Some parents may be concerned about what children will get up to and who will be supervising at an over-12 year old’s party… but how many of us think about the safety of a party when a child is turning 5, or 7 – about all the sugary food and additives in food our children will be eating there, for example?
As a parent, and a Medical Herbalist with a passion for food, it never ceases to amaze me what one finds on the tables at a kid’s party. It’s sugar and chemicals, really, just disguised as candy canes, lolly pops, biscuits, chips, cup cakes, jelly, fizzy drinks and sweets, to name just a few.
But… all kids love these things and we can buy them in the supermarket, so surely they are safe?!!! Our kids are brought up on these manufactured, sugary foods. We (well some of us adults) even enjoy them too. So how bad can they be?
Well, pretty bad, actually: and I didn’t have to do a two or three year degree on nutrition to figure this out for myself. To understand additives in food, all I did was use a little pocket book called ‘The Chemical Maze’, a guide to all the mysterious numbers on food labels – and their harmful side effects. I recommend it – it will inspire you to clean out your fridge and cupboards.
I totally understand that our children get excited, but they really do go mad at some parties and this may be because of food colourings, additives and preservatives, (and that’s all without considering the sugary foods themselves!), many of which have side effects that include hyperactivity.
Some people say, “Oh, it’s just once in a while and it’s only a small amount”. But the fact is, at a party, children can consume a lot of these additives and colours throughout the day, all in different foods, which then become a chemical bomb inside their digestive system.
Just think about it… some snacks, a piece of cake smothered with icing, sprinkles and jelly snakes, a fizzy drink, a lollipop and the lolly bag to take home (and that’s a conservative estimate). It is already a lot of sugary food and additives mixed into the child’s small digestive system and it is quite a challenge for a body that size to process.
What’s worse, when we notice the terrible behaviour resulting from the foods the children have consumed, we get upset and ask them to settle down. How can they possibly settle when they are ‘wired’ on all the sugary food and additives they have consumed?! Their nervous system is racing, and they are buzzing with hyperactivity. We then tell them to sit still and we get mad at them when they don’t.
I recently went to a party for a 6 year old and the only treat that was ‘special’ was the cake. There were lots of delicious, nutritious snacks such as fruit kebabs, homemade muffins that were sugar free, sushi, meatballs, mini egg and salmon bites, hummus and carrot sticks, and homemade strawberry and banana ice cream. It was a beautiful party… the children, all 20 or more of them, all played together. The boys were not tackling each other; there was no crying, screaming or tantrums… just laughter and giggles of delight.
And then… my eight year old daughter went to a birthday party with her friends (I didn’t attend this one with her), and when she got home, she was a mess – she was behaving no differently to someone who was coming off drugs.
Nothing was right… her tummy hurt… she was crying… she wouldn’t eat her dinner… she kept hurting herself – it was really challenging. I asked her what she had eaten and the list was shocking – she had not eaten a single food that would have given her any sustenance. My daughter had spent an entire afternoon on junk food, which included sugary food and an obvious array of additives in the ‘food’, and her behaviour was a great indicator of that.
It was that night that I was inspired to write this article, after I had taken some time to just be with her and allow her some down-time in nature. For parents to become aware of the ingredients in their children’s food is very powerful. I was unaware of these issues with sugary food and additives in food until 8 years ago, but I am now so grateful for the information.
By Rosie Bason, Mullumbimby, NSW