Swimming Against the Tide

Yesterday I walked into the grocery store, and as I was perusing the produce with my 4-year-old sitting in the front of the cart, a store worker walked up to us, Tootsie Roll Pop in hand, held it out to her, and said, “Welcome to Acme!  Is it okay if she has this?”

Now, what am I supposed to say?  Not wanting to be the overprotective freakoid mother that I am, I shrugged and said, “Sure, thanks!”  Of course she was delighted, but as I continued my way around the store, I was kicking myself in the tush for not being more assertive.  It’s hard to know where to draw the line.  I don’t want to be one of those moms.  You know the kind — the killjoy who won’t let her kids experience the simple pleasures of growing up in the Land of the Free and the Home of Coca-Cola and Pop Tarts.

But on the other hand, the more I read about the dangers of sugar and fructose in particular, the more I want to tighten the reigns on my decision to allow my kids eat junk “in moderation.”  It seems that it is almost impossible to eat junk in moderation these days.

When we go to church, the hospitality table is laden with sugary treats and packets of hot chemical chocolate.  And this happens both at the morning and evening services.

I shudder when I pick my 4-year-old up from preschool and see what they are serving as “wholesome snacks.”  What would it be if it weren’t considered “wholesome,” I wonder.

In the school cafeteria, my older kids have access to pre-packaged, industrially processed Rice Krispie Treats, cartons of chocolate milk (with more sugar than soda), and packets of fruitless snacks, ironically dubbed “fruit snacks.”

Most evenings during the summer, the ice cream truck rolls down the street with its kid-friendly songs blaring, touting its artificially flavored and colored frozen treats.

How do you avoid it?  Or at least keep it to a reasonable amount?

IS there even a reasonable amount?

Read this article on the dangers of sugar and tell me what you think.

Join The Conversation

59 Responses

  1. Acme??? Really… I live in Acme area – unless there is another small chain Acmes in the country.

    At our Acme they give the kids Acme Dollars. Then I can control what they buy.

  2. I hear ya, sister! My kids are home with a Nanny now, but will have to go to Day care sooner or later. The more I read ( i am reading In Defense of Food, now) the more I want to control what they are eating. I cringe at the thought of them eating processed food at a Day Care.

  3. I sometimes think that my family (and my husband for that matter) think I’m a freak when it comes to my kid’s nutrition. I have had experiences like that and my child (only 2yrs old) doesn’t get candy. Period. She’s allowed to have a spoon of honey, an organic fruit bar, etc, and other yummy treats that are good for her. I usually just say “no thanks, we don’t allow her to each much candy”. I hope that people will not think I’m rude (I try to say it in the most polite way possible) but will stop and think twice about what they feed their kids!

  4. We’ve had to limit Princess on the junk food for 2 years because of weight issues. The main reason her weight got so bad was because of her day care. They were feeding her a steady stream of crackers. No limits. Just dump the bag of Goldfish in front of the 15-24 month old toddlers. It was one of many reasons we found a new day care center.

    But limiting the sugar, candy, ice cream, etc has been an on going battle. It’s not fun and it doesn’t get any easier.

    I can tell every time she eats something with artificial dyes in it. She turns into a different and cranky child. So it IS worth the battle. But when we dwell on it too much then I notice her getting obsessed with what she is eating, how big her belly is. The last thing I want is for her to develop eating or body issues at 5 years old!

    The easiest approach is to keep our home a junk-free zone. No arguing, no bartering. She can’t have candy because we don’t have any. As for the kindness of strangers… good luck!

  5. Well… If a sucker gets us through the grocery store without whining, then I’m all for it. But a Tootsie Pop, really? Blech!

    I’m not all that picky. I fortunately have pretty good eaters, my younger two especially. When they are hungry, they go to the fridge and get fruit. Because they eat healthy, I don’t worry as much about every bite that goes into their mouths. I know that they eat a lot, and the vast majority of it is really good for them. My oldest eats less, and is pickier, so her diet concerns me more. The nutritional content of every bite seems magnified.

    1. Yes, I should add that my kids are very good eaters. So until now, I’ve allowed them a bit of junk now and then. I just feel like the more I know, the less I want them to have.

  6. I HATE the “wholesome snack” thing at preschool. I try to just really limit junk at home and do my best to discourage it elsewhere.

