Kids eat processed food because parents give it to them (for the most part)

One thing we expected to gain from our family’s strict “100 Days of Real Food” pledge was a new perspective. And a new perspective we got. I am convinced that before cutting out all highly processed food – including white flour and sugar – I was going through life completely oblivious to what I was eating and feeding my family. Not only was I ignoring the ingredients on the packaged stuff I was buying, but for some reason the long list of refined grains, artificial additives, and sweeteners wouldn’t have raised a red flag for me anyway.

But more than halfway into our real food pledge things were suddenly different. Thanks to Michael Pollan, we now understood that most of what we used to eat – including pasta made from scratch using white flour – was not the best choice. And after completely making over the way our family shops for food, cooks, and eats I cannot not help but observe what food choices others are making in this processed food world that we live in. Call it nosey, call it judgmental, but regardless – I am incredibly curious about what others are eating.

I am especially curious about what other parents choose to feed their children. If you hand your kid a bag of chips, sure they are going to eat it and probably enjoy every last bite (I know my kids would). If you hand your kid some Pirate’s Booty or Veggie Straws because the SEEM like a “healthier” alternative than chips (hint: they’re not much better) I am sure they would eat that as well. But what if you went through a little extra effort and sliced up a few pieces of their favorite organic fruit? Wouldn’t they most likely dig right into that too?

It seems to me as though young children have to rely on their parents to make the right food choices for them. My daughters certainly can’t go to the grocery store, pick out food, and make purchases without me leading the charge. I am their “enabler” if you will. And, like most moms, I know what food – both “real” and processed – that my children will likely eat. I know they would enjoy some cold apple slices with a little peanut butter on them just as much as a bag of chips – especially if they never even knew the chips were an alternative. So, as their mother, I am learning that it is my responsibility to buy and provide them with the right whole food choices even if it might require a little extra work on my part.

Following is a July 2010 excerpt from our “100 Days of Real Food” pledge:

The other night after dinner I let my daughters dig into a homemade freezie pop, which was basically frozen organic applesauce inside a colorful silicone mold. It was the perfect messy treat to eat outside on a hot summer day. Once we got outside not one, not two, but three little friends on our street came right over. Each child separately indicated they wanted to try “one” too – even though I’m sure they didn’t even know what it was. So luckily, I had exactly three extra homemade freezie pops ready to go, and I was happy to divvy them up. All of the kids sucked them down with pleasure, and the only thing they were eating was frozen organic applesauce!

Yes, it took a little effort on my part to order the freezie pop molds, pour in some store bought organic applesauce, and stick them in the freezer, but once all of that was taken care of these kids were thrilled to eat exactly what was offered to them. And these are the very same kids that normally indulge in artificially colored, high-fructose corn syrup filled, factory-made frozen treats from the grocery store. Because of course that’s what’s usually available and given to them.

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179 thoughts on “Kids eat processed food because parents give it to them (for the most part)”

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  1. I agree with you whole heartedly but thing the potato chip photo is deceiving. A bag of chips containing only potato, avocado oil and salt is a better choice than goldfish, Doritos, etc. Obviously an orange is a better choice than any of those but teaching people to pick better options of things they already buy is of value as well.

  2. Hi, I have been reading your blog for some time now and appreciate the time and effort you put in. I am an older person whose children have grown-up and have families of their own. My children and grandchildren eat much more healthy than I ever fed my children when they were growing up. I never really gave food quality much thought, just wanted to fill their bellies. I am glad blogs like yours exist to remind us how important it is to feed our children and ourselves quality food.

  3. Now that my family eats about 90% clean (sometimes you can’t avoid it), I am saddened to see the amount of junk people put in their grocery carts. It almost makes me angry that certain foods are even available, because they taste so good, but they are so full of junk. And the pretty, green labels with leaves and plants make it seem like this sugar filled, artificially flavored “food” is made from spinach and sunshine. Not. Cool.
    Thanks for blowing the whistle, and helping me and my family make better food choices!

