I can’t count how many times someone has told me that kids shouldn’t be deprived of junk food or that “all the other kids eat it”. If all the other parents were letting their kids jump off a bridge, would you let yours?
I didn’t think so.
So why on earth would you feed them junk that not only provides little to no nutrition but also contains toxins that could harm them in the long run? So they can “fit in” or “be a kid”? Playing and having fun is a normal part of childhood. Consuming food and beverages that sets kids up for a lifetime of health issues should NOT be a normal part of childhood.
But unfortunately it is. Because we made it so.
I too, end up allowing my child to eat junk occasionally (and by occasionally I mean at birthday parties or other events). I too, see the sad puppy dog look on her face when she wants to eat what everybody else is eating at a social gathering, and give in to spare her the feeling of being left out. Sometimes this even means giving her small wheat or chocolate-based goodies, both of which cause her varying degrees of gastrointestinal trouble. I understand that she needs to be healthy not only physically but emotionally as well, and fitting in or feeling “normal” in social settings is important, within certain boundaries. While I want her to learn to think for herself and not do what everybody else is doing, I also don’t want her to feel like the oddball at every single party. I too, struggle with balancing all of her needs. And in the modern world that sadly means feeding her the occasional toxin.
But what I don’t do is make junk food available at home. Because if everyone is eating healthy at home, there is no opportunity for her to feel left out. There is no sad puppy dog look, no guilt, no feeling of being the oddball. And home is where she is going to eat most of her meals and snacks. I know that if I lead by example, she is more likely to make healthy choices on her own outside of our home when I am not there to make those decisions for her. I also make healthy homemade baked goods so that she can still enjoy treats without the excessive sugar, preservatives, food colouring and other additives. Do the processed, toxin-filled, store bought versions taste a little better? Of course. But if I keep my child away from the processed stuff, her taste buds will develop normally; and real, wholesome food will continue to taste good to her as she grows older, if not better.
The more exposure kids have to processed junk, the more desensitized to regular food they become until real food is simply not enjoyable anymore. I wish more parents understood this.
I think most parents believe they are depriving their kids if they don’t give them junk food and candy because they themselves feel deprived if they don’t eat those things. We project our own feelings on to our kids. We think our kids will feel the same joy and pleasure as we do, but they don’t get the same feelings of nostalgia when eating a Twinkie or Oreo. At least not yet. If you choose to make these things a part of your kids’ childhood then they too will grow up to have an emotional connection to unhealthy food.
There is also the theory that kids (and adults) who are deprived of junk food and candy will “binge” when tempted, but if it is made available regularly it will lose its allure; therefore kids will learn to eat those items in moderation. And moderation is better than bingeing.
I am living proof that this theory is hogwash.
Growing up, I had an ample supply of junk food and candy available 24/7. Did I learn to eat things in moderation? Nope. Did junk food become less alluring? Ha!
For example, I would regularly consume 7-8 chocolate chip cookies, 2-3 packets of “Gushers” fruit snacks, and a large handful of candy in one sitting as a bedtime snack. And that would be the same day that I ate a couple of Pizza Pops followed by half a container of Pringles chips earlier as an after-school snack. Not to mention all the Pepsi, Popsicles, and slurpees that I regularly consumed.
I wish I was exaggerating but unfortunately for my future health, I’m not.
My mother always prepared a fresh, balanced and healthy dinner every night; but because my taste buds were so badly tainted by the junk, I would eat a small dinner and just follow it with a large unhealthy snack later. Despite having access to BOTH healthy food and junk food in my home, I did not learn to balance both. Miraculously I never struggled with my weight, which is probably why I continued eating so much junk for so long.
Now that I’m eating healthy every day I still cave and “binge”once in awhile when I’m exposed to junk food and candy, but my idea of a “binge” from then and now has changed drastically. I still use the word binge, but you can’t really call 2-3 small Halloween-sized candies a binge.
Yup, my occasional weak moment now equates to less than ONE full-size chocolate bar or a couple of small cookies.
I was at a baby shower recently and all I chose from the impressive dessert table was ONE cupcake as a treat. Anyone who knew me 5 years ago would have expected me to eat everything on the table and then go back for seconds. I wasn’t restricting myself, I honestly didn’t want anything more than that.
Despite not buying any type of soda pop for the last 4 years, I have no desire to drink it when I have access to it outside of my home. I simply lost the taste for it.
By “depriving” myself of junk food, I am slowly but surely losing the desire to consume it. There are many foods that I used to love that no longer taste palatable. When I eat them now, the strong, processed taste actually makes me feel sick. (I still can’t say this for chocolate unfortunately). There are many processed foods that I no longer consume or even want to consume, but I didn’t quit them all at once. I gave up one thing at a time as my knowledge of toxic substances in our food grew.
Kids will only crave junk food and sweets if you allow them the opportunity to become addicted to them. Because that’s essentially what cravings are, a strong desire to consume something that your body either needs or is addicted to. You don’t need processed food, you are simply addicted to it. Do you want your kids to be addicted too?