The Truth About My Family and Junk Food

Think my family never eats junk food, only eats free-range organic everything, and that my kids have probably never heard of Oreos?  Think again.

I’m asked all the time how I handle junk food situations with my family.  The truth?  It doesn’t bother me that my kids eat junk food sometimes.  Youth gatherings, parties, Bible class rewards, extended family get-togethers, road trips – my kids are actually presented with not-so-healthy options pretty frequently.  Freaking out about it would mean I’d have to freak out about it pretty frequently.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.

The Truth About My Family and Junk Food

We eat as many nutrition-packed foods at home as possible.  We put loads of fruits and veggies on our table every day.  We make most of our bread products from freshly ground organic wheat.  I super-duper care about my family’s nourishment and emphasize the importance of good food to keep our bodies as healthy as possible.

I just recognize that this issue isn’t worth causing rebellion to rise up in my boys’ hearts, nor is it worth hurting relationships with people we love.  This is not about making a compromise.  I’ve simply decided not make a thing out of what I don’t believe needs to be a thing.

Do I love seeing my boys with a can of root beer in one hand and a Twizzler in the other?  Well, I much prefer to watch them choose which kind of homemade dressing they want on their salads.  But if in fact they have just burst through the door after a teen event with said junk food items in hand, and their deep man voices are rumbling with fun facts about the evening as they give me the run down of who was there and what the Bible study was about and who won the game they played afterward – I’m pretty sure it would be unwise of me to interrupt and launch into a lecture about red food dye.

And anyway.  My kids already know that stuff isn’t good for them.  I don’t need to say it again or give them the eyebrow of disapproval.  They’re just having fun, being kids, and enjoying their friends and social events.  If it means they love hanging out with their Christian friends then I say bring on the root beer.

The older my boys get, the more food choices they make on their own.  If you can possibly imagine, they like some of that stuff that comes out of a package.  It’s like they’re normal or something.

But they also really like healthy food.  They each need more than the fingers on both hands to count all of the fruits and vegetables they love.  They understand the dangers of margarine.  They love (most of) my nourishing homemade food.  They eat loads of great food every day without complaint.

I think it’s important to teach our kids all we can about good health and good decisions.  I think it’s important that we provide our families with as much nourishing food as we can.  Then, I think it’s important to smile and listen with excitement when talking to our kids about what they did while they were out and what they were offered to eat at a party – even if their tongues are blue and their finger-tips are orange.

What are your thoughts on this?  How do you handle junk food situations with your family?  

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Click over to this post to learn how we teach our kids about nutrition.

Comments

  1. Jc says

    I just wanted to say “thanks” for being laid back about real food. You make me think that maybe I really can transition my family to real food. I started by using butter, then I switched to whole milk, now I am switching snacks from crackers to veggies or fruit. It’s a slow process, but I feel that I am making progress. I just wanted to say thanks.

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    Rebecca Laird Reply:

    Bravo! Let’s not get wierd and unapproachable everyone!!!

    The way I see it — if we eat healthy at home (which is most often), our bodies should be totally able to process the not-so-great occasionally. God made our systems with amazing filters if we take care of them.

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  2. Kate says

    Well, you get an AMEN from me, Laura! I try pretty hard to keep it healthy and natural at our house, but I’m not an all-or-nothing mama, either. I used to work at a health food store and friends would be shocked at parties when my kids(who were small at the time) would eat fistfuls of Doritos and drink cans of Sprite for “dinner.” I calmly let them know that everyone had eaten some fruit and a healthy protein before we came, and that when at a party I let my kids eat (almost) whatever they want. My son will still eat as much ice cream as he can get his hands on, but he’s also likely to be found eating a huge pile of frozen banana pieces or a whole carrot. We also deal with a lot of food allergies in our family, so only allergy foods are “bad” foods here.

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  3. Jen says

    This is a hard one for me. My kids go to public school where it seems like they are constantly getting junk food for something. I let them rat what they want at parties and gatherings but when it’s a daily occurrence at school I have a hard time being ok with it.

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    Lisa Reply:

    I agree Jen. We used to homeschool. When we moved to the country, we put our children in the small town school nearby. All too often, they come home with junk from the teacher or other students. Unnecessary rewards, I might add :( It is hard, because I feel at a loss to do anything about it.