  4. I think that many parents literally just have no.idea. about healthy/non-healthy food, or “non-food” really. People really think that a protein bar full of sugar is healthy, because the label makes it sound that way. No one has educated them about ingredients, and what they really mean. And yes, for full meals, canned/boxed foods are much cheaper. It is cheap to buy a $1 box of mac n cheese or canned corn etc. And organic produce is not afforded by all or even understood by most. With what I have learned over the years, I can now determine this & often times can find some organic items that are about the same price as regular if you’re really looking. Aldi & Walmart have some good prices now. But you can’t expect everyone to know. I think education is very important, because things will not change unless the buyers/demands change.

    I also think I have had to get my own junk craving/eating under control, bc now that my daughter is older she knows what is in the house & can get to it, so I have to be a good example too. She still gets quite a bit more junk than I like at school, relatives etc. She now takes her own snack to sunday school & is fine with that instead of their goldfish. It is overwhelming at first, but you just have to start doing one thing @ a time. We like to put out a bowl of fresh pears,strawberries, etc with dinner for “dessert” after. Or put fruit on skewers-instantly cooler. You do have to kind of watch what they get other places, otherwise they would rather have the sugary processed junk & don’t think what you buy tastes as good.

  5. My son is autistic, and I suffer from a severe anxiety/depression disorder (which I am currently on medication for, after 40 years without it), As a child, I was fed very healthy, plain, bland food, exactly the meals you might find in a Joy of Cooking from the 1940s, porridge made the night before, absolutely no sugar on or in anything, very minimal amount of salt. The diet certainly worked in helping my mental health and brain development, but as Ive said before, very plain. So of course, as soon as I was paying my own bills, I ate nothing but processed junk. Ironically, I have spent the last 20 years as a cook. Ive worked everything from fine dining, pubs, family, to hotels and 6000 seat arenas. I usually ate at work, so then my meals were less processed, but still pretty high in fat and sodium. When I retired to look after my son (I am now on disability and may never cook professionally again), I realized after years of seeing your blog posts on fb, that your website might just be exactly what the doctor ordered. I believe I can help us both with an appropriate diet, all I needed was a meal plan, recipe ideas, shopping advice … (the list goes on), the real challenge is going to be finding out what my son will actually eat. Wish us luck!

    1. Hi there, so sorry about your depression. .I have had anxiety for long time and I have found that eating more of “real whole foods has been helping a lot! What about you? ? I have found a great way of flooding my body with 30 different fruits and vegetables per day..non gmo 3rd party tested. .The most clinical research product in the whole world. .I would love to send you video and see if maybe it would be a good fit for you. .I won’t be putting anything here by respect but please reach out to me.i would love to help. It has been proven of helping with autism as well.
      Magalie Boltz

  6. I started following you on FB. I really enjoy it. I think we should all strive to feed our families the best food we can. Some of it is cooking techniques, sometimes it is meal planning and others it is adapting to what we can get a great price. I have a fully stocked second freezer and a pantry full of things to make real food for my family. I love reading your daily lunches and getting ideas for my 2 young boys ( 3 & 4 1/2) we have started getting them more involved in the kitchen too. I will say that it doesnt happen ovenight, it has taken me about 5 years to get to where we are(hubby is a bit resistant) but I am happy where we are and where we are going

  7. For all the picky eaters… the pediatrician I had as a child told me mother no child will starve to death when food is offered to them. My mom shared that with me when I had my child and I remind myself of that often. My daughter is 21 months old and yes, does spit things out, but also eats all sorts of healthy, non-processed, non-GMO, organic foods. Is it sometimes frustrating to spend the energy as a single parent who works full-time to make a from scratch meal and have her not want it, yes, but I am the parent and she is the child. Those are our roles and I feel it is my job to give her the best nutrition I can. And I have to say, she eats most foods at this point :) And if it takes her more tries to adjust her taste buds too it, I am patient. I am trying new things too while “awakening” to the new lifestyle diet and have to even tell myself that it takes children 10 tries for their pallett to recognize and enjoy some things, I need to do the same. It’s all a learning process and a journey that I feel passionate about. You are what you eat… such true words!

