Need to Change Kiddos Diets for Behavior Problems (And Hubby Isn't Keen)

Updated on May 24, 2009
C.F. asks from Dexter, MI
15 answers

I have three boys, two of which have behavior problems and anxieties that we are addressing with discipline. And before I tell you everything, I want you to know that I am always reading labels and trying to cook as healthy as possible as well as provide fruits and veggies. There are times when a convenience food is on sale and/or my husband goes shopping and we get other not so healthy foods.

Here's my dilemma: I had told my pediatrician that my youngest and oldest have a sweet tooth and crave pretzels, crackers, etc. She suggests that I cut out the crackers/snacks and white flour type foods, along with sugar. She says that these empty carbs convert to sugar and are linked with difficult behavior and anxiety. She says the kids need more protein and fats (they went down a bit in percentage on weight) instead for the growth spurts they are heading for in the preteen/teen years. She also said that I could transition slowly and that there would be a two week withdrawal period. How crazy is that!! I trust her immensely and know that she favors diet and other remedies to meds.

I need advice on good alternatives to those types of snacks that are so popular, cheap and easy to feed kiddos. I also would love to know if there is a cookbook that is budget friendly and uses less pasta and potatoes (and easy to find ingredients). I have switched to protein smoothies and eggs/omeletes for breakfast. I'm letting them have the food we have in the house, just smaller quantities. I know there are things like beef jerky and such, it's just that we are on a tight budget.

The other BIG issue is my husband who is VERY carb addicted. When he is off work, he eats mostly toast, crackers and pretzels. The marketing people tell us that it is a healthy snack. He is always low on energy and doesn't seem to care what he eats as long as he's not hungry and the food tastes good. I have in the past tried to do a similar change and he gives me a hard time because he claims that they "deserve" to eat fun foods. I'm not trying to take away desserts forever, I just want the majority of their diet to be whole foods.

Anyone out there dealt with the diet change or the husband issue before???

Thanks in advance,

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So What Happened?

Wow, I'm in awe of all the wonderful mom's who gave me advice! I am using the recipe for Banana cookies, I just found a great recipe for Hummus online (with video) and my kids love eating it. I have taken the advice of weaning them slowly and just letting them have a smaller amount of the stuff they are used to eating. I served omeletes and quesadillas for breakfast and lunch. My husband is eating up all the cereal for his meals. I am finding that talking to them and educating them is sticking a bit. The biggest thing I notice is that the bellies are happier longer when I do the healthier snacks/meals. I'm going to check out the "sneaky food" cookbook as I think I've seen it on a t.v. show one time. Thanks everyone and if anyone has something to add, please do. I love learning new things!

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answers from Lansing on

It's hard. I know. My two year old was going crazy until I cut out all off those carbs and not so good snacks (I.e. Pretzels, goldfish, cherrios, etc.). I started buying fresh fruits and veggies. My daughter really likes strawberries and grapes, apples with peanut butter, raisins (and other dried fruits, including apple and banana chips), and bananas. I have been cooking more veggies (especially green vegetables and beans). She loves black eyes peas or pinto beans made in the crock pot with some kind of meat (also refried beans with pita or tortilla chips). She snacks on chick peas (and garbanzo beans). I buy them in a can, rinse them and toss in the microwave for 15-20 seconds. I buy organic milk and juice. I especially try to be juice not made from concentrate (because it has more bad sugar than juice made completely from fruit which has better sugar that digests easier). I hope this helps.

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answers from Cincinnati on

Hi C.,

I try to feed my daughter a low carb diet, not necessarily for behavioral issues ... but more because I know it is healthier for her and all of us.

I have not found one "all in one source" for information. I've gathered it from lots of different places. Dr. Sears,, and other internet searches as well as books. Many of these have already been mentioned. What I would suggest is going slow. Don't just go cold turkey. You may even consider doing it over a period of time longer then 2 weeks. It's a mind game (as well as the physical withdrawls of sugar! And yes, they are REAL. I did the South Beach diet several years ago and you 'detox' from ALL sugar including fruit for 2 weeks. OIY! Talk about cravings!!!!!) you take away one 'treat' and replace it with something else. They get used to it and then don't miss the treat.

Do your kids go for veggies? My daughter loves a snack of celery or raisins. You can also do celery sticks with organic peanut butter and raisins. Vitamins AND protein!

Basically, our snacks revolve around fruit and veggies. For dinners I do a lot of salads as a larger part of the meal to accompany the meat. We do pasta maybe once a week and then I get the organic whole grain pasta.

It was suggested you shop at Whole Foods... which I LOVE. But quite honestly, they are not budget family ... certainly not for a family of 4. You can do quite a bit of wholesome, organic shopping at Meijer. They have come a long way. There are tons of resources out there for real food diets. You just have to do a little homework, gather your information and then start implementing.

