Health Nut or Free Range??

Updated on March 08, 2009
S.S. asks from Pleasant Grove, UT
34 answers

I grew up with healthy choices in our kitchen cupboards. Once in a while, we would make cookies, or have ice cream on the weekends, but most of the time, we ate quite healthy. I didn't get that "junk" food, so when I did get it, I would overeat it (even hide it). I hear of others who stocked their cupboards with junk food and they and their children had/have free range. They seem to be more in control of their food than I am and my children or others I see who also try to strictly eat healthy...they can have it at any time, so they don't really desire it at all...Don't know if this is making sense to anyone....which way is better???? Free food, or strictly healthy food (with fear of binges or hiding food?) I want to teach my children to eat healthy and I want them and myself to be healthy, but how to do this and not promote unheathy emotional feelings towards food?

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A.S.

answers from Denver on

Great question-- I'm really enjoying reading the responses. I don't have many answers, but I do tell my kids that we don't eat any shortening, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, or high fructose corn syrup. There are still plenty of junk food options without those things, but it helps me have real rules for saying no and steering towards a healthier, or at least homemade, snack.

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C.H.

answers from Denver on

Hi S.,
It's proven - free range - is healthier. That is why we have so many people at opposite ends on the food chain.
PS: I just bought 4 and 1/2 cases of Girl Scout Cookies - some I sent to the boys overseas but about half I kept for here at home, stored for "special occasions".
These gals work hard for their money for camp - and the benefits weigh out-weigh the inches on the waist!
BUY AMERICAN
sky

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T.T.

answers from Denver on

My kids eat both healthy things and some junk food. I always stress the importance of the healthy food and how much better it is for them to eat that. Then tell them that junk food isn't bad, it's just something that we only eat sometimes. My son is much better than my daughter at making healthy choices. He will take fruit or carrot sticks over junk food most of the time. My daughter, on the other hand, has a big sweet tooth and would rather have chips or cookies. But I keep offering the healthy choices first, and I keep explaining to them why making healthy choices is so important. I always try to explain the whys to my kids so that they know the reasons they aren't allowed to do something, or the reasons why we choose do things a certain way and things like that. I think that makes the forbidden things less taboo and they are less likely to binge on them when they are presented with the temptation. It gives them a conversation to have in their heads before they make a choice.

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S.S.

answers from Salt Lake City on

I know you have a lot of ideas but here is a small one. Don't ever make food a reward. Try to make it an activity together or stickers or other stuff. That way, kids don'[t equate love or praise with treats and food. good luck, this is one I am working on as well.

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L.W.

answers from Salt Lake City on

In my own personal experience it is better to have a modified free-range attitude. I was raised in a home much like what you described, and it taught me to binge eat and hoard. My husband grew up in a home completely opposite of me and has a healthier attitude towards "junk food". While he admits he has a sweet tooth, he is better at controlling himself than I. We have treats in our house, and we allow our daughter to partake of them. Right now mommy and daddy have control over when and how much as she is not quite 2 yet, but as she gets older we will have to allow her the freedom to chose. How else will she learn. I am not saying one day we will say, "You are 4, now you can decide if it will be a healthy meal or junk." What I am saying is as she gets older we will offer choices.

I am a firm believer in teaching your children to make decisions on their own. They won't always make the right one. Heck half the time I don't make the right one. But if we allow them to make decisions and choices on the little things now, and the bigger things when they are mature enough the better off they will be.

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A.B.

answers from Pocatello on

There's a book you might want to read. It'd called Intuitive Eating and it's by Evelyn Tribole. It is a wonderful book and teaches such great attitudes about food and eating. I really think it would help you figure this out.
That said...I think you should have whatever you and your family enjoy at your home (a whole range of different foods). Don't label foods as "good" or "bad" or say someone is being "good" for eating carrots, or "bad" for having chocolate. Food is food. If your children learn to eat what satisfies them (and only enough to satisfy them) then you really won't have to spend too much time worrying about what food choices they are making. Teach your kids to listen to their bodies--what they need, how much they need...If they feel hungry then eat. If they are full then stop--even if they haven't "cleaned their plate." And make sure you are modeling that behavior, too. I really could go on about this forever, so I'll stop now :) I just want to say, again, how much I recommend Intuitive Eating...Your children will appreciate your efforts to help them have a healthy relationship with food. Good luck :)