  8. I had a hard time with Easter. My kids were bombarded with candy from school, church, friends and family. I asked my Mother and Mother-in-law to refrain from giving the kids candy and maybe give them a small gift or fruit but if it had to be candy to make it a very small basket. My mother gave them a basket full of fruit. She took a picture of the kids holding the baskets and the HUGE smiles on their faces because she didn’t think any of her friends would believe her when she told of her grandchildren actually loving the idea of receiving a basket of fruit rather than candy. My mother-in-law, being a diabetic, couldn’t imagine a child not receiving candy so gave them a very small basket but it was in the bottom of a very large bag which held a lot of candy. She just couldn’t understand the request. lol :)

  9. My house is still having a difficult time doing away with some processed foods. My five year old is extremely pickey. As in make himself throwup if he has to eat a greenbeen. He’s my biggest problem. My second son(1 1/2) is complete opposite. He screams in the produce section for carrots and apples and oranges. If it wasn’t for Ainne’s organic products and EnviroKids cereal I think my older boy would starve.
    My problem is I’m terrified my younger boys is going to start copying his big brother. I’m trying to introduce one new food a week to him but it’s not working to well. My little one gobbles up all the good stuff and his brother just wants junk.(that he’s allergic too!) Help.

  10. Lauren and all others who think this article is judgemental, I agree there is guilt playing a part here. And frankly saying you don’t want people looking in your cart and judging you, whether you want it or not, it happens. People will always silently judge what is in your cart, what you are wearing, what car your driving, etc., etc. You will never stop it. Just let it go. You do it too whether you like it or not whether you find yourself “stopping it” or not, you’ve already gotten the thought out before you can stop it. You are simply dealing with more guilt again when you catch yourself judging. Actually, it’s validation you are really having trouble stomaching. If you find it distasteful and just found yourself doing it then it’s pretty certain just about everyone else is returning the favor and that’s what really bothers you. As long as they don’t tell you to your face what they are thinking or you them, who cares. It’s not hurting anyone. It’s human nature. That aside. She is simply saying do your part. Regardless of what is going on in the outside world don’t contribute to it yourself as much as you can help. And her example wasn’t even time consuming! She’s saying something as simple as buying organic apple sauce and freezing it instead of giving your kids store bought processed popsicles makes a difference. Heck she’s not even saying you need to make the applesauce homemade from scratch for it to count! This article is just a wake up call. If you are already aware of this importance and are already doing all you can to provide for your children in this way, then this article was not written for you.

  11. I no longer have small children at home, as my only child is grown. However, I am a teacher. And this post has made me rethink what types of food I will serve at our class parties.

    I discovered your blog back in May and have since switched to real food. No more processed, white flours or sugary drinks. Yes, it is more work to prepare, but the benefits far outweigh the time spent preparing. I am already back at school. So I spent my Sunday preparing, cooking and freezing things like soups, tortillas, whole wheat pastries, pizza crusts, pesto and more so it will make life a little easier during the school week.
    Thank you for your candid post. :)

  12. I find you to be incredibly judgemental. I have read a couple of your posts for information to help me feed my family better. However, coming across this one turns me off to your blog altogether.I am a teacher and in the summer my family eats impeccably because I have time to go to the market 2-3 times a week for fresh produce and plan/prepare meals and snacks. What I am trying to get at is, sure it sounds super easy to feed your family nonprocessed foods 100% of the time because you stay at home and that is your entire job. Most people don’t have that luxury, so please don’t jugde what’s in our carts.

    1. Jessica – I may be at home, but I work practically full time (with no summers off) running this blog. I think you missed a key point of my post that handing your kid a banana or an apple is no more work than giving them a bag of chips. And when eating real food does require more work/time my wish is that people will do their best to make it a top priority over other things.

    2. I work full time and attend school full time. Due to food allergies in my family (myself and one of my girls), pretty much everything we eat falls under Lisa’s definition of “real food.” Yes, I’m responsible for all prep/shopping/cleanup. It’s NOT impossible if you’re willing to change some habits. It’s not even really cumbersome once you get used to it. What’s hard about brown rice in a rice cooker? Raw nuts out of the jar? An apple? A carrot? Whole grain pasta? I would have thought differently a few years ago, but then I was forced to do it this way to avoid anaphylactic shock(or losing tons of weight from just not eating). Now I see it as a blessing in disguise. I really don’t think Lisa just sits around all day with nothing to do other than cook. Some people just aren’t willing to prioritize real food to the same level.

