Kids Eating Habits: Parents Have Little Influence

Image: Clare Bloomfield /

Here’s a dry version of the story. Basically, parents, we don’t have much influence over what our kids are eating because there are other…

…complex factors, and the family environment plays only a partial role. More attention should be given to the influence of the other players on children’s eating patterns such as that of schools, the local food environment and peer influence, government guidelines and policies that regulate school meals, and the broader food environment that is influenced by food production, distribution and advertising.” He added, “Parents need to be better empowered to be good role models and help their children eat a healthy diet.”


What I am interpreting this to mean is that even though I struggle to feed my family whole foods, restrict processed foods, don’t serve a lot of snacks and try to promote healthy relationships with food, I am being overshadowed by friends and the environment.

Dinner time is a battle ground at our house. Jeremy and Jermaine are good eaters. There have been very few meals I have made that haven’t been edible. If they don’t like something, they quietly push it to the side of their plates and ignore it.

Aaron is a different story completely. He loudly and assertively declares his distaste for certain foods. He’ll point out my culinary short-comings with delight (“this chicken is too dry to eat!”). Add in the fact that he doesn’t like his food to touch (honestly, who can fault him for that?!) and that he is uber-picky, and dinner is hell. He and Jim butt heads over something at every meal.

Aaron’s diet has really suffered since going to middle school. How can you compete with a school cafeteria serving chips and cookies with every lunch? Aaron will skip the actual lunch, instead spending his alloted meal money on the junk food.

I’m beginning to think it’s time for some reverse psychology. Instead of limiting junk foods, I am going to load up on them. I will serve chips and dip with soda for every meal. Forget meat and vegetables. Maybe I can rig the refrigerator to dispense Coke instead of water. Instead of ice cubes, Popsicles will pour forth!

I’ll fill the counters with bags of candy. I’ll make cakes and brownies every day.

We’ll actually just skip the sit-down family dinner and graze our ways through meal time. When you’re hungry, eat. Eat lots of sugar and chemicals.

OK, that was just fantasy.

I do wonder what not having coke and candy readily available at home makes my boys like on the street. Are they so ravenous for junk that they grasp at anything that falls in their paths? If it was so available at home, would they be attracted to healthy foods? Would the site of a banana or apple in the school cafeteria send their taste buds into a gotta-have-it frenzy?

The twins will eat fruit and vegetables for snacks. Anything in the refrigerator is fair game for them. Aaron wouldn’t touch an apple that wasn’t covered in caramel and nuts for any reason.

I wish I had an easy answer. Obviously, I can’t lock my kids up and manage all their meals. I sure wish the school was my ally in this instead of my enemy. The school has become the mythical neighborhood drug dealer. Except they are standing, sanctioned by my district’s policies, luring my kid with chips and baked goods instead of heroine or pot.

How is your school district? Are junk foods allowed? Have you successfully gotten your district to change their junk-food policy? I’d love to hear about it!

5 thoughts on “Kids Eating Habits: Parents Have Little Influence

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  2. very interesting post..that begs a good question: should you allow your kids to have access to junk food at the house so that they don’t “freak out” while out in the “real world” or keep doing what you are doing (the right thing.)
    I’m still thinking the later though..

    • It’s a hard one, Tabetha! I try not to label foods “good” or “bad.” But it’s hard. Because some foods just aren’t good for us! If they aren’t good what are they? I’m thinking that limiting junk food at home at least puts a stopper on some of the snacking they would be doing anyway…

      xo Susie

  3. I have been ringing the ‘school lunches suck’ bell for years. It’s really REALLY horrible, scandalous and irresponsible what the schools put in front of the children. AND wrapped in plastic on styrofoam trays, no less.

    We try for a good balance. We have healthier cereal, but let the kids (age 7 and 9) put just a small shake of Fruit Loops on top. NOT a whole bowl, but then, if they want it, they are not going to seek it out like a crack addict on a bender. We insist on healthy snack with or before sweets. We don’t do dairy milk (rice or almond milk here), but allow ice cream or cheese.

    That said, on the days we’re running behind the kids will grab the chocolate or strawberry milk (WHY is that an option??!?!) at school and eat the giant cookie. But at least I know the other 2 meals a day are decent, less chemical-ridden, and they appreciate a tray of fresh veggies with ranch!

    • I agree that the school lunches are total crap. Honestly, once they declared ketchup a vegetable we knew it was all downhill! You really have a handle on what your kids are eating! Good on you!

      xo Susie

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