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B.M.

answers from Salt Lake City on

Hi S.,
I didn't read the other posts, so sorry if I repeat them. I don't think there is any reason to "stock" your cupboards with treats. Teach your family that chips and cookies and candy and soda are treats. They are not to be used when you are hungry, but, rather, eaten as a treat while watching a movie or playing games or as dessert. I always tell my kids that if they are hungry, let's find some real food and then they can have the treat also. Because we eat this way they always prefer fruit or cheese or veggies or pasta as a snack. We bake cookies and cakes together frequently because then we are in control of what goes into them. We only buy chips and soda for parties and sometimes camping, and honestly none of us really crave them or miss them.
Good luck to you. Take care,
B.

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L.B.

answers from Provo on

S.,

I refer to what you are talking about is "the forbidden fruit syndrome." If you can't have it, that is all you want to have. So, I find absolute prohibitions to be destructive - resulting in, as you put it, hiding food and binging. On the other hand, encouraging healthy eating is good. Eating well and eating healthy are not mutually exclusive, either.

As to what to do, I would not put an absolute ban on anything, (unless it is proscribed by common sense or your religion), but would offer healthy food. Once a week or so, have an indulgent dessert. Occasionally eat potato chips or a candy bar. Don't prohibit it, but don't make it a reward. Emphasize the good stuff. enjoy it yoursef. Your family may even come to prefer good, wholesome food because it really does taste better. Just as an example: I was sending two loaves of homemade whole sprouted grain bread home each week with my son to his apartment, where he shared it with his roommates. They have commented to me about how much they like it - and this is serious, heavy duty healthy stuff - sprouted whole wheat, kamut, spelt, barley, etc. Healthy can be delicious, too.

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M.R.

answers from Boise on

I think it's more about attitude than the food on the shelves. I grew up in a really healthy home too. Farm fresh and food from a store was rice or pasta. I don't even like junk food and I'm tolerant of grocery store food barely. We don't have a lot of junk just because I don't think to buy it but when we do, we eat it for the occasion I bought it and then it will sit until it's stale. My kids do love sweets but they know that's a treat for when we eat outside the house. I don't think I've ever told them that rule they have just picked that up since I've always allowed them to eat what's offered from other sources like friends or a restraunt. My kids eat what I eat so my attitude has shaped theirs. I prefer apples and celery over cookies and chips and so do they of their own free will. I can't tell you how many compliments I've gotten at school events when I add healthy food to my kids plates and they sit and eat it all with no fuss.

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S.P.

answers from Great Falls on

I think a middle road is best. If the junk food is a treat once a week or so then the kids are less apt to binge. We didn't have many treats when I was a kid and when I left home to be a Nanny, I started eating a bag of chips and a six pack of pop almost every night. Needless to say, I gained almost forty pounds that year. Healthy choices can be junk food. My kids love apples, bananas and other fruit. I had one child who until he was six or seven picked fruit for a treat at the store. Good luck!!!

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C.W.

answers from Provo on

S.,

You said, "they can have it at any time, so they don't really desire it at all." Those other people desire it or they wouldn't be buying it. They are consuming it all, just over a longer period of time maybe. I struggle with this same issue in my home. Whenever we go other places, my kids are begging and covertly eating the sweets and pop while others are so used to it that it is no big deal. This is my theory. My husband and I grew up with free range and we both wish our parents had taught us how to eat better and exercise. Maybe our kids will wish the opposite, but I believe that we are more likely to win in the end. If we feed our kids healthy and optimize their chances of being healthy adults, when they leave home they may for a time choose the junk food but I think their bodies will be programmed to desire the more healthy stuff and they will choose what they knew as children. It is much harder to put off habits and lifestyles that were formed during childhood and adolescence than short lived binges as adults. Give them the healthy stuff. I try not to make it a huge deal when we go to other homes. I let them have the junk, I set a good example of saying no, but at home we try to be healthy. They will get the message.

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C.H.

answers from Denver on

Okay, I grew up without the junk food too, and then I went overboard in college. But I've had really good self-control on all that since my twenties, and I'm healthier than almost everybody my age. (None of my siblings is overweight either, and we're all 45-50.)

The key is teaching your children self-control, such as just one biggish cookie or just two girl scout cookies, and once a day is plenty. (We had far, far less junk food than that as children.)

