Candy! Pllllleeeee-ase!

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Let me say right off the bat that I love candy. And I love holidays like Easter with my kids, which give me an excuse to stash jelly beans, peeps and peanut chocolate eggs around the house. I’m the worst at the “but it’s only once a year” rationale for Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Christmas and all of the other candy eating holidays, which of course add up to more than just once a year. And naturally, my kids love candy too.

The current anti-obesity climate has put candy as a kid’s treat under attack. There are many who say that we parents should just take the candy right out of candy-oriented holidays, as if our kids will never notice the difference. My favorite is the suggestion that we should distribute fruits as Halloween goodies, or put non-food items in Easter baskets. Since none of us can be taught or trusted to moderate our intake of candy, we should just remove it altogether, or so this thinking goes.

There is a part of this that I get, now that I am the mother of two little candy-lovers. “Treats,” as in chocolate Easter bunnies or Valentine’s Day sweethearts, are not the special holiday occurrences that they once were. Candy – primarily cheap candy – is much more prevalent in kids’ daily lives now than it was a generation or two ago. In succumbing to the idea that candy can be an every-day treat, and by making it so available, we’ve removed much of the specialness of eating it at holidays.

Kids are exposed to too much candy now; they eat it too often; negative public health consequences result. Enter the all-or-nothing mindset, and we start thinking that we should eliminate candy entirely, especially at holidays, with their over-emphasis on candy.

But once again, I think this misses an important point about the best way to teach kids to healthfully and pleasurably include candy in their diets. Quite simply, all candy is not created equal. Even little kids should be given the opportunity to taste the difference and expect the best in quality and flavor when it comes to sweet treats.

Have you ever opened a piece of children’s candy and discovered that it is actually quite stale, possibly from sitting around on a store shelf for too long? My son Willie unwrapped a sugar bunny last week, gave me a piece, and I took a bite. Bad. Cheap candy that tasted even worse after sitting around for too long. “Not worth the calories,” as my mother says. So I convinced Willie to toss it. And instead we each enjoyed a piece of good-quality, rich tasting Easter chocolate. Just one piece, but one was enough.

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5 Responses to “Candy! Pllllleeeee-ase!”

  1. Antonia Malchik Says:

    I was certainly a candy fiend when I was a kid, and my parents probably should have done a lot more to curb it — not for nutrition, as our diet was otherwise extremely fresh and healthy, but because my teeth have never recovered. Always getting fillings!

    But it seems we all agree on the moderation aspect. We spent Easter at our friend’s house. Their kids are 12 and 22 and love spoiling our 2 1/2-year-old son. The filled FIFTY plastic eggs with jelly beans, mini cookies, and Hershey kisses for him to hunt and consume. While I was perfectly willing to enter into the modern spirit of the holiday, it was awfully excessive. He ate way too much for a little one, and didn’t touch any of his dinner, even though it was something he particularly liked. Took me a few days to get him to stop opening random plastic eggs looking for candy, and begging for chocolate.

  2. Mary Elisa Says:

    I am so grateful for this topic because all three of my children love candy and so do I. As a matter of fact, one even says that it is her favorite food. I wonder if candy consumption has really changed. I remember eating tons of candy at Halloween, Christmas, Valentines and Easter as a child. I like Nancy’s idea of exposing our kids to better tasting real chocolate. Rather than buy the big cheap chocolate bunny for the Easter baskets, this year I bought little Lindt chocolate bunnies. No one commented on the lack of the big chocolate bunny. 72% chocolate is suppose to have the highest antioxident content. I always have a bar stashed away to nibble on when I want a taste of chocolate. My 4 year old will happily partake with me and I am glad that she is learning the taste of good chocolate.

  3. Michelle Says:

    Great post, Nancy! While baby Caroline (5 months) is not quite at the candy eating stage yet, we’ve already discussed this issue in our household.

    My husband’s mother forbid him to eat sugary cereals, so what did he do? Ate boxes and boxes of Fruit Loops and Honey Smacks when he visited his friends’ houses! What an excellent example of the psychology of the “forbidden fruit!”

    I think for some groups to target candy and sodas as the main culprits of obesity is short sighted – it’s all about parental responsibility to teach your children (and ensure they follow) a balanced diet and lifestyle. I would argue that many American’s heavy diet of processed foods contributes as much, if not more, to obesity. (And yes, I’m an offender, having just enjoyed a previously frozen breakfast sandwich!)

    In short, there is a balance to all things in life and in diets – I’ll be the first to break down in tears if anyone tries to take my candy away! 🙂

  4. Melissa Says:

    I agree! I think if we make candy something “forbidden” it only entices our children (and ourselves) to want it more. Surely, purchasing less of it and not stocking our homes with candy and chocolates is a start; but also teaching our children moderation and balance, and more importantly modeling these behaviors is key. Thanks for posting Nancy!

  5. Liza Says:

    You make good sense on this point, for sure. Julia Child always said you can eat anything and everything — just don’t eat too much of it. We should encourage our children to learn about different foods and develop a sense of discernment. A tall order, I know, but certainly worth trying. I think we are all aware that “forbidden fruit” (or candy) takes on an added dimension of interest just because it is something one cannot have. Thank you.

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