    3. Hi Jessica,
      I just have to respond because I understand what you are feeling but have a different perspective on it. I now work FT, and since i went back FT I make more home cooked non-processed meals than I ever did staying home or working PT. It happened gradually, then in January I just decided we were going to do Paleo & revised Whole 30, so all whole foods no grains no dairy no sugar at all. Yes it is more time consuming, but when I make a plan and stick to it, it is not that hard. I make sure when I shop weekly that I have all the ingredients to make everything on the menu for that week. Yes sometimes we have to do amid-week run to the store for something we forgot or if we run out of produce. I started with pinning paleo/healthy meals on pinterest & adding those in. I do a lot of crock pot meals I can start before I leave & ready when I get home, & do prep work before hand. We have fish with veggies, tacos with homemade “shells”, BBQ shredded beef w/homemade bbq sauce, chicken tacos, stir fry, burgers on lettuce “bun”, eggs, chicken strips, paleo pancakes, beef stew, smoothies, etc etc. We don’t feel deprived & all only use simple ingredients in my cupboards. My husband got on board with it & that has helped tremedously. Once my dtr had less processed food, she would eat a better variety of foods & quit asking for the junk as much. People whose schedules are too busy to cook, I really think the busy lifestyle of most Americans needs to be looked at and most cases changed. We have to prioritize and decide how we’re going to live our lives, and if running around here & there all the time is worth it, or can we change/rearrange things to have more time home together, relaxed, not scheduled. It is all baby steps. But so important when you think about it & really get the big picture of health care & how most of our chronic illnesses are due to diet and lifestyle. Many of the ingredients in processed foods were never meant to be eaten. Think back to 100 + years ago-You had to go to the market or grow your own ingredients to cook with, no convenience food. Msg me if you want any recipes, my family really likes what Ive been making!

    4. Agreed! We are all doing our best to keep things going and I just ran across this blog post and man it made me feel like crap. Money and time man, and don’t say it’s just as easy to do this as that. No, no it’s not. You don’t know the logistics of people’s lives so please stop judging that which you don’t know. If you can make ANY substitution for healthier than good for you.

  13. I do not feel judged by this article at all! When we “woke up” about what we were eating I also noticed what other people are feeding their families. I had one instance at the store, while waiting in line I noticed a family in front of me. The parents 2 young children and a baby. I noticed that they had cases of soda, tons of processed junk food and hardly anything healthy. One of their children picked up the divider so the cashier asked what was theirs. The mom replied with “none of the healthy stuff is ours” and laughed. I honestly felt bad for her children.

  14. I love this:) I’m a Big Sister with BBBS, and just the other day my Little was asking if we could get a snack. I asked what she felt like eating, and with a big adorable smile asked if we could get McDonald’s. I internally groaned, but instead of just saying no.. I told her we could go somewhere else and she could pick whatever she wanted. We went to a local fruit and vegetable stand :) She picked out an apricot.. yay! I showed her how to pick the best one and she was very happy. I’m happy I picked out some cherries for my own snack, because as we were perusing the shop a bit more she found a candy necklace. She asked if she could have it: I told her she could only get one thing. She deliberated for a second and chose the apricot.. I think if I wasn’t also getting fruit it may have been a tougher decision!

  15. I am so thankful for blogs like this one who are trying to open everyones eyes into a world of Junk!! I admit, I am a big time junk food junkie but I am trying to change and change my families food hapits as well! I struggle with everything that everyone is writing about: time, money, picky eaters and ect. But what has been said to me by several people recently is this ” YOU do what You are passionate about. You make time, create the money and ect for the things YOu are passionate about!” If you are passionate about feeding your family with Real food then you can, it just takes a lot of effort. Are you willing to make that effort is the real question here! I struggle with that as do most of you but if you start slowing and work your way up then you can accomplish it. Also, I love the “Sneaky Chef” approach for my picky earters!
    And teach your children about what they are eating, let them watch those videos about how they make the foods we eat! Open their eyes! Don’t preach to them but teach them! It’s all about the effort we are willing to put in! It is not up to the world, school, or stores to feed and teach our children, it is Our responsibility to show them the difference! Make the time!

