Much Too Salty, Much Too Sweet:
Why would you eat food that was full of additives? Why would you want food that tasted only sweet or salty? Why would anyone’s mama or papa want their kids to eat like that?
Goldilocks had just escaped from the dreadful house of the three bears, having been jolted from her sweet slumber in the most comfortable little bed, after eating a wholesome meal of porridge.
She ran frantically into the woods and then stopped to catch her breath. She noticed that there were lots of pretty flowers growing in the sunny patches among the trees, marvelous ones she had never seen before. As she skipped along, she picked one and then the next and the next…
Wham! Down Goldilocks fell into a deep, dark hole. She just kept falling, twirling, down, down. No, she didn’t turn into Alice, but she soon felt like she had arrived at Wonderland, because she found herself in the middle of a large supermarket.
Blinking from the bright lights, Goldilocks felt dizzy from all the noise: the strange music; the shrieking intercom calling for a manager’s override; babies past their nap time; cashiers chatting; and people—all those people pushing big carts everywhere
Goldilocks stared at all the fancy packages and boxes. What could they be? As she walked towards the shelves, three bears suddenly appeared! Except they were not ordinary bears; these bears were orange, yellow, and green.
In fear, Goldilocks was about to run away, when the bears called to her: “Little girl, come back! Would you like us to show you around?”
“W..well, okay,” Goldilocks managed to say, trembling. “But who are you?”
“We are gummy bears. Kids really like us because we taste like fruity candy. And their parents think we are good for them because we have some vitamins added to us. They can buy us as healthy treats and the kids are happy,” said Orange Bear.
Goldilocks wondered why treats were so important to keep kids happy.
“So, what would you like to see first?” asked Yellow Bear.
“I’d like to see what kids here eat for breakfast.”
“You see those colorful boxes over there?” said Green Bear, pointing to rows of shelves. “Those are cereal boxes. They have drawings on them called cartoon characters. Kids like cartoon characters, so they ask for the cereal that has their favorite friend on it. The cereal can have colors like us too—and different shapes. Kids like it because it tastes like fruity candy. And their parents think it’s good for them because it has some vitamins added. Many boxes even have a surprise inside, and activities to do on the box, to make the cereal more fun to eat, which makes kids happy.”
Goldilocks wondered why food needed to be fun to eat. She always thought of fun as being outside, exploring new things. Eating was to fill her tummy and grow strong and healthy. Besides, when she ate her porridge, she always ate with her mama and papa, which was great. Goldilocks was taught to fully enjoy the taste of all her meals—how could you do that if you were thinking of other things or doing something else at the same time? Her mama always said that Goldilocks was the best taster ever.
Then Goldilocks remembered that what was really fun was to cook together: that she really liked. She was even willing to eat nuts and seeds baked into bread if she was allowed to mix them into the dough. She loved kneading, too.
“Can we see some bread?” she suggested.
The bread aisle the bears pointed to was long and full. Except where was the bread? In those plastic bags full of square slices? That couldn’t be right, for when Goldilocks picked one up, it was way too light.
“That’s a loaf of white bread,” explained Yellow Bear. “It’s great for kids’ peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches. The wheat is stripped of most of its nutrients and made into white flour, which is also bleached. Kids like white bread because it hardly has a crust. Plus, it’s easy to chew and tastes sweet. With the jelly, it’s like fruity candy. Parents think it’s good for their kids because the bread has some vitamins added to it.”
Goldilocks couldn’t imagine eating a sandwich that didn’t require some good chewing. She wondered if other moms besides her own told their kids how important chewing was for their gums, teeth, and digestion. Still puzzled, Goldilocks followed the bears to some glass doors, behind which were more fancy packages. One box was decorated with funny-looking animals. Goldilocks soon learned that it contained chicken. Chicken that was shaped into little dinosaurs, seasoned, breaded, then fried and frozen. She wondered what it might taste like. Something told her it may not really matter, as long as it was fun to eat. Maybe it even tasted like fruity candy!
“No, you silly,” chuckled Green Bear. “Chicken nuggets are nice and salty. That makes you want to eat lots of them. But you can make them sweeter by dipping them in ketchup, which is like fruity, tart candy. Parents like ketchup because it keeps their kids happy.”
Goldilocks remembered her mama’s chickens pecking around in the yard, eating worms and grain. When one ended up as soup or in the oven, a delicious dinner was guaranteed. The meat tasted so good: tender, fresh, somehow happy even because of the good life the chicken had lived. Goldilocks could swear she tasted it in the meat.
It was time to get a drink of water. But which kind? Not only were there many varieties of bottled water (it was best to avoid tap water, the bears explained, as it’s full of harmful chemicals and even drugs), but even more plentiful was the stock of soft drinks. Goldilocks, a fast learner, quickly found the ones meant for kids: the bright-colored pouches with straws included. All kids’ drinks looked like they’d taste like fruity candy—with some vitamins added to them!
It was all too confusing. As Goldilocks started to float up the dark hole back to her familiar forest, she tried to make sense of her latest adventure.
She tried to imagine eating food that looked so unlike what it should that nobody knew where it came from. What was the value of food that was grown, prepared, and eaten with the least amount of time, care and involvement? Why would you eat food that was full of harmful or useless additives? Why would you want food that tasted basically the same: sweet and/or salty? Why would anyone’s mama or papa want their kids to eat like that?
Goldilocks wondered what happened to sharing: cooking together, eating together? She wondered if those kids were growing up strong and healthy?
When Goldilocks got home, she flew into her mama’s arms. “What should we make for dinner tonight?” she asked, putting on her little apron with even more excitement than usual. As she looked in the pantry and began gathering rice and onions, bright green peppers and plump red tomatoes, Goldilocks knew that their family meal was going to be delicious.
Eating Just Right
In the last few decades, kids have become major targets for food and drink advertisers. They are easy game: the buttons to push are quite obvious. If we, as parents, want healthy and truly happy kids, we must help them see through the shallow façade of advertising. We must not let the food industry play upon our guilt because we work long hours or don’t always have the patience to cook. We must realize—and teach our kids to realize—the dangers of health-damaging food. We must be together with our kids, including them in healthy meal planning and preparation. We must keep our kids in the kitchen, helping them to make choices based on good information. We can encourage their creativity with a variety of foods and menus and cooking techniques. We can help them to “really taste” what good food is. We can all make the choice to see through the inane, profit-driven messages about food. We can encourage mealtime to be a celebration of food and togetherness. In embracing healthy, natural, “real” food, we will all eat just right.
About the author:
Eva Nagy is a freelance writer, mother of three and former personal chef. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org