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Sugar, playdates and parenting decisions

Categories: Parenting & Family


OK, so first a confession:

I’m a bit of a healthy eating nut and I think it is a skill and a philosophy I have to teach our kiddo.

When I say healthy eating I think I mean something reasonable without being extreme: Lots of veggies and fruit, less sugar and white anything, whole grains, very little red meat, lots of fish, nuts and other awesome stuff, like avocados (an obsession of mine and thankfully, my daughter). We don’t have junk food or candy in our house, don’t drink soda or sugary drinks, and our daughter has never been to McDonald’s. But we definitely have dessert and treats a few times a week and one of the most important things I try to teach at home is enjoying eating and food and making it a special experience as often as we can.

The other day our kiddo came home from a playdate and I asked her how it went. She said fine and then got this look on her face that said “hey, mom, I’m not telling you something.” I gave her my best version of the “hey, it’s OK, just tell me, I promise I won’t be mad” look and then she confessed: They ate pop tarts. And candy.

I think she expected me to get upset. But I wasn’t. I mean, I’d rather she not consume all that sugar but it’s not my house and I firmly believe in “your house, your rules” philosophy.

I smiled and asked her if she liked the candy. She put on a huge grin and said “Yes… but I know all that stuff is bad for me.” Yes, I’ll confess it was at least nice to hear.

So here’s my worry: That because I emphasize healthy food at home and limit junk that she will then find ways to overdose on it when I’m not around. If this sounds silly, I’ll tell you a little story. My husband grew up in a macrobiotic family — their food makes mine look unhealthy. Any chance he had he snuck away to friends’ houses to eat as much sugar and crap as possible. To this day (and we’re talking 25+ years later!) he has a serious sweet tooth and when he gets a chance, overindulges in stuff we don’t eat a lot at home.

At the end of the day, I know that all I can do is teach my kiddo the best eating habits I can and hope for the best. But I am curious, how do you think about food and eating habits in your family?

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7 comments so far...

  • I saw a show that showed that kids who do not get candy and other sweets at home, go crazy when they get it elsewhere. Kids, like grown-ups, are extra attracted to anything that is “forbidden”.

    For me it is all about moderation. My kids get candy, but they know that they need to eat dinner first, then a healthy snack first, and then candy/chips/etc. So far so good.

    SK  |  February 26th, 2012 at 9:22 pm

  • Cute story! I love kids to pieces. I have four little ones and I always make sure to give them treats (even sugar) here and there. I feel like if their friends have “yummy” snacks, and they come with only “healthy” snacks they’ll end up trying to get it somehow….That can’t be too great.

    Judy  |  February 29th, 2012 at 1:07 pm

  • I focus more on giving my kids (I just have 2) the food pyramid, and different ethnic varieties. So my kids will eat practically anything. At birthday parties, play dates or just a regular old fun Saturday; all bets are off and it makes for lots of fun with sugared up kids LOL. I don’t like to emphasize food-food-food. I pay more attention to making sure we are all active. My favorite is going for walks around the neighborhood and dance parties in the living room. I get cabin fever easy, so on the weekends we are gone most of the day doing something.

    ACL  |  March 2nd, 2012 at 9:29 am

  • I like Ellen Satter’s opinion on junk food. She says that while it’s not healthy, it is food that is available in our culture and the best way to teach kids how to eat it is to serve it at home. Not too often, but treat it like other foods, and with little fanfare.

    We moved to KY when my daughter was 2 1/2. At the time her diet was very focused on whole foods with almost no processed foods. So we’re sitting on a new neighbor’s front porch and the kids are eating potato chips and they offer my daughter some. She practically strapped on the chip bag like a feed sack. It was cute but a bit embarrassing and I felt that if I offered those foods at home more often then she wouldn’t binge on them at the neighbors.

    Jenn  |  March 5th, 2012 at 9:56 am

  • A few years ago my son was at a friend’s house and told the mom that I said Pop Tarts were junky when she served them as a snack! We eat pretty healthy, but I’ve loosened up a bit as the kids get older. I want them to make smart choices. They know that they won’t feel great if they gorge on junk food. I try to make sure our meals are healthy 90% of the time and treats are ok sometimes.

    Sharon  |  March 5th, 2012 at 2:10 pm

  • It seems we have similar eating habbits to your own (Kale Chips are a fav with our kids, nutritional yeast on popcorn another fav snack, hummus is a staple). Anyway, I had found that my kids have major sweet teeth, sweet tooths, um…they love sugar! But we did not keep it in the house, they got sweets on occasion at parties or special events, but the love of sugar just continued to grow. So we adopted a policy that made me cringe at first but has worked like a charm! We call it SWEETIE TIME and it happens every day around 3pm at our house. We have some of their favorite sweets, skittles, m&ms and ice cream seem to be the favorites (just writing this still makes me cringe) on a special shelf. Every day they get to choose what they want in their SWEETIE CUP for SWEETIE TIME. The cups are special and quite small; 5-6 m&ms, a small scoop of ice cream, a cube of jello…their choice. If we are out during the day and they see something they think they might like, we don’t eat it there, we take it home for SWEETIE TIME. They have it every day. And they are way way way less obsessed because they don’t feel deprived or anxious that they don’t know when they might have some again. Now when I say a little, I mean a little, but it satisfies them.

    Of course if we find ourselves at a birthday party or friends house we allow them to have a SWEETIE, I don’t want to be “that mom” but they don’t seem to eat as much of it as they use to. In fact jus the other day at their cousin’s bday party, my daughter had a few bites of cupcake and then ran off to play. Before we instituted SWEETIE TIME she would have devoured it and might have gone scavenging for more. I love it!

    Tara Wright  |  March 9th, 2012 at 10:49 am