Stop Calling It Health Food {31 Days of Real Food Reality ~ Day 9}

31 Days 300

We were at a friend’s house.  The dear lady had been brave enough to offer to feed a meal to our family of six big eaters. As she got pulled a pizza out of the oven, one of my boys (who was pretty little at the time) proclaimed, “Uh-oh, Mama! She made us the unhealthy kind!!”

I shrugged, smiled, and responded by doing what any wise mother would do: I slunk down under the table, never to return.

At that point, it became clear to me that I had created a monster. Four monsters actually, but thankfully the littlest one couldn’t talk yet.

See, when we were transitioning to a whole foods diet several years ago, my kids, who were used to being served meals from a box or a can, found themselves with a freaked-out sort of mama. I swung our food pendulum from one side to the other, and became afraid of anything that wasn’t organic, grass fed, soaked, fermented, and free of all additives, dyes, flavorings – and felt that I would certainly be poisoning us all if even a morsel of it crossed our lips. I did exactly what I now encourage you all NOT to do as you baby step your way toward real food cooking and eating. In an effort to educate my kids as we were making seven hundred changes all at one time, I spoke way too often about what was healthy, and what wasn’t.

Part of this was good. I believe we need to make our family aware of the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to healthy eating. They need to understand why we’re opting to make changes in the kitchen. It’s only fair.

But particularly if you have kids or a husband who is not excited about making healthy changes, and definitely so that your kids won’t throw you under the bus when someone feeds you something that might just contain a bit of Velveeta or MSG – it’s a very good idea to chill out with the “we are now eating health food” family conversations. There is no need to make a big shebang at each meal as you announce that: “The healthy, real food meal is now on the table, and it will nourish us all so much better than the processed food we used to eat, especially since it contains leafy greens and abundant antioxidants…”  I mean, maybe that will make your family come running to the table with eagerness, but I’m pretty sure if you just place the nourishing, well balanced meal on the table and holler, “The pot roast is ready!” they’ll be much more relaxed as they join you for the feast.

See, here’s the deal:  The healthy food we should be eating? All of this real food I’m always talking about and encouraging you to focus on? It’s all just…food.  When my grandma served her chicken soup, pickled beets, homemade bread, and real butter – while it was all very healthy, in her mind, she was simply serving food. It was food in its whole form, so without even trying, she was serving us “health food.”  But it would have made her chuckle for someone to call it that.

Do make your family aware of how they can make good choices when it comes to healthy eating. And definitely don’t be deceitful or sneaky in your food preparation and efforts to get nutrients into your family.  But it might be a good idea to avoid making a huge deal about how “we’re going to be eating really healthy now.”

Create yummy dishes. Make tasty snacks. Use real food while you’re cooking and baking. Know that you are putting together delicious, real, whole, healthy food for your family, and that it can be as simple as Grandma’s fried chicken.

To give an example of this, tomorrow’s Real Food Reality post includes a recipe for Cheeseburger Soup. It’s a real food recipe, filled with wholesome goodness, but no one would eat it and declare, “Oh, what wonderful health food we are eating.”  They’ll just devour it and call it wonderful. Oh how I love recipes like this. Can’t wait to share it with you!

Have your kids ever embarrassed you by proclaiming someone else’s food to be unhealthy? Come….come join me under the mortified mom’s table.


  1. I-really-hope-she-doesn't-read-this says

    My sister-in-law’s mashed potatoes one Thanksgiving were referred to as “yucky tater sauce” by two very young boys. So sad. Then they created a game of jumping in spare bed pillows and called it, yes, “yucky tater sauce”.


  2. Ginny says

    I think there’s also an element of knowing that when you are in someone else’s home, you need to be gracious and kind about what the host is serving – know that it may not be what you would choose at home, and that’s ok. Being judgmental about other people’s food choices is an easy way to alienate people!


    Laura Reply:

    Definitely! We don’t care what people serve us when we go visit. We’re there for the fellowship and to enjoy being with people. :)


  3. Jaime G says

    My 5 year old son once told my mom he couldn’t eat the pancake syrup she was serving him, because it had chemicals in it. I knew right them I needed to be more mindful of how what I was saying about food, and focus more on manners and gratefulness for having food to eat.


