This is a guest blog post by Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD
When my son Henry was two years old, we were out with another mom and her child when Henry pointed to a vending machine and squealed, “Pepsi!”
I was horrified.
I fell all over myself explaining that Henry had never tasted soda and we didn’t keep it in the house and he never saw commercials so I didn’t understand how he could possibly know what Pepsi even was.
Five years later, I know a lot better. I know that kids learn about pop and Froot Loops and Cool Ranch Doritos despite our best efforts to shield them from it. As much as we try to keep our kids in a bubble (made entirely out of flaxseed and unrefined flour of course), junk food finds a way in.
1. Because kids talk about junk food. They compare lunches and Halloween loot and boast about fast food they’ve had. You can probably still name the childhood friend who had the stash of sugary cereals–or the one with the bottomless candy drawer, right?
2. Because while you may serve the most delicious, all-natural, local and organic home cooking made with love, food manufacturers spend billions of dollars convincing your child that she’d rather have a Lunchable.
3. Because it tastes good. Seriously, have you had a Cheeto lately? This stuff is engineered to excite the senses, and it does.
Another thing that’s changed: I no longer try to shield my kids from junk food. We still don’t keep soda in the house. Ditto for a slew of other foods. But Henry’s allowed to have a root beer at Grammy’s house (see above). My children each pick out a small bag of chips for car trips, and I don’t make them choose the baked chips if they really want the cheese curls (and believe me, they really want the cheese curls).
We also talk a lot about “growing foods” and “sometimes foods”. Junk food is a fact in the food environment–and they’ve got to learn how to navigate it one way or another.
If your child would rather have one of your whole wheat date muffins for breakfast than a Wild Berry Pop-Tart, I am genuinely happy for you. Your life will be much, much easier because of it.
But if not, I’ll be the first to say: You haven’t failed. You haven’t done anything wrong. Stay the course. Stock your house with the foods you want your children eating.
But at the same time, remember all the times you stained your fingers Cheetos orange or went on a Gummy Bear bender–and cut your kid some slack when he wants those same foods.
How do you manage junk food in your child’s life?
Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, freelance writer, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. She writes frequently about health and nutrition for consumer magazines such as Parents, Fitness, and Family Circle.