We always discuss these foods hand-in-hand with their protein & fruit/veg intake. They understand that protein in their systems helps process the sugar so that they don't get those highs and lows. They understand the obesity problem in America.

Teach them self-control & balance. They're totally capable of learning that. And by the way, by the time a person's my age, if they've never developed an exercise habit, their health is pretty much doomed, even if they're naturally slender. So make sure they're running, climbing etc. My kids do not do organized sports (I think that's really silly w/kids -- I know, everybody else likes to go along with the crowd on that and hates it when I say that, and yes, I did organized sports at an earlier age than practically any woman in America). They're going to run track in middle/high school because they're very fast runners vs. their peers.

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N.W.

answers from Salt Lake City on

I have a stash of junk food that I dole out. So it's not free for all.....and sometimes I'm stingy! My father has diabetes- he talks about how it's better to eat sweets with a meal instead of hours after. (better for your insulin levels.)

I teach my kids to "eat your real food first"....and "no sugar when you're sick". The younger kids pig out on whatever sweets they can get their hands on...but my older girl has started making good choices. She also shares any candy she gets at school with her brother and sister - kinda the same way I share with everyone.

My parents didn't keep any sweets or even sugar in the house. I pigged out when I hit Jr High (vending machines!!) . To this day, it's a struggle to eat sweets in moderation. However, many sweets I have no taste for at all - things too rich for me, or things that I think just taste awful that everyone else seems to love.

Oh, I also let myself be OK with completely throwing away any sweets at any time. Christmas cookie plates often get tossed after we eat a few. Anything we don't really care for gets tossed. Anything that gets old...or when I feel like we have too many sweets in the house. I just toss it. I NEVER do this with 'real food'....and it may seem like a waste of money to buy a box of cookies and throw it out when they're half gone or stale....but it doesn't end up on our butts....so I let it slide ;) (and my hubby doesn't always know - sometimes he just thinks I ate them all...hehe)

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S.S.

answers from Cheyenne on

I know you have a lot of answers already, but starting to read the responses, I realized I had a suggestion that hadn't been given.

I too am like many people who responded who was strictly restricted from candy and sweets (occassional raisin bar or oreos if the boys were gone, but not daily or even monthly) so I would sneak up at night and see what I could find to curb my sweet tooth. At school, I would buy Skittles and things like that and finish the entire bag before the hour was up! And would just crave more.

When I got married, I married a man whose mother gave a small dessert (couple cookies and milk, small slice of cake, small thing of candy) each night after dinner and sometimes with lunch too and the man is amazing...a bag of Skittles can last him days...he takes out a few and stores the rest for later! I could never do that. We have continued the "tradition" of a little dessert each night and some lunches and it is wonderful. I gauge what I'm eating off him since he is good at portion control (I'll usually try to eat one fewer than him or just the same, but never more and I will often force myself to read the nutrition info-esp serving size, calories and sat fat to help me with portion control myself). We also buy the "fun-size" candies so the portion size is made for you- snickers, peppermint patties, Skittles, etc- they sell it all in small sizes. It is perfect. And we also have the "must eat a good dinner and most must be done" rule too, but we don't restrict the others at the table from having dessert if the kiddo doesn't finish dinner as I've seen others do(why create a consequence for the rest of the family because one kid doesn't finish dinner...)

Anyway, we also don't expect them to clear their plate because that is another problem in America that my parents supported by forcing a clean plate (whether home or at restaurant) and causes overeating. Instead, our rule is you have to try at least one bite of everything and finish most of at least one thing on your plate! Know you didn't ask that question, but thought I'd put my two-cents in about that too since I think it goes some with the free-range vs health nut idea too!

I still have my indulgent days where I overeat sweets and can't seem to get my sweet tooth under control, but I am hoping that my husband's discipline will wear off on our kids...and soon, me too! So probably not so much free-range, but rather open with limits- if you are too strict with it, your kids see it as that thing they just HAVE to have but you say "no", so it makes it even more desirable! That's my idea from experience! Hope this helps!

S., 26, mom of 15-month-old who loves his dessert, but will go right back to eating the regular stuff right after he finishes the sweet stuff if he sees something on the table he still wants, and #2 on the way...so I'm totally craving Sour Patch Kids right now :-)

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L.C.

answers from Denver on

Hi S.,

I applaud you for asking this question. I have asked many of these questions myself. I want the best for my child and family! I am a M.O.M. (Mom on a Mission).

