Sunday, July 20, 2008

Calorie Counting

How young is too young?

This weekend, I had the luxury of spending a day down the Jersey Shore with my bff. In preparation for our beach trip, we stopped at a local grocery store to pick up some picnic supplies. While we were trolling for a few good snacks, we observed the followiing exchange between a mother and her tween-age daughter:

Daughter: Mom - can we get these? [Holds up a bag of potato chips.]
Mom: What's the calorie count per serving?
Daughter: Um...120 calories.
Mom: And the fat?
Daughter: I don't know - can we get them?


While I think that it's very important to be informed food consumers and I totally agree that parents should be proactive in teaching their children about healthy nutrition, I found this interaction to be a bit jarring. Why were calorie counts and fat grams being discussed instead of the difference between healthy snacks and junk food? The ability to parse a nutrition label is an important skill - but without looking at the whole food picture, you can come to the wrong conclusions. For example, advocados are high in fat, but are a very healthy option for getting "good fat" in your diet.

After watching this mother-daughter exchange, I just had to wonder about what the best way to teach children, especially tweens, about healthy nutrition is in our weight-obsessed culture. What age is too young for calorie counting?

Please note that as my M.A. thesis project is complete, the George Washington University is no longer overseeing research conducted in conjunction with this blog (effective June 2007 to present). The Informed Consent Materials created while this blog was under GWU's IRB oversight are still available for your information and the principles outlined in them are still being used as a general guide for my continued work.