Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Disturbing

As you may have noticed in my sidebar, I'm currently reading Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation. I'm behind, I know, since almost everyone I know (except TLS ) has already read it and expressed dismay over what they found inside.

I'm only about halfway finished, but I find myself regularly disturbed by the statistics and anecdotes that Schlosser presents. There are at least five or six statistics or stories per page that make me shake my head. Being a mom, there were two that stuck out to me in particular.

  • "About one-fifth of the nation's one- and two-year-olds now drink soda." (pg. 54). What? I wasn't allowed to drink "soda" ("Coke" where I come from) until I was older, and even then it was caffeine free. And it was a special treat...not an everyday occurence. Every other week or so my dad and I used to drive about an hour on Sunday afternoon to visit his mother. It was a huge deal to stop at a market on the way out of her town and get a Coke. And we shared it. I don't get this. I find it hard to believe that a parent would actually think that Coke is healthy at all, much less for a baby.
  • "About one-quarter of American children between the ages of two and five have a TV in their room." (pg. 46)Again I say, what? I don't even have a TV in my room and I'm 31 years old. Neither Jay nor I had television sets in our rooms growing up, and neither of us even ever had a game console. What does a two- to five-year-old need to watch on TV in his/her room?
My friend Jason says that the number one rule of parenting is not to judge other parents. And I don't want to imply that the way that I was raised was the only right way to raise children. But it seems that common sense would tell a parent not to feed their kids junk food or junk entertainment. What are we (and I mean the big, global we) not passing on to parents about how to raise healthy children? How do we (again, big global we) provide this information to parents who need to know?

I know I'm going to be even more disturbed when I get to the part about the deadly effects of E. coli on children. We may even have to go back to being vegetarian.

21 comments:

anna said...

Haven't read this book but sounds interesting and along the lines of our late night talks from our visit this summer.

As far as E. Coli and meat....raise your own...on grass only.


And yeah we got Coke Friday night with pizza and a TV show...whooppee. Sydney still thinks we're awesome parents when she gets to drink Sprite at a birthday party. And she's only had koolaide like once or twice her whole life. Yeah she'll be drinking Coke at all the happening parties in high school thinking she's cool. (At least that's my daydream)

anna said...

Oh and one more thought....

Does it say what the statistic is for kids that watch TV while going on a trip (long or short). I'm amazed at how many dvd players are in cars these days and that's the number one think mentioned as we look at minivans/SUV's by the salesperson. I actually said to one guy, "well that's not necessarily a plus in my book" and he gave me a very befuddled look.

Now I know what book to look up at the library next time I go.

Mary Beth said...

As far as E. Coli and meat....raise your own...on grass only.

I'm certain we'll get to that eventually.

No statistics on the DVD players in minivans. It's more about how food is marketed to children. My dad swears that when we our kid(s) are older we'll be begging for the minivan with the DVD player. At the risk of sounding like an old fogey I still say, "Well back in my day, I read books on long trips. We don't need no stinking DVD player." I'm sure you can find statistics on television and kids. The AAP currently states that kids two and older watch no more than one to two hours each day (although that still seems high to me) and that children under two watch none at all. Here's a good article from babycenter.

Kat E said...

That is a GREAT book. I love Eric Schlosser. FYI, vegetables can also be contaminated with E. coli (you know, cause they get pooped on and stuff, I guess?). So just avoid ground beef (which you'll probably never want to eat again anyway after reading that book!), cook your meat well, and wash your veggies :)

The Thief said...

You read books on long trips? That's a sure trip to puke city for me.

In our family, we had two main traditions to make the long car rides better:

1. we'd play games (usually ones we'd made up)

2. We'd pick on our sister.

Jenny said...