  7. I was just talking to my husband about this. He and I are on the same page in trying to limit the sugar consumption at home. But I constantly get harassed by my parents, my sister and her husband. They jokingly call me Kim Jong-il of North Korea. 🙂

    I honestly don’t try to be militant about it, but I feel like I’ve got to limit the sugar at home because there is sugar every. other. place. they. go. There’s always a holiday or birthday to celebrate at school (every week!). Or candy given as a reward at gymnastics. Or free cookies handed out at Publix. If I didn’t limit sugar at home, I can’t imagine how much sugar they’d be getting, because they’re getting plenty as it is.

    I have noticed my 7-year-old getting a little pre-occupied with food at times and I’m sure it’s because I am so pre-occupied with trying to give them a good diet. It’s hard to strike a balance and, like you, I certainly don’t want to give her issues with food in the long term.

    But, I have noticed, that since we’ve switched to whole foods, the processed cupcakes they get at school don’t taste as good to them. And there are times when they’ll take a bite of candy, spit it out and opt for a homemade dessert after dinner instead. So my hope is that eventually, they’ll be able to taste the difference themselves and, understand that limiting sugar makes them feel better and their bodies work better.

  8. Well, my take is that the first piece is being really open with your kids about the issues. The second is being OK being “that mom.” The third is to not beat yourself up over periodic deviations. To expand:

    Laurel knows how I feel about junk food, savory and sweet alike. She knows that it’s not that I don’t want her to have it all (e.g., dessert) but if she’s going to eat it, I want it to be good. Either homemade so we know exactly what’s in it, or organic. I crack up whenever we drive past the golden arches and she says, “I’m never eating there Mom — their food is full of chemicals.” Clearly, she’s getting the message.

    Second, I’ve just stopped worrying about being that mom. When we have people over I’m happy for people to see the choices we are making (via packaging) and discuss the issues/answer questions as they arise. It’s simple behavioral modeling.

    Finally, the other piece is letting go. We can’t control every moment of our kids’ lives. When my mother picks Laurel up from school, they invariably go to the ice cream truck. When she goes to a friend’s house, she might eat gummy candy (I’ve heard she has said, “Awesome! My mom doesn’t let me eat this junk!”). But those moments and quantities of intake are hugely overshadowed by the good.

  9. I am like you, the more I read (usually from your blog 🙂 the more concerned I am. In our house, we don’t buy a lot of processed foods which started due to budget constraints, but now is also due to additional knowledge I have about them. I limit the goodies our 19 month old gets. I am the downfall though, as I have such a sweet tooth. And although we don’t buy all the commercial stuff, I still make lots of goodies at home–puddings, muffins, brownies, etc. That isn’t good for us either!

    I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant (go figure! not good….) and the nutritionist was always telling me, if you have fruit or something with natural sugars, always have a protein with it. I think that’s good reminder for all of us, as the sugars/carbs are so easy to come by and we need to remember that everything needs to be balanced. And of course natural sugars/carbs are better than sugar/carb filled processed snacks.

  10. We have things in moderation, but there are times when it isn’t possible. I keep Boo’s school lunch account at a zero balance so she is not allowed any of the things they serve. I pack her lunch each day, so I know that she is getting veggies, fruit and water (better than milk as it can have a ton of sugar too). Snacks at school are fruit or veggie and nothing else. Some kids bring candy, chips or fruit snacks and that just floors me. I love giving my kid choices, but there are limits to even that.

    While I don’t follow the same path as your family, we have made some big changes in what we do. No where near as much pre-packaged foods, and lots of homemade things that I make doubles of to freeze for nights I just don’t want to cook.

  11. I heard a comedian once tell a joke that as kids they were so poor… that his momma told him if the ice cream truck’s music was playing… that it meant they were out of ice cream. That still makes me laugh.

    It IS swimming against the tide. Thats how I feel about our decision to eat less meat also. Very unpopular.

  12. I’m strict about it when we are at home, but I don’t try to control it when we’re out beyond just saying “No, you can’t order fries and a Coke.” If my daughter is offered junk food when we’re out, I usually tell her to save it for later (if it’s something like candy or a cookie). By the time later comes around, she’s usually forgotten about it so I can quietly dispose of it.

