Feeding Our Kids: Why We Don’t Force Veggies and Allow Snacks

posted by Andrea | 03/31/2015
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feeding our kids

Lately, I’ve heard SOOOOO much hype (in the media, on the news, and from real-life acquaintances) about what our children should and should not be eating, why they MUST be eating a certain amount of veggies, why we should not let our kids eat snacks or sugar or salt (because apparently they lead to childhood obesity), organic versus non-organic, GMOs, and all these time-consuming “creative” ways to force more fruits and veggies into our kid’s diets.

Blah, blah, blah — I’ve just started to tune it all out.

I know I’m not a dietitian, nor do I really have ANY knowledge about food or proper eating habits. But I do know that whatever organic or non-organic veggies and snacks my kids may or may not be eating is VERY far down on my list of daily priorities or concerns.

Here’s why…

1. Forcing any type of food never seems like a great idea with small children.

I realize Nora is considerably more stubborn and strong-willed than many children (including Simon); however, any time I try to FORCE or PREVENT either of my children from eating something, they almost always want to do the exact opposite.

So if I tell Nora that she absolutely MUST eat the broccoli on her plate, no questions asked, she probably won’t — even though broccoli is one of her favorite cooked veggies. And if I try to force-feed Simon something he doesn’t want, it’s NOT going to work!

Similarly, if I tell Nora she may never ever have a snack, she’s going to beg and beg and beg me for a snack ALL day long.

And if we’re really honest, adults function in the same way. If I told you that you’ll never be allowed to have chocolate ever again, you’ll probably start thinking about it right now and be craving it for days and days… just thinking about the fact that you can’t have it.

Obviously, I think there are times when we might need to “insist” that they try one bite of something, or simply say “no dessert unless you eat 3 more bites” but for the most part, I’ve witnessed that when parents force or prevent certain foods, the kids will go against those rules any time their parents aren’t around to force or prevent (I had MANY college friends who went crazy in the dining halls once they moved out of their parent’s homes).

2. I don’t want to send negative messages about food.

I personally try not to talk about “good foods” or “bad foods” or “things that make us fat”.

Instead, I try to send the message that ALL food is good, but that some choices are simply healthier, more filling, and more appropriate at different times of the day than others (a.k.a. no pickles for breakfast!)

Yes, we often “guide” our children’s food choices (do you want a banana, grapes, or an orange?) but we rarely stop them from eating anything they are interested in eating.

For example, if Nora keeps saying she’s hungry and want’s M&M’s, I’ll say that she may definitely have some M&M’s AFTER she chooses something more filling — like a banana, pretzels, yogurt, or cheese and crackers.

If she turns down my offers, then I know she’s probably not too hungry and just wanted the chocolate.

That said, there are other times during the day that I will give her M&M’s without any “qualifications”. If she chooses some M&M’s as her dessert after dinner (and she eats her dinner well) then that’s fine.

Sometimes I’ll also let her pick any snack she wants for a special event or a long car ride — and if M&M’s are her choice, I’ll explain that they might not be very filling but that she can still choose them if she wants. Or maybe I’ll add some peanuts and pretzels to her M&M snack to make it more filling.

I’m HOPING that by doing this, my kids will enjoy a variety of foods without thinking of them as “good” or bad”… but instead, just “different”.

3. I know that snacks, salt, and sugar are NOT the only causes of childhood obesity.

As if parents don’t have enough to worry about, we are constantly bombarded with messages trying to scare us into believing our kids will be overweight and obese if we give them a cookie, candy, or some chips.

I have a feeling the real issue with obese children is that they don’t get enough exercise each day… not they they eat a few snacks.

Both my children are BIG snackers and neither one is even close to reaching an obese status. They both still eat well at meals and Nora often surprises me by choosing healthier snack options when I give her a choice.

In fact, this past weekend, I thought she would want one of the brownies we had made for her afternoon snack… but instead, she chose to eat a banana and some Cheerios with Simon (while I enjoyed a brownie) 🙂

4. Kids know when they are hungry and full.

Like I mentioned earlier, I am not a dietitian, but after going through 2 rounds of food therapy with Nora when we couldn’t get her to eat anything, I learned that kids are actually MUCH better that adults at knowing when they are hungry and full.

