10 Tactics I'm Using to Battle My Tween's Health Food Rebellion

tween boy eating a hot dog

I used to be one of those moms. You know the ones, with the wholesome fresh fruit snacks, serving organic kale and quinoa to her kids for dinner, kitchen free of junk food. My son accepted all this as normal life for years. It helped that a lot of his friends in our crunchy community ate the same things. But ever since he turned 10, things have been different.

Enter the age of my son's health food rebellion.

It's like he woke up one day and realized there are other options out there. And you know what? He doesn't want that quinoa anymore. Forget anything whole-grain. In fact, now he wants his sandwiches on (gulp) store-bought white bread. What do I do now?


A couple years ago, I wrote about Karen Le Billon's book, French Kids Eat Everything. Her list of 10 food rules for kids was pretty similar to the rules I used for my own son. Do they still apply? I took a look to see which might help, which need tweaking, and what else I may need to add.

1. Be in charge of my son's food education. This is a lifelong thing, isn't it? I'm not going to lecture about nutrition (though I may slip in a detail every once in a while). But sharing an appreciation for all kinds of food is something I can definitely keep doing.

2. No food rewards or punishments. Yep, this still applies. Dessert is something you eat because it's yummy and you still have room after a healthy dinner -- not because you did something well.

3. No short-order cooking. Okay, so he doesn't want to eat that brown rice with the stir-fry? Fine. I'm not arguing over it. He can fill up on just the stir-fry, which has most of the important nutrients in the meal anyway. But I'm also not cooking a batch of white rice.

4. Eat family meals together. I have completely dropped the ball on this one. I get home after 7 p.m. most nights and we end up eating separately, hovering over our books or laptops. But back-to-school time is the kick in the pants I need to get us back into the habit.

5. Eat our veggies. I am definitely still eating a variety of veggies and offering them to my son. Thank goodness he hasn't started rebelling against them yet.

6. You don't have to like it, but you do have to taste it. By now my son has had plenty of opportunities to taste things. So I don't cajole. I just offer. Every once in a while, I'll insist he at least try something.

7. Better snacking. Le Billon's rule is "no snacking," but ha! Snacking is definitely happening, especially since dinner doesn't happen until 8 p.m. or so. I can try to make sure what snacks we have are mostly nutrient-dense foods that my son likes, such as cheese. Um, ice cream has a lot of calcium, right? Hm ...

8. Eat slowly. If we started eating dinner together again, this would most definitely happen.

9. Eat mostly "real food." Even though I cook less these days (or maybe just more simply), I am still trying to keep fresh and less-processed food around. Breakfast is still tough, but if my son eats those frozen waffles with real Grade B maple syrup and a glass of whole milk, that's two out of three. I'll take it! Ditto homemade pesto and real cheddar on white bread in his grilled cheese sandwich.

10. Remember: Eating is joyful. Relax! Maybe as my son gets older, this rule will become even more important. Food needs to remain in the non-conflict zone. We'll continue exploring foods we both like together. And I'll have to relax when we don't make the super-healthy food choices I wish we did.

Have you experienced a "food rebellion" with your kids? Did you change your food rules as your kids got older?


Image ©iStock.com/Juanmonino 

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