Free Range Kids

User Forum Topic
Submitted by mydogsarelazy on September 16, 2006 - 12:39pm

Hi Everyone,

Here is something I have been noticing...

We went to an activity at my seven year old's school last night. There was an outdoor showing of "Nanny McPhee" attended by maybe 100 kids and their families.

I have never seen such snacking in my life. The PTA was selling popcorn, fancy coffee for parents, cookies and brownies. The families surrounding us brought tons of candy, soda, chips and all that. People would just walk up to my daughter and hand her candy every few minutes, then I would take it away. Every single kid in the place was munching on something for the whole hour and a half.

So when it was all over, I asked my wife, "Why are parents going so easy on all the junk?"

Her answer is that parents are so tired -- working their two jobs and all -- that they don't have the energy to set limits for their kids. What they do instead is just give them all the video games, television, and candy they can so that they can avoid really interacting with their kids, which takes energy they don't have.

So, thats a grim picture, but do you agree? Do we really have a generation of free range kids on the way, totally oversnacked and videoed, and under-boundaried and parented?

The strains people have put themselves under to take on debt and real estate seem to me to be showing up in these things.


Submitted by PerryChase on September 16, 2006 - 12:47pm.

I agree with your wife.

I know people who are just bad examples to their kids. They don't make up the bed in the morning nor do they cook proper meals. So kids eat spagetti and frozen pizza then run off to play video games. I remember having to ask permission to leave the dining table.

Submitted by 4plexowner on September 16, 2006 - 1:02pm.

What pisses me off about the lifestyle that you have noted is that I will be subsidizing health care for these people.

Some of my taxes and insurance premiums will be used to treat these people's diabetes, gout, high blood pressure, heart disease, bypass surgery, etc.

As someone who takes responsibility for his own health and the health of his children, I think we should base access to healthcare on lifestyle.

"I'm sorry Joe Blow but your lifestyle of eating crap three meals a day, snacking constantly on empty calories, drinking sodas and never exercising doesn't qualify you for healthcare unless you can pay for it out of your own pocket."

Submitted by speedingpullet on September 16, 2006 - 1:46pm.

Sadly this is not just an American problem anymore - recent stats from the UK find that kids are way more obese now than they were 10 years ago, for exactly the same reasons over here.
And with the same health implications too.

A lot of it is to do with education - not in the 3R's sense, but in showing people that eating this stuff, in the quantities they do, will eventually kill them.

A few of you may be familiar with the English chef Jamie Oliver. Last year, after much campaigning, he did a TV series called "School Dinners". His hypothesis was that is was cheaper and easier to feed kids school lunches that were healthy and nutritous than it was to keep feeding them fries and burgers.
As the father of school-age children, he was interested in what his kids were given for lunch. And was appaled at the quality and choice that his kids were getting. So many kids in the Uk have asthma/excema, weight problems etc..because as thier main meal of the day almost all were eating burger/fries combo washed down with a soda...

And he proved unquestioningly that, per unit, it was more cost effective to produce meals made form fresh vegetables and meat than it was to serve prepacked/refined meals. For some of these kids, this will be thier most important meal of the day (mainly disadvantaged kids eat free school lunches in UK schools), so giving them at least one decent meal a day helps with thier health and growth.

Stragely enough, he got the most resistance from the people who cooked the food! So many had learnt how to use a microwave and deep fat fyer that they just saw having to make meals from scratch as a time consuming pain in the a$$.

And, even more strange, many of the kids over time saw a lessening of thier asthma, excema, allergies and obesity.

Here's a link to the Channel 4 (UK TV station) site that talks about it:
Jamies' School Dinners

Submitted by lindismith on September 16, 2006 - 3:03pm.

And not only is it a problem in the UK and Europe, but it's now affecting people in Asia. I have been on holiday in Thailand, and seen very wealthy Chinese families do the same thing with their kids. It is a problem of money I believe.

In the pursuit of money, we have forgotten how to live and eat.

I say turn off your TVs. It is so powerfull - makes you buy more stuff, and eat more junk.

Submitted by Chrispy on September 16, 2006 - 3:06pm.

The link to Jamie's School Dinners was good info to share. I'm glad to see some constuctive advice on this topic - there are some people who say "well, there are so many fat kids these days, and there's nothing I can do about it" and basically sit on their hands rather than take action.