In response to The Thief's #2: which is why *we* have a DVD player in our minivan. Seriously, though, with 16-hour trips to visit the grandparents, we wanted there to be a little "something" extra. But it will be for one movie at a time, and we're going to have to be WELL away from home before it gets turned on. We have used it a few times on very long trips when Mark is super-tired and overwrought, and a little Baby Einstein does work wonders. I get horrified at the people who are watching TV/DVDs as they DRIVE AROUND TOWN! HOW ABOUT TALKING TO YOUR KID FOR A FEW MINTUES!?!?!?!
And reading in the car? I echo the thief on that one too. I was so jealous of my brothers (apparently just one) who COULD read in the car and often tried, with very bad results (I remember pulling into someone's driveway to clean out the car, and me, and the people came home...)
And as for a TV in the kids' rooms? EGADS. We didn't have a TV in our HOUSE when we were kids. (Which is why I spent my entire freshman year of college in the sorority suite: cable!!!)
"Back when we were kids we didn't need all these new-fangled things..."

Kat E said...

Coincidentally...read this, by which I am automatically grossed out because I eat bagged salad all the time...

Mary Beth said...

Jenny--Good tips on appropriate use of minivan DVD players! I'm sorry your brothers entertained themselves at your expense.

Ritz--I stopped with the bagged salad when I was pregnant due to the dangers of listeriosis which can cross the placenta and kill the baby. It's one of the things on the long list that pregnant women are supposed to avoid. Thanks for the link, though, especially since I read the E. coli chapter of the book right before bed last night. I'm not eating anything else, ever. Just hook me up to an IV and nourish me that way. Although I have started using a meat thermometer at all times. Maybe that helps.

Kat E said...

I really only sent the link because that story happened to break just as we were discussing E. coli (obviously you are quite well-educated on the dangers of bagged salads!) Unfortunately I am too lazy to chop my own lettuces...though maybe it's time to invest in some veggie wash and a salad spinner!

Mary Beth said...

No, no, I like the link. I didn't mean to sound like a pompous ass. I'm too lazy to chop my own lettuce, too. So when I was pregnant the only time I got green leafys was when Jay actually made turnip, collard, or kale greens! Jay's really mad, by the way, (OK, not really) that you beat him to the punch in sending me that link. :) He wanted to freak me out first.

I did buy some pre-washed baby greens from Earthbound Farms (organic, yummy, already washed!) and found a dead but well-preserved lady bug stuck to one of the lettuce leaves. I called the company and they sent a bunch of coupons to make up for the trauma. But now I can't use them because this spinach thing has now convinced me not to each pre-made salad anymore.

They make veggie wash? Do tell.

anna said...

I wash thinking more on this and your question of what are we not passing on to moms.

I think in todays parenting world we're living very differently from our parents. In our parents parenting books it gave direct orders..."If you didn't do this then you'd cause this, and if you did do this then it would cause this"
Today our books say "Do what you feel right as a parent".
While that's all nice and good it's doesn't give any real truths in fact in many cases it gives lies.
And heaven forbid if we as parents give another parent advice that might actually help their child because it's seen as judgemental while when our parents were raising us other moms were always giving advice. I can remember overhearing my mom getting advice at church when I was a preteen and she never once saw it as judgemental. She saw it as advice.

I know there has to be a balance but I do think we, as in our generation of parents, are a little top heavy on the "Do what feels right" and it's affecting our kids.

As to how do we provide good information without insulting...I don't know maybe the answer is 47.

Jennifer said...

You read books on long trips? That's a sure trip to puke city for me.

Same here. Back in my day, the most entertaining way to pass a long car trip was to annoy the hell out of my sister until Mom said “Don’t make me pull this car over!” Yea, those were the days.

I’m with you on the junk food, too. I haven’t read the book but I personally see two major problems: 1) the sale of junk food in elementary schools, for which the schools get kickbacks; and 2) the fact that so many young parents are uneducated about health. I’ve been a vegetarian for 20 years. I would wholeheartedly support raising your own free range meat. Yes, they do make veggie wash and I highly recommend it. Veggies are grown in poop, for heaven’s sake.

I also totally agree with Anna (the cause of those “don’t make pull this car over” speeches”) about giving parents advice. You’re likely to get slapped with a lawsuit for telling a mother that Coke is bad for her one year old.

Mary Beth said...