  4. Heather says

    We have made that mistake time and time again, and I always look back and think how rude it must have seemed, when at the time I was just trying to be “healthy”. I think you gave some great advice and especially so with little ones around repeating what we say and how we act towards food we are offered. Thanks for the reminder. :)


  5. Aimee says

    I don’t think it’s wrong at all to teach our kids that there is very unhealthy food out there- food that can negatively affect your health. The key, for our family, has been to inform the kids that everyone has choices to make and not everyone chooses the same things as we do- and that’s okay. We focus more on ourselves when it comes to food with other people. Instead of telling those people they’re eating bad food, we focus on how our family can’t/doesn’t eat that particular item. (A lot of this probably depends on how much of a reaction you have to certain ‘foods’. For us, the effect is almost immediate and cause a lot of pain/suffering, so we’ve learned that we really have to stick to our guns.) If we are going to be eating with people who don’t share our food views, we have a talk with the kids before going into the home, saying something like “Our friends have worked hard to make us this food, so we need to be nice. As long as you try a bite of everything, you may say ‘no thank-you’ if you don’t want more of something. But let’s not hurt their feelings by telling them that their food is bad.” It has worked this way for 6 years for our family.


  6. Erin says

    My kids are thrilled if anyone makes jello!! Mom doesn’t. But, I role play any possible situations before we arrive. Fellowship is more important than food. Eat and be gracious and not be legalistic is our belief. Our church is starting a “Who’s Coming to Dinner?” program and we will have surprise guests showing up for dinner Sunday. All I know is it’s a family of 4 with no allergies. And next time we will surprise someone and go to their house. FUN! I did NOT list any food preferences. If I listed all of our preferences we would scare them. And no sneaky, uh we’re allergic to all processed food! We will eat whatever is served and thank the Lord for the food and the hosts.


  7. Laura A says

    My kids haven’t shamed me outside of the house. But my son did request the “mac n cheese with the fake cheese” for his birthday dinner. My husband and I love your creamy mac n cheese recipe and the kids always lament that it isn’t the yellow kind from the blue box. So I told them it is made with real cheese and milk in the pasta and it is so much better than the stuff from the box that is made with fake powdered cheese. They all still talk about liking the fake mac n cheese better.


    CJ Reply:

    OH!! This is TOTALLY my house too! When I don’t make the mac and cheese from scratch, my concession to the fake powdered stuff is to buy the organic version. I still cringe inwardly though. There’s one box in the pantry right now that my DS reminds me daily “should get eaten pretty soon.” :)


  8. Jen says

    When my son was 4 years old, and staying with Grandma in my home town, my sister took him and her two young sons to McDonald’s. My sister is an employee there, and it was “Family Day”. My son asked what McDonald’s was(YES! :) ), and my sister told him it was the restaurant where she worked. He responded, “Restaurants have yucky food with chemicals”. Yikes! Thankfully, my sister knows all about my family’s real food status, and she has a sense of humor. She thought it was funny, but we made sure to talk to him when he returned home about how to be polite to others about “unhealthy” food. I do admit that I was happy and proud that he had no clue about McDonald’s though.


  9. Jill says

    I’d love to see this topic expanded on. On the one hand, it’s important to pass on good eating habits to our kids and part of that is regularly discussing what’s healthy vs. what’s not and why we eat what we eat.

    On the flip side, isn’t it annoying to sit next to someone at a dinner who can’t stop giving everyone else the “don’t you KNOW what you’re eating??” lecture? It’s especially hurtful when you’re the host and an (adult) guest openly implies that you’ve made a mistake in your food offerings.

    How do we help raise our kids NOT to be that rude guest….while still steering them toward smart food choices in general?


  10. says

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Laura! It is an important aspect of wholesome eating that needs to be addressed. Gratefulness and humility are more important than our food preferences. In the past, WE were the ones on the other end of the stick, and our “healthy” friends made us feel very small at times. As we are trying to make better food choices, this is really good “food for thought”.


  11. Rachel says

    Just reading this…but I’ll chime in. When I picked up my 4 year old from Bible class last week, he declared loudly enough the teachers could here, “Oh, Mom, we just ate a BUNCH of JUNK FOOD!” :/


  12. Kristen says

    Hahaha. I totally understand. We have pork allergies when the rest of our families don’t. After a few times of trying to eat just the green beans and not the bacon, or pick out the sausage and getting VERY sick, we now have to give the shameful disclaimer when invited to a new friend’s house for dinner or ask the waitress about it. So of course my youngest “little helper” points at pepperoni and announces to the world in her loudest voice possible that “That has pork in it…we don’t eat pork”. That earned us some interesting looks at the potluck where the HAM was the star. Ahh well.


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