Just think about how many times you’ve been pretty full, but still ate dessert because it just sounded good. Or you’ve gone to a holiday party or a buffet and just kept eating and eating, even though you were already SO full.

Kids (for the most part) don’t do that.

They eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. Yes, there are times when I tell Nora “you need to eat one more bite” or “you need to at least try one bite” but I can almost instantly tell if she really is full and can’t eat anymore or if she’s just saying it to get out of eating a less-enjoyed food.

And even though Simon is still very young, he will literally push his bottle or the spoon away and keep his mouth shut if he’s too full (it’s actually pretty funny!)

5. I’m a huge advocate for MODERATION!

As long as my children are getting enough to eat and eating relatively balanced meals with some protein, some starch, some fruits, and some veggies, I’m really not too concerned with much else.

After all, do you know how many mothers in this world don’t even have the privilege of providing enough food for their children each day — let alone an appropriate variety of organic and “approved” foods.

While I agree that our children’s health and well-being is VERY important, and obviously, we all want to do what’s best for our kids, there are just so many more important issues than if they got exactly 3 servings of fruits or veggies in the past 24 hours.

Are they safe, happy, loved, growing (mind, body, spirit)? Are they kind and generous? Are they learning proper values and morals and life lessons that will serve them well into adulthood?

If so, you’re probably doing a decent job as parents, even if you did count those veggies straws as their vegetable of the day or take them to Culver’s for dinner 🙂

6. The worst-case scenario of a picky eater isn’t really THAT bad.

I know this is kind of a cop-out excuse — but if we really stop and think about it, what is the absolute worst-case scenario if our children grow up to be picky eaters?

Dave and I have a handful of adult friends and relatives who are VERY picky eaters — and while I will admit, it is difficult for them to eat out in public, I will also say that they ALL live very fun, happy, active, successful, and fulfilling lives.

They are “normal”, they are contributing to society, they have good jobs, they have lots of friends, they have families, and they are surviving just fine even though they have a very limited list of foods they enjoy.

So if you’re super stressed out about the fact that your child will not eat any vegetables or fruits, just take a deep breath, relax, and know that they will probably grow out of it. And if they don’t, they will almost certainly grow up to be a decent human being despite their lack of food variety.

7. I want  food to be enjoyable for my whole family.

Growing up, we almost ALWAYS had dinner together at the table with my whole family… and I know Dave’s family operated the same way.

Now, because our kids are so young, we basically eat every single meal together (although Dave is only home for dinner and on weekends). We enjoy making the food together, we sing and read stories while the kid’s finish eating, we have “fun” cleaning up their big messes after every meal and seeing who spilled more, Simon or Nora or Dad 🙂

We REALLY love having people over for dinner or going to other people’s homes for dinner — and I don’t ever want to be that parent who doesn’t let their kids eat food other people have lovingly prepared for them, or the supposed “junk food” at their friend’s or cousin’s birthday party.

As I said before, in my opinion, ALL food can be “good”… in moderation. I want to be able to enjoy all of it, and let my kids experience all of it. I want to make their beloved comfort foods for special occasions (even if that means pasta, cheesy potatoes, pickles, peas, and strawberries all in one meal!) I want to have fun lunches like “red lunch” or “the letter ‘C’ lunch” where everything is one color and/or starts with the letter C — even if they all aren’t super healthy organic food choices.

I want my kids to enjoy eating the way Dave and I do, and view it as a form of hospitality — not something to be fearful or cautious of. So yes, they need to TRY at least one bite of everything we are eating… but after they try that one bite, I’m not going to force them to eat and eat and eat until they hate coming to the table because they don’t like the food.

I completely understand that all families and all kids are different — and obviously food allergies and sensitivities play a factor into eating habits. However, I will say that at this point in my life and my parenting journey, I have basically tuned out everything anyone says or advises or suggests about what MY kids should or shouldn’t be eating.

Again, I want to reiterate that I am NOT a food expert or dietitian and I certainly don’t have all the “right answers”. But based on the number of emails and questions I get about kids and food (mainly because of my past posts about Nora’s food issues earlier in her life) I know that the food our kids eat is a HUGE stressor for so many parents… and I really don’t think it should be.

