Granola and Parenting

I saw this Nature’s Path granola commercial today while I was watching TV on the treadmill at the Y. It kind of made me want to vomit, and as I’ve stewed on it I’ve gotten more and more disgusted with it.

It’s a scene of a couple eating breakfast (granola). Their teenage son comes in and grabs the cereal box and pours the cereal right into his mouth. The Dad says ‘There’s milk you know’, and the son grabs the milk carton and drinks out of it. The Dad shakes his head and asks ‘Where did we go wrong?’. The Mom replies ‘He’s eating organic. We did good.’

The message here is crystal clear: feeding your kids organic makes you a good parent. This is an attitude that is rampant in diet culture. How many times have you seen someone post something like this posted somewhere:

“I was at the grocery store this morning with my kids and there was a mom with two little children in line behind me. Her cart was full of nothing but processed junk. Her poor children are missing out on so much, and they have no idea! My heart is just breaking for them!”

While the people who post things like this present their feelings as concern for the poor little children, what their words actually belie is an elitist and arrogant attitude. The message they are really sending is “look at what a GOOD parent I am and what a BAD parent that other mom is. I am better than her”. It’s incredibly obnoxious, and a really bad example to set for their own children.

Eating the ‘right’ way (organic, clean, paleo, vegan, whatever the diet du jour is) is equated with moral superiority. This isn’t a healthy way of thinking about food. It’s actually disordered. A person with an eating disorder has tied their identity to their food choices. When they eat the right way they are good. When they eat the wrong way they are bad. Fixating on what other people eat is also disordered, as is judging a person good or bad based on their food choices. This is too much power and morality associated with food choices.

This commercial is offensive to me because it is normalizing the attitude that feeding your kids ‘right’ makes you a better parent than people who feed their kids ‘wrong’. It’s normalizing the association of morality with food choices. The subtext of the commercial is that people who don’t feed their kids organic are ‘doing it wrong’, or are morally inferior parents. This is disordered thinking.

It’s also incredibly elitist. Not everyone has the option of feeding their children organic, but this commercial sends a quiet message that it’s ok to judge those who can’t afford or don’t have access. That if you have the resources to afford organic and the access, you are a better parent. Buying organic makes you good.

And that is ABSURD. There are many, many ways to be a good parent – buying organic is not one of them. There are plenty of good parents who feed their kids conventionally produced food. There are good parents who take their kids to McDonalds. Having the resources and access to feed your kids organic means…you have the resources and access to feed your kids organic. That’s all. Congratulations. You are fortunate. Very fortunate. Being fortunate does not make you better, though.

And that’s why I find this commercial offensive. Not only does it promote and normalize disordered thinking, it also feeds into elitist attitudes and fuels the mommy wars. All that in one commercial? Yes. I don’t think I’ll be buying much Nature’s Path in the future.

28 thoughts on “Granola and Parenting

  1. “Choosy mom’s choose JIF” that’s the one that gets me. I’m not a good mom if I don’t buy Jif peanut butter for my kid.

    • Right! This choosy mom chooses generic, because we’ve grown accustomed to the taste, because we like peanut butter, but choose to save $2 for something else!

  2. I hadn’t thought about it that way, but I agree. I found it offensive that the advertiser thought this commercial would appeal to ANYONE…to me it’s offensive from any angle. But it’s true there are food Pharisees…I have been before '?

  3. Amen! This thinking is rampant in our suburban SAHM ‘culture’ and it sickens me frequently. As moms, do we not want the best for our kids, whatever ‘the best’ means to us? Be it organic strawberries at $9.99 a pint or a trip to McDs for nuggets and fries, it’s up to us to choose and for others not to judge!

  4. I rather be the one with the “good” cart than a cart full of empty calories anyday. You’re not better than anyone however, you are making better choices. That’s what it all comes down to when you’re thinking about things on a molecular level.

    • Apparently you have money to make that kind of choice for you and your family BUT you don’t know the story behind the person who has a cart of processed DELICIOUSLY GOOD foods.

      No one can say whether the cart of processed food is being purchased because they’re cabinets and fridges are already full of more nutrient dense food. Your label of “good” is your opinion, please understand this. Eyes on your own plate, cart, basket, home! No need to judge anyone, cause you just do not know!! “Better choices” are your opinion for your self and should not be pushed on anyone else!

