Why It's Good for Kids to Eat Food That's 'Bad' for Them

Rant 11

For many parents, feeding our children is an activity fraught with drama. Whether we have good eaters, over-eaters, picky eaters, or never eaters (like my son who lives on air), most of us worry a great deal about what goes into our kids' bodies. Some of them even worry a bit too much.

A post currently up at The Huffington Post discusses the "Five Things to Never Feed Your Child" and it's a good one. They are pretty obvious. Don't feed your kids artificial coloring (hyperactivity) or hot dogs (nitrates) or soda (sugar) or full-strength juice or quick processed meals (sodium). Any mildly health conscious parent already knows this stuff.

The problem is, with kids, you should never say never.

I say this as a mom who runs 35+ miles a week, eats as much unprocessed, local, and organic food as I can, and generally maintains my weight, health, and fitness level with vigor. I expect my children to do the same and care about their health and I model this behavior for them. This doesn't mean I am the food police.

I will never be the mother who always says no to all foods. If my kids want a hot dog once in a while, they can have one. If they want full-strength juice, I will not say no. Children SHOULD experience all foods so that they can make decisions for themselves.

By having "forbidden" foods, parents set themselves up for disappointment in their children's food choices. Practicing and modeling an "everything in moderation" model is a much wiser way to go.

Sure, in my home, we don't have processed foods or juices or soda (ever). But when we're out and about, I don't pack food for my kids. They can have a colored cupcake or a hot dog or even (gasp!) some juice. I do draw the line at soda because why start them on that unnecessarily? Besides, giving my children sugar water or caffeine isn't part of my "everything in moderation" plan. But the rest? I would never say NEVER. I guess I am crazy like that.

Being a mom means sometimes being flexible. I am raising my children in a slightly more lenient way food-wise than my mother raised me. She was ahead of her time on the natural and organics craze. While I appreciated (and still appreciate) the introduction to healthy eating, it's also true that the more my mother refused to buy or let me have Froot Loops, the more I craved them and ate them at other kids' houses.

I appreciate the effort moms and dads make toward having healthy children. But deprivation won't solve the problem. No matter how many newfangled diets and eating plans come out, the same old standard always prevails: everything in moderation.

Healthy, active, and non-obese children can have a (nitrate-free, healthy) turkey hot dog once a month without major concerns. Sheltering kids won't work forever. Teach them to make healthy choices at your house and they won't gorge on "forbidden" foods at Sally's house.

Do you feed your kids these "never" foods?




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Kritika Kritika

Totally agree with your article. My mom gave me and my sisters this stuff every once in a while but 99% of the time it was home cooked food. We are all perfectly healthy. The only thing she NEVER let us buy were the Little Debbie snacks and now I buy them regularly... just because I can lol...they're great with coffee on a lazy sunday :)

momto... momtolittleg

I agree, and I have given my 4 year old all the things on that list. Well, my MIL gives her diet coke, not me. The last thing she needs is caffeine! We also eat candy, milkshakes and drink regular milk. GASP!

Melis... Melissa042807

We're health nuts at home but yeah, we take Kiddo out for fast food once in a while. It's a treat. Nothing wrong with the occasional treat. We've let him taste soda a couple of times but he doesn't like the carbonation. Gets this funny scrunched-up face like "What is THAT!" and shakes his head. LOL

Sierr... SierraLynn

We let dd eat most of that, except soda. My mom and grandpa enabled me drinking soda when I was young and grew into an addiction that I am not proud of. When I was pregnant with dd I cut down drastically, but it is still a struggle to not just go grab a pop. I am pregnant again and only drink 1 sprite with dinner each night.

I do not want my daughter and new baby to learn from mommy that soda is okay. It's not for the most part. But I think my moderation is pretty good, seeing as how bad it was before.

But dd will have hotdogs when we make something spicy, or something in general we know she won't like. I see no harm.