I don’t think we should feel ashamed if we don’t buy organic foods for our family and I don’t think we should feel badly about our parenting abilities based on what our children will or will not eat.

My kids most definitely eat their fair share of cookies, candy, chips, and other not-as-nutritious foods — but it’s just PART of their daily diet. They also eat loads of fruits and veggies and dairy… and Nora has been gobbling up almost any type of meat we put on her plate (she even tried one bite of our Tilapia the other day!)

Based on general common sense and my life-long personal experience with eating in moderation, I can almost guarantee that our children’s future well-being and happiness in life will not come back to whether or not we fed them 3 servings of organic fruits and veggies each day or whether we let them have a few fruit snacks, Skittles, or an Oreo every now and then.

Food is a wonderful gift that we can share with our children… let’s stop treating it like “the bad guy” or a stressful part of life and just start enjoying it! 

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44 comments

  1. Maria

    09/05/2016

    Thanks so much for this post. It really hit home as I fret so much over my grandson’s eating habits – he is a very picky eater. I really feel so much better knowing that “everything in moderation” is key and that meal time should be a stress free a happy time.

    I especially liked your philosophy and totally agree:

    “Are they safe, happy, loved, growing (mind, body, spirit)? Are they kind and generous? Are they learning proper values and morals and life lessons that will serve them well into adulthood?”

    This is what is truly important in life and it looks like you’re doing a fine job!

    Original content from AndreaDekker.com: http://andreadekker.com/why-we-let-our-kids-eat-snacks/#ixzz4JPkBsIA9
    Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike

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  4. Samantha

    04/19/2015

    Great article! My kid’s school did a whole lesson on “good” food vs “bad” food. I wasn’t happy about it as we have the policy that food is not “good” or “bad”, it’s just food. Will too much chocolate make you feel sick? Yes, but so will too many apples. Moderation is key.

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  5. Lynda

    04/12/2015

    I loved this! Thank you for writing this, it’s exactly how I feel! I sometimes feel in the minority in our community where anything that is not organic is looked down upon. My kids eat healthy varied diets most of the time 😉 and we have dinner as a family every evening. My hope is that we raise good souls and put good people out in this world… An occasional snack or treat won’t hinder that 🙂

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  6. Karen Jeanne

    04/12/2015

    I totally agree with what you said about how as soon as we are told we can’t have something, we want it more. My real-life example of this: I never really liked Cheetos, & only recall eating them once or twice growing up, but when I learned I could never eat them due to an allergy, I craved Cheetos for days. I still occasionally feel the urge to eat them, & it’s only because I can’t. Aren’t humans contrary creatures? Thanks for the post!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    wow, that’s crazy — but yes, I totally know what you mean. It’s amazing how quickly we want something we know we can’t (or shouldn’t) have!

    [Reply]

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  8. Sue

    04/03/2015

    ‘everything in moderation ” is the motto in our house.. we have cookes and candy jars.. in our house.. honestly.. I have easter candy in my fridge from 2 years ago !! the kids have not eaten or asked for.. cause I believe when it is always there and they do get it, they do not go nuts over it..
    I had friends growing up that would NEVER- EVER have ” junk food” in the house cause” Mom was always on a diet.”. so when they had the chance to have ” junk food ” they could not handle it… ie friend in highschool ate an entire bag of doritos at one sitting , ” cause I never know when I will get them again ” ( it is been over 20 years I have never forgotten her saying this . ) So I think you are on the right track Andrea.. we have the same rules in our house.. it just seems like the no carb… bad food thing is the new “fad”

    sue in NJ

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  9. Holly

    04/02/2015

    Such a good post.
    We’re similar with our daughter. We never insist she eats all her dinner. If she’s full, that’s fine. I had to train myself out of eating everything on my plate, and I don’t want her to do that. If we have dessert, she can have dessert, even if she didn’t eat all her dinner. The only thing we do insist on is that she have one piece of each vege, otherwise no more food that night. If she wants ‘junky’ snack food, she can have it, usually after she’s had something healthy, so there is balance. I don’t want food to ever become an issue for her.