What do the rest of you do to help your kids stay active and healthy? We always had meals together when I was growing up - my sister still does and her kids have no weight problems, but some parents think it's OK to let junior eat whatever he wants in front of the TV, and then they are surprised when junior turns jumbo. They're the ones who think it's not "their" problem and would rather blame society than take responsibility.

Frighteningly similar to the toxic loan folk who would rather blame their mortgage broker than themselves for getting in over their heads.

Submitted by no_such_reality on September 17, 2006 - 7:11pm.

Do we really have a generation of free range kids on the way, totally oversnacked and videoed, and under-boundaried and parented?

Do you really need to ask this when the most popular option on family vehicles is rear seat LCD Screens with DVD players?

Submitted by sdduuuude on September 17, 2006 - 11:58pm.

I have to chime in on this. Parenting is one of my favorite topics. I think it all boils down to parents being afraid to sit and do nothing, or pick them up and leave the party, while their kids throw a fit.

Underneath the surface of every kid with too much candy is a major fit that didn't happen, smoothed over by a parent who
1) isn't willing to stand their ground on a simple rule,
2) doesn't realize they are bigger than the child and in control of every aspect of their life,
3) doesn't understand that not giving the kid the candy will not kill the child, no matter how much they sound like a dying person whilst screaming.
4) is afraid to leave the party for fear of the kid throwing a fit over that, and/or
5) doesn't believe that their kid will learn not to throw fits if, after several tries it doesn't work.

I do understand how people can slip into the trap of letting their kids run their life. I mean - terrorists have nothing on any 2-year old and master negotiators have nothing on most 4 year olds.

I can't say it has anything to do with being over tired or with Real Estate. I have noticed theses things for the last several years. I think it is just laziness, and a little lack of education or understanding of how flexible kids can be, and how much control a parent can have over a screaming child by simply not giving in.

Submitted by sdduuuude on September 18, 2006 - 12:22am.

"What do the rest of you do to help your kids stay active and healthy?"

It is simple. Don't give them crap food. How hard is it? They won't eat good food? Just wait a few hours. They'll eat. They'll be hungry. Here - these are the things we have to eat. Period. My kids didn't see, touch, or taste candy until they were at least 3.

What is the 5 year old going to do? Drive to the store and get some candy? I don't think so. Scream and throw a fit? Well, maybe for a day or two, but eventually the kid will just eat. Start this young and never give in.

Halloween? Have you heard of the Halloween Fairy? Well, every year, you take a couple pieces of candy from your bag to eat, and leave the rest of your candy on the doorstep. The Halloween Fairy takes it and leaves you a kick-ass toy.

I'm telling you - I'm a Nazi when it comes to crap food. Well, for the kids anyway. I eat alot of it. Double standard you say? No. Clear-cut standard. Kids don't eat crap food. Adults eat what they want. Don't like it? Gonna throw a fit? Go ahead. I'll watch. When you are an adult, you can eat whatever you want, too. Of course, the kids don't really know I eat crap food, so it isn't an issue.

Soda? Only dad drinks soda. Period. After 5 years of not having soda - my kids won't even try it. Just for fun - I tried to get them to try a Coke the other day. "No thanks!" they said. Heh, heh, heh. I won that one. Why? Because I never gave them soda.

My wife does "new food Saturday" and they try something new every Saturday. We are about 5 weeks into this. The first time, one of them CRIED because she had to try something new. Now, she just accepts it and tries it, though reluctantly. Kids learn to accept new rules if you stick to your guns.

Because we don't regularly give them crap food (or let them watch more than 1/2 hour of TV a day, we have more power over them in case of "emergency." If we absolutely need our kids to be occupied for two or three hours, we can sit them in front of a two-hour movie and they will watch it start-to-finish without moving. Why? Because the TV isn't on ALL THE TIME!! It is very, very special to watch TV. Other kids - you put on the TV and they watch for a while, then they roam around the house looking for Mom. Why? Cuz its on ALL THE TIME.

When I need my kids to do something new or scary or challenging, I can bribe them with a single Oreo. It is amazing. Just today they did something great - I gave them each 4 M&Ms and you would think I bought them a new car. Why? Because they only get it occasionally. They know not to ask for it, and they know to give us their candy from parties and school before they eat it.