  16. I didn’t find the article judgmental, just a very honest look at our society. I’ll be the first to admit I was a lazy mom, mentally and physically when my kids were young. I just didn’t want to think about this stuff and I had a certain amount of trust in our food supply. Btw, we all judge, because at some point we all see someone with a cart full of pop and lunchables for their child’s lunch. Even though I never stooped that low, I wasn’t that far off. (that was really judgmental wasn’t it..oops sorry)

    My kids were teenagers when I made the switch to a whole foods-sugar-free lifestyle. I was able to bribe my daughter for one month, who at week 3 1/2 “got it”, and who now loves eating healthy and sugar-free naturally, but my son is fighting me constantly. This is not a fun place to be. I also don’t want to push him over to the other extreme, as he is old enough to purchase his own food at school and the corner store.

    So I’ve learned to compromise with him. I took away most of the chemical garbage (I think I might have seen a tear when I refused to buy the sugary “child cereal anymore) and I bake some of his own stuff (cookies and homemade icecream) with a bit more sugar than what we eat. I still buy him ice cream and Oreos once in a while when he stops complaining so much. I still enjoy an occasional night off cooking, a so we all enjoy pizza night, without me reading off the ingredients, about 3 times a month.

    It’s not always about being a failure as a parent or expecting perfection from our ourselves or our children. Anytime you go on-line someone is eating healthier or cleaner than you. You can go crazy over every little thing. I look at it as how far each of us have come from the crap we were unconsciously and consciously eating.

    I wish I had educated myself about this when my children were young, it certainly would have been a lot easier, but it certainly is never too late to start.

    1. Just wanted to add, it is funny…it doesn’t matter what you put in front of kids during a movie night…a bowl of chips…or cut up veggies and fruit…they’ll eat it all up. It’s all about whose willing to do the prep work.

  17. I have found your blog very thought provoking. After reading it I find myself once again contemplating what ‘guidelines’ I’d like to follow while feeding my family. I feel as though we do many healhty things: we cut HFCS out of our home 2 years ago, we eat vegetarian 1-2 nights weekly, we grow our own veggies, shop for meat and produce at farmers markets whenever possible, I bake my own bread.
    Things I’m reconsidering: I don’t always bake whole wheat bread,and that might change. If we eat dessert I generally bake it using regular sugar and sometimes raw turbinado sugar and I don’t see myself abdoning all my recipes. We let our son eat a few snack crackers (triscuits/Annie’s Bunnies), and I don’t see that changing either. I don’t always buy organic fruit-partly because I want to support my local farmers. We eat cereal out of a box, that is certainly not going to change.
    Ultimately I think it is hard not to draw comparisons it’s human nature to want to do just that. I think Julie hit it on the head-people are most likely reacting to something they are or aren’t doing. Thanks for sharing your journey. Your blog gives me lots to think about and fun new ricpes to try.

  18. Idon’t think this post was judgemental at all. I think if you don’t like what is being written here, don’t read it, ol. It is her site and she can write whatever she wants…and people can read it or not. And aren’t you judging her by deciding her post is judgemental?

    I also find that when I read/hear something and my knickers get in a twist, its because it *hits home* and is something in MY life I need to ook at or address, or perhaps am feeling guilty about. We are all mirrors for each other…

    I think your site is fantastic, and think you are doing a great job. I have shared it on my FB page in hopes I can get more people to read what you are posting. Leading by exampe… :) Good Job.

  19. My two year old loves fresh fruits and vegetables. He prefers them over traditional sugary snacks and deserts, because that’s what we give him; that’s what we eat. Call me crazy, but I think that processed foods manipulate our taste buds. I believe we aquire the taste for high sugar/fat/salt. I noticed that when I cut out the processed foods, fruit started to taste sweeter. I could actually TASTE the food for what it is, what it’s supposed to be. Oh, and if I even try to eat processed foods now, to me all it tastes like it chemicals. I can’t even eat it if I wanted to, it’s so digusting.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      You are not crazy at all…you are right on point. Our taste buds absolutely do change in the way you described!

  20. I couldn’t agree more with your blog post! I do not think you were being judgmental at all. You were simply saying that your children typically eat what is given/offered to them.

    My son (age 5) could be really picky at times. Once we cut out all processed foods, significantly decreased our meat intake, and switched to mostly organic, he is way less picky! He is more interested in food, likes to help me cook, enjoys grocery shopping, and often positively comments what we are having for dinner.

