Two Lives, One Lifestyle

The Starbucks Cupcake Incident by Katie
April 30, 2010, 11:46 am
Filed under: Cupcakes, Katie, Nutrition

This article about children being likely to eat healthy food if they were given healthy food (thanks, Summer Tomato) and The Fitnessista asking if your kids [will] eat like you reminded me of a 2 minute conversation I overheard recently.

I was sitting at Starbucks doing some cover letter writing and a mom walked in with her 2 daughters: one was probably 5 and the other was at most 2 years old.  They were talking about the fun books they just bought, and I thought “awww that’s sweet, what a great mom!”

The mom started to order, including 4 Starbuck’s cupcakes, and the 5-year-old interrupted.  “Mom can I get this banana for a snack instead?”  The mother grabbed the banana out of her daughter’s hand and very firmly replied “NO! You’re getting a cupcake! You don’t need that banana.”  The little girl looked embarrassed for basically getting yelled at in front of the whole shop.


They sat down and the mom fed each daughter (one of them was still in diapers okay?) a whole, big Starbuck’s cupcake.

My initial reaction: This is TERRIBLE! What kind of parent denies their child a banana and forces them to eat a cupcake?  Isn’t this completely backward? Shouldn’t she be thankful her kid wants a banana rather than dessert in the middle of the afternoon? The whole scene stuck with me and just kind of bothered me for the rest of the day.  Well, apparently it is still bothering me.

I’m not against letting kids have delicious cupcakes or other snacks but do they really need a huge one from Starbucks as a random afternoon snack? The size and nutrition stats on many of their baked goods are scary enough for an adult.  Plus, the little girl wanted a banana!

I don’t want to judge other people and their decisions; I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt- for example, maybe it was her birthday? But this seemed borderline outrageous since she was asking for fruit.  I was pissed at the mom.  I was disappointed in the lack of nutrition education that we have growing up. I was angry with the way this country treats the production and consumption of food. It was like the culmination of all the backwards, screwed-up eating standards in this country.

I debated throwing in this detail, wondering about it’s significance to the situation: the mom was very obese to where she had a lot of trouble walking.  The 5 year old was overweight.  If I had just seen them wandering around the book store, this wouldn’t have phased me. Tons of skinny looking people feed their kids garbage too.  But I’d be lying if  I said that detail didn’t lead to some speculation about the (lack of) healthy habits these little girls were being taught at home.

I wasn’t about to step in and tell a mother how to do her job or lecture her about the nutrition and health issues that were coming to mind.  Plus the blame can probably be partially passed on to the food industry or marketing or whatever else impacts our eating choices.  Instead, I just BBMed my sister and talked about it with her because I was practically bursting to get someone else’s thoughts.

How would you have reacted to this?  Do you think I’m being harsh or overreacting?

7 Comments so far
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How sad! I don’t have kids yet, but I pray that my children beg for fruit when they’re five!! That would be such a frustrating situation to see, but I don’t think there’s much you could have done about it. Parenting situations are so tricky, and I would definitely not step in! But, I’d probably go and vent, too!

Comment by Megan @ Healthy Hoggin

I don’t think you’re overreacting. As a teacher, I see a lot of teachers/parents who do not take kids seriously. 5 year olds know what they want and deserve to be listened to. All kids do. That mom’s reaction seems overly harsh in general to me. I’m filling other words and phrases into the mom’s words: “Mom, can I get a library book instead of another DVD?” “NO! You’re getting a DVD, you don’t NEED that book.” or “Mom, can I buy this cute, totally age appropriate t-shirt?” “NO! You’re getting the Hannah Montana hot pants, you don’t even NEED that t-shirt.” That child is learning that her thoughts and ideas are not important, not worth considering by an adult. From a food standpoint, it also seems ridiculous to force feed a small child an entire sugary cupcake when she asked for a banana. I agree, better nutrition education is needed for children!

Thanks for this post, it really made me think.

Comment by Emily

Wow, that’s really quite shocking. I think you did the right thing by not stepping in – that would have caused so much trouble. What kind of parent though refueses their child healthy food!?
I read somewhere once that obese parents deliberately feed up their children, so they won’t be alone in being obese…just a random article I read, but maybe it was a case of that!?

Comment by britchickruns

This is the most INsane thing I’ve heard. I’ve definitely had those same feelings as you about something that has happened in public that I’ve overheard. Like last night at Thai Basil, this lady was talking about how she gets home late from work sometimes and it’s “gross” to eat dinner at 8:30, so she eats and apple and dried fruit. It kind of made me want to scream. She wasn’t skinny or overweight but people just don’t realize what the poor choices add up to. At least she didn’t say I eat potato chips or something..but denying yourself dinner and instead eating an apple is just going to make you chow down on something later and then feel bad. Generally speaking of course. I definitely agree with you about how we’re basically taught nothing while growing up about nutrition…nothing that is worthwhile. Eat a few fruits + veggies and not too much sugar. SWeet thanks, that was really helpful. I just CANT get over that she would basically slap the banana out of her hand for that cupcake. I looked at the nutrition facts…lovely. This makes my blood’re not alone!!! Maybe she’s allergic to bananas 😉

Comment by Ashley

oh wow. It makes me so sad.

Comment by Beth @fatbustermack

This is so sad, I wonder if she was mistaken that Starbucks new “no HFCS all natural ingredients” campaign meant that she was making a good choice for her kids. Our lack of education and abundance of advertising really messes people up. Of course the banana vs. cupcake doesn’t seem to be a hard equation though…I did think the same thing as Ashley, maybe the kid was allergic? But that doesn’t really make sense…

Comment by Beth @fatbustermack

I’m certain that if at 5 years old I’d asked for a banana instead of a cupcake, my mother would have rejoiced with happiness and bought me as many as I wanted 🙂

I think you did the right thing but not stepping in, even though the situation is really sad all around. I find that a lot of people lack the basic knowledge about nutrition.

(Side note, Starbucks sells bananas for a ridiculous price, like $1 a banana!)

Comment by liane

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