Anna--I remember that we talked about how "I know what's best for my child" can go a little too far. NTSB says to wait until one year to turn your kid's carseat around but you want to do it at 10 months? Go ahead! You know your child best! AAP says not to give your kids shellfish, dairy, or nuts until one year but you think it's cute that they want to eat it now? Go ahead and give it to them! You know your child best! On my particular babycenter board people were giving finger foods months before it was recommended by the AAP or even the manufacturers. But moms thought it was so cute to watch them eat it. There was more than one story about the need for a finger sweep after some kid got it lodged in his/her throat.

Jennifer--Fast Food Nation talks a lot about marketing to kids in schools. One district in Texas actually answers the phone, "You've reached the XYZ school district, proud partner of Dr. Pepper" Can you believe that? Jay and I have been talking about finding a local source of grass-fed beef, buying a side, and having it processed locally. We were vegetarians once, but we weren't very good ones.

Jenny said...

I have a co-worker who is a vegetarian in "real" life but eats the meat we raise at our museum (we butcher our own hogs, chickens, etc.) because she knows that they were raised safe, fairly clean, and humanely, and that they were "dispatched" the same way. I think that is seriously putting her money where her mouth is as far as the humane aspect of eating meat is concerned.

Mom said...

After reading the comments by you "youngsters", I feel somewhat relieved that there will be some children raised by adults who are not trying to be their child's best friend by appeasing their child's every whim. (Long and wording sentence) As a public school teacher, I am distraught at the number of parents who lack parenting skills. I sat in on 2 parent conferences this week. One child had been "kicked out" of 2 daycares before he wound up in a theraputic preschool. And mother sees nothing wrong with his behaviors. Another 6 yr. old is obviously OCD, and again no acknowledgement by the mother of a problem. That was this week and only the extreme cases. Could there be too many chemicals injested in food and drink? Or drug babies? Or lack of parenting from the get-go? Scary stuff. You folks just keep on doing what you have started in child-rearing. Sounds great!

Mom said...

One more thing. I, too am distressed by school funding being dependent on sales of concessions and junk. Just remember that when its time to vote to increase taxes. Nashville has taken a giant step toward eliminating vending machines with junk. Of course, the school budget was passed after major cuts.

Mary Beth said...

I would guess chemicals in processed food have some effect. From an evolutionary standpoint, our digestive systems (help me on this, Dr. Ritz, if I'm wrong), are roughly the same as they were 10,000 years ago. Those people only ate things they could pick up off the ground or kill and cook on a fire. And yet we're putting so many other things in our bodies that they're aren't necessarily equipped to handle. Surely it must have some effect.

I think there must be something to "it takes a village." I was saying to Anna this summer that it makes sense that female bodies are prepared for children so young. In a society where multiple generations live together, the young women have the energy to chase after kids and the old women are the bearers of the wisdom. I think many moms today are just completely unsure of themselves and don't know where to begin looking for wisdom, support, and education.

Kat E said...

MB, you're right. Interesting you should bring this up, because I've been doing a lot of reading lately on the effects of processed foods on our bodies. These foods were first introduced into our diets back in the 70s, a timeframe that correlates very well with the huge upswing in obesity, diabetes, and other "lifestyle" diseases. I just read an interesting article about the huge rise in diabetes in India, where eating sweets has become very popular. All the preservatives, fillers and other chemicals (trans fats, anyone??) on top of all the refined sugars, etc that are in most of today's convenience foods make our diets radically different from the raw, nutrient-rich foods our ancestors ate. It doesn't take a genius to see that this cannot be good for our bodies.

Mary Beth said...

I heard that story about the rise in diabetes in India on NPR the other day. Quite interesting.

I've been trying really hard to cut down on processed foods as much as possible. I even made my own pimento cheese the other day. Of course it contains mayonnaise, so I guess the next step is to make my own mayonnaise. This could get to be a real pain. We don't eat any refined sugar anymore, or white flour. Granted, soy flour isn't as yummy but at least I feel better about putting it in my body.

Mary Beth said...

I guess soy flour is processed, too, huh. Hmmm.

Jennifer said...

MB, I use whole wheat flour. Is much healthier.