Should Kids Count Calories?

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Illustration for article titled Should Kids Count Calories?

In our Daddy Issues series, a father of a young daughter seeks guidance, hoping to raise a strong woman. He looks to you, dear readers, for insight.

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My wife mentioned that something had "too many calories" and I cringed.

This was exactly what I'd been hoping to avoid. TVs, movies, magazines, advertising — my daughter would soon enough be bombarded by the idea of counting everything she eats, potentially making herself go hungry because of some numbers on the side of a box and the feeling that too many of them could make her feel...fat. I've heard preschoolers talking about calories, as in, "I can't eat that, because it has too many calories."

And here she was, getting her first taste of it, at home. Sure enough, a split second later she piped up, "What's a calorie?"

I don't think it's a good idea to teach kids about calories. I think it's more important to teach them to eat healthful foods and to play like crazy. I'm not a doctor or a nutritionist or anything even remotely related to a health official. In fact, most of my exercise and nutrition information nowadays comes from a former "exotic model" who kicks my ass on a daily basis with her hardcore online workouts. I'm in the best shape of my life, and I eat anywhere from six to eight to 10 meals a day, all insanely healthy and perfect to give me the energy to power through the day.

That's basically what I told my daughter in response. I gave her the scientific answer of what a calorie is and then basically told her not to worry about them, so long as she was eating healthy things and playing around all day long, like kids should. My wife thinks it doesn't matter so much, that calories simply help people understand how much they're consuming.

I think back to preschool girls I've heard talking about calories and I still think it's a bad idea. How do you talk intelligently about food choices with young girls, without making it all about counting calories or avoiding the "F" word? Or should you?

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Mike Adamick writes at Cry It Out!

Image by Lauri Apple.

DISCUSSION

I hope this doesn't come off as snarky, it's certainly not meant that way, but it's puzzled me for some time why this column is called "Daddy Issues". I mean, I get that it's a dad asking but he's not a single parent - there is a woman in the child's life. This is the only parenting-focused regular feature on Jezebel and it feels to me like we're going "Wow! Look, a GUY asking about raising kids, isn't that GREAT!" I just wonder why it's not called "Parenting Issues" instead.

Are we saying that the issue of how to instil healthy eating and body image ideas in a child is a bigger issue for fathers than mothers? And if it's something that we could reasonably expect might be a bit mysterious to a man (like menstruation) why would the advice/knowledge of the child's mother, his wife, not suffice? If my husband was asking advice about how to raise our daughter from a bunch of women strangers (however fabulous!) on the internet, I would be pissed off.

I may not be expressing this in the best way, but I'm genuinely trying to understand what the thinking behind this column is. I may well be missing the point entirely, in which case please enlighten me.