They say that if you pay attention and stay present in your surroundings that you will learn something new everyday… This couldn’t be more true.

The other day, I was spending the weekend with a few friends. Friends who had young children from the age of one to four. The kids were playing freely and clearly enjoying themselves. There was one child in particular who was extremely intelligent for her age. She was clearly the ring leader of the other children. What she did, the others soon followed. I could tell that she had an agenda because she was trying to break away from the other children. As her playmates began to slow down and tire out, the 3 year-old girl made her move, and I was the lucky victim.

She approached me and asked me for some food. My first thought was “why didn’t she ask her parents?”, but at the same time, I will admit that I felt like the cool adult that could hook her up with a plate. So I offered all types of food to her. In the most pleasant of means, she continually shook her head with a big smile. After I ran the list from salads to grilled chicken, I ran out of offerings and asked her straight up “What do you want?”

She replied “M and Ms.”

I said “I thought you wanted food! You asked me for food and said you were hungry!”

In the sweetest response, she said “Candy is food.” Her parents then came over and revealed the game their daughter has been playing all evening. And I was not shocked to hear from her parents that she had scored at least one bag of candy from multiple adults throughout the day.

Then I thought, she is correct. Candy is food, and unfortunately many grown ups also lack the ability to consider this important differentiation when choosing meals and snacks. Hence lies the lesson for the day.

Although many of us don’t consider M and Ms to be a meal type of food, we do; however, eat other junk foods that we consider to be meals. For example, you go to Subway, and instead of ordering a low-fat sandwich, you vouch for the foot long meatball sub. Good choice? Ummmm, considering the high fat and poor nutritional value of this sandwich, it mimics a junk food more than a healthy choice.

Another example: instead of choosing a regular, medium roast coffee with a little cream and a little sugar, you choose the “holiday special,” venti size and with caramel and whipped cream. Clearly, a junk choice and not a healthy one.

For some reason, we never grow out of our childish tendencies to eat high fat, sugary foods. There will never be a day in my life where I will not walk down the candy aisle in the grocery store and think twice about grabbing my favorite treat. But just as we learn to wash our hands before we eat to prevent getting sick, we must also choose healthier food options for the exact same reason.

Thanks to this 3-year-old, I too realize that I need to stop making such immature choices…