The Parenting Move I Couldn’t Help But Judge

I was picking my four-year-old daughter up from dance class the other day and as we were walking out, she asked, “Mom, can I have a chocolate milk?” My kids ask for a lot but never for chocolate milk so I was confused. Then I spun around to see a little girl from her class standing by the vending machine with her dad, about to crack open a can of Yoohoo. I’m going to get blasted for this but…Yoohoo?! A four-year-old?! Did I mention it was 5:30 p.m.?

For those of you unfamiliar with this “chocolate drink,” here are the ingredients, as listed on the can: water, high-fructose corn syrup, whey, sugar, corn syrup solids, cocoa, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, sodium caseinate (from milk), non-fat dry milk, salt, spice, tricalcium phosphate, dipotassium phosphate, xanthan gum, guar gum, natural and artificial flavors, soy lecithin, mono and diglycerides, vitamin A palmiate, niacinamide (vitamin B3), vitamin D3, and riboflavin (vitamin B2).

Three of the first five ingredients are sugars! And I can barely pronounce any of them (it’s always good to be able to recognize and pronounce the foods you eat, no?). Not exactly a healthy, post-dance thirst quencher. And here’s the kicker: The little girl who was now guzzling her bright yellow can was significantly overweight. I felt terrible but as I looked at her in her little pink tutu, I couldn’t help but think, yup, that makes sense. Then I heard a little boy melting down and saw the girl’s two-year-old-brother holding his own can of Yoohoo—and having a screaming temper tantrum. And then I thought, yup, that makes sense, too. And again, Yoohoo?! A two-year-old?!

Trust me, I get that sometimes it’s easier to say yes than to say no. Maybe this dad was having a bad day. That 5 p.m., pre-dinner every-kid-is-hungry time can be stressful. And everything in the vending machine is so shiny! I don’t want to pick on the guy so let’s not even focus on him. I’m sure a similar scene was playing out in countless places around the country at the same time. But witnessing the scenario unfold was very telling. After an hour-long dance class where kids learn to move their bodies and exercise, the first thing this little girl drinks is a can of high fructose corn syrup? Right before dinner? No wonder we have a childhood obesity epidemic.

I’m definitely not trying to act "holier than thou" here. My kids are not sugar-deprived by any means, though we do try to limit sweets. But artificial, fructose-laced drinks are pretty much where I draw the line. To me, they serve no purpose. They are empty calories that spike blood sugar and do absolutely no good for our bodies—or our moods, as proven by the little brother’s meltdown. And handing little kids sugary juice and soda and “chocolate drink” is creating such a bad habit. One that gets harder to break as they get older. Because, yes, sugary chemicals can be addictive. And I think many people are clueless about that, which makes me sad. Also, why are there Yoohoos in a vending machine at a fitness center?! That’s another post for another day. In the meantime, I’d love to hear whether you give your kids drinks like this. On a regular basis? Special occasion only? Never? Let’s discuss.