Let Them Eat Cake!
Now I don't usually rant much on my blog but this article about an Edmonds school banning cupcakes or any food-based birthday treats in class..well..it took the cake and it got my goat!! I think PC thinking can go too far and this is one such example. Is there a serious problem with childhood obesity rates, heck even adult obesity rates, here in the US? Absolutely! But is it to blame on the 22-30 (average class size here in Seattle) mini cupcakes your child *might* enjoy across the school year? Hell no! And yes, the average US child consumes about 125lbs of sugar a year so they could really use a break..but is that 125lbs coming from those 22-30 mini cupcakes, single cookies or brownie bites? Yeah, not even close. But it might very well be hidden in the form of sugars found in foods that are readily being served to kids as "healthy" because they don't look like cupcakes. Foods like ketchup, chicken nuggets, bread, peanut butter, granola bars, fruit flavored yogurt, applesauce, pasta sauce and a host of other foods parents rarely think twice about serving.
Are public school's going to stop carrying all products in their cafeteria that contain sugar or sweeteners? It owuld be nice, but I doubt they can since they would be hard pressed to find a cost-effective food service company that could meet that requirement and still keep their annual food budgets in line. Bringing sweets in for your child's birthday has been going on long before I was a kid...that's almost 42 years right there...and that's not what has caused our meteoric rise in childhood obesity. As you can see obesity wasn't an issue at my pre-school on my 4th birthday in 1976.
In the 70's and 80's we had 1 hour recesses, we had strenous but fun gym classes and at home processed foods and eating out were a luxury, not the norm. I didn't grow up with soda in the firdge, my mom insisted we use "real butter" and sugar treats were an ocassional fun event not a daily occurance. And yeah, no Xbox and hours playing video games at my mom's either. We played outside and ran like the wild, happy kids we were.
When I got into food trouble it was always at my grandmother's whose work schedule as an office manager at a large textile company downtown left her exhausted so there was a lot of take out Chinese food and unlimited quantities of processed food on hand at her place. It was fun and delicious but I paid the price. When I went for the weekend my mother said I would come back and she could tell I had "physically gained weight" but it wasn't from cupcakes occasionally served at school. As a wellness coach I have a golden rule that I encourage all of my clients to follow, unless of course they have a medical condition that conflicts with this advice:
When It's Your Birthday, Eat Cake! And for god's sake, enjoy it and leave the guilt out of the recipe!
Why? Because life is too short to get short changed on the very day you celebrate being alive. Because you survived the birthing process when millions of babies didn't and that's a good reason to celebrate. Because cutting out all joy that involves sugar or baked goods is a real shame. Because moderation is divine and leads to happiness and sanity. And because life needs a little sweetness that actually tastes good every once in a while! My son has a Summer birthday but at the end of the school year I contributed some brownie bites and banana bread for an end of the year class picnic where the kids with Summer birthdays could bring in a treat to share with the class. It was a nice way to feel like they could still participate in the sharing of birthdays which they all love to do. He had a blast and so did his classmates. When it's his birthday in July I make him the greatest, sweetest, yummiest, craziest cake I can because it's a tradition in our family to go all out on the cake. This year I even used box mix because I knew decorating it would take a really really really long time. He loved it, as did everyone at the party and it wasn't a bit "healthy". I did not stress over wether or not it was 100% organic, if it had food coloring in it or if the eggs were from a special farm and were hand caressed before packaging or what the sugar content was. I did however pour a lot of love into it and celebrated the fact that he survived another year..that he was healthy, whole, happy and my amazing kid. A kid that didn't want to hear on the one day of the year that is all his, that he couldn't have sugar, soda or candy...or Taco Bel..wince..and I wasn't going to be a label-reading worrywort either..I have the other 355 days...hey, cake happens on everyone's birthday and on holidays many times a year...in which to be that.
So Edmonds School district I say to you: Let Them Eat Cake! and let them celebrate their birthdays the way kids love to. And for the mom's struggling financially? I bet if you asked a few of the mom's in your class to help you get a box of cake mix and a can of frosting from the Dollar Store when a birthday rolls around, they would be more than happy to help. We moms know how to stick together. Besides, pencils don't come in $1 packs of 30 so you'll actually spend more on pencils then you would on baking an entire cake that the kids will actually enjoy.
Yes, make dietary changes, yes, make lifestlye changes..but let's not strip all of the culinary fun from our children's lives. Instead let's promote moderation and knowledge, education and the basics of dietary cause and effect vs puritanical rules that lead to food fear and kids thinking they will "get fat" from eating a single cupcake.
Sending you Love...and Cake Logan
Mom on a Mission