    1. I need to do more of that save it for later thing. Of course, my kids DO remember, lol. I try to throw out stuff they get at school and parties, when they come home with bags of candy. They usually ask about it at some point. @@

      1. Leave it out somewhere and then tell them if they don’t put it away, then you will throw it out. (Quietly of course and while they are occupied with something else). Give it 2 1/2 seconds and then toss it. When they ask, you put the responsibility back on them. (I told you if you didn’t pick it up, I would throw it out) Works like a charm.

  13. I don’t think there’s any perfect answer. When my kid begs for treats, I give him a choice. Like, if you have a piece of candy/cookies with lunch, you can’t have another dessert with dinner. (Fruit instead, I’m not a monster! haha)

    Honestly, I think the best thing you can do is keep it consistent at home. You are doing the whole/organic/real food thing and talking to them about it. And, it’s not like your depriving them, I’ve seen your recipes–look at those chocolate chip cookies!

    When I was growing up, my mom and our family had horrible eating habits. Like used to eat a hot dog for breakfast. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, if that’s what you want to do, but it probably wasn’t the best choice for an overweight teenager. My mom had a problem with high cholestrol a few years ago, completely changed her eating habits and lost like 80 pounds. She is a health nut now and yells at me if I eat french fries in front of her! Geez, mom, I wish we were talking like this 15 years ago:)

    My point is, you are giving your kids an incredible foundation at home. I wouldn’t be overly concerned about a tootsie pop or even a *gasp* Taco Bell taco. They are going to remember the habits you instilled in them now through into adulthood.

    PS – I do not eat hot dogs for breakfast anymore.

    PPS – But, I still eat hot dogs occasionally. Please do not tell me how bad they are.

  14. When I get uptight about all that kind of stuff I remind myself that I grew up on Fruit Loops and pop tarts and aside from a thyroid med a day I’m perfectly fine, thank you. I’m not overweight, I exercise almost daily and my brain was not affected 🙂

    Teach kids to balance it all out. A sucker at the store is no biggie and neither is donuts on Sunday after church. Donuts every day at home? NOT good! I pack my kids lunch, we eat dinner at home most every night and my daughter sees us treating ice cream or cake a few times a week as no big deal.

  15. I talk to my boys about stuff like that before we go places. “They’re probably going to offer you a lollipop after your haircut, but I don’t want you to spoil your dinner. So, tonight after dinner you can have dessert instead, ok?

    It usually works. If they “have” to have it, I ask them to save it. Usually they forget about it in a day or two.

  16. This is an ongoing battle for us, too. The type of situation like the one you described is sounds so familiar. I would have totally let my little one have it because the stress of the fallout would be much worse than the relatively small amount of high-fructose corn syrup in the tootsie pop. My friends tease me but I still bring our own snacks if they are playing at someone’s house. I just control what I can, and try to let go when I can’t. You and your daughter both know that it is exactly that…an treat. During the summer, we go to picnics and cookouts…I used to dread them, but now I just let my kids have two treats, one drink and one dessert of their choosing, or two desserts. Knowing that it’s one of the rare times that they are consuming junk, I feel O.K. about it. The funny thing is, when I watch my children…especially the older ones, at a potluck or cookout, I notice that they mostly choose good foods. Fake foods really look fake and unappealing to them. They know that they feel bad after eating too much junk and are now beginning to make better choices on their own. That’s our goal really…training them to make the choice to eat well on their own. We can only control so much for so long. I think it’s important to give them the choice to eat what they want sometimes…maybe because I have these visions of them going crazy,rebelling, and passing out into a sugar-induced coma if I don’t ever let them have junk…ever. They know my rule…two treats…and they know all about the chemicals in processed foods and the dangers of too much sugar. They also know not to preach about it to their friends, but, rather to lead by example. I think teaching them moderation is almost as important as teaching them to make the right food choices. Anyway, don’t sweat it. Your children are eating well most of the time and the best thing you can do it to keep teaching them *why* they should choose whole foods over processed ones. They may roll their eyes, but it will stick with them.

    1. Totally agree about training them to make good choices for themselves. That’s what I’m trying to work on. I want to give them a good foundation and knowledge that will help them make good choices, without making them into self-important know-it-alls around their friends.

      I find that they do some of both – they do choose to eat junk, but they also work harder at eating good stuff too. Hopefully they will find a good balance.

  17. I just cringe and let my kids eat whatever when they go to friends, church, etc. I don’t know the right answer…we have cut sugar and processed foods out of our diet at home over the past year and a half but like you said, they are exposed to it EVERYWHERE else. I don’t know the answer…

  18. Well….my three brothers and I grew up with parents who were incredibly – incredibly – strict about our diet. No meat, no refined sugar, no white foods, ad infinitum…

    Of course when we got older/were away from home we went nuts. We snuck food at friends’ homes, we gorged ourselved on sweets, ate as much meat as we could consume. I still have horrid visions of one of my brothers in…distress after he ate way more fritos than his body could tolerate. I am certain that we ate poorer because of our restrictions than we would have had my parents been just a bit more lenient.

    Now that we’re all adults, my parents have admitted that they were a little too “extra” with our diets and that they should’ve loosened the reins a bit.

    I am certainly not criticizing your parenting (hope it doesn’t come off as though I am) and feel as though you should continue to raise your wonderful family as you see fit.

    I, however, am a firm believer in moderation – in all things. We don’t eat a lot of junk, definitely no soda, I lean more towards vegetables and grains than meat, but I refuse to raise her with the same dietary restrictions that we had as children. A cookie every now and again, a piece of pepperoni (gasp) pizza, a cup of punch with red dye no. 40… will not be the end of her and we are both happier for it.

    1. Thank you for your perspective. At this point in time, we are in no danger of raising our family the way you describe being raised, lol. Perhaps that’s why I’m struggling, I still feel like we are eating too much junk.

      But I definitely do not want to err on the other side either, and I appreciate you reminding me that there are extremes on either side of the fence.

      I do think that often people are predisposed to gravitate to healthier or non-healthier eating, despite how they were raised. My parents were health nuts when I was younger, which I credit with my appreciation for the taste of whole foods. But as we got older, they got lax, and we had plenty of brownies and pizza and chips and even sodas — not a ton, but they were definitely around enough that we did not feel deprived.

      I still went away and went way overboard on junk. I drank 3-5 Cokes a day in college, ate pizza for 2 or 3 meals a day, ate junky snackfood and rarely ate fruit or vegetables. And I’ve shared here about my struggles with binge eating.

      All that to say, I think people can go overboard on junk even if they had moderation at home. At some point, our kids will have to make choices for themselves, and there will be nothing I can do about it, so I will try to educate them and develop their taste for real food, but at some point, I just have to let go, I guess.

  19. I just threw out a banker’s box full of candy. It was all the candy that my 2 children received for Christmas, V-day and Easter. This was from grandparents and classmates. It is completely ridiculous.

    We are fairly new to the clean eating movement. And we are all working on moderation. I don’t want to be that mom either.

    Since changing our food, my school age daughter says that alot of the cafeteria food upsets her stomach so she has been taking her lunch more. SCORE!

    1. Interesting. I am HOPING my kids get to that point, lol. I know, sounds mean, but if they could associate feeling bad with junkfood, they would make better choices. (Hopefully.)

  20. Haha! I had a grocery store experience just this week too! A man was handing out tasty samples — little plastic cups of snack/assorted fruits/nuts. Don’t recall the brand name, etc. I picked up the package and flipped it over, while he and his cohort watched. “Hm. Second ingredient is sugar,” I said to them. “Weelllll, I bet it’s not actually sugar. Some healthy kind of sugar,” he replied. I looked at him. “Nope. Just sugar. 2nd ingredient.” I turned and walked away. I’m sure they thought I was a freak! But this stuff is being billed as healthy snacking — “fruit and nuts” — and it’s just sugar. Ugh! If I’m gonna eat some sugar, I want it to be real sugar, and I want it to scream, “sweet!”

    1. LOL. I’m with ya there. I don’t mind eating junk every once in a while, and if I’m going to indulge, I want to ENJOY it. 🙂

  21. I had a doctor tell me one time that sugar is like poison to your body. I believe him and I still have a hard time cutting it out. It is probably the number one thing I’m addicted too. (Diet Coke being no. 2, don’t judge. LOL)

    I go grocery shopping and I think I’m bipolar. I go from fresh produce and organic apple sauce in a glass jar to easy mac. Why? Because my kids will eat it and I’m a working mom that leaves my house at seven in the morning and doesn’t get home until 5:30 or later in the evening. I HAVE to have ways to cut corners. I’m just not sure how to do that and keep it all healthy all the time right now.

