Spiderman or Sugarman

“Sugarman, won’t you hurry…
Cos I’m tired of these scenes
For a blue coin, won’t you bring back all those colours to my dreams”

It’s well understood that Rodriguez wasn’t singing about sugar in this song we know so well. The irony is fantastic. A song about drugs is sugar-coated, and the dealer named after the deadliest substance of the 21st century.

Sugar is just like a drug, and the cycle of a sugar user is much like that of a drinker, a smoker or a fully fledge drug user.

We build a tolerance to the taste and the rush of sugar. But our bodies get no better at dealing with the binge. When we build a tolerance to anything we need more to achieve the desired effect. The problem is, obesity and type 2 diabetes don’t consider your tolerance while they creep up on you.

Remember the amazing jumping castle at your birthday party all those years ago? You’d had a few straws of coke and a couple rocks of candy. You laughed and smiled and couldn’t stop jumping. You probably don’t remember the come down but I’ll bet your mother does.

Adults can unlearn, but how do we tell our kids that bright coloured sweets and fizzy drinks are more dangerous than they look? Education is key, but don’t underestimate the effects of endorsement.

Children feel the same way about Spidey-Juice and the Minions at McDonalds that an adult might about a Roger Federer tennis racket. The Fed legitimises Wilson for adults the same way Spidey makes a sweetened juice seem special to a kid.

And while the Fed’s racket might not make you a whole lot better at tennis, it’s unlikely to hurt your game. The same can’t always be said for the products endorsed by your childrens’ heroes.

Writers and artists invent these characters for your kids to look up to. They are role models that typically represent all the right things in terms of their character, but very often their responsibilities are confined to the page or the screen, and forgotten on the shelf. If Spiderman were a real person, he would surely promote veggies, meat and fresh water. He might even Bant.

Instead, Spidey and the crew are left peddling sugar.

Admittedly it could be worse. Supermarkets and marketers are slowly beginning to understand their responsibility and the power that they wield, but there are some very wealthy companies that are desperate to sell sugar to your family. And if your kids see Superman on the label, you’ll have a battle on your hands getting it out of theirs.

If you were standing in front of your child holding spinach and Superman was standing next to you holding a chocolate bar, how would that go down?

Admittedly it’s not a fair fight.

But in spite of the obvious challenges, every parent is their child’s greatest role model. Everything we buy, read, make, drink or eat is our endorsement in the eyes of our children. If we want our kids to be strong, smart and healthy, we need to be the same in the face of some admittedly tricky circumstances.

Our kids need to eat well to become great, and really, they’re the superheroes we care most about.

Our new book, Raising Superheroes, will be in stores mid August and is available on pre-order now.

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