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    Jill Reply:

    Yes Jen! Many public schools are great about incorporating fresh produce and whole foods into their nutrition offerings. But schools that participate in the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program have to stick by Federal guidelines which factor in the cost per student (lots of cheap food to keep the cost per student low). This is the program famous for declaring ketchup to be a vegetable serving!

    This program is improving though, under public pressure to offer more healthful options.
    Parents that must rely on their school’s lunch program really need to be vocal about this!!

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  4. Stacy Whitaker says

    Very well said! I’m growing tired of people going to others’ homes or parties and expecting the host to cater to each person’s diet preferences. We eat well at home, and a little junk now and then won’t kill them! (I’m part of the generation that lived on that stuff all the time–now that’s a different story entirely!)

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  5. says

    I very much agree! We try to eat well at home but we don’t stress over it when we are out and about. I also think that relationships are more important that what food we eat. Our kids enjoy the occasional junk food and also truly like healthy food as well.

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  6. Kellie says

    Thank you! My youngest son loves Velveeta shells and cheese. I don’t make it at home, ever (I use your macaroni and cheese recipe exclusively!). Grandma is another story. She knows how much he loves it, and makes it every time he visits. I don’t sweat it at all. She loves doing it for him, and I won’t deny her that. My son will always have that memory of Grandma doing that special thing just for him. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

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    Amy Reply:

    Same thought here… except it is a fried bologna sandwich. I can’t imagine eating one. However for my son and grandpa it is their “thing”. Memories of grandpa will far out weigh the occasional sandwich.

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  7. says

    This is where I’m at too. Fill them up on the good stuff while they’re at home, educate them, and then don’t worry if they eat something junky when they go out.

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  8. Donna L. Miller says

    I agree with you. Some people forget that picking on your kids and disapproving of everything that they do can really wear a kid down emotionally, spiritually ,mentally, and physically . I’m not saying to not discipline your children when they purposely sin. But to pick on them for eating a little junk food every now and then is uncalled for. They need to learn what makes them feel better and not so good on their own. If they realize that they feel better when they eat healthy they will make great choices when they are on their own. I’ve heard of to many stories of kids who grew up and left home and gorged themselves on junk for years. They had been held so tightly to strict standards of eating that they went crazy and gained a ton of weight or ruined their body in other ways. Teach your children great nutrition at home when they are young and they will know how to do it on their own. Teach them that all other food is BAD, make them feel like outcasts with friends, and they WILL rebel at some point. I love your blog because it is real. Keep up the good work.

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  9. mrs.p says

    My family not big on junk food. They prefer crackers and cheese. I made a apple pie and one piece was taken out. I made a healthy chocolate cake (made with beets and frosting made out of avocado) I end up eating taking it to my bible study. The last package of oreos I end up giving to my niece. Now if it was salsa and chips be gone in flash.

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  10. Lindsey R says

    I am a product of the sugar rebellion :) When I was in elementary school the prize for doing something good was a sucker – but I wasn’t allowed to have it so I would get a dinky little book. We were also “only fish on Fridays” vegetarians so I was allowed to eat at school only on Fridays UNTIL that one Friday when they didn’t serve fish sticks and then I had to wait while they made me a special meal of fish sticks. I still don’t like fish sticks to this day :) I was also that kid that tried to get everyone to give me their oreos at lunch and told everyone that jello was made from dead animals (until of course the teacher stopped from upsetting the other kids). Then when we moved and we were just a couple blocks from a corner store with penny candy – Do you know how much candy you can get for 25 cents?!? We went a little crazy. Now with my own kids I definitely see the value in moderation but I don’t want to cause them to feel like they need to hide things from me. (I really am over it now although I still love my sugar :) )

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  11. Terri says

    I totally agree. Some other real food blogs stress me out because of this issue. It is not worth the stress.

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  12. Pam says

    My son has ADHD. I had always thought I was making healthy meals until his doctor gave us a list of additives and preservatives we should cut out.. What an eye opener!
    Well that was 5 years ago, now I make everything possible from scratch! On Friday night, my son gets to pick out some junk food. He is really good with it all. If during the week, someone has cupcakes at school, Philip brings them home. We stick them in the freezer and come Friday he goes crazy!
    Love your web site, it is nice to have some fresh new ideas!

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  13. says

    I think that is a very healthy perspective! :) I know I want our kids to enjoy healthy foods and eat as many as possible, but I am not going to freak out if they have pizza, pop, and candy on occasion!