    1. Hey, we all do what we can, no judgment from me.

      And sometimes, a bowl of Easy Mac just hits the spot, lol.

      Although, have you tried Annie’s boxed mac-and-cheese? It’s a “compromise food” in our house, lol. I buy it b/c my 4-y/o LOVES it, and as long as she eats it with fruit, I don’t feel too bad.

  22. While I think the grocery store should reconsider their treat of choice, I SO APPRECIATE that the store is striving to be kid-friendly. More stores should follow suit. Perhaps, however, they could offer a balloon or a fresh-baked cookie or a coupon for 1 piece of fresh fruit instead… 🙂

    1. I love the balloon idea. My kids live for balloons. But when I was at Trader Joes last week, they usually gave balloons, but they said they’ve discontinued it b/c they’re harmful to birds. Which I understand, but my daughter was bummed.

  23. I have been consistently talking with my kids about how fresh food is healthy food. How when things are packaged and processed its cause they put all kids of chemicals in them so they last forever. My kids ask me all the time if what they are eating is healthy. Every so often we get a treat or splurge but overall we are making the change to eating the right stuff. 🙂 keep swimming against the tide!

  24. We have three children, ages 9, 14, and 16. We have been walking this road for awhile and have never been big on junk food.

    Make it a treat to enjoy a sweet snack occasionally. We stay away from processed foods and don’t keep junk food in the house. On a rare occasion we may buy a bottle of soda or something, but usually we go for the homemade goodies.

    Baking the occasional batch of cookies or brownies is fine. Last night we enjoyed Creme Brulee made by my 16-year old. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and savored it as a treat, made with love from my daughter.

    We struggle with the grandparents who tend to believe that sugary snacks are a basic Human Right;-) Stick to your guns. They may not get it, but that’s okay-your kids will thank you later. When mine go away to camp or spend time at friend’s or family’s, they always tell me how they couldn’t wait to come home to “Real Food”.

  25. Grandparents are a problem for us. They stopped doling out M&Ms when they saw with their own eyes how a bag of fake chocolate sent our daughter through the roof, but they continue to stock up on processed cheese & crackers, fritos, and “healthy” sugar-laden Gogurts. They live close enough to us, and our kids spend enough time with them, that snacks do become an issue. I have made many changes toward a real food diet over the past two years, and I think my mom at some level sees this as a slap at how she fed me and my brothers: “Well, you guys turned out just fine!”

    Like most of the others who’ve responded, we’re big on moderation when it comes to junk food–and we do call it “junk.” Once in awhile, it’s OK. I, too, cannot stand the sheer amount of food–crappy or not–that our kids are confronted with day in and day out–snacks are everywhere at every activity. Kids just expect to eat all day long, but regular meals and a couple of healthy snacks to keep up their energy are really all they need. Dessert and treats are just that: treats.

    I am so enjoying this blog. I’ve read without posting for a couple of months now, and I’ve really learned a whole bunch of new things. Thanks!

    1. You hit on a couple of major issues. First, grandparents are not a problem for us. My parents are on board and my husband’s are not ones to offer the kids a bunch of stuff. They always have ice cream when we visit, which is my sweet treat of choice, I feel that there is SOME redeeming value to it and they usually buy Breyers which really is ice cream and not a bunch of chemicals called ice cream.

      But the whole “we turned out just fine” or “we are just fine” mentality is hard to deal with and it makes things awkward with friends sometimes, which I hate. I never want my food choices to cause a rift between friends or make me seem elitist.

      The other issue you pinpoint – that kids expect to eat all day long – is so true and such a crucial issue to solving the problem of healthy meals. Rarely does a child come to the table hungry. I do try to cut back on snacks, but I could do better. I try to make most of them nutritious and figure, if they don’t eat much dinner, at least they haven’t been filling up on junk.

      It’s hard to believe, in the midst of this conversation, that child hunger is such a rampant problem. I know it is, but it’s just crazy that across the street, parents may be fighting the opposite problem.

