Food is such an emotional topic for most people. We use food to celebrate EVERYTHING- birthdays, holidays, achievements... If you threaten someone's food, particularly their celebrational food, they can get a little defensive. "Let kids be kids!" they proclaim, "it's just fun!" "Don't make them into outcasts" and "you'll alienate their friends/teachers/grandparents." And of course "it's fine as long as they indulge in moderation."
On the other hand, there are a lot of reasons to throw "everything in moderation" out the window for certain foods. MSG, certain food colorings, peanuts, soy, GMO's, high fructose corn syrup, processed sugar, and numerous other food ingredients and additives give the health conscious more than enough reason to not only limit them but to avoid them completely. When you have researched and you know the potential damage these ingredients can cause the mere idea of allowing them near your child can make you want to spit nails.
Honestly, I see both sides. Treats are fun and enjoyable- lord knows I enjoy the occasional treat. I want my children to have the opportunity to indulge from time to time as well. But here is my problem... or rather my list of problems.
First of all, it makes me insane that people take it so personally. They are MY (or rather my husband's and my) kids- their friends' parents, their teachers, their aunts and uncles and grandparents have no say in what I feed them, what I choose not to feed them, and what I absolutely forbid them to put in their mouth. You can argue whether that is "right" or "wrong," the long term affects of restricting their food, or whatever until the sun burns out but the long and short of it is that what I say goes. That is and should be true for any parent. And me saying that my child can or can not eat something will not affect their relationship with any of the significant adults in their lives- if it does, that adult has some serious issues they need to work out (this was in response to a facebook discussion from a few days ago- the question was from a mother who was concerned about her child's grandmother was giving him some super processed. I said the mother should stick with her guns if she feels so strongly about not giving him the treat, but another commenter insinuated that refusing the treat would somehow harm the child's relationship with the grandmother).
Look at it this way- parents who refuse treats (and this goes for parents who refuse anything else that is considered the norm) have a very good reason for making the decision that they do. Their child may have behavioral problems that are made significantly better by avoiding artificial coloring. They might have a physical or behavioral issue that is complicated by processed sugar. The point is that you don't know, because no matter how close you think you are to that child you are not as close to him or her as the parent. The parent spends every day with their child, and they know the affects that different foods have on their children. They know that if their child starts the day with too much sugar the rest of the day is likely to be a nightmare. They know that if their child eats a red sucker they will probably puke red in a few hours. They know that too much homogenized dairy gives their child an ear infection. Know that the parent has the best interest of the child in mind, that it is none of your business, and back off.
My second problem is that "special occasions" seem to come up several times a week now. Kids bring in cupcakes AND treat bags for their birthdays. They get treats for school accomplishments. And lord knows what else. It is hard to say they're "indulging in moderation" when it happens multiple times a week.
Lastly, it makes me crazy that parents like me, parents who care what their kids eat, are made to feel like we're crazy and bad parents and trying to ruin our kids' childhood, while parents who give their kids processed chicken nuggets, boxed mac-n-cheese, soda, etc on a daily basis are considered normal.
In practice, I am actually very middle of the road. For the candy holidays (Vday and Halloween) my kids get to eat a few pieces of candy the day of, one the next day, and the rest gets thrown away. They don't bat a lash over it, either. But I also know that I have the luxury to allow my kids to have those treats. They don't have any active food allergies or sensitivities (although they are sensitive to what time of day they eat sweets, so I do regulate that), and they don't seem to react very horribly to either colorings (we still avoid them as much as we can) or processed sugars (ditto). But I know that not every parent is so lucky.
And neither I nor the more restrictive parent is "ruining their kid's childhood." In fact, we probably go out of our way to make memories that are not at all food based, or are centered around wholesome, healthy foods with a few whole food indulgences.
This post has been shared at Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesday, Real Food Forager's Fat Tuesday, Day2Day Health's Health 2Day Wednesday, GNOWFGLINS Simple Lives Thursday, and New Life on a Homestead's Barn Hop.