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  14. says

    I’m really blessed to hear your take on this. I don’t like being told to “pay the farmer now or the doctor later”.
    While I aspire to feed my family as well as I can, we don’t live in a glass bubble and it’s practically impossible to do this organic, free-range, non-gmo, and on and on thing with perfection.

    I recently paraphrased to my younger sister something I read on your blog when she was so stressed about trying to afford all of the special food ingredients needed for a recently popular diet plan. I shared your advice to do the best she could because God knows her heart AND her situation.

    She later told me it felt like a burden lifted and the dread of shopping was totally gone! She said it was like getting permission to not be perfect with the plan.

    We don’t need any more condemnation about this. Thank you for being a strong, influential voice and speaking real life!

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    K. Ann Guinn Reply:

    I agree wholeheartedly!

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  15. Vickie Houser says

    I have Bryers Ice Cream and TastyKakes in my freezer and Dove chocolates in the cheese drawer. That’s my stash. We indulge about once a week and have a not so healthy treat. It keeps us sane. :)

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  16. Birdie says

    Thank you Laura, 8-) Great post! Our beloved children will leave home and will “indulge” in the unhealthy food. Unless He has called them to be a chef they will tend to pick the “fast food”. That’s why we pray that a lovely chef will come into their lives to do the wholesome cookn’, hee hee! We’re reading in Romans right now. Paul shares with us that we should never argue over food. The disagreements we will have come to nothing.

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  17. michelle says

    I am trying to teach my son moderation when he goes to grandma’s. We are usually there twice a week and she will load him up with as much junk as she can. So I ask him to limit himself to one treat when he goes and to only have juice or sugary drinks when he is eating. (it is better for his teeth that way). He listens well and she is finally getting a bit more respectful of it. When he goes to a party it is much less often and he can enjoy himself. Heck, we even occasionally buy him a little junk food. Life isn’t about restrictions. Jesus freed us from that! But moderation is very important and self-control is a gift of the Spirit!

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  18. SC Susie says

    Thank you so much for the post and encouragement! We do the same at our house – cook healthy meals, send healthy lunches to school, and even attempt to send healthy choices to youth group. That said, we don’t forbid our children to participate with an activity and have fun at parties. A slice of birthday cake at the party or a hot dog & soda at the ball park is all part of living the dream!

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  19. Cindy says

    I absolutely LOVE your approach to food! Everything I read from your blog is so helpful and encouraging. Thank you for putting it out there to help others. =)

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  20. Rebekah B. says

    This is why I like your blog. Like me, you care about health, but to nag about it every second of the day (or at all)…ummm, no. That would not be wise. Teaching and informing our children so they can later make wise choices, is the method I prefer, and by example of course.

    I appreciate this sort of wisdom from you (also detected in your recent gluten post).

    Thank you!

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  21. lyss says

    I really love your perspective. I’m trying better to have this kind of attitude! Allowing my kids to have as much as they are offered is hard. I have littler kids, and between church and school, candy is everywhere! It’s given as rewards all the time. And on top of that, there are several adults at church and at school who give out candy to any kid who asks. I don’t want my kids to feel left out and try to sneak it if I outlaw it for them, but on the other hand, I don’t like them eating junky candy nearly every day! I want them to have fun and not be harping on them about how bad it is for them all the time. Should I just let them eat as much candy as they get, even though I think it’s way too much?

    I’ve gotten to where we never have even healthier desserts at home, because they have so much sweets when away from home. But maybe if I had more homemade sweets, they’d pass on more junky sweets? Thoughts from anyone?

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    Helen Reply:

    I feel the same way!! I totally agree with Laura’s philosophy but goodness candy is everywhere… At the bank, at the post office, grocery store, reward for doing homework, etc. it’s ridiculous!

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    Kristin Reply:

    I agree, candy is everywhere! My husband took our two older girls to our local St. Patrick’s Day Parade and they came home with pockets full of candy. I let them save 5 of their favorite pieces and my husband took the rest to work. Then the leprechauns came to preschool and left more candy. And my oldest had a birthday party and their was candy in the goodie bag, wasn’t the birthday cake treat enough? Why does everyone have to love our kids with vast quantities of candy? It is never just 1 piece! I am all for letting my kids indulge in the occasional treats, parties, homemade dessert on the weekends, etc. But I feel like I have to limit what I do, when my girls get too many outside treats.

