NYC Mom Takes Her Anti-Sweets Too Far.

It’s possible to take it too far. Just ask MeMe Roth resident of the Upper West Side.

When offered any food at school other than the school lunch, Ms. Roth’s children — who shall go nameless since it seems they have enough on, or off, their plates — are instructed to deposit the item into a piece of Tupperware their mother calls a “junk food collector.”

I am all for regulating what my child consumes, but the occasional cupcake, ice pop, or brownie certainly isn’t going to hurt him, nor is going to make him fat. Telling him it’s absolutely forbidden? That’s where I think problems arise. Have we learned nothing from Catholic school girls?

All jokes aside, NPR recently interviewed Matthew Amster-Burton, author of Hungry Monkey. The segment was called “Let Them Eat Sugar: A New Guide For Feeding Kids.”

I agree more with what Amster-Burton said regarding the sweet stuff:

“If you’re brave enough to let it be, it’s kind of self-regulating. Efforts to restrict sugar in kids tend to backfire and tend to make kids look for sugar anytime the parents aren’t looking.”

Do parents like Ms. Roth exist everywhere? Or are they based solely out of New York City. I know the answer to this question, but I am a little surprised at just how many parents there are like Ms. Roth in the area. (Granted, there are also a great number who suffer from the opposite problem: they ignore their children to the point of neglect and still others are just simply abusive.)

When it comes to sweets, I let my son indulge fairly regularly. He also loves broccoli, peanuts, every fruit grown on planet earth, and eggs. I think the only food we haven’t given him yet is fast food and highly processed packaged food, although, should he one day discover a Twinkie, I certainly won’t take it away.

Her extreme methods have earned her attention before: The police were called to a YMCA in 2007 when she absconded with the sprinkles and syrups on a table where members were being served ice cream. That was Ms. Roth who called Santa Claus fat on television that Christmas, and she has a continuing campaign against the humble Girl Scout cookies, on the premise that no community activity should promote unhealthy eating.

One must wonder if there’s something else eating (or not eating!) at Ms. Roth.


  1. Wow, someone has control issues, I’d say.

    I have a cousin who is very much anti-sugar when it comes to her 8 year old twins. At family picnics we have to listen to her shrew at them to put back the dessert items, the soda, the lemonade, etc. When they’ve been denied all sweets (which they just sneak later and binge on, by the way) they’ll proceed to shove handfuls of potato chips and multiple hot dogs in their mouths until they’re half sick. She thinks this is ok, along with the fact that they don’t eat much in the way of fruits and veggies. It boggles the mind.

    I’m all for promoting healthy eating habits in young kids, but I think it’s a damn shame when we’re waging a war to banish class cupcakes on someone’s birthday. If we keep taking away the small joys in our kids’ lives, society is going to become a lot more miserable than it already is.


  2. Yep. It’s all about moderation. Our daughter has had fast food french fries, loves cupcakes and white sugar. She gets these a great once in awhile, but she has had them and I don’t feel like a bad mom for giving them to her. I almost think that kids who are deprived the opportunity to try things want those things (good or bad) even more. But I guess it is also about parenting style… and I know how hard it is to parent well, so I feel a little bad criticizing someone else. Maybe Ms. Roth is just doing what she thinks is best for her kids? (But swiping the sprinkles on ME would get the local police involved!)


  3. This is really interesting stuff. I am actually writing my thesis for my Masters in Public Health right now, and my area of research is how the environment contributes to childhood obesity (namely the school environment).

    Anyway, in my research, one consistent in nearly all the literature is that negative controlling of children’s food – what MeMe does – contributes to children overeating and disordered eating. Positive control – that is encouraging them to choose healthy options – is protective against weight gain.

    I don’t have kids but I hope that the husband and I will be relatively laid-back when it comes to our future children!


  4. Oh my yes, MeMe’s most traumatic experience was when her mother brought cupcakes to her class and all her class mates saw that she had a fat mom! No kidding!

    This woman has serious issues.. I doubt there are a lot just like her, but she is frightening enough on her own.


  5. A family I worked with in ECFE years ago strictly regulated their kids’ access to sweets, fats, junk food.. basically anything that tasted good. Looking back on it now, I’m pretty sure the mother had a pretty severe eating disorder.
    These kids were forever trying to sneak sweets at the Center, at friends’ houses, on outings, etc.

    A few months back, I saw an article in the local paper highlighting the oldest child’s academic achievements (in college! see? told you it was a long time ago.).. and the story had an accompanying picture.

    Yeah. I’m guessing that said child went wild when she got out on her own and could eat anything she wanted. She was so overweight.. I barely recognized her.

    It’s all about the moderation.


  6. To echo most of the commenters, I think moderation is the key to just about everything in life.

    I can remember as a child having lots of friends whose moms (yes, it was generally the moms, ever notice that?) were the sugar police or the soda police or the potato chip police, etc. But we always had those foods in our kitchen. Always. We also had lots of fresh fruit and veggies and all kinds of other good, healthy foods. We didn’t have any “forbidden” foods. I firmly believe that forbidding something only makes it more tantalizing.

