Kids and Nutrition: Let’s Be Real



It’s National Nutrition Month, which serves to encourage (guilt) parents and kids to eat right and stay healthy. So instead of an educational post about healthy eating and kids, I’m just going to be real with you.


While I am a passionate believer in living a healthy lifestyle having been an overweight child and eventually dealing with an eating disorder, I’m not always so good about feeding my kids the healthy stuff.

First of all, as a mom who is always on the run, packaged goods make it entirely too easy to be lazy – grab and go and get out the door, ya know? Plus, they make those packaged products look bright and fun and lace them with crack so kids (and parents) simply can’t resist them.

Second, once kids (and parents) are introduced to those bright, crack laced treats it is really hard to break the habit (addiction). They become vehicles of bribery: “If you put on your shoes I’ll let you have a bag of muffins.” And as a preventative measure to the “h-angry toddler.” You know, extreme meltdown mode caused by hunger at which point attempting to feed your child anything to bring him/her (and mom) back from the brink of total destruction is almost impossible.

Cheetos because we choose to be real... but not with cheese.
Cheetos because we choose to be real… but not with cheese.

Finally, who can resist a drive thru? Food prepared and ready without leaving your car and best of all kids strapped in their seats – am I the only one that misses confining kids to highchairs at meal time? Wouldn’t it be grand if there was a drive thru for everything?

Strapped in and ready to roll with her snack.
Strapped in and ready to roll with her snack.
Car eating means no issues staying seated during meals.
Car eating means no issues staying seated during meals.

I say all this in defense of parents everywhere. Those who provide a healthy breakfast, then throw prepackaged sammies in kids’ lunchboxes along with a bottle of Yoohoo and a bag of Funyuns and finish with chicken nuggets and tots for dinner most nights. Can I get a “Hell yeah!?”

Now is this how I manage my kids’ diets? No, not every day, but there are those days and I can relate to parents who don’t have the time, energy, or even knowledge to provide nutritious options. And let’s be real – that’s the majority of parents! Unless your child suffers from food allergies, your kid has had more than a few opportunities to enjoy the flavors of prepackaged, processed, high fructose corn syrup, sugary “goodness.”

I scream, you scream, we all need a lil ice cream!
I scream, you scream, we all need a lil ice cream!

While my kids will never turn down the processed crap, I also realize, when given the chance, my kids will not only eat, but actually opt for real food over said crap. As a two year old, my daughter preferred milk over everything and thanks to her severe gag reflex she pretty much lived off milk and cereal. Then one night she was mesmerized by the pink smoked salmon sitting on a sushi roll. We gave her a piece and after much investigation, she gobbled it up and begged for more!

Grilled chicken, green beans and mac and cheese: balance !
Grilled chicken, green beans and mac and cheese: balance !

From that meal on, I started introducing colorful, flavorful foods that I originally thought were too complex for a kid’s palate. My kids also started attending a new school that provided all meals with no alternatives. For once, I think peer pressure – or just being more hungry than stubborn! – was a good thing.

For the most part, I keep healthy options in the house and I try to set a good example by eating those foods while having a few treats on hand too. I also try to read labels and avoid the 101 ingredients we’re being told will cause all kinds of horrid maladies in our kids, but I don’t freak out if they eat something not on the “clean” list.

So, in keeping it real, I don’t need National Nutrition Month to remind (guilt) me about what I should or shouldn’t be feeding my kids. I know what they need and that’s moderation: 80% healthy, nutritious foods and 20% crap. If that makes me a bad parent, then so be it. But I have to say I must be doing something right when my kids eat steamed broccoli before anything else on their plate and beg for more!

How do you keep a balanced diet for your kids in a world of prepackaged, processed options or do you even worry about it?




  1. My kids and I are vegetarian. That basically eliminates all fast food drive thrus for us – which is a good thing. We also didn’t let our kids have any processed sugar treats (no cookies, cakes, ice cream, fruit snacks, etc) until they were two which, I believe, really helps them daily not crave the super sugary stuff as much now that they’re older.


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