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Photo by: Mary Rentoumis

Does Peer Pressure Keep Your Child From Eating Healthy Food?

March 6, 2010
57 Comments

Today, I sent my son to kindergarten with turkey, carrots, and lettuce rolled up in a spinach wrap. green tortilla wrap Delicious, healthy, and colorful. My son picked the ingredients himself, so I knew he would eat it.

What was I thinking? I sent my child to kindergarten with a GREEN sandwich. So much for mother of the year.

Needless to say, the other kids at my son’s lunch table teased him about having a green sandwich, saying “Ewww, gross” when they saw it. When the sandwich came home in the lunchbox, with only a few bites eaten, I knew something was wrong.

Clearly my poor son is a victim of his mother’s obsessions.

My husband chastised me for sending my son to school with a green sandwich. Had I become the mother in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, sending my child to school with weird food?

Why couldn’t I just give him Wonder bread sandwiches, juice boxes, and Cheetos like everyone else?

After a family huddle, I realized all my children are regularly teased about eating healthy food. Peer pressure and healthy eating was a problem. My son’s sisters were more than happy to dish out advice on how to handle the comments on his lunches.

Diplomatic sister #1: “Tell the other kids your food is yummy and that you really like it”.

To-the-point sister #2: “Tell the other kids to ‘cut it out’ with the teasing. Tell them to ask their mom to buy food like yours so they can try it too.”

So what should you do about the negative impact between peer pressure and healthy eating?
How to Help Your Child Handle
the Healthy Food Teasing

What a child can say to their peers

  1. My food is really tasty and I really like it!
  1. Cut it out! Why don’t you ask your mom to buy this food for you so you can try it too.
  1. My mom loves me so much, she lets me eat this healthy food.
  1. Yes, you are right. My food is “ ______”. Fill in blank with weird, gross, creepy, disgusting, etc.

What you can do as a parent

  1. Pack lunch together, so you and your child agree about what’s in the lunchbox. Better yet, have your child involved in the shopping, selection and preparation.
  1. Don’t try new food items in a school lunch. Test them at home first to make sure your child likes them.
  1. Put only one “weird” item in their lunch box every day. After several days of jicama in my daughter’s lunch box, no one at school cares about it. Now they are actually interested in what emerges from her lunchbox.
  1. Never make a child feel that unhealthy foods are off limits, or they will feel deprived, which causes bigger issues with food. At our house, we talk about food choices in terms of everyday and occasional foods. My kids do have “occasional” foods in their lunch boxes once in a while.
  1. Be a good role model to give your child confidence. Pack you own healthy lunch, and make healthy choices when you are with your adult friends.

As for my son and the humiliation of the green sandwich, he is ready to speak up for himself. He wants to bring purple peppers and pink apples for snack tomorrow.

Bring It On, kid style.

I love these children. They can handle the peer pressure and healthy eating better than their mom.

Mary Rentoumis writes about her humorous adventures in feeding her family a healthy diet on her website, Healthy Diet.com. Although Mary cannot cook, she endures kitchen disasters and grocery store mishaps to create a healthy diet program. With an Ivy League degree in History and Chemistry, Mary is comfortable understanding on a molecular level why some foods are not healthy choices. Mary regularly uses her scientific background to explain to her youngest son why he can’t have candy bars for breakfast.

57 Comments

I get teased about feeding my family and my 2 yr old heathy food by one of my best friends! Imagine what kids go through. Seriously, my friend makes it seem as though it is not important to eat healthy foods, but "whatever they will eat". Amost like I am a food snob or something-I feel belittled at times. We do eat food that is not always healthy-we are not perfect, but we eat brown rice, and wheat bread, for example and other things that her or her family would not touch...

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My daughter took mashed avocado and breadsticks for lunch in preschool. When a friend said, "That looks yuck!" she just replied, "No, it's yum!" and went on eating. She knew what she liked.