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  10. Darlene

    04/01/2015

    I’m a retired RN and while I’m also not a dietician, I totally agree with your philosophy. I think many parents cause more food problems than they solve by obsessing about what they eat or won’t eat.i enjoy your blog and admire all you and your husband have accomplished. I wish I could have been that focused!

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    Liane Reply:

    Hi Darlene,
    I am an RNc (and retired from teaching and practice) and while not a RD, my best friend is and we have heated discussions over her obsessions with fat and mine with sugar!

    I think what we all can take away from this discussion is BALANCE. It is essential to avoid the pyschological traps and mind games we get into with food and kids and eating. Like bribery and treats for doing chores. Leveraging good with bad (or even having the mindset to consider assigning these values to food). When I think of the things my generation went through! Being sent to bed without dinner for some misbehavior problem. Being told to eat something that makes you gag to be able to eat a food afterwards that is nothing but refined sugar and fat! Imagine, telling a child he can have some fried liver if he eats his peas! We set up our kids to see sugary treats as something special and different from “real” food, instead of simply providing a huge range of nutritious foods that don’t cause the sugar problems so prevalent today. I would wager that half the behavorial problems we see in schools are due to a diet too high in refined carbs, especially breakfasts that leave a kid in low sugar limbo mid morning – and the other half kids who get nothing at all and who are sent to school hungry. For me, personally, a breakfast lacking in good quality protein makes me hangry all day long.

    So where I think we need to go, insofar as not creating eating problems in our kids is to not set them up for failure in the first place. Give them a good breakfast, and when they are hungry and are asking for sweets, offer grapes, bananas, dried fruits – in other words sweet stuff that has no acellular sugars added. The fiber slows down digestion and absorption and they don’t get into that cycle of wanting more in a few minutes.

    I did a sugar dexox program for some families dealing with childhood type two diabetes recently and one thing that the parents of these two darling kids told me was that if the stuff is out of the house it is not nearly as much an issue than if it is visable and available but off limits.

    We choose to eat healthy in our home, and for us those choices mean not eating foods that are contaminated by carcinogens, created in laboratories or imported from countries known to dump raw sewage into their waterways. We do not obsess and our children and grandchildren know that our refrigerator has tons of yummy things to eat. They also know that there are no store bought baked goods and no candy and they don’t whine fuss or go on tantrums. They are perfectly happy with grapes, celery boats, olives stuck on carrot sticks, mozzarella sticks and hard boiled eggs. So much so that my hardboiled eggs disappear here whenever grandkids are around!

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  11. Becky

    04/01/2015

    Great post! We feel the same way in our family. I never wanted to make meal time a battle, so we’ve always presented our son with what we are having for dinner, then let him choose what to eat. When he was younger, he mostly preferred fruit, and I actually found myself one night telling him he had to take another bite of pizza before he could have a banana! Haha. But now that he’s a bit older (he’s 2.5) he eats a wide variety of foods, and he does not throw a fit when we ask him to try a bite of carrots, green beans, etc. If he says he doesn’t like something, we say “ok, you don’t have to eat it, but thanks for trying it.” I’ve also made sure to never force him to finish a meal. I figure he knows when he is full far better than I would know if he is full!

    I think your post had lots of great points, and I definitely agree.

    [Reply]

  12. Barrie

    04/01/2015

    Thanks for this balanced, real-life perspective! I have blogged about and struggle with eating in my family- but my approach is really with a few goals- one of them being that my kids weren’t eating ANYTHING that they hadn’t seen before, and I kept hearing from other parents when my kids would eat at their houses, that my kids wouldn’t eat…I think I was embarrased at their bad manners! So part of my now, routine of dinner as a family, is just asking them to try everything on their plate at least a little (one bite), and then they can have seconds or thirds of anything they want…I don’t obsess over GMO- I agree with many previous posts that just making things from scratch, and a variety of all things, is better than a box- but like you I think BALANCE and moderation are the best for the child and the parent!
    I appreciate this discussion- and the resource of Jill Castle, that someone mentioned too-

    [Reply]

