When I was a kid, one of my favorite parts of the week was chocolate milk Fridays. We had to suffer through only having white milk with our school lunches for four days, and Fridays was a big treat.

You may be thinking it didn’t take much to please me as a child, but chocolate milk wasn’t seen as an everyday requirement with lunch, it was a treat.

When it comes to food, given all the fast food, sugar, soda and chocolate milk available today, I don’t believe children know what a treat is anymore.

A recent report on NPR talked about school districts all over the nation contemplating banning chocolate milk from the cafeteria. Some of them may consider cutting it down to only Fridays, instead of making it available every single day of the week.

In the Marana School District, school cafeterias offer only low-fat milk or low-fat chocolate milk every day. While I applaud the switch to less sugar, I question if it’s the district’s responsibility at all.

Anyway, the NPR report got me to thinking – will taking chocolate milk away from our kids stop the growing childhood obesity epidemic? I hardly think chocolate milk is the culprit. If anything, I would think it’s the examples being set for them at home, and in society as a whole that needs to be addressed first.

There is a saying that “attitude reflects leadership,” and the more we as adults are eating, the more our kids are seeing that it’s OK, and doing the exact same thing.

As a mother I worry every day about how much sugar they have, about whether or not I am going too far because I am so afraid they will become one of those statistics cited when the subject of childhood obesity comes up.

However, at the same time I don’t want to become one of those mothers who makes my child overly self-conscious about what they are eating.

For my family, the challenges of setting a good example are difficult. Last year, we adopted a 17-year-old and a 6-year-old. With the age difference, both represent very different eating habits, and both are impressionable on different levels.

With the 6-year-old there seems to always be a birthday party where there is nothing but candy, chips, and of course, cake. She is always wanting candy, and she is always wanting to go to McDonalds, which I don’t understand because I’ve made it clear how much I really dislike the place.

Then, there is my teenage daughter. She is like all other teenagers, self-conscious and constantly worried about image. But, she is also like all other teenagers, in that she loves the junk food.

There have been moments where I feel like the cliché overbearing television mom saying, “Are you sure you want to eat that? Imagine what it will do to your thighs honey.”

So, with McDonalds being cheaper than a healthy meal, with candy lining the shelves and with so many temptations out there, where is the happy median?

What do I as a parent do to make sure I am first, setting a good example, and second, making sure my children are healthy as they reach adulthood and start being the example setters themselves?

The answers are tough, and the challenges ahead are even tougher. We as a society have to change. We as adults have to start saying fruit and vegetables are a requirement, before giving in and giving chips, soda and candy.

At some point, chocolate milk on Fridays has to be seen as an exciting treat again. Getting candy once in awhile, instead of every day needs to start being automatic. A Happy Meal from McDonalds should be a once-in-awhile occasion rather than several times a week.

We have to say no when a child asks for two, or even three hamburgers. It has to become painfully obvious that too much food is not a treat, it’s a bad binge.

— Thelma Grimes


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