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

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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