Submitted by SD Realtor on September 18, 2006 - 12:43am.

sddude you called it correctly.... Our 19 month old is smack dab in the middle of his challenging stage, asserting his independence and all... He also has his 5 month old brother so there is a bit of the jealousy thing going on... People cannot believe that he has yet to have ice cream or candy. He chugs milk and not juice... We make sure we cook a good meal every night... there is no gaurantee he eats it but he eats better then any child his age I know. One of the words in his growing vocabulary is soup plantation. My wife and I are HUGE believers that the correlation between childrens health and diet also extends to overall behavior and performance in school. We are not going to ban our children from ice cream or anything like that, however we are trying to keep them away as long as we can. We are not as good as TV as you are, however they are PBS kids... the only flaw is when I am watching them and I flick on sports... not good....I am working on it... Your point is well taken, that parenting takes so much time and effort, and pacification is the road most travelled by people, through diet, video games, tv... etc... I know we will not be perfect parents, but hopefully we will give our kids a leg up...

Submitted by anxvariety on September 18, 2006 - 4:34am.

I've never doubted big money's power in the appetite industry.. how many chemists can McDonalds afford? How about Kraft?

I think MSG is one of the biggest culprits in problem eating.. Check the ingredients, almost everything that "you can't just eat one" of has monosodium glutamate in it.. Sausage at McDonalds has MSG, ever had one? how about 2? Anyone use the ranch sauce at Jack in the Box? That has MSG too.. and many more ingredients on both of those menus.

From what I've read MSG is present in quite a bunch of places.

enzyme modified,
anything fermented,
anything protein fortified,
anything ultra pasteurized,
autolyzed yeast,
barley malt,
calcium caseinate,
natural flavoring,
hydrolyzed oat flour,
hydrolyzed vegetable,
olyzed protein,
malt extract maltodextrin,natural flavors,
plant protein extract,
potassium glutamate,
sodium caseinate,
soy protein,
soy sauce,
textured protein,
whey protein,
yeast extract,
yeast food

MSG is added to many foods, particularly Chinese foods. Be aware that if a restaurant claims that there is no MSG added to the food, but they use soy sauce extensively in their cooking, you will be getting natural MSG that is in the soy sauce and can not be removed. MSG is also naturally present in bean curd typical ingredient in Chinese cooking. Today, more and more, MSG is being added to commercially-processed foods such as canned soups, sauces, luncheon meats, salad dressings, dips canned and frozen meats, foul and fish. It is the main ingredient in a famous brand flavor-enhancer that is shaken on to food to bring out the taste. We have found MSG in hot dogs, bullion cubes, chicken stock, jarred fishes and many, many other foods.

I don't know the quality of this link.. but I've read most of this from other sources as well.

Submitted by PerryChase on September 18, 2006 - 2:58pm.

Anxvariety, that's why, if possible, one should try to make food from scratch. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Food additives have long term effects (i.e. shorter life span).

Remember that one can be thin and "fat" at the same time. It's about body fat percentage. Many Asians look thin but they suffer from high blood pressure and high cholesterol without even knowing it. Those conditions increase risks of stroke, heart attacks and organ failure.

Lay off the butter on the corn and the salt shaker. I've not bought any butter (or margarine) in 10 years.

Submitted by Chrispy on September 18, 2006 - 3:23pm.

Buy stuff at farmer's markets - they are scattered throughout San Diego. Not only do you get healthier food, but you support the local economy AND it's a good way to spend time with family and friends.

Submitted by limeman on September 18, 2006 - 3:24pm.

If parents today could use a little applied psychology with their children, without fear of prosecution, would there be less of a need to pacify them with dvds and candy?

I see a generation of soft butterballs with poor educations, unless they are game testers, coming down the pike.

Submitted by powayseller on September 18, 2006 - 3:37pm.

My oldest is 15, and she still doesn't drink soda. They were all breast fed and they eat almond butter& jelly sandwiches on bread w/ #1 ingredient = cracked wheat berries (no white flour), water or 100%juice + fruit (today it was watermelon) for lunch. However, I learned when they were toddlers to be flexible, after I saw my daughter gorging down an entire pack of potato chips at a picnic.

Another food additive to avoid: benzene. Benzene has been found in 3/4 of all diet sodas tested, and many US sodas are therfore banned in Britain.

British authorities ordered four brands of sodas pulled from shelves because of benzene contamination. In contrast to the FDA's policy of withholding test results from the public, "The [British Food Standards Agency] rushed out results yesterday of tests on 149 drinks including a range of fruit juice, iced tea, squash, fizzy and low-sugar drinks," according to an April 1, 2006 article in The Times of London.

"FDA's data show that 79 percent of diet soda samples tested over a six-year period from 1995 through 2001 were contaminated with benzene at levels above the federal limit for benzene in tap water.

