Belly up to the calorie counter

So the other day I was making breakfast for the boys and as I was bustling in the kitchen (oh yes, I bustle)  and trying to get stuff organized for lunches, etc at the same time, so I was only sort of half listening to their conversation.  They were eating toast and jam with almond butter (not entirely relevant, but I’m setting the scene) and there was a bottle of juice on the table, as well as a jug of milk.  Typical breakfast scene, no? 

So anyway, The Musician decided to do a dramatic reading of the nutrition label on the juice container – always a showstopper.  So he went on about Vitamins C and A and a bunch of other stuff, and then he got to the good part:

The Musician:  “and one…hundred…and…thirty…calories…….per serving!”

The Artist:  “whoa, that’s a lot!”

Me:  *all of a sudden paying full attention*

The Musician:  “well, it’s calories, but there’s other good stuff too, and it’s good calories”

Me:  “calories aren’t good or bad, they just are what they are – a way of measuring energy in food”

(Can I please just explain right now that I am not a food scientist, nutritionist or dietitian?  I have a less than even basic knowledge and understanding of exactly what calories are, and I know I completely oversimplified this but I did not like where this conversation was going…as you might see shortly)

The Artist:  “well, one time at lunch, my two friends were arguing over who had better juice in their lunch, and one guy said that his was better because it had less calories.  So I just thought that calories were something really bad”

Dudes.  He totally did so say that.  And can we break this down a bit?  Two nine-year old boys.  Arguing about who had the healtheir juice.  And then deciding that the one with less calories was better.  All other things being equal, perhaps?  I don’t know.  But wow. 

Now, my son isn’t getting nutritional advice or information from his peers, I realize that.  And even in the days that I was into weight loss and on Weight Watchers, etc. I never once counted a single calorie, nor have The Genealogist or I ever talked calorie counts of any foods we’ve eaten.  It’s just not in our vocabulary.  We have, in the past, talked with the boys about healthy foods, Canada’s Food Guide, and explained many times that no, you can not have a Dr. Pepper every night this week and for a variety of reasons that’s just wrong, but we’ve never busted out the calories talk. 

But really, how can you avoid the calorie talk?  It’s really everywhere.  67 calories in some new godawful (I assume) Molson beer.  100 calorie packets of Oreo cookies or beef jerky.  Coke Zero – all Coke taste, 0 calories.  It’s not shocking I guess that kids are picking up on this idea that too many calories = bad.

So we continued in the vein of eating and calories and I tried (in my limited way) to explain that you need calories to exist and growing boys like them need lots of calories to grow properly, and that there’s no reason to worry about how many calories are in your juice.

And what I liked about this conversational turn was that I was there for it, and that by the end of it, I think they both understood what I was saying.  And the nice thing about 9- and 12- year olds is that they still think I’m actually pretty smart.  So they listen to me, and they buy in to what I’m telling them.  For now, anyway.  I know that in a couple of years all bets will be off, but that’s ok.  We’re all like that, aren’t we?  For a long time our parents know everything, and then, suddenly they know nothing.  But, if they’re anything like me, deep down they’ll know that a lot of what their parents told them is good stuff, and they’ll remember it when it’s important.  I’m hoping the calories conversation sticks, that’s for sure.

And if nothing else, I hope they realize that if they ever try to bring low-calorie beer into my house, I will disown them.

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