    That being said, if my son starts wanting to eat only sugar (or whatever), I will step in to make sure he gets a more balanced diet, because that is my job as his mother. But I make a mean chocolate chip cookie, and I get a lot of satisfaction from hearing him say, “MMMMmmmmm!!” when he takes a bite of them…so he will continue to eat my cookies, after he eats his well-balanced, nutritionist-approved dinner (or his PB&J, whichever).


  7. Egirl: I hear you regarding criticizing someone else when it comes to parenting especially since I preach the opposite. However, in this case? Well, she’s doing precisely that. It’s the same way I feel about those who go around trying to convert people religiously. I’m all for religion. People have every right to worship whomever they choose. But when they start stopping by my house and ringing my doorbell or preaching on the streets outside my residence? Then I get a little annoyed with them.

    In a sense that’s what this mom seems to be doing—making her issues into everyone else’s problem. She needs to tell her kids “no” and hope that they listen. That’s all she really can do. But she’s not OK with that. She wants to take it away for every other person around her. She seems so completely controlling. That’s where I get frustrated. As soon as she makes her issue mine, I feel the need to criticize. :[


    For the record, we really, really do care about what Em eats. We stick to things that are organic and try and buy local as much as we can. We don’t feed him processed junk, etc. But it’s not forbidden. I just figured the more I can cut out, the more I can do now, the better he and his body will be in the long run.

    I know he’ll one day visit McDonalds with friends and eat something that will likely having him shitting his pants. heh I know I can’t keep him eating this healthy forever. But for now? That’s what we’re doing.

    Has he been at a friends house and have eaten some grapes that weren’t organic? Yes. And he’s eaten things at playgroups I wouldn’t personally serve. I can’t control it all. Just some of it.

    I dunno. When I read more about this woman, I couldn’t help but think that she really just needs some psychiatric help when it comes to issues about food in her past. And if she keeps this up? Her kids might need it one day as well.


  8. I agree if you forbid something it makes it that much more desireable. Mihow I envy your knack for creating homeaid organic food for your family; my son is such a picky eater… he is currently on the following kick – banannas, sausage, biscuits, french fries, peas and eggs! I know it’s just a stage (hopefully) but wish I could get him to eat better. If you run across any main course recipes that Em has loved I would love to try them… maybe you could include them in a upcoming mom-it-down post?


  9. I think we are on the same page… when she starts infringing on others who are not her children (e.g. swiping the YMCA sprinkles) she crosses that line.


  10. Oh, she’s a nutcase. I go to a message board for parents of kids with Type 1, and there was a discussion about her. She harps on junk food causing diabetes. Doesn’t differentiate types. Nothing ticks off a parent of a Type 1 more than being told if we didn’t feed our kids sugar it wouldn’t have happened. Yeah, that pancreas malfunction had nothing to do with it. Anyway, someone posted quotes from an interview she had with The Guardian. Talk about someone with a serious eating disorder.

    Her suffering was apparent early on. “When I was in kindergarten,” she recalls, “no one taught me to be ashamed of obesity, but the day, on my birthday, that my mother was to bring cupcakes to my class, I put my head on the table because I knew that within minutes my mother would be there and everyone was going to know that my mother was fat. I felt ashamed. I was grateful that down the block there was another mother who was fatter than my mother.”

    “I discovered when I was in college that I work best when I get a workout in and eat after that. Sometimes I’ll delay when I eat until I get a workout in. But I don’t let a whole day go by without running four miles.”

    OK, I go on, but supposing you couldn’t work out until four o’clock in the afternoon – would you not eat until after that?

    “I might.”

    I look at my watch. It’s 3.30pm. Alarm bells start to ring in my head. How about today, I ask. Have you eaten at all today?

    Roth is a little quiet.

    “No,” she says.

    There is a pause.

    “But I feel great!”


  11. It’s ok, Mel, I eat enough for her. She and I are working together to balance out the universe.


  12. Wow… that’s really all I think of when I read the post – I mean how are the kids supposed to learn about making good choices if they aren’t given choices?

    I believe in moderation for most things, especially diet. And I believe in leading by example – one of the surest ways to get my almost 2 year old to eat something is for me to eat it off her plate (even if its on my plate – her plate makes the difference).

    Yes she gets some processed food, the occasional lemonade, etc – its not the norm. Her favorite foods are often good choices – like berries, she LOVES berries. And un-frosted shredded wheat cereal (weird child I know). She also loves biscuits and while we don’t do it often, we definitely let her have them. Moderation!


  13. I think its important to set good examples for healthy eating but MeMe’s efforts sound like a bit much.


  14. I believe MeMe also compared eating to being raped (I KNOW I read this on the jezebel post about her, but I can’t find it now. )

    I think the most important thing is being truthful with your kids and telling them what is good and what is bad if you eat too much of it. Someone in my family has told her kids that soda will basically kill you on the spot if you drink it and that all nice people are vegetarians. So when these kids (who range in age from 3-8) see Jon and I drinking soda and eating meat (in moderation) and see that we have not dropped dead, they begin to question everything their mom has told them.


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