    I am a firm believer that our children eat what we offer. I see it with my own two kids. I know people who say their children are picky and would never be able to give up certain foods, and no, they won’t “give up” those foods if mom and dad keep giving it to them. Also, children will not starve. If they are hungry, they will eventually eat :)

  21. My husband and I are going to start trying this year to have our first child. I’m already thinking ahead for once the little one is here. I eat about 80% clean now and am hoping to eat 100% clean through my pregnancy. I plan on making all of my childs meals (which I’m sure is easier said than done!) But like many of you that have posted, I also believe it is important that children understand the difference between “real” food and “fake” food (food made with chemicals)

  22. I have a question, my sister decided to eat vegan 2yrs ago, her twin vegetarian 1 yr ago so I’ve been looking at mine and my childrens food choices closer and realized how poorly we eat. Granted I always try to serve “balanced” meals (meat, veggie, starch) but its by no means “good” food. So Im trying to add new things to their plates but my 4 year old has never nor will she eat veggies (none) or 95% of fruits (only apples and banana’s) I’ve even tried making yummy smoothies she wont touch them and I think its a texture issue because if I try to force the issue she throws up so I cant do that. Do you have any idea’s on what I might try in place of fresh although best I know she wont eat it and is there any real foods out there that she might try? You have kids can you help? :)

    1. Hi Jennifer, I am in no way an expert, I have been working with my four children for the last 6 months trying to change our diet to whole foods. I have suceeded with 2 of my children, the third is coming around but the fourth is fighting it. He is 9 so a little older then yours, but I have had small victories. First don’t buy the stuff you don’t want her to have. belief it or not this is tougher then it sounds. I always make my kids take at least one bite. They do not have to finish something if they do not like it, but have to try it. I also keep giving them foods they claim not to like. Today he actually finished his asparagus. He has eaten just one bite at least 5 times before, tonight he finished it. I had to walk in the other room so he would not see how happy I was. I think he forgot it was healthy, and I did not want him to realize it. If they are hungry they will eat. I do buy one snack food for them but otherwise they have no choice but to eat healthy. My son still opens the cupboard where I used to keep all the junk. (I think he is hoping there might still be one in there from before.) He now grabs a piece of fruit because there is no junk food. Keep trying!!! Its worth it!

    2. Its a slow thing… slowly change her food choices. If you slowly replace junk with whole there is not such a shock. Thats what I have had to do with my family. At first they would wonder where something went but now I have an offering of acceptable “snacks” that I do not get any arguments. My eldest who is 7 has a texture issue sometimes and is taking the longest. I dont mind cooking 2 different veggies… like the other night 3 family members had green beans the other 2 lima beans…. If I had served the same someone would not have eatten. trust me if takes time but well worth it. Rome was not built in a day changing junk food habbits will not either

  23. I was totally just wondering (and wondering if you would write a post) on what you do for holidays. Do you mix homemade goodies like sugar cookies decorated according to the appropriate celebration and commercial candy? I was trying to think of Easter coming up and what to do with the baskets…I don’t like to buy too many junk toys to fill up the space and can make decorated cookies, and even make marshmallows, but jellybeans are kind of nice too. What do you do at your house?

  24. A little off topic but do you have any recommendations to replace packaged ranch? My kids love home made chicken strips with a pack of ranch mixed in the breadcrumbs. I’m trying to make them clean but so far no luck!

  25. I had one victory and one slip-up this week — the victory was at the health-food store, when I was able to sneak a pack of cookies back on the shelf without my son crying, and yet he nearly had a meltdown when I went to switch the rice cakes for a flavor without sugar. He carried the salt-only package out to the car and munched on the way home!

    At Target, though, I forgot my previous grocery-store strategy, which was a winner twice already — he loves grapes, so although they’re not organic at Target OR my local chain retailer, I have to suppress my pesticide anxiety and believe a conventional grape is better than an orange cracker. Forgot about that yesterday and came home with a box of Cheez-Its, God forbid. Thank you, Lisa, for your repost of the budget tips, because that will help me in April keep all unnecessary purchases out of the cart as I save up for baby #2!

