April 19, 2024

Are others offering unhealthy foods to your children? By Kristen Yarker, R.D.

What to Do When Your Friends/Family Offer Unhealthy Foods to Your Children

As a child-feeding expert, the parents who choose to interact with me are parents who value nutrition and want their kids to reap the health benefits of healthy food. So it’s no surprise that it irks them when others give their kids unhealthy foods. And, they ask me how to make it stop.

My advice usually surprises them. I recommend not stopping it. Here’s the two reasons why.  

#1: Yes, it’s tempting to want to control what others feed our kids. But for many people, the way that they express their love to children is by giving them sweets. My experience has been that asking people to stop feeding kids treats doesn’t go well because (even very rational) people feel that you’re asking them to stop loving your kids. It seems silly when I write it so plainly, but the feelings run deep; the symbolism is real.

#2: I understand that as a parent, it’s natural to want to control every single thing in your child’s life. But that’s the trick of parenting isn’t it – giving your kids the skills to handle situations on their own.

Because the reality of the world in which we live (at least here in North America) is that we’re surrounded by unhealthy food. There’s fast food restaurants on almost every block. It’s in the checkout of grocery stores, book stores, hardware stores, clothing stores, etc.

So we need to teach kids how to make healthy choices within this world of unhealthy food. And if we make something taboo, it only drives kids towards it.

What do I recommend? Be a role model. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Make it a daily habit in your home to serve healthy foods. And, occasionally enjoy unhealthy ones too.

If you know that a holiday is coming up that’s associated with unhealthy food (Halloween anyone?) or that your child will be visiting a friend/ family member who serves them unhealthy food, then create the balance by serving healthy foods at home.

Child-feeding expert Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD helps Moms and Dads support their picky eaters to try new foods on their own (without being forceful or sneaky). Get scientific evidence-based answers to real questions from real parents (recipes too!) by signing up for her 101 Healthy Snack Ideas at: kristenyarker.com

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