As a preschool teacher, I see lunches that are extremely healthy over 90% of the time. I have children who bring lima beans as their "snack", green beans and pepper slices, all kinds of fresh fruit and creative wraps rather than "white bread sandwiches". Actually, I don't remember when the last time was that I saw white bread in a child's lunch!

I will definitely try new meals at home first.
My son is 7 and i packed lunch every day. He has been criticize on his healthy food and the days I give him hot dogs (sometimes) they fight for his lunch. He told me Mommy "don't give Hot Dogs, almost every one wants it and I don't get to eat it".

As to what Carrie said Her Best friend teased her on healthy food. I would take a second thought on that best friend.Does that best friend have kids and what are they eating...

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I have no problem sending my child to school with a really healthy, fruit and veggie-laden lunch. It's his right to eat well, even if the kids in the cafeteria are staring at styrofoam plates with rubbery pizza and brownies. It all starts early. We go places and pack carrots and cucumbers and celery for snacks. We get comments like, "Wow, I can't believe your kids are eating veggies." My thought (unspoken) is that I can't believe your kids aren't. Part of it is about effort...

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My son eats very healthy, to the point when visiting friends I have to bring his own snacks and meals.
When I watch other kids, I try to bring something new and healthy and give them incentive to try it, by bringing their fave treats as a reward if they try it.
He refuses to eat canned anything. When it's our turn to bring snacks for class, I have to remind him not every kid will try new things...

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I have similar issues as Carrie. Fortunately, my daughter prefers healthy food, since that's what she was raised on. She doesn't like sweet food or drinks, which other people find to be strange and/or pathetic, like I'm depriving her. It's sad that "kid food" has become the norm and that people actually think they should feed their kids that junk. You know, if it has bright colors and kid-style writing on the package it must be good for them or what they'll like. Sad, sad, sad.

My daughter often had "unorthodox" food combinations in her lunch box - she picked out them out herself,and the foods, while not combinations that I would have considered tasty, were all healthy. When other kids commented on her strange foods, she told them flat out, "Nobody's asking YOU to eat it!"

My boys LOVED steamed broccoli until they went to school and their friends told them it was gross. They "didn't like" broccoli again till they were teenagers. Now it's whole different can of peas when it comes to peer pressure!

I send my son with left over alfredo and all kinds of things.I bet He got strange looks the day he took Dal and rice.he was born in India and that's his native foods.

I'm blessed both my kids love fruit and vegetables.When I switched to wheat bread and pastas they never cared or noticed

We sent our kids to school with healthy lunches from the time that they were little, too. In fact, it got to the point that the other kids liked what we packed so much that my son had actually convinced us that he was eating 2 wraps at a time! Little did we know that he was taking the 2nd sandwich and using it as prime barter material for ice cream treats and other menu items...

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I can't believe how many kids in my neck of the woods are allowed to drink diet sodas, eat junk foods and say "no" to the dinners that are served. There's alot of doormat parenting going on in homes.

When you send food to school and a child gets "bullied" over it. Then, the administration needs to get involved. The teachers aren't usually in the lunch rooms in elementary schools. In preschools, the teachers should be close to the kids when they are eating...

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My kids go both ways - we were fortunate enough for them to be at a preschool that offered them "weird" choices for lunch once or twice a week - they only had to taste it and then could move on if they didn't like it. AS a result, they will try just about anything once! My daughter's favorite thing to eat is pot stickers, and she likes to take them to lunch. i was surprised that she seemed to be eating a LOT of them - like 8, along with the rest of her lunch...

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Wow-I never heard of little kids paying attention to what the other kids are eating at lunch...that is more of an upper elementery thing I would think. I even ask my sons what the other kids get for lunch and they have no idea cause they don't care...

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Good for you & for your kids! I pack my kids lunches every day - the school lunches are terrible - the schools should be ashamed of themselves for bowing down to what kids want to eat. My kids lunches are always healthy & then have 1 treat - usually a piece of candy the kids pick out each morning from halloween/Christmas/Easter etc. I've found if they have the treat the other kids don't tease them, they're so jealous of the treat they don't notice the snow peas & pistachios!

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