Did you know 70-90% of all diseases are preventable through good nutrition? Poor diet is directly related to disease!

You are giving your children an incredible gift by molding those little taste buds to healthy choices. The most important thing to do is educate your children as to why you are making health choices. If they understand the good choices are building their bodies up and keeping them healthy, they make the right choice.

Dr Sears has written a great book "Eat Healthy, Feel Great" In the book he talks about traffice light eating. Red means stop, make another choice, yellow is slow down and those are sometime foods and green are go foods, anytime foods. This helps the children understand the different types of foods out there and empowers them. Maybe you allow a red light food once a week, or once a month or never.

Our children are suffering from all types of illness because of our Standard American Diet (SAD). It is truely sad!

Did you know 1 in 3 Americans born in 2000 will develop diabetes? No mother wants their child to develop disease. This is diet related and totally preventable! The consequences of this disease are horrible! We know sugar is not the best choice, it's addictive and it supresses the immune system. And there's that High Fructose Corn Syrup, which the body doesn't recognize as surose, so it by passes the liver and increase the tri-glycerieds in the body. For our kiddo's, they don't recognize that they are full when they eat this stuff.

By the age 12, an estimated 70% of our children have developed the beginning stages of hardening of the arteries.

As far as trans fats (hydrogenated oils) " 1 gram of trans fats increases your risk of heart disease by 20%" Dr Gracia. Trans fats raise bad cholesterol and lowers good cholesterol.

This should not be happening, but so many parents don't know the value of good nutrition! It's not being taught anywhere, not in our schools or churches or even from our doctors.

So, for me as a M.O.M, I just kept asking "why"! Why is this bad and why is that bad and have found the answers as I kept digging.

All of this has been made possible for me because I started a journey with a company called Juice Plus. I have gotten so much valuable information by attending numerous health talks. I am truly on a mission to help as many families as possible with nutrition and bridging the gaps in their diet with Juice Plus.

I hope this has helped!

L. Christiansen
###-###-####
www.DenverJuicePlus.com

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G.L.

answers from Salt Lake City on

I think that some of which method works depends on the personality of the people involved. If allowed free range, my daughter will not stop with the sweets. She would blissfully eat her weight in sugar. My son, on the other hand, self-regulates, although he is just four. So at my house, I use a system that falls in between that seems to work well, at least for us. We are each allowed one serving of something sweet a day, such as one scoop of ice cream, or two cookies, or a small handful of malted milk balls. Sweet drinks such as cocoa or soda count, too. I let the kids choose when in the day they have their sweet, although I try to encourage having it with a meal. And I try to reinforce that there's no need to gorge on sweets because after all, we have plenty and will be able to choose a different one tomorrow. (On certain holidays and birthdays, we do throw the rule out the window for a day.)

For snacks at other times of the day I offer things like nuts, apples with peanut butter, dried fruit, veggies and ranch, or cheese and crackers.

This system only works if the adults follow the rules, too. You may find it a challenge at first (I did). But you'll be healthier, and may even notice a shrinking waistline if you substitute a cup of tea for that afternoon mocha (which counts as a sweet) or cut out soda so that you can join your kids for cookies later. It floored me when I realized how many sweets I ate/drank that I wasn't counting before. It has worked for me, and it makes it easier for the kids to follow the rules if they see me doing it, too. Kids do notice if you sneak chocolate!

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A.F.

answers from Salt Lake City on

I didn't read many of the responses, so sorry if this is repetitive. In my house, we do have junk. Usually it's what happens to be on sale, and I stock up for my basement pantry. Right now we have Little Debbie snacks (brownies, swiss rolls, nutty bars, and oatmeal creme pies), cheetos and other chips, fruit roll ups, pop tarts, and probably a few other unhealthy things. My kids are allowed to have those things. However, they have to have two healthy things with each junk item. The little Debbie snacks are reserved for dessert only after they've eaten ALL of their dinner. If they don't eat it all, they don't get any at all. The other things can be eaten as snacks or alongside a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, but there's always healthy choices with them. For example, for lunch they'll have a peanut butter sandwich with chips, but there's grapes or apple pieces on the side, and milk or real juice to drink. They only get a half a pop tart at breakfast and only after they've eaten their cereal (Life, Cheerios, Chex, etc.). Sometimes they get what they ask for, and sometimes they don't. But they always have a choice. I'm surprised at how many times they choose grapes or bananas instead of fruit snacks or cookies. Hopefully this helps. It's not a "free range" motto I live by (probably because they'd eat nothing but candy and pop tarts), but they always have a choice. I just control the options. You'll find a happy medium. Good luck!

