How to Tell a Friend to Eat Healthier

Updated on February 26, 2008
T.H. asks from Supply, NC
8 answers

Hi, I know I ask a lot of questions but this one is kind of a sensitive one. I have a very best friend with 3 boys under 5. My friend doesn't exactly eat the healthiest. And she doesn't feed her kids very healthy. Her youngest is overweight and is very clumsy due to it. I feel extremely bad when talking to her because she'll ask me "What are you guys having for dinner?" and I won't lie, I'll say "Oh some baked ziti with garlic bread" or "Meatloaf and carrots" and when I ask her what she's made, it's always "McDonalds/Burger King" or "We had Dominos/Pizza Hut". Once a month we have cook outs where I'll cook some steak and have corn and baked potatoes on the grill or I'll cook a traditional italian meal for all 8 of us. When her kids eat my cooking they say things like "Ewww, I don't like this" or "This isn't my favorite and I'm not eating it" and while I know kids can be picky, my son stuffs his face full of veggies, fruits, and anything pasta. That and after the plates are cleared and they've eated MAYBE 3 bites they want cookies, candy, chips, or something sweet. And when my son snacks he eats the granola bars or fruit snacks made with fruit juice and when she tells me what her kids are snacking on it's always "Oreos" or "Cheese doodles/Chips" Now, I'm not a health guru or anything like that. I don't do the whole tofu and all organic stuff and yeah once in a while, we do go out to eat at McDonalds or if I'm too tired to cook I order a pizza or something in, and when Craven is good he does get some ice cream here and there but for my friend it's almost everynight. She complains that she needs to lose weight and that she needs to put her baby on a diet too, but I don't think she knows how to say no to her kids when they want snacks. I know her oven is broken and I'v esent her some recipies via with meals that only need a burner or a microwave, and she says she wants to cook, but I just don't know what to say or do without offending her! Please help!!

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answers from Providence on

I have to agree, your heart is in the right place, but your nose is not. You have to TRULY WANT to live healthier, and it is not an easy thing to do once you get in that rut. I am not convinced that however you approach that with your friend that she would be receptive to it.

The children WILL live and grow up eventually, and their tastebuds will change. You can't MAKE someone raise their kids a certain way, whether your agree or not. I say keep out of that one in order to preserve your friendship.



answers from Greensboro on

Hi. Congratulations on your upcoming arrival. I know you must be so excited. Now about your friend. I'm sure you want the best for her and her children and it sounds like deep down she does too. She wants to lose weight and eat better, she's just stuck in a vicious cycle. Then, when she might try to do something to lose weight with no success, it doesn't take long to get discouraged and give up. It takes a person who's experienced this to understand. I've definitely been in that situation. I've done a lot of reading lately and found that the chemicals, additives and preservatives put in all our food makes our bodies addicted to it and crave it more and more. Also, they inject animals with hormones to speed growth and make bigger animals. Putting that in our bodies makes us bigger too. Kids actually start puberty at a much earlier age now because of that. You're wanting to eat even when you're not even truly hungry. We don't get fully satisfied at each meal. Oh sure, you'll eat enough to feel full, but it doesn't last til the next meal, so you end up eating a snack that you're craving and not good for you. The food doesn't give you energy so you have no motivation to do anything. I need to lose some weight, so I started eating only organic about 2 weeks ago. The only time I've "cheated" is if I was out running errands and had to grab something to go. I've consistently lost 1 lb each and every day. That's the only change I've made except only drinking water, which I was doing before changing my diet, with no weight loss. It was definitely the change in food. I'd done some serious working out prior to that, with no success. I had gotten extremely discouraged, but now I know that it's absolutely possible to lose weight without being hungry or depriving myself. I eat whatever I want and still lose weight. I'm sure she's genuinely tired all the time. It's from the type of food she's eating. If I eat something that's not organic, I get so tired I almost have to take a nap and I get so bloated and feel horrible. Maybe you could tell her my experience and that might give her just enough encouragement to at least try it. Since she would have to cook all her meals, it would give her the opportunity to start feeding her kids much healthier foods. Her stove's broken, but it's getting warmer weather so grilling out would be the best way to cook. She could grill her meats and steam her vegetables. Even though microwaving is really bad for food since it kills all the nutrients, it's still better than eating out all the time. I'm sure the convenience of chips and cookies in bags is appealing when the kids are hungry and screaming for a snack, but there's organic chips and cookies and they taste so much better. I used to think organic food would be bland and I would have to force it down. That's so not the case. It tastes absolutely wonderful. It's like loosing your taste and gaining it back. That's a huge difference. I have so much more energy now too. I actually had major back surgery about 6 months ago, after 2 horrible years of pain and near immobility (i was pregnant at the time too), and even after I started feeling better, I had no motivation to start living normally again. Now that I'm eating healthier, I'm doing more and more. It's helped my pain too. It might take a while for her kids to get used to eating fruits and vegetables, but the organic fruits are so sweet that they might actually surprise her by asking for that instead of cookies. I'm sure they're addicted to those foods too. She'll just have to be strong for her and her kids. I always think about how when scientists first dissected cancerous tumors, they were made up of the preservatives that are generously put in our food just to make the shelf life longer. It's never too late to make a change especially one that could save her life or her children's. If her kids come over and bring something that's not healthy, just don't give it to them and give them something that is healthy. If they don't eat it, they'll live. They won't starve. That might sound harsh but it's for their own good. Sorry if I got a little preachy, but I hope it will help. I know you want to help her, but if she just won't listen or seem like she's going to try, you'll just have to back off because she'll probably feel that you're being pushy instead of meaning well. It will make her feel worse about her situation. Good luck!



