When I was a child, my mother taught me that girls ate one cookie, boys ate two.

Imagine the scenario: I would start singing this little ditty, “One for boys, two for girls,” whenever the topic of cookies (or any kind of dessert) came up. Sometimes I’d even start skipping!

It was cute. I was cute: this little thing, with blond pigtails high up on her head, skipping along and singing about cookies.

Over dinner a few months ago one of my two brothers said that this image—me singing “one for girls, two for boys”—was his iconic childhood memory of me.

I said it was sexist. “Why should girls, by definition of their gender, consume fewer cookies than boys?”

After some grumbling about how my mother was trying to do me a favor—which just reinforced my opinion that this was a sexist move on her part, my weight mattered, but my brothers’ weights didn’t?—my brother took another stab at it: “You were smaller than we were,” he said.

And that’s a good point.

Younger children need fewer calories than older children. As a consequence, they have fewer discretionary calories to play around with during the course of the day.

The idea that different people need (and I use that term a little tongue-in-cheek) a different number of cookies is something I’ve written about before. Read Fair is Fair…Or Is It? 

Why bring this up now? It’s the right lesson for the gorging season which starts next week with Thanksgiving.

  • Kids who’ve eaten cookies in the morning need fewer cookies in the afternoon than kids who haven’t had any cookies yet that day.
  • Kids, who are, on average, a lot smaller than adults need smaller slices of pumpkin pie than their parents.
  • Kids with tummy aches don’t need any pie at all!

Too often we get caught up in the idea that all children need is to be treated exactly that same, that same is equality.

But that’s the wrong principle when it comes to eating. What kids need is to be taught is that sometimes difference is equality. In other words, equality is getting what’s right for you.

So, after all these years, I can say that my mother was on to something. As the youngest child, I needed fewer cookies than my brothers. I just wished my mother had talked about age or size instead of gender.

(I also wished she hadn’t taught me that “ladies always leave a little food on their plates,” another lesson that could have been framed differently…but that’s a topic for another day!)

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~