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K.P.

answers from Boise on

I'm chiming in a little late on this one, but here goes. Of course you don't want your kids to have free range of junk foods at all times, it's not healthy for them. You can keep "special" stuff like that in your pantry, but you be the monitor and only give it to them when you want to. I stock up on yogurts, string cheeses, carrots, apples, wheat thins, cottage cheese, mandarin oranges and things like that for after school snacks. Even though my kids are no strangers to the sweet junk, they almost act like it is a treat to get a yogurt. I do get where you are coming from, and you are smart for understanding the unhealthy relationships people can have with food. But let me give you this...my mom would stock up on junk, and wasn't real adventurous with veggies, so we ate pop tarts, cookies, sodas etc. and to this day, my oldest brother blames my mom for his unhealthy teeth as he's sucking down a Dr. Pepper. He has his own problems. Of course it's not her fault he didn't brush his teeth much as a teenager, but she did provide the sugary snacks more than the healthy stuff. My point is...you can have a happy medium with having both kinds of foods in the house, and a cookie here and there won't make your kids obese. But if your kids are anything like mine, especially my youngest, they love to snack. So, if it's an hour or so after lunch and they ask for a snack, let them choose something healthy and reserve the sweets for dessert. Remember to only give them a choice of two items though, or you will be standing in the kitchen for EVER waiting for them to make a decision. One more thing, I do get exactly what you mean about the families who have free range don't really desire the junk. I can make brownies, but not want to eat them. I crave salads with lots of peperoncini peppers. So, I can also see how growing up the way you did can make you crave sweets. The good thing is, you understand it, and can work toward being in control of what you and your family eat.

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B.B.

answers from Missoula on

Hi S.,
I didn't read all your other responses, so sorry if this duplicates something someone else said, but here is my opinion. I try to feed my son (and my husband and myself) mostly healthy food (whole grains, fresh produce, lean protein etc) but I don't worry about or make a big deal out of occasional treats/sweets/junk food. I try to teach my son that good nutritious food can be just as tasty as "junk food", but I allow pretty much any food in moderation. By placing too many restrictions on what your kids eat you may run the risk of them going off the deep end, so to speak when you are not around the make the rules. That being said, it is still your jobs to teach them healthy eating habits. I shoot for about an 85/15 mix-if my son is eating 85 percent healthy stuff, then I don't worry about the rest. I do try really hard to keep trans fats out of our diets, but the rest is ok in our house.
Good luck.

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A.Y.

answers from Salt Lake City on

I do not agree with stocking your cupboards with junk food and allowing free reign because parents are responsible for teaching good eating habits during the growing years. I think cookies, cakes, brownies...should be used as cooking opportunities. I learned to cook those things because I wanted them, the more I cooked then, the less I desired them. At least I was learning some important things in the kitchen that spilled over to cooking other things. I do believe in always having the ingredients in the house for such things so that when they are wanted, the kids have to work for them. Things like chips and sodas for us were special occasions - parties, BBQ's, family night, etc. We could have as much as we wanted during those times, but they weren't limited on other times because they just weren't in the house. I don't think we ever overate/binged on those things because we knew they were special occasion foods and there were always other things provided. Not every meal in our house was "healthy," we did have pizza, homemade hamburgers, homemade french fries...we just learned to cook those things growing up so they were healthier styles than just going out to eat. I just say that the kids need to learn the value of healthy eating but can have those special treats when the times arise.

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J.N.

answers from Salt Lake City on

Neither extreme is good. Serve healthy foods for meals. Have lots of healthy snacks available and encourage them first. But also have a sweet or two avaiable. There's nothing wrong with indulging once in a while. Some kinds of dessert once a day (say after dinner) really isn't a problem. When you take it away all the time, then yes, the kids may rebell and hide or hoard junk food. But having it too available can lead to unhealthy habbits.