answers from Lancaster on

As I'm sure you realize... you are treading on dangerous territory with this one... We all want the best for our children, and for all children.

However, we as mothers are bombarded with advice -from TV, magazines, friends, family, books, etc. Sometimes as a friend the best thing you can do is provide a good example and leave the rest up to your friend. If she wants advice on eating and how to feed her kids she can ask you. There is no way that living in 2007 she can be oblivious to how unhealthy McDonald's is or how important exercise is.

It sounds like it's not just food... there's also the discipline element - the inability to say no, the lack of consequences for not eating what they are given... If you try to change one element of her parenting, where do you draw the line?

I'm all about being supportive of other mom's. It's easy to compare your kids and parenting style to others but it is much harder to just accept each other and be friends. Let her be the mom she wants to be and you can just enjoy your relationship as her friend... not her parenting instructor.



answers from Savannah on

I know exactly how you feel!!! The little girl I baby sit is fed the same way your friends kids are. The girl isn't over weight (she just turned 3 not too long ago) but she isn't active at all. She will go out side with my daughter and just stand there and watch her run around!! It's like she has no energy. Mom is over weight too and wants to do something about it and she thinks getting a salad at the drive thru is going to help her! But it's nothing for her to drop her off in the morning with french toast sticks or in the afternoon with Zaxbys chicken strips or a cheese burger. Or with a king size baby of M & M and she hadn't even had lunch!!! And sweet tea!! She has been giving this girl sweet tea since she could drink from a sippy cup!!!! I've told her that this is very unhealthy for her and that she could end up with child diabetes, cholosteral problems, heat problems, etc. I've talked to her dad about it (they aren't together but he picks her up in the evening sometimes) and he has gotten on her case about it too. Her answer is-She's getting fed right! I normally throw the food away when she drops her off with it and make her lunch myself. And I'm like you, I'm not a health nut but I limit the 'junk' my daughter takes in. McDonalds is a treat in my house!! But when I make dinner, the little girl eats all her veggies first, then noodles/rice then her meat. She isn't much of a meat eater and she will pick at it. She does the same thing at her dad's friends house (that I'm friends with also). And even she has told her mom that she needs to set and example and feed her better.

I wish I knew the magic words to give you to tell your friend cause I could use them myself for that LO's mom. But all you can do is keep feeding your kids the way you want them to be fed and keep trying to get through to her with hers. Her kids are so used to getting fast food and junk food that it's no wonder they don't want to eat what you cook!! Just remember, everyone's parenting is going to be one of 3 ways-stricter than you, about the same as you and totally lax to you. As long as you know you are giving your kids the best then stick with it!! Heck, too bad we don't live closer to each other, I'd love to have a cook out with someone on the same page as me when it came to their kids!!!