  13. Lee Cockrum

    03/31/2015

    Great post!!! Except I love salty things like pickles and olives for breakfast!!! LOL
    Definitely no sweets in the am, rather do leftover dinner rather than anything sweet:)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — Nora would eat a whole jar of pickles in one sitting if I let her — so we don’t let her eat them for breakfast. However, I too love eating diner leftovers for breakfast as I’m not a huge cereal lover 🙂

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    Lee Cockrum Reply:

    She and I are kindred spirits when it comes to pickles!! LOL

    [Reply]

  14. Dana

    03/31/2015

    Thank you for this positive approach to food and children’s eating habits – and not bashing parents who choose organics or those who purchase GMO’s in general on your blog. Our society is obsessed with food, and most of us in the US are fortunate enough to have plenty of it available, unlike other parts of the world (and some parts of our own country). Healthy kids should be able to eat the way they want to, along with some healthy choices from parents. Amen!

    [Reply]

    Liane Reply:

    @Dana
    I echo your comment. Those of us who have chosen to skip GMO and processed food are often bashed for our choices. I personally would not feed a child anything with high fructose corn syrup, that is GMO, that contains neurotoxins like monosodium glutamate or aspartame primarily because I don’t consume those foods myself. I do enjoy some nice home baked peanut butter cookies made with good old fashioned peanut butter and real dairy butter and real cow eggs – I just don’t buy stuff from the bakery aisle. And brownies!!!! Yes to the brownies.

    But in defense of those who are wary about the foods that are new to the last generation – I do applaud you as well. None of the stuff I mentioned up there in the last paragraph existed when I was a child. Autism was rare, autoimmune diseases were rare, childhood obesity was rare. As a diabetic educator the trend to additives and manipulated foods scares me!

    Somehow my mom managed to raise me and my brother in a big city far from farms with whole foods – not whole grains, since they were unheard of, and not Whole Foods either! We had cake, cookies, waffles, pancakes. But my mom made them. We ate oatmeal, not cocoa crispies and capn crunch style stuff. Cream of wheat slathered in brown sugar (cane) and real butter. I followed her lead, and raised two children without bagged chips, bagged candies (except Halloween and Easter) and we all turned out just fine. A big bowl of fruit was always available and I ate an apple a day from the time I was old enough to pick up the slice. My mom told us to avoid sugar to avoid cavities. Nowadays I see youngsters who clearly have far more problems than needing their teeth filled. The sad thing is that obesity is the LAST symptom to appear in a child who has a steady diet of refined sugar. A normal healthy child who gets lots of play and outdoor activity will burn off all the extra calories she eats. But if she eats enough sugar daily to develop insulin resistance, all bets are off. Children also develop Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. Unheard of before they put sugar in darn near every product on the shelves of our grocery stores.

    I just do not think we can ignore the growing body of evidence that too much sugar can cause a problem.

    I also don’t think it hurts to run out of stuff! Gosh, we ate all the Skittles and I cannot go to the store so lets make celery boats!

    [Reply]

    Margaret Reply:

    I have to agree 100 percent that we should not just ignore all the junk that is in the packages food. I used to do just that and was unaware of how bad it is for our bodies. Our bodies are not made to break down and process all the extras in these foods. Diet can have a huge influence on ones mental health as well as physical. I don’t want to obsess either and having crackers, chips, store bought breakfast bars , frozen pizza etc in moderation is probobly okay. What is moderation for one may not be for another. There is far too much sugar in everything now as well. Food does not need to be a fight, or good versus bad , it’s simply offering healthy food from the time they start eating regular food. If a child is hungry they will eat and they will eat what you serve them. I have one picky eater but come to find out she has a dairy intolerance which was giving her tummy aches and we didn’t know that until age 3, now she eats almost as well as the other three. We don’t have any off limits foods, I simply offer my kids healthy food and feel no guilt letting them eat a minimal amount of processed and surgery treats. Minimal is key! They can still have it but filling up on the good stuff comes first. Please don’t ignore the ingredients put in factory made foods, but don’t stress either.

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  15. Lori

    03/31/2015

    AMEN, sister!