One thing I like to do is make morning muffins. (typically the night before) I modified a great carrot cake recipe. I use a fraction of the sugar, carrot, apple, raisin, divide the flour between all purpose, wheat, and oat and also throw in a some flax seed. You can get it at Meijer in the 'healthy' section. It's even available in packets... you just throw one packet into your recipe.

Flax seeds are a great source of good fats that kids needs...those coveted omegas.

Also, have you considered some cod liver oil? You can get it in tablets or liquid ... and you can get it flavored! My daughter takes the peach liquid every day... and loves it! Nordic Naturals is the best brand. Their processing keeps it as pure as possible so you are getting the maximum benefit. Also NourishMD advocates a multivitamin...they recommend Kids Vibe. We haven't tried it yet, but we're going to. I do know a mom who uses it on her three boys and she really likes it.

Making sure the kids are getting the good fats and nutrients they need is important to good behavior.

Just so you know, NourishMD is a great site. It's run by a pediatrician and nutritionist.... out of ANN ARBOR! I've heard these ladies speak and they are wonderful. They are passionate about teaching moms how to feed their kids REAL food. Here's one thing to consider when you're trying to make this change..... 4 grams of sugar... = ONE packet of sugar. You know...those little packets you get at restaurants for your coffee. Yeah...1=4 grams. So...take a look at the labels on those pretzels and see how many grams of sugar and then try to not fall over when you realize how many packets of sugar your guys just consumed!

Oh, and stay away from the flavored yogurts. Those are AWFUL! I didn't realize how many grams of sugar they have. We now do the organic PLAIN yogurt and I flavor it with some honey or jam. My daughter eats it no problem. Plus, it's cheaper that way!

You can do this. If your husband isn't on board, do it for your kids. Teach your kids how to make healthy choices... they will be so much better for it in the long run. Your husband is most likely set in his ways and doesn't see the benefits of a healthy diet. Don't force it. You can't change a person. You can only present information and then THEY have to change. You CAN influence your kids. And yes, you will have to deal with the 'daddy eats them!' issue. Just approach it lovingly and say that for YOU KIDS this is a healthier choice.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Grand Rapids on


I was on a no flour no sugar diet a few years ago and found this recipe for banana breakfast cookies, the most expensive ingredient would be the nuts- I usually buy them in bulk at Sams Club for the best price. If you know anyone who has black walnut trees maybe you could harvest them this fall and use those instead. I can tell you how to do it if your interested.

1 cup medium banans mashed
1/3 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups dry oatmeal
1 1/4 cups walnuts-chopped
1/2 cup raisins
2 eggs

combine bananas, oil, and vanilla. Stir in oats, walnuts, and raisins. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. Press down lightly with fork. Bake 350 degrees 10-12 minutes until golden brown.

Something else we make a lot of is smoothies made with yogurt and I found a super easy way to make homemade yogurt. Put 2 quarts milk (I use reconstituted powdered milk) into crock pot and turn on low. Let "cook" for 2 1/2 hours. Turn off heat, let sit for 3 hours. Stir in 1 cup plain yogurt, wrap in large thick bathtowel and sit in a warm place for 8 hours or overnight. Thats it, you have yogurt. Its high in protien. We have a blender called a magic bullet and use it to make smoothies, when you put some fruit in it, or a little vanilla and honey it makes an awesome sweet treat.

One thing I noticed when I was on the no sugar diet was how sweet fruit tasted once I was off sugar for awhile. If you can stick it out during the adjustment period, the natural sweetness in fruits is very satisfying.

My husband is a weight lifter and has been trying to increase his protien intake and we have gotten very creative with beans also, if you are interested I can pass a few things along that we have tried. Very out of the box ideas, but really were pretty tasty.

I'm sorry I don't have any advice about how to bring your husband on board with this, other than talking to him and pleading your case and maybe getting him to agree to be supportive for a trial period, a month perhaps, long enough to get him onboard with you.

Good luck.

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answers from Detroit on

I just wanted to add a few things. In our household there has been a lifestyle change that has occured over several years as there is soooo much to learn! It will take time, but i also want to encourage you and congratulate you! For my family, the Sneaky Chef books (for kids and especially the one for husbands!) and the Deceptively delicious cookbook have been extremely instumental in helping me get my kids to eat nutritious food without the bribery! Usually its hidden so no one knows.... although green eggs are a big hit (for 3 out of 4 of us) in our home --yes, scrambled eggs include purees of spinach or kale! Plus, there are plenty of fun foods that ensure you are not taking the fun out of being a kid! I for one, could never give up treats. I do think that we should understand the difference between treats and pure garbage!

