Whatever you think about New York City Mayor's Michael Bloomberg's plan to ban the sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces, I just want to say this: Its heart is in the right place.
I’m going to sidestep the main debate here: Whether it is right, ethical and/or desirable to allow the government to regulate our drink consumption.
But this I know: When we make it easier for people to eat right, they eat right. When we make it easier for people to eat wrong, they eat wrong.
It's time to start making it easier for people to do the right thing.
And if you really need more than 16 ounces of soda there are easy ways to get it. (Buy two drinks, get a refill, go to the grocery store.)
There is incontrovertible empirical evidence that...
- The bigger the serving size, the more people consume. Read Size Matters.
- When portion sizes grow, the amount people consider "normal" to eat grows too. BIG becomes habitual. Read How Big is That Bag?
And get this: Research shows that people consume more food when it's convenient. Within arms reach convenient. Have to walk a few feet across the room? Forget about it. Consumption goes down.
What kind of eating environment are you creating at home?
Are you inadvertently imitating the obesogenic eating environment of the world around you? Or are you creating something a little more sensible?
Do the sippy cup check. Do your children tote around 12 ounce sippy cups?
Filled with apple juice, that cup delivers almost 200 calories and 40 grams of sugar. And it teaches your kids to swig big.
It's pretty good training, too, for needing that 32-ouncer later in life.
Here are some things you can do to shape change what, and how much your kids eat.
- Use small plates and cups.
- Keep fruits and vegetables visible to your toddler, and within easy reach.
- Keep sweets and treats out of sight and hard to reach.
- When you let your kids snack on the go, carry fruits and vegetables. Have your kids sit at the table to eat sweets and treats.
- Use big sippy cups only for water. Use small sippy cups for everything else (even if you dilute the juice).
- Allow sippy cup refills, but make your kids go to the kitchen to top up. (A little work goes a long way.)
- Read Water vs. Punch and Soda.
All too often parents act as if there is a protected period of time when it doesn't matter what we teach our kids about how to eat.
There is not.
Parents can learn a few things from Bloomberg's plan.
Make bad eating harder, and good eating easier, even by a fraction, and you'll be setting your kids up for a lifetime of healthier eating.
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~
Privitera, G. J. and H. E. Creary. 2012. “Proximity and Visibility of Fruits and Vegetables Influence Intake in a Kitchen Setting Among College Students.” Environment and Behavior Forthcoming. Published online before print April 17, 2012: http://eab.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/04/10/0013916512442892
Wansink, B., 2006. Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. New York: Bantam Books.