Kids and Junk Food: Why calling it ‘junk’ is a bad idea

Kids and ‘junk’ food – there’s a fine line between making sure our kids have a healthy diet and making sure they don’t feel like they are “missing out” from foods their peers commonly eat. Foods that may not fit within our food values.

I recently met up with an old friend from primary school and her parents.

Her dad squinted his eyes at me and said “weren’t you the kid that came to our house and ate all the biscuits?”😱😳 Yes, I was! πŸ˜‚ πŸ˜‚ πŸ˜‚

My friend used to give me biscuits to take home and I stored them under my bed for a midnight snack. Binge eating and secret eating by the time I was ten!!! 😱😡😳

I was never allowed biscuits and “junk food” at home. And when I wanted to bake biscuits my mum would tell me I’d get fat if I ate them.

Placing labels on food, that attach a value on it, such as good or bad, can be really damaging for kids. Primary aged kids don’t have the mental capacity to understand about healthy and unhealthy or good and bad foods. And if they are eating “bad” foods they can interpret that to mean they themselves are bad. For more information about this click here a blog from a teacher and nutritionist.

So how do we balance making sure our kids have a healthy relationship with food, eat mostly healthy foods but don’t fear or crave or binge on ‘junk’ foods?

Because….

Yes we want our kiddies eating healthily.

And no we don’t want them eating endless amounts of “junk food”

And yes we want our kids to BE healthy.

But we don’t want our kids doing anything they can to get their hands on biscuits or lollies, or to fear them. And we definitely DON’T want our kids to have an unhealthy relationship with food. Like I did!

Ideally, what we want is our kids to be easily able to take or leave any food depending on their hunger, even ice cream!

So what do we do?

πŸ“ avoid labeling food that places a value on it, like good, bad, toxic, junk, poison, even healthy and unhealthy aren’t great labels. All food is equal cucumber is no better or worse than any other food, even french fries! Food is food.

πŸ“ If there are certain foods you choose not to eat, explain why: you don’t like the taste, don’t like how they make you feel, don’t like the companies ethics.

For example, I don’t eat lollies or fast food EVER (I ate them when I was kid and loved them, of course!), not because it’s unhealthy or bad or toxic, but because I don’t like the taste or how they make me feel after eating it. We also only eat free range or organic pork, because I refuse to support an industry that raises their animals in crates. I also refuse to purchase any products that contain palm oil, for the sake of the rain forests and the orangutans. But if I’m out at a family dinner (or some such) and there is food there that doesn’t fit with my values, I don’t start spouting off about animal welfare! I’ll eat it or not and I will allow my children to make their own decisions about what they put in their mouths.

If your kid is given the opportunity to eat these foods and there is no medical reason not to, let them try it. It’s just food, it’s not a big deal. If we make it a big deal, they’ll want it more. And remember, it’s not what we do sometimes that matters for our health, but what we do on a regular basis.

πŸ“ encourage kiddies to listen to their tummy. Are they hungry, full? does their tummy feel empty? stretched? sore? rumbly? What does their tummy need or want?

πŸ“ model good eating behaviours – eating regular meals as a family, as much as possible.

πŸ“ talk about food in terms of how it makes our bodies feel, does it give us energy until the next meal, or leave us feeling super hungry an hour after? Does it feel good in our tummy? Did we enjoy eating it?

Pictured is Miss 9 in a cafe with a fluffy with sprinkles and marshmallows.

Moral of the story?

Our relationship with food is just as important as eating healthy foods. How we establish positive relationships with food can be done in many different ways and will depend on your family and your kids personality.

It is best to avoid labeling foods as toxic or bad, because it can be very damaging to kids, especially younger kiddies.

It’s ok to choose not to eat certain foods, because they don’t fit in with your food values, or because you just don’t like them.

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