      1. I feel the same way re: not wanting my choices to cause a rift with others, especially my parents–our relationship is so good and they adore their grandkids, and they do tons of stuff with them besides feed them junk.

        As for snacking, I struggle, too. My daughter would prefer to graze all day, which I encouraged when she was little, because it was no problem to dole out a few strawberries here, yogurt there, cucumbers and hummus in the afternoon, a cookie and milk…. And eating small amounts of food on a regular basis is actually pretty healthy. But it’s harder now that she’s in school where I can’t monitor everything she puts in her mouth; in addition, I want her to have a certain amount of autonomy. So I’m trying to swing the balance with three square meals and fewer snacks. It’s not easy.

        Another thing I dislike is this idea of “trading off” foods–if you eat some fruit, you can have some junk. I totally agree with the premise of balancing out the good foods and the not-so-good indulgences, but in our home this degenerates into complex (and comical) negotiations over the number of pieces of candy that a banana is worth.

  26. Hi!

    I’ve been lurking courtesy of BigMama for a couple of months now.

    I find it incredibly hard to control what goes on outside of my home. Even within my home it can be difficult as my husband and I have different views on food, ingrediants, and portion size.

    I do what you can, when I can. I teach my kids correct portion size, I teach them to read labels, I let them see me making good decisons, I let them know that even though we “play” outside, that it is considered exercise….things like that.

    It’s a Sisyphus type situation, but we do our best. Blogs like this make us more aware…and for me at least, that’s a GREAT help.

    Keep up the good work.

  27. Good discussion here. My kids are 2&4 and I think the age of the kid is important when deciding what choices you give – younger kids can’t quite get the logic as to why they shouldn’t eat something. It just tastes good. Therefore, I do limit what they are exposed to as much as I can. As they get older and I am able to continuously brainwash, er I mean educate them on real food and food/health connection, I hope they’ll make a majority of good choices on their own.

    But, like someone else said, I would have given my kids the lollipop as to avoid the tears that would have ensued if they were handed the lollipop and then denied it. Maybe it is taking the easy way out, but shopping with young kids is a bit of a ‘just survive it’ experience for me. As they get older, I can see that I’ll be able to tell them no, but for now, I tend to acquiesce in order to keep the peace.

  28. First, I read the article while eating a Hershey’s easter cross, the last one left in my pantry! Ha! 😉

    So, reading that article and many others could make me freak out and feel like I’m slowly killing my kids. Or, I could take it as one more piece of information and continue to make the best choices we can at this point in our lives. It is frustrating that HFCS is in so much stuff. I can’t believe there is so much sugar in baby formula.

    I was very strict on what my first three kids consumed, especially when it came to drinks. Water and milk only for the first two years, and minimal juice after that. They didn’t even taste soda until they were at least five. My girls don’t like it that much, but my son would drink it all the time if we let him. Of course I have not been as rigorous with the younger ones. My 2 yo had a sucker before she turned two, and there is no way I would have done that with the older ones! But she somehow survived. Family has not been helpful in that regard, but I figure my kids don’t spend that much time with extended family, so if they want to give them juice or a sweet treat, that is okay. Actually, my MIL is all about the low-fat and no-fat stuff, whereas I would rather her give my kids full-fat, full-sugar treats if she thinks she has to. I tell my husband all the time that one reason they struggle with their weight, in my opinion, is that they are eating fake food with little flavor, so they eat more than if they would go for the real thing.

    Anyway, like so many said, all you can really do is work on moderation. You definitely shouldn’t worry about offending people with your choices. I tell my kids that some food is junk, and that is why we choose not to eat it as much, but that doesn’t mean they need to be rude to people who do eat it more. I have a huge problem with soda–I don’t keep it in the house, but I have to constantly fight the temptation to get one every day. When I’m doing well I opt for unsweet iced tea and always know that is a better choice (plus I can share with my kids in a pinch and not worry about it as much), but I still sometimes go for the coke. And I tell my kids that it is not good for me and I am trying to work on drinking less of it.

    Talking about the choices we make, recognizing that sometimes we will make a bad one, makes all the difference. I don’t want my kids to be afraid of food, or feel like they have to sneak things just because it is not the ideal food.

