Forbidden fruit

Some friends and their 2 year old child are coming to stay: since I know there’s a history of dietary problems I check what they can and cannot eat. No dairy (relatively straightforward) and then for the boy, ‘he doesn’t have sweet things, no chocolate, but he does like fruit’. And I find myself thinking, ‘poor kid, he’s missing out on a lot’.

I can understand concerns about allergies and a wish not to encourage bad eating habits, but I do think that an attempt to ban all sugary food (or all ‘unhealthy food’) by parents is unrealistic and possibly counter-productive. What happens when some kind friend gives this child sweets for a treat: are his parents going to object to a well-meaning gesture? What happens when he goes to birthday parties or starts school – must every mouthful be monitored to ensure it involves no dangers to sound principles? How much does not allowing something give it an excitement not otherwise available? L, thankfully was not one of the 70% of three year-olds who could identify the McDonalds logo. Instead, I have tried to keep eating fast food as merely an option, neither prohibited nor seen as a treat. We do not buy her sweets, but we get given enough to keep plenty in stock for intermittent consumption. At parties she may eat almost as unhealthily as she likes, but she can’t expect that kind of food regularly at home. We will have to see whether this works in the long run, but it seems rather more practical than food fundamentalism.

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