  5. Thinking like you do got me in trouble with a brand a little while back. A UK supermarket offered me the chance to try organic products in their supermarket by sending me a voucher. The understanding was I would write something on my blog about it. I had a horrendous time shopping (and it’s a shop I visit regularly) and the price difference was shocking. I then wrote a piece about whether it was “better” to buy organic or not and came to the conclusion that it probably wasn’t. They weren’t impressed but I said my blog is about my opinion and I am coming from a place where our income isn’t huge and the price difference was the difference between us having enough to eat and having to go without. There’s still not enough proof that organic is healthier but it’s sold as such.

  6. This is so funny because I went on a rant last night to my husband after seeing this VERY commercial. It’s funny how our society has become an “us versus them” society in every aspect. Eating organic has become a “Family Values” talking point, apparently. I agree that it’s utterly ridiculous. You took my point and stated it much more eloquently than I could have. Thanks, Kaleo.

  7. I’m glad you wrote this. Thankfully I don’t know any people who post that kind of thing on Facebook, that would drive me crazy. Love your blog, I find it really motivating and I like your message '?

  8. I haven’t seen it nor will I watch it. The anger bubbling up inside of me is almost uncontrollable.

    I take my kids to McDonald’s. I let them eat chocolate. We don’t buy organic.

    We are a healthy family.

  9. I’m so torn! I love what you’re saying here. The elitist, disordered eating, holier-than-thou, attitude drives me nuts. (Although if I’ve learned one thing through my years as a clinician it’s that folks who are the most vocal about how their way is the right way are generally the most insecure about their choices.)

    But… that commercial makes me laugh. I just wish they’d change the line to “he’s eating breakfast, we did good.”

  10. That is an obnoxious commercial. Rude is rude whether you’re “organic” or “gmo.” Eating well is a mix of knowledge, time, and budget. I don’t know where anyone else is unless they tell me.

  11. Hey Kaleo!

    I’m enjoying your posts, and I completely agree that people suddenly buying “organic” and going nuts over it is maybe a little ridiculous.

    I would, however, just like to put in my thoughts about veganism as being more than a diet choice. For many (most?) vegans out there, myself included, the diet choice of “no animal products” is actually just a consequence of the initial reason to go vegan in the first place — immense suffering among all of the animals that are a part of our huge food system. (Not to mention fur for fashion, animals used in research, etc.) There are people who go vegan just for diet’s sake, but I’d argue that’s not really what the movement is about. They’re missing the main point, and it’s not supposed to be a fad diet.

    I think that it’s more morally defensible (and also perhaps healthier if you do it right) to live without benefiting from the suffering of these animals. It’s not directly in our line-of-sight, you know? So it’s easy to not think about it, to brush it off, and to consider it as just “our choice” of what to eat, or wear, or whatever. But it’s not really our choice, is it? Because other creatures are involved. So I think that their well-being has to come into play somewhere in the forefront of those considerations of how to treat them. Because even though the suffering doesn’t happen in our realm of knowledge, that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening, and it doesn’t mean we aren’t also responsible if we participate.

    This post isn’t to judge anyone as “good” or “bad”, it’s not to condemn, but only to strongly state a point that I believe is the most truthful way. I just want those countless animals to not have to endure a living hell, you know? They’re the ghosts in our machine, and I want it to stop, for their sakes.

    I wish you and the other readers nothing but the best. Keep on keepin’ on.


    • I’m a HAES girl; however, some choices we make with our dollars are more ethical than others, and ethics is something parents should pass down to their children. As an omnivore, buying meat from pasture raised animals sourced to nearby, local farms I can visit & see for myself how the animals are treated is the most ethical choice. I buy organic produce, local whenever possible, because it is the best choice for the environment. I get the point of this post, but it is not disordered eating/relationship with food to be aware of the bigger picture regarding the source of one’s food – and clothing, household products, furniture, etc! Vote with your dollars!

      • “it is not disordered eating/relationship with food to be aware of the bigger picture regarding the source of one’s food – and clothing, household products, furniture, etc!”

        Nope, it sure isn’t. And I didn’t say it was. It’s disordered to think this is an arbiter of your worth as a person, or that it makes you better than other people.

  12. I’m a new reader and I’m hooked! I cannot stand the elitist food snobbery that accompanies the “diets du jour” either. I’m pro-food choice. I eat conventional food, I eat as local as I can (though living in Alberta where we have winter 8 months of the year, we cannot “grow our own” produce during that time, clearly!), I don’t buy organic because there’s absolutely no reason too—BUT if you want to, I don’t care. It doesn’t affect me. When does it affect me? When you rub it in my face and slander what I eat and what we grow and how we grow it on our farm. I’ve recently been under ‘attack’ from the Wheat Belly page and continuously roll my eyes any time I see the hashtag #cleaneating on my Instagram feed. This is just another jab that organic marketing makes at conventional products, though, by the sounds of this commercial it doesn’t make them look very good.

