Let the Cupcake Wars Begin

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • Here’s an unfortunate statistic we have come to know all too well:  One in three American kids is overweight or obese.  So let’s examine the role of celebratory sweets in their lives.  Frankly, it’s all in the math. 


    Let's assume we have an imaginary child named Kate.  Now let’s assume that our imaginary child, Kate, is in first grade, along with 30 other children.  That means Kate will have 30 birthday celebrations in her classroom, with sweet treats at each event.  She will also probably be invited to about 20 out-of-school birthday parties hosted by the same children.  So that is 50 “treat exposures.”  Kate also has friends outside of school, who invite her to their birthday parties.  So let's add another 12 sweet-laden treats, maybe cupcakes.  Kate has two parents and two siblings.  Each will have a birthday party with sweets, so we add another five sweet events.  Kate’s parents will also celebrate an anniversary and Kate and her siblings may get some of the cake leftovers.  Assuming that Kate has a typical large extended American family, let’s add another 10 birthday parties with her cousins and other family members.  We are now up to 78 sweet celebratory exposures. 

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    Now let’s assume Kate’s family celebrates all the calendar holidays plus some religious celebrations, adding a conservative 20 celebrations with sweets to the tally.  Now let’s add a couple of weddings and the food rewards her parents give her when she brings home some good grades.  We are now over 100 sweet treat exposures....and counting.


    Let’s also count the weekend special events like treats at a movie or at a sports event, treats at sleepovers at friends and grandparents' homes.  If Kate participates in after-school sports and other activities, she is getting sweet snacks and drinks.  Let’s also remember that you like to give your kids special treats as feel good moments too – how regularly do you do that? 


    Do you see where I am going with this?  Your kids are not enjoying an occasional sweet treat or drink.  They are consuming them nearly 200 – 250 days out of a year.  That’s not the definition of a treat; it’s the definition of a regular habit


    Parents have sounded off in a big way with regards to the government and, specifically, a school’s attempts to control the food being served at celebrations. They have said nay to a cupcake ban.  But the reality is that our kids are getting too many sweet and high-calorie treats, and parents don’t really want to track and acknowledge that reality.  We want to be in control of when and where and how many treats our kids get – but we are not really in control, and we certainly are not in touch with our kids’ “sweet-snacking reality.” 


    Pediatricians are worried and so are dieticians and nutritionists like myself.  It is fine to be territorial as a parent.  But we need to make some serious changes in order to shift the childhood obesity trend. 


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    And a new study suggests that schools in a district that discourages sugary foods and beverages are likely to be schools where sugary treats are restricted at parties on school grounds.  “School policies affect school practices, even when they are just suggestions.”  And if we are willing to accept the truth, kids are eating too many extra calories, too often, at school parties and events.  If we can help kids to learn to celebrate with alternative tools, they may also bring these behaviors home – another place where way too many sweet, salty or creamy, fat-laden calories are being consumed.


    So that cupcake ban that so many parents have dissed, might just be a really good idea….if you are willing to do the math!!


    Amy Hendel is a health professional, journalist and host of Food Rescue, Simple Smoothies and What’s for Lunch?  Author of Fat Families, Thin Families and The 4 Habits of Healthy Families, she tweets health headlines daily @HealthGal1103.  Catch her guest appearances on Marie! on Hallmark and other local and national news and talk shows.  


    Follow my blogs at: http://www.healthcentral.com/profiles/c/86903


Published On: October 10, 2013