Here is a clip from a web site I found.........

How has this happened in our society and how do parents deal with it?
Misra says there are too many factors to name them all. They include parents with busy lifestyles who no longer have time to participate in outdoor activities with young children. Also busy parents have resorted to the option of relying too much on fast food as a source of regular meals for themselves and their families which in turn leads to many health problems. Added to these factors is the fact that children are not as safe playing outdoors as they once were, so they stay in more often and watch TV or play video games.
There also is the perception that eating healthy is more expensive. For some lower-income families, eating burgers and fries from the dollar menu during a busy day pleases the whole family, but that can lead to problems.
"For example, a large burger, fries and a soda can be as much as 1,500 to 1,800 calories in one meal when the daily calorie intake for an adult should be around 2,000," Misra points out.
She adds that a good portion of those fast-food calories come from sugar or fat because these are the ingredients that make food "tastier" and more enticing to the palate. So she believes the food industry must bear some responsibility for portion sizes and fat and sugar content and she is pleased to see that some fast food chains have taken the initiative by providing healthy alternatives

Sorry if I couldn't be much help, but good luck!!



answers from Charleston on

It sounds like you want whats best for your kids. Sometimes it's hard to see what other parents are doing that can effect their kids in the wrong ways. I'm sure that your friend does want what's best for her children too, but she lacks the will power. To eat healthier it takes time and even patience. Fast food is easy and quick...and a lot cheaper even. She may not has as much time to prepare meals. If you think about it, what you introduce to your children when they are young is what they will prefer. She may not have had a lot of good "food" influences and is feeding her kids what is readily available and quick. A nice bag of cookies will make any kid happy and sometimes as a mom, you just need a break.

I know that you care about your friend. And it may even get old to hear her talk of losing weight, but it gets frustrating to hear it while that same person is scarfing down a big mac. Maybe it's time you just didn't say anything. You have given clues, given recipes and your time...but you don't have to give in to added stress in your life.

I would say "You know friend, I really care about you and your health and your children's health. Have you ever thought about saving a little money and eating at home more? I can help you prepare some easy to make meals one night and we can even make a night of it once a month, what do you think?" Something like that would be very nice and giving her one day a month to do that may be a god-send to her. Sometimes people don't need a lecture, they need actual guidance.

It's that saying about teaching a man to fish...give him a fish and he eats for one day---but teach him to fish and he'll have fish for life. Maybe she just needs someone to help her "FISH".

You are a good friend.



answers from Charleston on

Hi T.,
I know how you feel. My brother and his wife are the same way. Their kids are not overweight, but one is underweight because he is such a picky eater. I do not think there is really anthing you can do to get her to feed her kids better. I know at our house when my niece and nephew do not eat their dinner they do not get dessert. That is just a rule in my house, my kids know that they have to eat over half of their dinner or no dessert. My boys love veggies, fruits, and milk. Only on special occasions do they get soda. We order out once a month the rest of the time we cook. Her kids are under 5? There is a program called WIC at the health dept. You talk with a nutrionist and get vouchers for milk, eggs, cheese, peanut butter, beans, and cereal. Maybe haveing her talk to a nutrionist would help the kids at least.



answers from Raleigh on

Although your heart is in the right place, your nose isn't. :) She would probably be offended is you said anything to her. If your friendship is important I would leave it alone. The only thing you can do is set a good example. When they come to your house have only healthy snacks available. I know plenty of kids who eat different foods at other peoples houses that they won't eat at home. Maybe with enough exposure they will learn to like "carrots" too.
Take care!



answers from Norfolk on

Hey there:

My advice to you is that when your friend complains about needing to lose weight, take that as a cue to offer ideas or literature on how to go about it. Your friend obviouslt recognizes problem but doesn't have the will power or knowledge to act on it. The idea is to be supportive, not opinionated or negative. Using positive encouragement when the subject is broached by your friend may go a long way in helping her make some changes.

I also agree with another post which alluded to leading by example. Without saying a word to your friend, she will learn a lot from observing your healthier choices.

Hope that helps!

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