Scuse my typos.

mlber... mlberry4172

I am a moderation mom. My mom was very strict and I was always wanting the bad foods my friends had. As an adult I appreciate what she did, but I am more flexible. I also tell my boys WHY these are "bad" foods, discuss calories and fat. Funny side note though, my husband could not believe it when I told him I had never had hamburger helper, he stood there in disbelief. My parents HATED processed foods, they were ahead of their time too I guess.

nonmember avatar Shannon

My grandmother was WAY ahead of her time and refused to let my mom eat junk food. My mom rode her bike around, picked up bottles, turned them in and bought 3 Musketeers bars with the money and crammed them in her mouth on the way home. Trying to avoid that, my mom rarely said "no" to us and while I eat pretty healthily now, I gained 20 lbs. in seventh grade from eating a big bowl of cookie dough ice cream every night. I am trying to practice a more moderate approach with my son. We have mostly unprocessed foods in the house and he can have "fun" foods like cookies and ice cream when we go out, which is not too often.

Eques... EquestrianMom

We mainly eat healthy, home cooked, locally grown foods. I work hard, and try hard to keep my foods as good for me as possible, or I run out of energy during the day. That said, we do indulge in "bad" foods. I get one box of non healthy cereal ( cookie crisps are a fav!) for my son and I to eat while watching cartoons on saturday mornings. We get processed fruit snacks (ok, 100% natural and organic, no dyes, corn syrup, ect) but lets not kid, I know they still aren't healthy. But they are great when my kid gets hungry while we are driving! LOL! We eat non healthy foods, just not often. Oh, and my son gets soda too, but he doesn't like it much, his favorite is Big Sky brand Black Cherry. And yeah, when we have soda, he gets maybe the bottom 1/4 of a 6oz glass to drink. Like, once a month, cause I have to go to a specialty store to get our fav brand :P 

consc... consciousmom

You and I are kindred spirits.  Being uber-restrictive and fearful only causes more interest in the forbidden food.  At my home, we only eat organic.  When we are out and about, with the junk food everywhere, I model and explain why I choose what I eat.  And like Cookie Monster says, "Cookies are a sometime food" not an all the time food.  Now at age 6, my daughter shares with me when she makes healthy choices, because she feels good about it, not because I'm giving her my approval.  In my case, I have joint custody with an ex husband who feeds her junk food all the time, so she gets mixed messages about how to eat, and what is good, etc.  It adds a tough dynamic to the situation for sure, which leaves me feeling a little more responsible for teaching her the healthy habits she isn't learning at her dad's house.

Bodda... Boddah266

I am the same way as the author. My son called me Captain Organic last week. lol

I walk at least 30 miles a week (even do Leslie Sansone's 5 mile walk indoors if it's gross out!) and hate processed foods. Frozen dinners don't exist here. Not because I think it makes anyone a bad mother but because I cannot stand paying so much for so little when home cooked meals go much further and are better for us.

That being said, in Summer I have no problem grilling a few (usually all chicken or turkey) hot dogs next to the chicken and letting my kids have juice. Just like the author though, soda is off limits! 

GlowW... GlowWorm889

I agree with the author. Forbidding things only makes the appeal stronger. I remember my freshmen year of college. Half the kids were tired and sick all the time because when they ate junk food all the time! And they'd admit that their parents would never let them eat like that. It's also where the phrase "Freshmen 15" comes from. Unlike me, who spent my first semester freshmen year eating a ton of bananas (for some odd reason, I craved bananas like crazy!), salads, and trying to get a balanced diet. I didn't have the urge to eat junk food all the time. I grew up in a house that emphasized healthy eating (we had our own vegetable garden), but junk food was also around plenty. I was taught that it's okay to eat junk food. It just shouldn't be your meal all day every day. That said, I don't really think I could subsist on junk food alone. I start craving real food!

In my opinion, telling your kids some foods are "good" and some foods are out-and-out "bad" is just asking for an eating disorder. When your life revolves around finding "good" foods and avoiding "bad" ones, your child is going to spend his/her life either overindulging in the bad foods (like above) or constantly being paranoid that they're not eating the "right" foods. Yikes! Besides even those "good" foods are bad for you in excess. Even too much water can kill you. All foods are fine in moderation. All foods are bad in excess. The key is to find balance.

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