CANDY KIDS BY HILARY ACHAUER
Failed by their schools, kids rely on parents and coaches to teach them about proper nutrition.
In schools across the United States, kids are taught not to worry about the type of food they eat as long as they balance the sugary drink or cookie with exercise. A recent Mother Jones article pointed out this curriculum is the product of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, which is sponsored by companies that benefit from kids’ eating junk food: PepsiCo, The Hershey Co., Nestlé USA, The Coca-Cola Co., Unilever, The J.M. Smucker Co. and others.
The “energy balance” concept taught to millions of elementaryschool-age kids promotes the idea that a healthy lifestyle is created by ensuring calories in equal calories out. The message is not to avoid sugar or junk food but to balance those foods with exercise.
“All foods can fit into a sensible, balanced diet,” reads the final PowerPoint slide in a downloadable lesson plan aimed at kids in grades 3-5. Earlier in the presentation, another slide asked, “Where does your energy come from?” and answered with six pictures, four featuring juice, raspberries, a hamburger and an ice-cream cone.
On the surface, the message doesn’t sound all that bad. Exercise is good, right? And don’t most adults talk about burning off a night of indulgence the next day at the gym?
The problem is this concept is not scientifically sound.
In the recent New York Times article “Rethinking Weight Loss and the Reasons We’re ‘Always Hungry,’” David Ludwig brushed aside the energy-balance idea and suggested another reason for obesity: “It’s the low fat, very high carbohydrate diet that we’ve been eating for the last 40 years, which raises levels of the hormone insulin and programs fat cells to go into calorie storage overdrive.”
The body simply does not process all foods in the same way, and the energy-balance equation is dated and oversimplified. For example, it should be clear that consuming 400 calories of refined sugar will have very dramatic effects on your metabolism as compared to the body’s response to 400 calories derived from a combination of low-glycemic carbohydrates, protein and fat.
That’s the science. Running up against this is a culture that associates sugar with love and good times—especially when it comes to kids. What’s a birthday without cake, Halloween without candy, Easter without chocolate or Christmas without candy canes?
It’s one thing for an adult to give up sugar, but asking kids to do the same is a tall order, especially if they’re told in school that sugar is fine if they exercise.
CrossFit Kids flowmasters Todd Widman and Jon Gary spend a lot of time thinking about how to keep kids healthy. They understand the importance of health but also know the importance of balance and moderation.
“It’s the same perspective that we have with movement,” Gary said. “You can’t ask for perfection in movement or diet overnight. You need buy-in from kids and from families and parents in order for this to be maintained for a long time.”
He said the second challenge is education. That involves teaching kids about macronutrients and the difference between whole and processed food.
“We are always going to eat healthful protein—some type of meat—and we are always going to eat vegetables, and we are going to eat fruit, and sometimes we will have french fries and cake. Why? Because the stuff is not good for us, but it’s sure tasty, so every now and then it’s appropriate,” Widman said.
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16 Minute AMRAP:
2 Rope Climbs
20 Thrusters 75/55#
200 Meter Run
5 Ring Push Ups
15 Sec L Sit Hold
Josh C 4
Jen D 4
Bill H 4
Dave D 4
Special K 5
Bill F 5+10
Kyle H. 5
Meg N. 4
Jen C 4+13
Kelly G 3+12
Dave N 3
Jen S 3+10