The FDA test results, buried deep within an obscure FDA food testing program called the Total Diet Study, were posted on EWG's Web site,, just days after a top FDA official assured the public that there was no threat from the presence of the toxic chemical in soft drinks. This weekend, Great Britain's public health agency pulled some soft drink products from store shelves because of benzene contamination."

I know this if off-topic, but since we are discussing the health of children, I want to bring up a topic that few people even know about. Most processed food contains some genetically engineered ingredients, since 80% of our corn and soybeans are genetically modified. They are *not* required to be labeled, and the FDA and food industry has been fighting any consumer requests for labeling. Although they are banned in most of Europe, the FDA has been a strong proponent. Anything made of corn, such as corn syrup or corn meal, is probably geneticaly modified. GE foods are made by combining the DNA of TWO DIFFERENT SPECIES. This is very different from hybrid or natural mutation, which is a natural evolution within the same species. GE seeds and animals are made in a laboratory, not by nature.

Genetically engineered food is made from seeds that are spliced with DNA from one or more species (fish + plant, bacteria + plant, etc.) Pioneer's "Roundup Ready Corn" is spliced with a bacteria (or virus?) gene, which makes it resistant to Roundup so the farmer can spray the entire field, including the corn you will buy, with Roundup and the weeds will die but the corn won't. GMO fish is sterile and grows larger; it is spliced with a gene from tomatoes.

One form of GE food is bovine growth hormone. I've bought organic and GE free milk since my kids were babies. So far, so good: none have hit early puberty. The rise in asthma and early puberty, as early as age 3, has been documented much lately and is attributed to the excess hormones in the food. I buy only organic chicken. I was heavily influenced by ayurvedic medicine since my college days, and made sure my kids ate according to the seasons and their body type (even did all that infant massage stuff with warm organic sesame oil, but they never laid still like the babies in the video).

Look for "GMO free" on the label. Organic rules were modified a few years ago, despite protests from the seed cmopanies, so you are safe from any DNA-altered foods when you buy organic. But hey, my husband doesn't care - he loves anything high-tech. He says that if it's science, he will eat it. LOL! IMO, eating GMO is like eating DDT or smoking cigarettes. We won't know how bad it is for a few more decades. The research is either not being done or suppressed. So I tell him he can eat all the genetically modified food he wants, but the kids and I will choose not to.

IMO, the the best rule: limit anything in a package. The fresher, the better. The fewer ingredients, the better. Spices are foods too: turmeric, basil, dill, cayenne, coriander, etc. are just as important to eat every day as mangoes and whole grains. As I'm writing this, I am drinking my Coke. No diet drinks, either. That Nutrasweet stuff is really unehealthy!

Submitted by no_such_reality on September 18, 2006 - 4:34pm.

Well PS, you left the biggy.

Partially Hydrogenated Oil. Sometimes just labeled as Hydrogenated Oil which may or may not be partially hydrogenated.

Also, you cannot depend on the food labels for information. For example, Townhouse crackers, link Notice the #2 ingredient is Partially Hydrogenated Oil yet, all the fat is labelled at Saturated, partially saturate, mono-unsaturated each listed at 0.5 grams and the total at 1.5 grams. With the dreaded dagger symbol disclosing the transfat gotcha.

Two other items to watch out for: invert sugar, basically, this is sugar that has already had the first and most difficult breakdown (digestion) stage done so a complex sugar module becomes two simple fructose and glucose modules. Usually, the boxes will contain the label 100% natural...

The second item is splenda (sucralose), another artificial sweetener labelled 100% natural because it is derived, extracted and concentrated from a natural item (bananas). Not sure if in the modern manufacture if they extract or simply brew the chemical equivalent.

Submitted by North County Native on September 18, 2006 - 10:10pm.