    This is the longest comment ever, but I’m still typing! Tonight for dinner we had leftover smoked chicken that I chopped and put in a spinach/hearts of romaine blend with cucumbers and red onions. I also served a bag of SteamFresh mixed veggies. Two of the five kids ate all of their salad, one ate all of her vegetables but picked the chicken out of the salad and ate that, one ate the carrots and the lettuce, and the 2yo ate hardly anything. Only one kid ate everything on her plate. And it is nights like that that are so frustrating and make me want to give up. But I don’t.

    1. It can be frustrating, but I’ve always been one to make stuff that I like, and if they don’t eat it, fine. I am fortunate that mine do eat quite well. It is hard to get them to eat veggies, except fresh green beans and frozen peas. They would all 3 eat those until they’re sick, and they’ve been known to fight over them. For realz. But often the veggies get ignored. I serve them, and I usually don’t make a fuss if they don’t eat them.

      Tonight I made local farm fresh spinach and it turned out perfectly. I put a little bit (and I mean a LITTLE) on everyone’s plate and advised them to eat it while warm, as it tastes better that way. At the end of the meal, they all had spinach left on their plates, and I said in a sing-songy voice, “Spinach before ice cream!” as I had homemade ice cream in the freezer. They were not amused. Two forced it down, and the other tried it, spat it out, and cried b/c she didn’t get ice cream. I stuck to my guns. I dunno, probably not worth the fight, I hardly ever force them to eat anything, but sometimes I just can’t stand to see such good healthy food thrown away.

      Sorry for hijacking your comment. All that to say, don’t give up. They will be so much better off for being exposed to a variety of healthy foods, even if they don’t always eat it.

  29. I’ve so enjoyed reading through the comments and appreciate how you’re handling this issue. We have tried to make healthy changes to our diet over the last year or two and it does often seem like a losing battle when dealing with situations outside the home. My two school-age daughters seem to get candy everywhere – church, school, extracurricular activities, etc. If I see too much coming in the door, I have them select a small number of pieces that they can keep (and eat over the course of several days) and get rid of the rest. I never realized how much holidays centered around candy – and how many things there were to celebrate!! – until recently. I realize that candy is an inexpensive reward, but appreciate those who attempt to use other items as incentives.

  30. I like reading your blog because I have similar interests and intentions in regards to feeding my family whole foods. And I appreciate that you are a busy working mom like me who strives to fit this in among other priorities as well! I have the same frustrations about my preschooler eating sugar – it is nearly all outside to home, given to her by other people! We do occasionally have homemade baked goods at home for dessert, although not everyday, but I feel I need to cut these out in order to counter balance the sugar she receives elsewhere that is beyond my control… ugh!! Thanks for sharing the article – quite motivating.

  31. I make sure my girls get a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner and let it go from there. They eat junk at my parents, they eat junk at school, they eat junk at church. As long as they get good stuff at home, I try not to worry about it. One tip I do have: If we are going to go somewhere that I know they are going to get junk (grandparents), I make them eat before we leave. As soon as they are done eating, then we will leave. If they don’t go hungry, they won’t eat as much. Oh…another one: I let them bring home the rest of the cookies that they baked with grandma or one snack. My older daughter was gorging on the cookies and then vomiting all night. If she knows she can bring them home, then she won’t be tempted to eat them all there. (They go in the garbage when we get home 🙂 )

  32. I am the *Nonny* here. It is SO tempting to buy gummies and candy for the little ones …simply because they love it. But, I love THEM and am trying to do my best to help their parents in their quest towards healthy eating. It does spoil my joy a little, but I just buy bubbles and sidewalk chalk and realize that it is Not About ME!

    1. That is awesome. Bubbles, sidewalk chalk, balloons, stickers, paint, crayons — any consumable products that inspire creativity are awesome and so much better for them than sugar. 🙂

  33. Honestly, I think if you said no to the guy it wouldn’t have been a big deal (like a previous commentor said, just say you don’t let her eat much candy) and letting her have it isn’t a big deal either.

    I think it’s good to allow junk sometimes, in moderation. It’s teaching your kids how to handle their food intake responsibly.

    I think the most important places to limit the junk is at home and anywhere else that they frequent alot. A donut a week prolly isn’t a big deal, but if it’s avilable at each church service, teaching the kids moderation would be good.