The other must have is a fantastic blender--i have the Vita Mix which is an investment but between making purees and smoothies--i use it every single day. Plus it came with a recipe book that has pages of recipes---smoothies is by far our most used section of that boook--veggie smoothies, fruit drinks and smoothies, ice creams, etc. I have been on a smoothie kick as it is the best way to get my kids to eat a variety of fruits every day. For years, fresh fruits and veggies were always going to waste if we did not eat them in time. Well, i finally realized that if those bananas are loooking ripe and no one is in the mood... peel it and stick it in a ziploc in the freezer for a future smoothie--or in our home, 'banana ice cream'. this works for pretty much every fresh fruit you can think of...

The other thing i want to share, is that is totally is a process of just eliminating those nutritiously void things from your home. Over time, you will find that nutritional foods are more filling, will cut down on cravings and that processed foods start to taste strange! Discuss with your husband that the family's health is your priority. I once again have to recommend the Sneak Chef's book "Cheating on your man, In the Kitchen"--it not only give fantastic recipes but has a chapter devoted to the challenge of men's diets in general--you will not feel alone! It really enlightened me and helped me approach this challenge with my husband. At first, he couldn't believe the things i was pureeing and adding to foods... but after eating them and LIKING them, he just didn't care--or ask. Her recipes are really excellent.

Lastly, i just want to say that our families are facing food issues that past generations have not had. If we want our children and families to have the quality of life that we all want to have--we have to start getting knowledgable, making different decisions and letting food manufactureres know that we do not want to feed our children corn syrup, preservatives, dyes, pesticides, ETC! Sounds like you are already on board with that. There is no doubt it is hard--between birthday events... other kids eating habits... husbands.... it seems like every mouthful of veggies or fruits is a victory--and it is! I think all mothers take great pride in serving food that the family loves... however, we now have the responsibility to serve healtful food and that is not easy but definitley within
our talents! As usual, us moms have to do the impossible and make it look easy...
Also, sounds like a little family garden is in order! That could be a cool way to get your boys interested in fresh foods...

best of luck!

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answers from Detroit on

If I were you, I would consider going completely GLUTEN free. Your family may have issues with gluten, not carbs in general. I'd recommend you spend some time reading about gluten intolerance, the opoid excess theory about gluten, and celiac disease, and then decide.



answers from Detroit on

Are we married to the same man? I'm having the exact same problem right now. My 3 year old son is having terrible behavior problems. It doesn't help that while I am at work or away from home, my husband feeds him hot dogs, McDonald's chicken nuggets, candy, cookies, cheeseburgers, and tons of other junk! I buy very healthy foods and I cook very healthy, which my husband hates! He will often make a cheeseburger after I've made a very nice dinner of fish/chicken, grilled veggies, and salad. He's a horrible eater! He loves chili dogs and burgers everyday. He is passing his horrible eating habits onto our son. I'm so tired of fighting him on this. Some good snacks that my son loves are string cheese, whole grain crackers, yogurt, fresh fruit, brocolli (dinosaur trees), strawberries, and grapes. I also make homemade chicken nuggets coated with whole grain flour and cooked in olive oil. He loves those. I hope this helps :) Good luck!



answers from Kalamazoo on

you can switch to whole grain breads, pastas, crackers...even my son who swore he would never eat whole grain pastas has found it to be tasty..and most larger stores carry these items..i get mine at walmart...

you can check out diabetic recipe sites since they are low carb is can find foods by food or select look for recipes...they even have a section for snacks/lunches.

i hope this helps at least a little.




answers from Detroit on

There is a great website that has great kid-friendly meals and snacks that are easy to prepare. I also like Elana'sPantry. She is gluten-free, but makes great baked goods using almond flour (high protein/low glycemic) and agave nectar in place of sugar. My kids love them! My husband would rather have the real deal... But after awhile of seeing the change in the kids, and also in how much better he feels, he is coming around.
Also, try shopping at a Trader Joe's if you have one. They have better prices on healthy food than other grocery stores. (especially for their almond flour)
GOOD LUCK! And don't give up - it is well worth it in the long run.



answers from Jackson on

Alternative to Crackers.

Seed crackers :-D You can find recipes on any Raw Food recipe site.

My Husband was very resistent to the switch from a primarily grain based diet to one that is mostly protien and produce. We allow treats now and again like sourdough pretzels instead of more traditional pretzels. Sourdough is easier to digest and because it has a more robust flavor and they are a lot harder you're less likely to overeat with them. We also kept Whole grains like Oatmeal, and Brown Rice, and added others like Quinoa, Millett, and Amaranth.