My daughter's school has discontinued food rewards! (San Marcos School District) At first it seemed a little bit extreme - no treats for class parties etc..... I do think it is a wonderful idea now. She has quite a few overweight kids in her 1st grade class. If my child was one of them, I'd be very uncomfortable with wondering what treats she was going to come home with after every holiday or birthday party.
At home, we have severely limited our kids to junk food and occasionally the grandmas indulge them (isn't that what grandmas do?) At 25 I found out that I had too high bad cholesterol and too low good cholesterol. I had to make a change fast! One of the things I did was incorporating more fish into our diet and we rarely eat meat with more than 7% fat. My kids look forward to Salmon and spinach night (they are 3 and 5).
I also have pre-diabetes even though I don't appear obese. I grew up eating the typical american diet, which has seemingly become even more unhealthy. I was not overweight at all as a teenager. I ate whatever I wanted and developed bad habits. I don't want my children to eat junk primarily because I don't want them to develop these bad habits and also develop pre-diabetes at a young age. My dad found out that he had diabetes at 40 and is in very good control of it. His father had it as well and ultimately died an earlier death due to the complications he had when he didn't take good care of myself. My doctor did give me kudos and mentioned that if I was still just eating the typical american diet and not exercising much, I'd be one of his morbidly obese patients weighing in at 300 pounds! I just have to be very careful -
I'm very very happy that our school is trying harder to reward the kids in other ways however, I do believe that the lunch program needs a complete overhaul. Its not as gross as the stuff we had as kids but its still not healthy.
Also I've lived in an apartment for quite awhile and it is culture shock to me!!!! Many parents are never outside playing with the kids! Whenever my kids are outside, I'm right there with them. We have to go play! What are their parents doing? Especially the ones who have 1 parent home all day? We walk a lot and play at the many neighborhood parks.
Sodas are also a huge problem! I grew up drinking a coke every evening. As an adult I switched to diet to avoid the calories and sugar. My husband kept telling me that it still wasn't good for me. My well intentioned mother in law would argue with me that real sugary soda is better for you than diet. I'd argue back that the sugar would definately cause me to become a diabetic sooner! Well, we were both a right and wrong because it is all bad!!!! I went to an ear, nose, throat doctor because I kept loosing my voice for no reason. I have nodules on my vocal cords,probably caused by reflux! He gave me some pills to take and suggested cutting out all caffeine and as much carbonation as possible. I took him very very seriously about the carbonation. I've saved a ton of money in the last month from not buying it, lost 10 pounds and I haven't even tried those pills! I feel great! My husband sat in disbelief as I ordered water the other day at a restaurant! Some studies also lead you to believe that drinking any soda will make you want to eat more with it. I believe it.

Submitted by CardiffBaseball on September 18, 2006 - 11:24pm.

What about In-and-Out Burger? I can't have one of those?

And as discussed before the marinated tri-tip (especially the chipoltle) is to die for. Fatty content be damned. Of course you can't afford to eat that stuff daily. The leftovers used to make great spinach salads for lunches.

Submitted by speedingpullet on September 19, 2006 - 8:39am.

No reason not to CardiffBaseball, as long as its not every night. Personally, my favourite junk food is a Carls Junior classic 6 Dollar burger and fired zucchini, as I find the In-and-Out-Burgers food a bit insipid.

BTW - I'm sure many of you have seen it already, but Morgan Spurlock's film:

Supersize Me

is a scary watch.

Submitted by mrquoi on September 19, 2006 - 1:23pm.

I will freely admit that I eat fast food and drink soda pop. I also indulge in burritos fairly often (Mucho Gusto is my favorite). I also love ice cream and chips. I've even read Fast Food Nation and watched Super Size me.

But, I am very active and healthy and know that an In-N-Out #3 with grilled onions is an indulgence. MMMM. Burger. Now, I must go indulge ...

Oh, I don't know if kids' eating habits is really tied to the housing market. Plenty of stay-at-home moms let their kids eat crap too. It's just a lot easier for them to hand over a lunchable and soda than to make a sandwich.

Submitted by The-Shoveler on September 19, 2006 - 1:55pm.


I think it about how active the kids are, If they are surfing or Bicycle M/X ing everyday they are probably fine, If they are siting looking at this Blog all the time (ho wait that's me).

Submitted by JES on September 19, 2006 - 5:55pm.


Did you notice what kinds of cars these parents drive? My guess is that the parking lot was filled with at least a few BMWs, Mercedes and maybe a Jag. So long as mom can pull into Panera with a hot car and high fashion clothes, who cares what the kids eat or who watches them during the day? The fact that they spend more on hand car washes and massages every week than they do on day care should not be our concern, right? All that really matters is that these parents get to take at least one vacation to Sun Valley to ski this year while their kids wander aimlessely through life learning that the only thing that matters is the pursuit of material goods and maintaining a wealthy outward image regardless of your true financial situation.

I love Southern California, and especially Carlsbad and Encinitas. Maybe I'll do a stated income loan for 900k tomorrow so I can start living the dream too!

Submitted by barnaby33 on September 19, 2006 - 11:32pm.

Why wait till tomorrow? There has to be a 24hour mortgage broker who can get the ball rolling before midnight!


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