    I struggle with this all the time. I have well-meaning aunts that like to hand out junk food and I’ve just learned to let it go and change the meals surrounding that junk food to healthier, less sweet options to balance it all out. (no dessert, less starches for that meal, water to drink etc.)

  34. I probably should have waited to comment until after I read the article LOL I’ve been limiting the boys’ candy/sweets intake pretty well lately, but I’m about to throw out the treat jar we keep around! That article is crazy! I’m actually betting that all the crap in processed foods is what is causing my 3yo all his constipation problems!

  35. I’m sorry, but I need to respectfully disagree with you on this one. I’ve been reading a bit about the dangers of sugar, and I believe that this extremist language in regards to food is misleading. There are dangers to my kids swimming unsupervised; there are dangers to them running into the street without looking. But the only “danger” from food comes after years of many unhealthy behaviors, involving both diet and exercise.

    Right now, my husband is dealing with a life-threatening condition, upcoming brain surgery and no disability insurance. We have dear friends who have lost babies and friends who have lost jobs. They have very real dangers and heartaches in their lives. Calling sugar a “danger” is just not accurate.

    It’s nice to think that we can control our life by controlling what we eat…and to a small extent, we can. But let’s not overstate the issue. Food does not have moral value. By teaching our children that certain foods are “good” and certain foods are “bad,” we are presenting them with a simplistic view of life and of food.

    Jo-Lynne, thank you for your commitment to eating healthy and sharing your journey with your readers. But “”all things in moderation” is a much better principle for children (and adults) rather than labeling foods good or bad. Food does not have moral value, and should be presented as such.

    1. I absolutely agree that food does not have moral value, which is why I wrote a post on “Food Is Not My Religion.” It is a concern of mine, that in discussing this issue, we can get too wrapped up in what we eat.

      The point of this post was to discuss how much is too much and to share how I am struggling with not becoming too extreme, so I would say I pretty much agree with you. But I also do think that the amount of sugar we consume as a society “in moderation” is out of hand. And I don’t want to nit-pick on the use of the word “danger” – there may well be a better word. But many serious diseases are now being traced back to too much sugar in our diets, so I’m not so sure the word danger is out of place. Perhaps “dangers of consuming too much sugar” would have been a better way to put it.

      Thanks for expressing your opinion respectfully. I think you make a valid point about giving food moral value.

  36. OMG I live in Texas, one of the fattest places in the entire world. It’s like swimming up a water fall. It’s fighting a culture. I’ve banned my kids from eating at school and preschool. I’ve had ‘just say no” talks with them, the same as they had with us in the 80s about drugs. I can’t wait to move to Colorado where the culture is very health-conscious and also the only state in the country without a serious obesity problem.

  37. I don’t have kids yet but this topic interests me. Personally, the more you try to keep the “bad food” away from your kids dthe more they are giong to try to sneak to get it. When I was little we ate sugary cereals, had soda, and snacks…and we were never Obese…the kids across the street who weren’t allowed snacks or junk would just come over to our house and go CRAZY and overindulge! They were sick by the time they ate all that they couldn’t. Everything in moderation. If the schools have crappy lunches then why can’t you prepare your own? My mom packed my lunch for me every day even through high school. I think more important than the food is the activity level. Kids need to play more…that’s what I am seeing. After dinner every night I was out running around the neighborhood…that surly burned off the sugar cereal calories! 🙂 lol

    1. Oh I do prepare their lunches!!!! 🙂 And I agree that activity level is important too. I’m so glad we live in a neighborhood where it is common for kids to run around outside. LOL about burning off sugar cereal calories.

  38. Moderation is my goal… my kids don’t get candy/sugar often, so when they do (at the grocery store, or from Grandma, etc), I try not to freak out about it. I put TONS of sugar (love me some chocolate) into my own body, so I really need to be more concerned about that than the dum-dum they get in the checkout lane.

  39. In Ireland when the ice-cream van plays music it means they have run out of icecream – LOL!

    (It didn’t work long on our kids, but it was fun for us while it lasted!!!)

    No other solutions – other than hope that they learn at home about making the right choices, and then when presented with other foods outside the home hope they not always to choose the high sugar / processed options.

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