Thursday, June 10, 2010

What Does "Healthy" Really Mean?

Earlier this week we went to an academics award night for my middle schooler. The principal announced that there would be "healthy" snacks after the ceremony. Some of the kids booed when he said this. I never made it back to the cafeteria for the snacks but my daughter did. When I asked what the "healthy" snacks were, she told me that she saw fruit snacks and Rice Krispie treats. A couple of days later I read my colleague Katja Rowell's thoughtful blog post about conflicting messages that we are sending our kids about food, and I felt compelled to write something myself about the use of the word "healthy."

The incident at my daughter's middle school bothered me on multiple levels. First of all, I don't think it's necessary to serve food at every school event or celebration. Don't get me wrong. I'm not against food at celebrations. I think food can be a vitally important part of any celebration, but kids (and adults for that matter) don't need food at every event.

If the choice was made to serve snacks at the school event, I would not have really cared whether or not they served donuts and cookies or fruits and vegetables. It just irritated me that they announced that they were serving "healthy" snacks and then served items that are questionable at best in terms of nutritional value. What message are we sending our kids about what foods are healthy? It reminds me of the recent soda tax debate. A tax on regular full-calorie soda was proposed, but diet soda would have been exempt. Does anyone really believe that diet soda is "healthier?"

After this incident I felt reaffirmed in my decision to talk about "successful eaters" rather than "healthy eaters." People operate out of so many different definitions of what healthy eating is that it just leads to confusion.

By the way, we passed on the school's "healthy snacks" and went out for ice cream instead.

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