Going through medical school and learning about the growing epidemic of childhood obesity has made more conscious of the food I prepare for Madi. One family dynamic I never expected to develop was the conflict between grandparents and parents regarding the food we feed Madi. The biggest battle with my mother at the moment is food — my Mom has a significant fear that I am under feeding Madi and that she will be undernourished. I love my parents, and I had a great childhood, but we frequently fight about how I feed Madi. My brother and I grew up being able to eat whatever we wanted, go to sleep when we wanted, and watch as much tv as we wanted. My brother and I grew up happy, chubby and care-free. Madi loves gummies, chocolates, cookies, and juice. My mom feels that if she is willing to eat it or drink it, why not give it to her? My fear is that Madi’s tastes will be shaped to crave high sugar foods by introducing sugary processed foods early into her toddler diet.
A study published in Pediatric Obesity showed that although early introduction of sugar-sweetened beverages did not significantly increase odds of obesity, high intake of them increased the risk of obesity in children age 8 to 14.
The Canadian Pediatric Association suggests:
- Offer foods that don’t have added sugar or sugar substitutes. Limit refined sugars (sucrose, glucose-fructose, white sugar) as well as honey, molasses, syrups, and brown sugar. They all have similar calorie counts and also contribute to tooth decay.
- Sugar substitutes, such as aspartame or sucralose, do not add calories or cause tooth decay, but they are much sweeter than sugar and have no nutritional value. They may lead to a habit of only liking sweet foods and make it difficult for your child to adjust to fruits and vegetables. It’s a good idea to limit them in your child’s diet.
I am in complete agreement with the CPS. Even though, to the best of my knowledge, there isn’t a clear study that shows that early introduction of sugars will increase a child’s risk of obesity, most studies agree that limiting sugar intake is important and that a high-sugar diet will increase one’s risk of obesity. Harvard University has an excellent document explaining the implications of sugary drinks.
Now back to my parents. I love and respect my parents, but when they give her a gummy or a chocolate, my inner Incredible Hulk comes out. I have lost sleep and gotten in rap-battle-worthy verbal throw-downs with my parents over them sneaking Madi candies.
In the end, I realize that although I don’t agree with my parents giving my daughter high-sugar drinks and processed foods, I do love the time they spend with her and realize that she doesn’t see them everyday! I try my best to pack snacks in preparation of Madi’s time with her grandparents, but I expect her to come back with sticky hands from mango gummies and chocolate stains around her mouth. They’re just showing how much they love her in a different way.