'm happy to say, the public schools here at least have cut down on junk food for birthday parties, which was getting out of control.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience with this David.

  3. We are so lucky with our kids. They simply don't like sweet stuff. It might be because we never handled sweets as something special.