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  22. Jill says

    “nor is it worth hurting relationships with people we love”. THIS! I can’t tell you how many parties and family get togethers I’ve been to where the hostess made a great effort to put out a spread of food only to have her efforts shredded by the picky-poos and know-it-alls. It’s all about balance. An occasional lunch or dinner party with not so healthy foods won’t kill you.

    Good manners are just as important as good health. You lecture people and criticize wherever you go, and the invitations will dry up fast. I’d rather share a bowl of potato chips with a friend anyday than sit home lonely with my carrot sticks.

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  23. says

    So , I used to be the mom that freaked out any time my children got something “junky.” Then I realized I was freaking out way too often. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Plus, we gotta admit – sometimes that junky stuff is just plain yummy. Doesn’t mean we should eat it every single day…but hey – what’s life without jelly beans? :-)

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    Joy Reply:

    YES! But isn’t it frustrating when your church wants to have an Easter egg hunt and LOADS the kids up with candy … makes your offering of a chocolate bunny and a few jelly beans the next day look like nothing. Why are we so excessive with the candy in this day and age? My MIL tells me they looked forward to one – ONE Hershey chocolate bar on Christmas morning! Btw Stacy, I really miss your blog, but I understand… (-:

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    Stacy @Stacy Makes Cents Reply:

    Yes – it can get excessive. I tend to hoard all the candy that’s received and ration it out over several weeks. I’m Mommy The Enforcer. :-)
    PS – I’ve been blogging again since December. ;-)

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    Joy Reply:

    Awesome!!!

  24. Andrea Smith says

    Do you do any differently with Malachi? I know his health needs started it all.

    I really struggle with balance. From sugar addiction to teeth issues to using food as “fun” to weight issues to behavior issues to food intolerances and autoimmune disorders I feel like a swinging pendulum. Just when I feel like things have found a balance, things start swinging again. Currently I’m strict with myself and cook healthy foods at home and am relaxed about gatherings for the kids, but recent issues are popping up. And how do you help a 6 year old sugar addict? If I control her world, am I helping her? Just thoughts. I’m so glad you’ve found balance. Your future daughter in laws will have a lot to live up to.

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  25. Lindsay says

    Excellent post! You truly do keep it real and that is one of the reasons that this is my favorite blog. Thank you for being BALANCED and for helping us do it too! Keep up the good work – you are an encouragement to many!

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  26. says

    i love this! It’s something I think about a lot, and I agree, the relationship always trumps the food issue at hand:)
    I do think it’s important to limit the junk for small children, because their brains and bodies are at critical growth and development stages. And, small children are more negatively impacted by chemical food additives.
    It is easier to do with littles, I think, because they’re not as aware of being different, like teens are.
    So I know that at this point I am much more limiting with junk food than I will be when my boys are teenagers. But they still get to eat a piece of chocolate they get from folks at church for Easter, I don’t have a cow if they eat a few Doritos at a party, and since we live in the south, they definitely get to drink sweet tea here and there :)
    Great post!

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  27. says

    Our family handles our food exactly the same way yours does, Laura!

    I do my best to teach our boys to care for their bodies, and I tell them that I hope they will make healthy decisions most of the time.

    My belief is that we teach them what we can and then trust them with their own decisions when those opportunities arise.

    Blessings to you and yours!

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  28. Sarah says

    We homeschool (pre-K and K) and I was “paying” them an M&M per worksheet to keep them motivated (they also used them to count), which totaled about 4 g added sugar a day, which I didn’t really sweat over. My husband’s way more health-conscious than I am so we switched to one honey stick for completing all the day’s work. My 5 y.o. girl is still trying to convince me that her tummy can handle more honey sticks — I think she’ll be a lawyer when she grows up :) . But I agree that there’s appropriate times for junk food. We have Sunday “feast day” and I give them a dessert ranging anywhere from a cupcake to pudding to cinnamon toast. Their portions are even relatively small, yet they take utter joy in eating them and savor every crumb, which is how it should be! :)

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  29. says

    Yes! I make as much as I can but if someone gives my kids candy I let them have a couple pieces & we save the rest for later. We occasionally buy chips or a take & bake pizza. If we are at someone else’s home I don’t worry about it if they eat packaged deli meat or a store bought lasagna. It’s not going to take years off your life to let you & your kids enjoy life…and it’s certainly makes for a more pleasant existence ;)

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