The End of Cupcakes

Attention parents of young children...the end of a beloved childhood tradition is near. Thanks to our nation’s schools—and their efforts to combat childhood obesity--there is a new entry on the endangered species list—the cupcake.

 

I first became aware of this threat at a PTA meeting early last year when our elementary school principal reported that New Jersey had recently set forth guidelines that restrict  schools from serving children foods high in fat and low in nutritional value. As our school is not equipped with a cafeteria (yes, that means I make lunch EVERY day for all four of my kids), the school would not be burdened with the job of creating new lunch menus but what would this mean for school celebrations—Halloween, Valentines Day, etc??? And, gasp, what about the most cherished elementary school tradition of all—the birthday cupcake???

 

As we pondered the possible ramifications (the meeting seemed endless as today’s parents are a self righteous and serious bunch!), the principal wisely explained that enforcement would be largely up to the school’s administration. The school is not required to recruit a cupcake police force, thank God. And there are no plans to prohibit classroom parties. Fortunately, in New Jersey the language is party friendly stating:  Food and beverages served during special school celebrations or during curriculum-related activities shall be exempt from this policy.

 

Other states are following New Jersey’s lead but without the wiggle room that saves the classroom cupcake. Friends in Wisconsin and Maryland have grim reports of cupcakes—along with sweets of any kind—being strictly prohibited at school. Gimme a break! Birthdays and special occasions are celebrations...that’s why they only happen once a year. Yes, vegetables should be part of everyone’s diet but classroom crudite...I think not!

 

Childhood obesity is on the rise but so is depression and anxiety. Clearly, there are healthier ways of dealing with the blues than turning to food for comfort but to my way of thinking, sweets are one of life’s simple pleasures. (Personally, I’m okay with clogged arteries. Compared to dying from cancer, having a heart attack doesn’t seem like such a bad way to go.)

 

Just in case you’re wondering a chocolate cupcake with frosting has 305 calories; 4 grams of fat and 67 carbs. Okay, even I have to admit that those numbers are a little scary. Still, when I see the happiness a tray full of cupcakes brings to a class full of little kids, it’s worth every single empty calorie!

 

I’m all for removing soda from school vending machines. And the mystery “meat” doled out in the cafeteria, well that’s gotta go, but schools shouldn’t be in the business of weight control. That’s a parent’s job. My nutritionist friend Courtney Gravenese has a simple recommendation: “At home the emphasis should be on eating to live; not living to eat.”

 

Teachers are educators, not nutritionists and we do our children a disservice when we deny them practice at making healthy choices by controlling everything they eat. When I was growing up before I reached for more chips, I’d hear my mother say: “A moment on your lips, forever on your hips.” That’s all it took!

 

The problem runs deeper than cupcakes at school. It starts and ends at home. Courtney says the lack of exercise (vegging out on TV instead of carrots and celery!) and portion control is what’s really tipping the scales. So, teach your kids what a recommended serving-size is supposed to look like (for a easy-to-read chart, visit: www.allina.com/ac/transcript.nsf/alltopics/PortionSizes), get them moving and tell them to think about what they put in their mouths. But in the end, if we are what we eat I’d still rather be a cupcake than a rice cake!

 

Ann Matturro Gault

Education writer

Real Savvy Moms

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