We have cookies and ice cream available most of the time. But we also have healthy stuff. The rule is that kids don't have to ask permission for celery, broccoli, carrot sticks, apples, or bananas (although I have asked them to limit the last 2 to once a day each). They can also get the dressing or peanut butter to go with. Everything else they must ask permission first and usually, unless they've had too much or its a timing issue (too early for sweets, right before dinner), I will say yes. I do suggest the healthy snacks first, and often they'll happily comply. Maybe I'm lucky that my kids like fresh veggies, but I think it's also that we've always had such foods around & mom and dad eat them regularly too.

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M.H.

answers from Denver on

S.,

I am a little torn on this one. With our daughter we are avoiding sugar at home, but when she gets it at preschool or Sunday school, we let her eat it. At home we try to have fun, tasty healthy snacks--like larabars, dried fruit, homemade cookies made with honey, as well as fresh fruits and veggies (with dip) and applesauce, unsweetened yogurt with fruit, etc... The high fructose corn syrup that is in so much processed food is just terrible for you, and I think we should minimize what our kiddos get from that. We are looking at a generation of obese, insulin resistant kids, and a big reason is all the hidden sugars in processed foods. So we avoid them as much as possible--using honey, fruit juice, maple syrup, etc.... as natural, alternative sweeteners. At the same time, my daughter gets candy at other places and asks for it at home. I just tell her "Not today." and avoid making it completely forbidden. But I do wonder if she will eventually start wanting or hiding those forbidden foods.... It is hard to know. I think that kids that are raised without much of that, though, recognize that it makes them feel crappy when they eat it, and tend to not want it as much. My nephew who is raised w/o sugar, ate like three bites of a doughnut at a birthday party and then stopped--he just didn't want anymore. Good luck with your decision--it is a tough one!

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M.G.

answers from Denver on

Have you thought about somewhere in between the two? I don't go as far as letting my children eat whatever they want, whenever they want, but I set up a clear and realistic snack time for them, where they could pick one junk food with 1 health food item, (like chips with an apple, or pizza rolls with carrots). I let my kids have a soda at dinner, or at snack, but never more than one a day, and that is only if we buy it. As far as sweets, we have dessert after dinner, and that's it. We eat healthy, but I don't believe it is a bad thing to indulge a little here and there.

I hope you find this helpful.

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K.L.

answers from Salt Lake City on

My hubby grew up with lots of junk food, and he still craves it even though he knows better (sugar addictions are hard); Me on other hand, my mom got in trouble for buying candy for Christmas stockings!

My family now (health nuts growing up): None of the 6 kids are health nuts like my dad wanted us to be. 3/6 kids are relatively obese because they too rebelled later on.

Hubby's Family now (free-range junkies): 1/7 minor health nut because he married one. 3/7 relativly obese because they still eat like they did growing up.

My opinion? Teach nutrition, balance, moderation, and self control. Teach about emotions involved with eating (including fitting in at the lunch table at school or near the vending machine); encourage physical activity; set a good example of how good/bad foods affect you so that your kids see what it does; .... and hope they marry someone who doesn't thwart everything you've done i.e. a life-long junkie!

Good question. Good luck!

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D.K.

answers from Denver on

I just read the funniest article where this woman went to a nutritionalist about her overweight daughter who pigged out on junk, especially chocolate. She was all worried and the woman told her to stock up one cabinet solely filled with chocolate and tell her daughter it was all hers. She said the first day the girl pigged out, the second not so much and by the end of the week, the girl had one or two pieces and that was it and was actually losing weight after week four! :) It was about trust, knowledge and allowing kids to make their own choices and not feeling so controlled or it was with this girl. When you ban something it becomes more interesting for the children. I think it really doesn't give them a chance to make good choices when you ban it. By the way, just read a study that HIGH fructose sugar is not any more harmful then sugar. Sugar has been around for thousands of years.

My kids are young, so of course I keep track of what they are eating when, I don't allow free range though I really actually trust them.

I have always allowed junk to a degree, they eat very healthy! They love fresh and raw veggies and fruits, we eat little to no red meat and all of that stuff. When I was a kid we didn't have junk in the house, only on holidays when my mom baked. I would go to a friends house and eat five twinkies because I wanted it so badly! :)

I have taught my kids there is a reason not to eat too much junk and to take care of their bodies.
I have let them indulge and those few times (easter, halloween) one or both has ended up with tummy aches so they are very aware of what too much of anything can do to you and are very good about eating a "few" M&Ms and not over do it. That is just practice and not forbidding it.

