Your Shopping List

View Shopping List

Is Food Culture Controlling Your Kids?

In the beginning…

as a parent, when your baby first starts to eat “real” food and is excited to explore all the new textures and flavors, you may find yourself thinking, “Wow, I am really rocking this parenting thing – this isn’t so hard, my child will eat almost anything!”

Then, the toddler phase hits and as your child is discovering this new-found independence, they decide they don’t like a certain food (that they loved 3 days ago!) and you begin to feel the failure, lack of patience, and want to pull your hair out!  Welcome to the beginning of food challenges with kids…and our culture doesn’t help!

Are you frustrated with the “food culture” that your kids, or grandkids, spend their days immersed in?

Do you feel like a linebacker trying to tackle all the junk food and sugar coming at your kids every day, all day long?

If so, trust us, you’re not alone!

A few weeks ago, my seven-year-old nephew was excited to tell me about the chocolate cream-filled long john doughnut that he enjoys for breakfast at school.  I asked my brother, “Do they really serve the kids doughnuts at school?”  “And he can get one every single day if he wants to?!”  They confirmed this is part of the school’s morning routine and their frustration…can you really expect a seven-year-old to resist that temptation?!  And that’s not all — kids are able to add rice krispie treats, cookies, brownies, chips, fruit snacks, and more to their lunches every single day!

Of course, it’s not just at school.  Think of all the kids’ and grandkids’ activities and events where food plays a key role:

  • Pizza and capri-suns followed by cake and ice cream at the birthday party
  • Cosmic brownies and Gatorade after the soccer game
  • Mocha cookie cream frappuccino, a brownie dough blizzard, or hitting the favorite drive-through to celebrate every “special” accomplishment
  • Packages of Cheeze-its, goldfish crackers, cheese cracker snack packs, pretzels and Doritos for “nourishing snacks” throughout the day
  • Doughnuts and juice after church service


It’s no surprise that over 2/3 of calories consumed by U.S. youths are coming from ultra-processed foods.  How are you supposed to teach your kids good eating habits with this kind of food culture bombarding them everywhere they go?

First, take a deep breath and, if you don’t know it already, remember this prayer:



That’s right, the first step is to accept that there are some things you cannot change.

You can try to have a positive influence, but you are probably not going to eliminate all of the cupcakes, cookies and doughnuts (and, if you try, you may find that you don’t have as many “friends” as you once did.  No one wants to be considered “those parents!”)

The good news is there ARE things you CAN change.

And there ARE steps you CAN take to provide a good foundation for your kids – and grandkids – that can help them live their best healthy lives as they grow and mature.


Be the example!

Remember, children are like sponges.  They soak up your actions even more than your words.

If they see you driving through and picking up burgers and fries every day, they will pick up that behavior.  If they see you making it a priority to cook meals at home, and roasting vegetables multiple times a week, the same thing will happen.

It is true that, as they are exposed to ultra-processed foods, they are likely to start gravitating towards those foods.  However, being disciplined and consistent in your healthy eating routines can make a huge difference and impact on them — have no doubt they are always watching!


Educate and discuss!

Because kids are like sponges, there is a huge opportunity to talk to them and educate them.  Many times, it may seem like they are not interested, but they are always listening.  When you are in the kitchen or at the store, look at ingredient labels with them.  Getting them in the habit of reading ingredient labels is something they will never unlearn.  Consider making it a game where kids identify whether foods come from the “farm” or the “factory.”   Then, see how much of your grocery cart you can fill up with “farm” foods.  And show them how to turn these foods into flavor-loaded meals they will enjoy!


Teach kids to fish!

You have probably heard the saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  Involving them in the kitchen will provide skills and memories that will last a lifetime.

They will eventually appreciate how to prepare meals using REAL ingredients, they will develop their math and thinking skills, build confidence in the kitchen, and have a great sense of accomplishment enjoying the finished product with their family.  And the best reason?  Kids are much more likely to eat foods they help prepare!  One mom even asked her kids to be responsible for one REAL meal each week.  She said, “Eating REAL is more than better nutrition.  It’s a revolutionary, bonding lifestyle for the whole family!”


BYO Lunch!

In our coaching tip, Is the Back-to-School Routine Stressing You Out?we provided lunch ideas on how to bring healthy and delicious meals from home.  It’s also important to find ways to keep lunches interesting (something besides PB&J every day) and not take up a lot of precious time on weekday mornings.  Just a little planning and creativity can get your kids excited about their lunches from home.  And it’s a great feeling to know you are keeping your kids well-nourished throughout the day, giving them the energy and focus they need to perform their best, plus saving money in the process!  To get their day off to a healthy start, here are some breakfast ideas your kids can get excited about!


Make healthy snack choices the easy choices!

Snacks are a huge challenge – and opportunity!  They can help kids (and adults) maintain their energy levels, stay focused and productive, prevent overeating at mealtime and satisfy their cravings.

But…how many times do you find yourself wanting a snack and you are surrounded by nothing but bad choices?   Or you have a never-ending stash of Cheeze-its, goldfish crackers, or candy bars easily accessible.

In our coaching tip, What’s the Plan? {Snack Edition}, we provide many ideas that require minimal effort to prepare, including ideas to satisfy those salty or sweet cravings.  Since we all know everything is a negotiation with kids, having a few options available is a good idea.  If you have options A, B, and C available, and they say, “I don’t want A,” you can say, “That’s fine, would you like B or C?”  Now, they have the power to make a choice among three healthy options.


Water, water, water!

Sodas, juices and Gatorade follow our kids around everywhere, and we know the best way for kids (and anyone for that matter) to stay hydrated is good ol’ water!  Gamify it to see who in your family can drink the recommended amount of water every day.  Read our coaching tip, When Water Gets Boring, to understand how much water you should drink each day, as well as tips on how to make it easy and convenient, and how to keep it interesting.



Celebrate with something other than food!

For celebration-worthy accomplishments, tap into what really gets your kids excited.

Maybe a play date with a friend that lives across town, or a special night at grandma and grandpa’s house.  Maybe a ticket to watch their favorite team play or a trip to the store to buy that special toy they have been begging for “forever.”


What about the birthday parties and post-game treats?

This is where the Serenity Prayer is important.  Occasionally, you have to just let it go.

Of course, allow your child to enjoy the birthday party and have fun.  Talk to them about the food that will likely be there and encourage them not to overindulge.  But don’t make a big deal about it.  If they get a stomachache later, help them make the association between the foods they ate and how they feel.  (This can be a huge learning opportunity for them to begin to understand how eating junk foods can make them feel.)  You can always offer to bring something, and make it a healthier option that all of the kids will still enjoy.


Parenting is all about planting seeds!

We are far from parenting experts.  We do have faith that as parents, when you work hard to model the right behaviors, you are laying the foundation and as your kids mature and grow, they will know how to make healthy choices.

Recently while we were having dinner with friends, our college-aged son was asking about cooking different foods and meals and freezing them.  Our friends pointed out that our son’s curiosity and questions didn’t start just now.  It started 10 years ago, and now in his college aged independence, it is all starting to click and come together.

We continue to hold onto faith that we planted at least some of the right seeds!



Leave A Comment

One Response to Is Food Culture Controlling Your Kids?

  1. ‘Public schools are the largest restaurant chain in America. America’s school cafeterias serve seven billion meals a year—more than McDonald’s, Starbucks and Subway combined. Unfortunately, the food system in our country pushes sugar-added, ultra-processed menus, making schools more like the largest fast food chain in America.’

    *Source: Nation’s Restaurant News, National Center for Education Statistics

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *