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ASimon asks:
Q:

Where do you draw the line on your child's diet?

As a former overweight child I often wonder to myself how many parents cope with the plethora of unhealthy choices tempting their child. Growing up my parents essentially allowed me to eat and exercise at my own choice, which unfortunately led me down the road of unhealthy living. However it was because of this freedom that I eventually made the choice to live healthily, making the it a matter of personal decision and drive which I am proud of today.

How do you feel about this subject? Do you enforce absolute healthy eating (avoid all junkfood, refined sugars, saturated fats, etc.) or encourage good judgment and personal responsibility (or something in between?)
In Topics: Exercise and fitness, Nutrition
> 60 days ago

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Expert

Louiseasl
Jul 18, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

Everything in moderation.  I have worked with too many teens and young adults who have developed eating disorders.  Some came from homes that restricted food for one reason or another.  Healthy kids tend to come from a home that observes good balanced diets, ability to make choices and promotion of daily exercise.  Also, for children who wish to make some personal choices, such as becoming a vegetarian, it is important to have parent support and supervision to make sure that meals are full of nutrition vs. fats or carbs.

Also, making meal times an experience is a good idea.  If a child does not like vegetables encourage him/her by making them part of the process. Have them shop for food items, prepare dinner and cook with your supervision.  If they are young give them two healthy choices (e.g. "Tonight we can carrots or broccoli, which would you like?")

Make dinner time fun!  When growing up we never knew what to expect for our dinner "lesson" one night a week.  We could walk in to a French Bistro where French was taught or a Taco night with Spanish lessons, too!  Oral family history could have been shared when an old family recipe was used.  Game night was popular during long winter evenings when hot soups and breads were served. New recipes were cut out of newspapers.  And friends were encouraged to join in the family fun, so that our parents had more supervision over our activities.

Good luck and I hope you find a happy balance!

Louise Masin Sattler, NCSP
Nationally Certified School Psychologist
Owner of Signing Families
http://www.SigningFamilies.com

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dgraab
Jul 17, 2009
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Best Answer!

what's this?
from a fellow member
This is a topic I think about a lot, as both a mother of an active, healthy, yet low-weight child, and as someone whose parent had an eating disorder.

I remember once being forced to eat cooked peas for dinner. I very reluctantly (and with verbal protest) did as I was told, but immediately afterward vomited the peas (on the kitchen table) and hate them to this day. I also remember as a child regularly sneaking over to a friend's house to raid her junk food pantry, because my parents wouldn't let my brother and I eat sugar cereals, sodas and certain types of chips (ironically, or perhaps hypocritically, our lunch box often contained bologna sandwiches on white bread with tons of mayo, as well as Twinkies and those pink coconut-covered marshmallow balls!).

Now that I'm a parent, I do not force my child to eat certain food items, nor am I an absolutist on healthy food choices. I do allow fruit juices, some sugary treats and even an occasional soda or fast food indulgence. But I mostly focus on and provide multiple healthy options, and do not allow dessert or rewards like ice cream until enough healthy food is eaten first.

I also haven't been strict about "This is what we're having for dinner -- if you don't like it, too bad for you." Instead I offer her alternative choices if she doesn't like what we're having, within reason. I'm not going to cook a steak if we're having chicken, but if there's a quick and easy alternative like spaghetti or Campbell's Dora the Explorer chicken soup (one of her favorites), I will make that extra dish. As she's gotten older (she's now 7), I've noticed that more often she is choosing to eat what her father and I are having (be it curried vegetables over rice, or BBQ beef ribs and seasoned corn cob). Her previous picky eating habits are (for the most part) passing, and she now often requests salads, fruits, homegrown veggies, and other healthy items.

However, there is one restriction in our daughter's diet: due to her father's (and by extension, our family's) religion, she isn't allowed to eat pork. This hasn't been a problem at home, but can be a challenge (or disappointment for her) in public settings where other kids are eating pork or foods with pork ingredients. To address this limitation and reduce her frustration, I do my best to make sure she has substitutes available, like soy-based or turkey hot dogs and bacon, or vegetarian marshmallows (for campfire roasting -- many standard marshmallows contain pork-based gelatin; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gelatin).

Thankfully, our daughter doesn't have food allergies, and doesn't battle obesity or being overweight, like so many other American children nowadays. Instead, she's on the opposite side of the spectrum: very skinny and tall. At her most recent checkup (last week), her lifelong pediatrician said she's physically and emotionally healthy, and not to worry.

So, overall, for a variety of reasons, our approach to our child's diet falls in the "something in between" category you referenced. Unhealthy choices aren't completely 'forbidden fruit', and we balance with emphasizing and guiding our daughter in healthy eating. Thanks for asking this question!
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Additional Answers (2)

CreativeRachna
CreativeRac... , Child Professional, Teacher writes:
In my opinion, giving too much freedom to children regarding food, may not be the best idea.  Food is what sustains life, gives energy and makes a person healthy and fit or unhealthy and possibly overweight.  It's better to make those big decisions for children until they are responsible enough themselves. Once children are used to eating a healthy diet, that is probably when the parents can ease off a little and give them a big of eating choices.  
     When children are young, ages 1-10, food choices should be monitored.  You should give you child multiple choices such as would you like carrots or peas with dinner.  So it appears that they consistently have choices, but healthy ones.  Make it a point to only keep fruits and vegetables as snacks.  Maybe you can occasionally but one box of healthy cookies.  Once you child enjoys eating salads and lean protein, he or she will enjoy eating "the bad stuff" when available.

The following is a reference article discussing healthy eating.
http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_We_Can_Parent_Tips/

And the next article refers to why it's important to make healthy food choices.
http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Make_Healthy_Food/

I hope this helps,
Rachna
> 60 days ago

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Loddie1
Loddie1 , Parent writes:
In our home, we offer healthy snacks first. But at the same time, we let our kids be a kid! Of course we let her have some of that junky food every once in awhile. But health is taught in our home to be priority over anything else. Education is the key to children making the best choice for themselves. As I cook, I explain what each food has in it both beneficial and non-beneficial. Also, "taking things in moderation" is always best where any food comes in. As a child, I had to eat "diet food" not because I was fat but my parents were dieting. So I weighed 100 lbs even no body fat. I wish I could say that for myself today!
> 60 days ago

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