I have a friend that absolutely bans it for her son and I see her son suffering at bday parties, school parties as they are really hard core. It is so unfair to him! He is old enough that if she explained and educated I bet he would make good decisions without her hovering and being so controlling. Sugar is not evil I have told her this, given her articles and so on. I showed her a chart even of safe levels per day per age and weight of a child.

He is wanting so bad to eat in and be with his friends, she has actually tried to ban it in his class!! He is being so set apart due to the restrictions his parents have put on him. One day when he is older, he is going to go hog wild on junk, he doesn't understand why he cannot have a little sugar or his parents not trusting him with it. NO it isn't due to allergies but that his parents think all sugar in every form is sinful for kids or something. THOUGH THESE SAME parents will eat it when the children are in bed so don't get me started. The mom will put two tablespoons of sugar in her coffee!!!!!

I think age should gauge of free range or not. How well you can trust they will make the right choices. I educate my kids on what foods give them what benefits and both are very eager to be healthy.

It only takes once of pigging out on something, getting to the point of near puking that will turn a child around, hee hee.
Kids just want a treat now and again. I ban sodas of any kind as I think there is no point, it is empty calories and leads to trouble. They know their friends get sodas and I tell them how much sugar is in those and say "well half of one of those would be all the sugar you could have, so would you want half a sprite or a few yummies during the day" of course they pick a few yummies. I allow only a small glass of juice with breakfast.

My kids have dessert only if they ate a healthy dinner, then it is pudding, maybe a cookie or something from their Valentine bag. I can honestly say because I have let them make choices about their candy load, from holidays that I have to throw out candy every holiday. They got lifesaver books and kisses in their stockings, those were eaten that first week now I had to throw them out at Valentines Day, they both got goodies from class parties, that will be thrown out I bet by Easter. They know moderation at at 4 and 7 sure they would go hog wild if I let the, my four year old in particular, but at the same time they eat some and don't ask for more so I am really proud. I gave my seven year old a bag of candy kisses (the mini's) she ate half and twisted the top and handed them back saying she was done for now. That is huge to me!
Sorry didn't mean to write a novel here! :) I think it is your choice, you just need to educate your kids and help them continue their eating habits well into their adulthood.

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S.B.

answers from Salt Lake City on

I personally don't feel it's wrong to indulge in a little "junk" food now and again. I don't keep a ton of it in our house and for the most part I try to keep us on a healthy diet. So far, my 4 year old likes the idea of getting candy more than actually eating it. She has never finished Halloween or Valentines candy. My 2 year old would eat ice cream and oreos for every meal if I let her. For us, I keep lots of healthy foods around and we usually have some treats in the pantry. Well balanced, I guess you can say!

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L.M.

answers from Denver on

There needs to be a happy median. I was allowed to eat whatever I wanted, whatever I wanted and it is very difficult to quiet that voice in my head whenever I crave something. I didn't gain weight when I was younger, but I did when I became an adult. To say the least, I have some pounds I would like to lose-but I am still healthy. I have a friend who was never allowed sweets while growing up. She is now suffering from diabetes and is overweight.

I will buy the "non-healthy" food for my children, but they know it is not a free-for-all. I also try to buy things they think are treats, but are not that bad for them. They love baked Cheetos, fruit snacks, beef jerky, and even the Fiber One bars (chocolate of course). Another treat that is not too bad is the Cocoa Krispie cereal straws -it's a lot healthier than some of the other similar treats. Even topping fruit with Cool Whip or other things are a way to eat fun without taking it too far. You can have fun with food without being overly strict and overly lenient. I have begun finding lower fat and sugar recipies (ie. chocolate mousse) that taste great, the kids love to eat, and I don't feel guilty eating it myself.

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M.B.

answers from Denver on

Hi S.,
I grew up alot like you did, healthy food in our home and occasional junk food like on vacations or field trip days. I have a healthy relationship with food now and keep my kitchen the same as when I grew up. Have you heard the news lately? 65% of Americans are obese and obesity rates in kids are rising! So no, don't keep the cupbords stocked with [email protected]## and expect the kids to control themselves! The key here is what you said about "strict", the kids do need to learn to control this themselves but that is really a control issue and not about food! So maybe this is your issue that needs to be adressed! You wern't allowed to make his decision, it was made for you so now it is hard for you to control! In today's society there is so much stress and as a mom of four you are in high demand and maybe there is not enough time for "you"! Food is a comfort in the eye of all that stress! So hang in ther and maybe try to find some other outlets before it becomes a problem. And I also reccomend weight watchers, I used it after my kids were born and it works! Hang in there mom!

