Reading Between the Lines

In the stifling heat, while waiting for a train to NYC the other weekend, I met a really smart young boy.  He was about 6 or 7 years old and approached me drinking a diet soda.  His grandmother came over right behind him and commented on his choice of beverages. I replied with “there are so many things wrong with this picture that as a kid’s nutritionist, I think I’ll just keep my mouth closed.”   I really was prepared to keep my mouth shut, as I don’t like to impose my views unless asked, as it is everyone’s right to eat and drink what they prefer.


That was all it took though to strike up an animated conversation between us and her grandson.  He told me his dream was to one day to drink an entire monster drink; one of those large energy drinks he sees his mother’s boyfriend drink. He got very excited about it as it seemed to be one of those “big boy” things he saw adults and teens do that he wasn’t allowed to do yet.   

I proceeded to explain to him that there was nothing in a soda that could make him grow up big and strong and that those energy drinks that he referred to can actually be harmful. I mentioned that many people had to go to the emergency room each year from drinking these drinks and half of those were kids.  I also told him that a group of people that work with his doctor (the American Academy of Pediatrics) just came out with a report saying that kids should not drink these energy drinks and warned his doctor of the danger.   

I asked him how he felt after drinking some of his mother’s boyfriend’s energy drink and he said he felt lousy and didn’t even like the taste.  He was actually excited about the idea of drinking this harmful beverage but in reality he wasn’t looking forward to the taste and how it made him feel. At the end of our half hour conversation he told me he never, ever wanted to drink one and seemed very relieved to not have to drink it anymore. 


I think we underestimate children’s ability to understand the consequences of unhealthy eating.  I also strongly believe that as parents, we have been brain washed to trust that when a child says that they like or dislike a certain beverage or food that they actually mean what they say.  Most of the time, however, they are actually saying something different.  I don’t like this broccoli translates into I would rather eat more potatoes.  I want a monster drink actually meant to this smart young boy, I want to be cool.  It is our job of parents to learn how to read between the lines.