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Macaroni and Chocolate

There are foods that children should not have at an early age.  This recommendation is based on the addictive properties of these foods.  Macaroni and Cheese is one of the foods that seem quite innocent until one looks at the taste to desire ratios produced by the food.  Foods that produce desire should not be introduced to children in the first couple of years of their lives while everything is a new experience and they are developing their tastes for foods.  The end result of early introductions to some foods can be difficult to deal with as the child gets older.  We all know that kids love macaroni and cheese, but look at the high concentration of fat that is found in that one simple food.  No one wants a child to over eat but if given foods that draw them in at an early age, they are likely to gain an affinity to these foods that they and you are unlikely to be able to control as they get older.  Their patterns of taste and desire are being set during the first couple of years of life and will stay with them through the rest of their lives.  Besides the affinity that one builds for some foods, there is the concentration of fat and calories in foods that must be considered as well. 

Compact foods are stuffed with calories and not a lot of volume.  The volume factor alone tends to cause young children to overeat for two reasons.  First there is the fullness factor that comes from a volume filling the void in a hungry child's stomach which allows them to feel full and then there is the time required for the food to begin digesting adequately to signal that their hunger is being taken care of.  The compact nature of calorie dense foods eliminates or delays the signal from this gauge of having reached the required intake of food by feeling full.  Taking a closer look at the components of the food and how they are arranged one will notice that there are mostly starches in the pasta and fats in the cheese sauce.  The starches are relatively fast to be broken down and begin digesting, however the pasta is coated by a sticky cheese coating.  The cheese coating being made of a high concentration of fat which breaks down much slower, momentarily delays the pasta's ability to begin breaking down because this sticky layer of fat must be substantially removed before the pasta can begin releasing its calories.  It doesn't take long for the cheese sauce to begin washing away from the pasta, but the delay means that more time must pass before the uptake of calories are adequately noticed by the body to begin signaling that the child's hunger is diminishing.  This delay will cause a young child to tend to want to over eat.  Repeat this a few times and a child's virtually limitless memory will learn this as an early trait, and early learned traits tend to take presidency over those learned at later stages of development.

Chocolate has a similar reaction for young children except that it also has some additional addictive properties.  Chocolate alone without the added sugar and milk is somewhat bitter and young children would most likely avoid consuming it.  Add some sugar for sweetness and milk to mellow down the bitterness and it becomes quite tasty.  The taste gets their interest, but underneath the flavor are the addictive components that will drive up the desirability factor of this food. 

The addictive factors found in chocolate are fairly commonly known and you can really see their intensity in the reactions of dogs to chocolate.  Dogs go nuts for a chance to get a piece of chocolate.  As an example; many years ago I saw my father's normally docile 10 pound dog leap about six feet from the floor to his mouth to steel a bite of chocolate right out from between his teeth.  He was extremely suppressed by the event and I was amazed at the sudden accuracy this dog mustered to get a bite of chocolate.  Needless to say, my father was more alert to avoid a repeat of this in the future.  I didn't know of any time that the dog had been given any chocolate, but it had probably found and consumed enough lost pieces of chocolate to become acquainted.

Given the extra desire developed by chocolate, this is a food that should be avoided as long as possible and if possible until the child is more than three years of age.  Macaroni and Cheese should be avoided during the baby and toddler stages through about two years of age.  By two a child has been exposed to a large enough variety of foods that Macaroni is ok occasionally in the mix but should still be avoided as a common meal due to its high fat and dense calorie content. 

As parents we want the best for our children and given the tremendous amount of obesity in children and adults, the time to begin thinking about your child's future is today.  And where there are stumbling blocks that can easily be avoided by early action it's up to the parent to be aware and to take heed in these important areas.

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