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  16. Erin Meyer

    03/31/2015

    I know I already commented on this post once, but you got me thinking so much after reading this that I went totally off the topic on my own blog in order to respond to what you said. Thanks! http://www.the-organized-life.com/the-power-of-a-number-a-passionate-response/

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Erin — good post topic 🙂

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  17. Summer Lee

    03/31/2015

    Just wanted to send a quick note to say I loved this post! I loved reading all your points and as a 32-year old single girl, the entire post was relatable to me and my life (and I don’t have kids!). Thanks for this post! Your thoughts on eating are going to be very helpful for me as I start to focus on eating healthy foods the majority of the time with a few splurges and treats thrown in, instead of trying to eat 100% healthy 24/7 and totally depriving myself of any non-healthy treats.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Summer — and yes, these points are all applicable to adults as well. Thanks for pointing that out 🙂 I just wanted to talk more about kids in this post because I think there is so much needless pressure on parents to feed our children perfectly balanced and portioned and approved foods.

    You’re only a couple years older than me… so think back to what we eat when we were kids! We’re still alive and doing just fine even though my sister’s and I ate bologna and processed cheese sandwiches practically every day!!

    [Reply]

  18. sarah

    03/31/2015

    your post today highlights all the things I do with my kids and what I see with others. My husband’s family use to force him to eat as a baby not realizing that he was full. But when his sister came along they were happy that she eat all the time and they didn’t stop her. He was the skinny kid and she was the hefty while they were growing up. Now with our daughter we allow snacks we stressed the you can have a piece of candy after having something healthy – she moderates her sugar intake better than her friends who want to eat all the sugar they can find (Because it isn’t allowed in the house). the other thing I hate to see when i’m in public is at play areas. When we take our kids to a play place we don’take them eat before they can play. I would rather them play and get their energy out rather than be forced to eat. I found if they are really hungry they will take the time to eat, if not they don’t mind cold food.

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  19. Kelly

    03/31/2015

    Amen! And thank you! I am in the process of trying to fill up my new upright freezer (so excited to upgrade from a chest one! Pathetically so!) with semi-healthy snacks and treats for my kids and husband. : ). I’ve been searching for new recipes the last few days online. It is amazing how many blogs are filled with warnings about all the “dangerous” foods we might “poison” our kids with- like Goldfish crackers. I went to bed feeling like a bad mom for feeding my kids non-organic food (which we can’t afford. I used to buy it; then we had the kids to feed too) on (BPA-free) plastic plates (gasp!). We are truly blessed to have food for our kids and remind our picky eaters that the boy in Haiti that we sponsor through Compassion would be thrilled to have the variety they have. Malnutrition and contaminated water is a dangerous diet- not gluten and some sugar! If my kids eat some Goldfish along with carrot muffins and yogurt prepared in our clean home with running water, I should not stress about it. We hardly even have processed food in the house due to the expense, but we have the occasional crackers and I do love to bake! Of course I want them to be as healthy as possible, but like you said, I don’t want them to have issues with food. Mine are insanely stubborn too, and a happy meal is a healthy one as far as I am concerned. : )
    Any favorite freezer snacks you would recommend? I have to tell you, my 2 YO LOVES your homemade meatball recipe (made with turkey) and would eat them all day every day if he could. : )

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Goldfish… poison? I figured that was a half-way decent snack! I don’t even think of those as “junk food” — so I’m guessing you’re doing just fine!!

    As for freezer friendly snacks — we almost always have a variety of cookies, bars, muffins, and granola bars in our freezer. Also, glad to hear your kiddos like my meatballs 🙂

    [Reply]

    Kelly Reply:

    Yes, deadly Goldfish! lol. One site I was looking at said that she used to be “okay” with Whole wheat Goldfish until she discovered they have MSG, and she hasn’t touched them since. I decided that the site wouldn’t be my best bet for recipes for my family and moved on. I love my MSG-laced Hidden Valley Ranch, so I am not going to ban the beloved crackers from my kids if they are on sale. = ) I do plan to bake up some granola bars for the freezer today. Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — we live Hidden Valley Ranch too 🙂

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    Liane Reply:

    Penzeys sells a version of Hidden Valley Ranch that only has herbs and good stuff without the MSG, gums, stabilizers, GMO corn derivatives etc.
    https://www.penzeys.com/online-catalog/buttermilk-ranch/c-24/p-534/pd-s

    I make ALL my own salad dressing by the pint, in canning jars. Buttermilk has amazing keeping qualities, so even though I buy a quart it lasts a long time. It literally takes less time to put the buttermilk and measure of Penzeys into a jar and shake it than it does to figure out how in heck to get that darn bottled dressing open with it’s adult proof paper wrapping at the top.