It did take time (and we are still working on it!) But my hubby no longer turns his nose up at what I make...



answers from Grand Rapids on

My husband is a junk food junkie. I just keep the chips and "his" snacks in the cabinet above the fridge, and he can snack till his heart is content after the kids go to bed. And I pack them in his lunches. One of my daughters helps me pack his lunches, and it isn't even an issue. Those are just dad's things. My kids know what is healthy, and don't fight me on this AT ALL. Teach them what is good, and they will listen. Good luck to you!



answers from Detroit on

A bread machine and bulk whole grains will help. I make a loaf for myself each week, my husband makes a loaf or two for himself and our son eats which ever he wants. We have gone from the sugared cereal to toast with peanut or almond butter every morning with V8 Fusion (for the fruits and veggies). That will modify the carbs.
My son still prefers white bread, so I make sure if I buy it that it is whole-grain white.
You can also make your own pretzel stick dough and whatnot in a bread machine, so slowing adding more whole grain flour and less white will bring them around.
You can modify most cookie recipes with applesauce or other natural sweeteners. The texture may change a little, but if you make it a gradual change no one may notice.



answers from Detroit on

Dr. Sears wrote a book on this (or something very similar) called Nutrition Defecit Disorder.

Check it out. Seems it may have merit in your case. There might even be suggestions on how to deal with a "not on board" hubby. Good luck!



answers from Detroit on

I use whole grain flours and make most of our food from scratch. I switched to low index sweeteners like brown rice syrup and agave.
Maybe it would help if you talked about how much of what you really should be eating. I eat 3 raw Brazil nuts for the selenium everyday. I read The vegan diet for chronic disease prevention.. don't remember who it's by but it was fascinating! So much about how the body works with the food it's fed, it's the body's hand book! I'm not vegan, it was to hard core for me. But I learned how to eat more balanced and make educated choices. That's a wonderful gift to give your family. So pitch it like a gift and hope for the best.

Some how I have helped my once white bread jiffy peanut butter guy. To vegetarian Indian fare, and green smoothies. You never know. You might find yourself mixing up a batter of mashed beans, rice milk & rice flour, chives & cheese for fritters. Maybe start with new salad sides that are pretty too. Like make ribbons of carrot, zucchini, dicon w/ veggie peeler. Marinate in 1/2 c vinegar to 2 c water, few T of sugar. Or your fav Italian dressing. Or ranch, and add red pepper strips for color.

Plant a garden maybe they'll help plant and eat it too.

Have fun with it. A. H



answers from Detroit on

It sounds like the real issue is how to get the hubby on board. For me the jury is still out on whether I believe all the gluten free stuff, so I can understand where he is coming from. Maybe you could have a non confrontational discussion with him, when you both aren't emotional. Pick a time, plan it, think about when he is in the best mood. If you want him to change his eating habits, then ask him for a trial period, 2 weeks or something. Get the facts, find out how long it takes for the effects of diet change to be noticeable, and ask him for that long of a trial period. Tell him that you would like to keep a journal fo everyone, ask him to keep his own, and after the trial period, reveiw the journals together and decide whether it's worth it. It sounds like he doesn't believe that it will work. Tell him you are not sure either (if you are sure, then explain why, and make sure it isn't because the doctor said so, I would bet he is not a go to the doctor person), and that you just want to try different things.

I would also recommend that you get the boys lots of exercise. Maybe before you do anything else in the morning, make sure that you take a walk with them, etc. I would also say that boys this age are always high energy. The discipline for mine when he was 9 and 11 was to run. I set up an obstacle course, or jsut outlined a pattern and would make him run it 5 times (depending on how big it was) to help to burn off the energy and take care of some of the aggressive hormones that are coursing through his veins. It would be even better if you could recognize the signs before things got full blown, stop what you are doing, and take a bike ride. Get the good feelings flowing. Bless you for home schooling. It's great that you will actually have the flexibility to stop in the middle of something and address a need for movement that they have. Good luck.



answers from Detroit on

Sounds like your hubby is proving he has a behavioral problem too. His eating habits are manifesting the behavioral problems. And that he's a junk food junkie, shows he is unwilling to adjust his life. It's 'feel good' stuff. And is he telling you the real story as to what the doctors say? The mfrs will say anything to sell the product. Especially if it's cynically presented: "My wife wants me to start eating healthier stuff" "Well golllly! these pretzels are healthy. LOOK! these Cheetos are cheese flavored, and cheese is good for you!"

The kids deserve to learn good habits. Sure, treating them to something they really like is great. Not on a regular basis or as a food group, tho. They may not be able to see their bad behaviors, or as some of their behavior as bad. But somehow get through to them that it is, but can be adjusted. Hubby's making excuses for them because he's just as off as they.

Go do your shopping at Whole Foods or Better Health. You'll get lots of advice there if asked and they have reading material and cook books that focus on better meal prep. Just stick to your guns, and if it isn't to hubby's liking, hey! he doesn't have to eat it! He can fix his own stuff. You do not have to fix separate meals just because he's unwilling to change or support. Make him fix his own and wash up afterwards. Just to get out of that he may just learn to 'shut up and eat it'. And he'll reap the benefits.
But for the kids' sakes, you guys better get on the same page or there's bound to be more trouble.

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