  13. I am really torn, here.
    I agree with the idea that people who use their food choices as a vehicle for smugness and superiority are…. annoying ( at best) and, at the same time, as a mother of 3, I DO place value on putting good healthy food on my table and educating my children about keeping their bodies healthy and what is good for them and what isn’t good for them. Sorry, but a dinner of free range roasted chicken with organic broccoli and brown rice beats a plastic box of chicken McNuggets and oily fries anyday from a dietary standard. And aren’t we supposed to be looking out for our kids’ health and helping them to make good choices? The meal that I describe IS superior in its nutritional content… there’s no doubt. If I were a parent who did drive-through dinners at McDonalds every night ( stats show us that most people eat fast food 3 X per week!) then I would have to wonder about the value of my parenting- at least in that area.
    Now, there’s more to being a parent than putting food on the table. My children are 28,26 and 22 years old: there’s A LOT more to parenting than food choices… but I contend that it IS POSSIBLE to place a value ( good or bad) on a pattern of food choices.

    • I don’t disagree with you.

      I’m wondering what in my post you interpreted as ‘food choices don’t matter’? Your comments imply that you believe that you’re disagreeing with me when you say chicken and broccoli is more nutritious than McNuggets and fries. Of course it is!

      I actually took an extra day to let this percolate in my head before answering, because I don’t want to come across as snarky and I know my matter-of-fact communication style sometimes can. But it’s something I would like to explore with you – as there is usually a small minority of readers who interpret my posts as saying food choices don’t matter – and they are usually people with some pretty disordered ideas about food. Most people understand my overall point, which is that eating mostly whole foods is good for you, but not something that needs to be obsessed about.

    • Kaleo’s point is that while some foods are more nutritious than others, it doesn’t mean we as people are good or bad for eating them or not eating them.

      A person’s food choices have nothing to do with how compassionate or kind they are. It is good to expose your kids to a variety of foods that have lots of good stuff in it, but it doesn’t make you a better parent than someone else. Some foods are objectively more “healthy” than other foods, but equating certain food choices with “righteousness” of the person eating them leads to disordered eating. We are not defined as good or bad people whether we decide to eat a carrot or a cookie.

      • SO- this is really an interesting discussion.
        And Danie, thanks for your comment. I was waiting for a few quiet minutes to form my response to Kaleo and, now, to you, too.
        I guess that I am leading this discussion down a philosophic/theological rabbit hole… because I am trying to understand what it is that “makes a person good or bad.” In my religious tradition, we are taught that we are made as sacred beings, holy and good; made “in the image of God.” And, while that is a starting point, we can also ( and do, by virtue of our human nature) screw things up. That’s what it is to be human. To know that while we are made “good,” that our actions can change that around… (the theological departure point here is to note that by God’s grace we are restored… ) AND I believe that part of being faithful is not waiting around for God’s magical wand of forgiveness to make us whole again, but for us to participate in our own work of restoration by trying to make things better by our own actions. By “doing good.”
        So, for me, the human person as moral actor, helping to determine one’s own goodness or badness is important.
        Last night my nephews came for dinner. My brother is living with us for a a few weeks until he gets a new post-divorce home. His boys love tater tots. In fact, we’ve come to call Tuesday ( a night when he has visitation) “Tater Tot Tuesdays.” So we sat down to dinner. I ate a couple of tater tots. Did it make me a bad person? No. Is he a bad dad for serving tater tots? In m y opinion, no, not if it’s a few tater tots once a week served up with some nutritious other things on the plate. If he served tater tots at every meal? Then I’d be worried.
        It’s complicated, isn’t it?
        I think that when you throw around words like “disordered” and make black and white judgments… then it gets difficult.

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  15. I cringe when that commercial comes on, especially when he slobbers all over their milk container. But the best is at the end when they show the container of Froot Loops that they also buy.

  16. I have been bugged by that commercial as well…but what gets me us that he is not drinking organic milk & put everything down next to processed ceral choices…Bugs me the air of self righteousness that line comes across as when everything around it states otherwise (if that makes sense at all). I agree that it should just say we did good because he’s eating breakfast instead of highlighting the organic portion. I don’t feed my child all organic or all junk-we have a balance. I agree that society has made it trendy & another way to be better than the next guy (or mom). Well said-thanks for sharing!

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