    They did not have goldfish when my kids were small. If I had small kids now I would buy them Trader Joes verion of cheerios. No wheat, no sugar and fun to play with.

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  20. Paulette

    03/31/2015

    TRUTH!

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  21. Ann

    03/31/2015

    So well said! So many parents create unnecessary battles or inadvertently teach their children to obsess over “forbidden” foods instead of just offering lots of healthy options on a daily basis!

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  22. Erin Meyer

    03/31/2015

    I cannot tell you how grateful I am for your post. I work with those that struggle with Eating Disorders and you would be amazed at how much the a mother’s views of food can influence her children (please note, I am NOT saying that this is the sole cause of eating disorders- some of my patients have parents with very healthy views of food). I absolutely LOVE that you do not define food as “good” and “bad”, and stress moderation & an “all foods fit” approach. I always find it interesting that society stresses certain dietary views, and a couple years later, those views are out-the-window and something different comes to the surface. Seriously, who can keep up? I try to view food as fuel- you need it in order to have enough energy to play. Food should never be a stressor, but something to be enjoyed. I commend you on how you handle food with your children! Thanks again!

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  23. Kimberley

    03/31/2015

    I love this post! My little guy is definitely a picky eater and I tend to stress about it quite a bit…but hearing this makes me feel like in the big picture, it’s just not that big of a deal. He likes certain things that surprise me (steak, cucumbers, etc.) but for the most part, he doesn’t like to try new things. We have been doing the one bite “rule” just so he gets to experience new things and see if he likes them. I do tend to fill his plate with fruits and veggies that he likes but we also put a portion of what we are eating on his plate as well as some other things he likes so we know he is eating something and not just going to bed hungry.

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    Andrea Reply:

    you’re doing just fine — especially if he’s eating lots of fruits and veggies! no need to feel bad for what he’s no eating, especially at a very young age!

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  24. Laura

    03/31/2015

    You have some great ideas in here, Andrea!

    Jill Castle is a dietitian with lots of great research-based information on feeding children. http://www.jillcastle.com.

    She believes it is the parent’s responsibility to focus on when and what foods are offered (including treats sometimes) and it is the child’s responsibility to decide if they will eat and how much. She also stresses why pushing food or using it as a reward is not a good idea.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Laura — for the comment and the link.

    I love how that was phrased “the parent’s responsibility to determine when and what food but the child’s responsibility to decide if and how much” That’s great!

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  25. Amy

    03/31/2015

    Thank you for this! I wish more adults could think this way — I all too often hear friends referring to food as “bad” or that they were “bad over the weekend” because they had pizza. Yours is truly a healthy point of view 🙂

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  26. Julie Spady

    03/31/2015

    Perfectly well said!!

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  27. Jeanniee

    03/31/2015

    I love this article. We are taking care of our Grandbabies during the week for my Daughter and Son in law.. Our Kenzie is 3 and a very selective eater. Our Isaiah is 2 and he eats most foods all but Peanut Butter…. We give them wholesome food that they might eat might not eat. I agree totally with you Andrea. We make to big of a deal about food.. We tell them its fuel for our bodies! Our babies are healthy and happy… And yes we go to McDonalds… Oh my and they have had Hawaiian punch… And Lollipops. The key is not letting them veg out on inactivity. Great Read thank you!

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    Andrea Reply:

    McDonalds… oh no! 🙂

    Funny story, I’ve actually been trying to get Nora to drink some juice because she has always refused to drink anything but water. I know that juice isn’t really a health choice, but I just want to “expand her palate” so we frequently try to get her to drink a little juice now and then. So far, we’ve only found 1 type of kiwi juice that she will even take more than 1 sip of 🙂

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    Leanne Reply:

    I’m sure you probably thought of this but have you tried “flavored” water? (Water with just a splash of juice.)

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    Andrea Reply:

    yeah — she won’t drink ANYTHING with any type of flavor. Just water — she says “I’m a water girl” 🙂

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