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M.C.

answers from Denver on

I also grew up with carob chips, honey and no sugar. As a result all my siblings and myself would binge on sugary foods when we got a hold of them at friends houses or our relatives. I have totally changed my household as have my siblings. I allow my kids junk food every now and then (movies, bowling, etc.) but when they're in the home I try to limit it. I serve healthy meals and push the healthy snacks as much as possible. I think you're on the right track. Only people who grew up as we did could understand.

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K.F.

answers from Grand Junction on

How about a little of both? I grew up with a mother who was an extreme yo-yo dieter who could easily gulp down a bag of Sweedish Fish for lunch. It wasn't until college until I got a firm grasp on what it really means to eat healthy to feel better overall, and feel better about how I look. I have a 2 year-old daughter and another girl coming mid-April, and I want them to know how to eat healthy from the start. I make sure my daughter eats plenty of protein, and healthy carbs, fruits and veggies. By the time she asks for "andy" (candy) I give her one hershey kiss and tell her that's all she gets. If we go out and play in the snow and she requests "hot chak" when we come inside, I make it with skim milk and a third of the required chocolate powder. I think if you indulge a little every day you will not binge later, and still maintain a healthy outlook on eating.

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K.B.

answers from Denver on

Hi S., I have an "approved snack shelf" that my three girls are allowed to pick from. The only time we have "junk" food is for special occasions, dessert, or if they did something remarkable and picked it as their treat. We aren't the healthiest of eaters but having those healthy snacks that they know they can eat are awesome when it comes to picky eating or not wanting to eat much before a growth spurt, etc.

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C.S.

answers from Salt Lake City on

I've been through this before. After two years of fanatic exercising and eating (I had a form of Anorexia) I tried to reverse what I'd done, but it ended up backfiring. Because I had gone without junk food: peanut butter, pizza, cake, etc., I started to devour it whenever I had junk food and ended up eating waaay to much and still do twelve years later. I know I eat it because it makes me feel full physically when I am feeling empty emotionally. I've noticed when I exercise often that I start to crave junk food less and less. I think it's a great idea to say, "we will be having a dessert once a week" and then have it, but plan on it. Try not to make junk food a reward system. I think it messes you up a bit mentally! Your reward system is changed to being rewarded with food instead of a more positive one. I'll let my children play games or go places as a reward. Sorry about the "novel" of a response, but this is something I'm all too familiar with and had to respond.

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C.E.

answers from Provo on

i don't think either is great. people have different metabolisms and vices, so we can react differently to junk food and its availability. both extremes can backfire. i think it's good to make some rules about junk food in your house to keep it in moderation. i keep treats in the house for rewards, special occasions, or sometimes i just want to try a new dessert recipe. but my kids know that if they haven't yet eaten real food, they don't get junk food. that doesn't stop them from asking for treats, but at least there is an established rule and they learn to eat the healthier things first. sometimes i call "dessert" some whipped cream and a maraschino cherry on top of their fruit. it's a healthier treat and they don't feel like i never give them sweets. when we have a bunch of candy in the house from a holiday, we don't just eat it because it's there. we eat it as a reward for doing chores or having good attitudes, or whatever. if they're earning candies like crazy and i start to get uncomfortable with the amount of sugar they've had, i just say, sorry i don't have any more jobs for you to do for me right now, how about some fruit?

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L.W.

answers from Colorado Springs on

Hi S.,

I have three teenagers. By and large, the house is stocked with healthy food. We are definately not a fast food family (just have your kids watch Super Size Me -- they'll be cured). I'd say about 90 percent of what's in my house is healthy. The key I think is education. If they know it's bad for them, they will actually (eventually) regard the bad stuff as a "treat". I know what you're saying ... I've driven carpool and seen kids tear open a box of snacks and gorge themselves because they never have cookies, cake, etc. My kids have even said, "Mom, please don't tell what's in this while I'm eating it." I limit what unhealthy food comes in the house (except holidays ... I bake at Christmas) and don't give them grief about what they eat at friends' homes, etc. They get cake for their birthdays, etc.

L.

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