dietYou're never quite prepared for the day your kindergartner comes home and announces her friend is on a diet.

We were standing in the bathroom, brushing her teeth before going out to the town Halloween party, where I was prepared to let her eat as much candy as she wanted, then run it all off with her friends on the town playground.

What followed was a parenting fail of the fifth degree. I couldn't say a thing, worried I was going to incriminate myself as a judgmental mother with a history of eating disorders. I've been praying this day would never come.

No such luck. And while you're sitting there, smugly relieved that your kids don't hang out with such riffraff, a little warning: a new survey of the eating habits of American kids conducted by CouponCodes4U shows a quarter of all kids under the age of 12 are on a diet.

 

The site hit up 6,523 parents to track the eating habits, and they found 26 percent had actually put their kids on diets, and another 11 percent were watching what their kids ate. In light of the childhood obesity crisis, that might not sound that serious.

I watch what my kid eats, don't you? My kid might think it makes me a dictator. I think it keeps me out of jail.

It makes us parents. Good, caring ones at that (Mrs. Obama would be proud).

But only 6 percent of those parents who put their kids on diets did it at their pediatrician's behest. And of all the parents questioned, 58 percent said their kids generally eat junk food the most (24 percent said healthy food came first).

OK, remember what I said about a history of eating disorders? Taking diets into your own hands is bad, people. I know! Been there, have the binge/purge cycle down pat to prove it. And I'm not  letting my kid end up on that same path. Even if her classmate's skipping lunch to maintain her 5-year-old figure.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises kids avoid fad diets in favor of simply eating healthy food (aka a LOT of vegetables) and getting off their butts to exercise. They say that even for the obese kids, suggesting you -- surprise, surprise -- talk to your pediatrician if you think more extreme measures need to be taken.

And if your kid is coming home talking about their classmate who is on a diet, KidsHealth has a suggestion that will keep your gums from flapping like a guppy like mine. "Everyone has been on a diet," they say. "A diet is simply the collection of the foods you regularly eat."

So my kid is on a diet too. A diet of broccoli and homemade mac and cheese and apples and a whole mess of healthy, balanced food.

What about yours?

 

Image via floodkoff/Flickr