  26. I think you are so right! When we’re children, we only really eat what we’re given. I only wish I could reprogram my husband’s eating habits. Chips and diet coke make him so happy. I know he won’t eat them (at home) if I don’t buy them, but he doesn’t really go for the healthy alternatives. He *would not* enjoy an apple and peanut butter just as much. :( I always break down and buy the junk for him because he constantly asks for it. But there’s hope. I’m home raising my little girl full time and I hope to provide only the healthiest options for her (and keep daddy’s chips and soda well hidden….)

  27. Just wanted to chime in here and agree that the transition is tough and I am 35 with no kids to worry about and a boyfriend (Canadian) that will eat complete and utter crap!
    Growing up I remember periods of bringing my lunch to school (no free meals back then in Ireland)What did i eat Salad cream sandwiches(less gloopy version of mayo) on wait for it…white bread!!
    So there is hope hahaha! I started reading Lisa’s blog when she was first starting off and I had that Aha moment when you look at the ingredients in bread, BREAD every day staple that you wouldn’t imagine you had to check the ingredients, and discovered quite a long list and we haven’t the problem here with HFSC’s (yet anyway)and I decided to completely follow the 5 ingredient rule, and went and bought lots of Michael Pollan books. Long story short, there will always be someone who treats healthy eating as a competitive sport, and somehow through cyberspace manage to make you feel bad when you order that pizza, or eat that ice cream, I enjoy these things guilt free as i know that they are treats, and are not in my house any more.

    Good luck to all on this road to better eating, and thanks again to Lisa who you can always count on to write honestly and caringly and who manages to make this lifesyle look easy….well somewhat achievable at the very least ;)

    1. Nikki, Just a quick warning, a lot of products here (if by “here” you meant in “here in Canada”) do have HFCS. It’s just that in Canada it is called glucose-fructose instead, so you will never see HFCS on the label. Many of the products that have HFCS in the US, have sugar instead in Canada. But on the other hand many products in Canada have BOTH sugar and glucose-fructose!

      Anyway I cook and bake my own stuff, for the most part, with a small amount of brown sugar, molasses or maple syrup. I don’t have a sweet tooth, so all store-bought items are too sweet for me, and I’ve trained my son from an early age to like my low-sugar homemade stuff. I do occasionally buy some items like regular ice cream (with both sugar and glucose!); haven’t gotten round to making my own ice cream yet, but I would love to have ice cream that was less-sweet with real fruit and real flavouring.

  28. It’s sad to me that what is “convenient” or easy and often cheaper and are the worst food choices. I am doing my best and learning as I go to make my own food to cut down on costs in order to eat as whole as possible. As demand for whole, unprocessed foods increases, hopefully costs will decrease and innovation on the best ways to produce food and feed such an enormous amount of people will go in the right direction. We as individuals can just do our best with our own circumstances.

  29. Yesterday rushing into CVS on the way to take my kids to school I purchased: box of Honey Bunches of Oats, small gatorade, small bag of pseudo-trail mix, mini bag of cheetos, mini bag of doritos, 3 caramel candy thingies, and a box of strawberry poptarts. This was all to supplement my kids’ lunches and snacks over the next few days. I was certianly aware that I was buying total crap, but I previously would have just chalked it up to “what can I do – it’s the symptom of another too busy work week”. Now, though, your words are ringing in my head. I do not want this junk food to be an option for my babies. I am determined that by this weekend, before I grocery shop, I WILL find alternative snacks and I WILL figure out how to make a permanaent change. I WILL! Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Way to go! Applaud yourself for every small step you take in the right direction. This transition doesn’t happen overnight. I have a three year old and a husband who loves bread and sugar, so my goal is to serve 75% real food by the end of the year.

  30. i totally agree with this. my son would eat chips but he loves cucumbers so i pack these in his lunch instead of chips. we are slowly moving to 100% “real” food but its a process and i have found that my son and husband enjoy fruits and veggies more than the chips and sugary snack i used to pack in their lunches. slowly but surely we are making the switch… all thanks to you and your blog :)

  31. Mike, just feed your munchkin the same foods you eat! :) There’s no reason to feed your kids any different than you feed yourself. In fact, it’s much better for them if they’re eating healthy, whole foods just as you are. They learn by observing, and in observing you eating good foods, he’ll want to do so as well. The only thing you want to do is make sure foods are toddler safe… so cut “choking size” items in half, that sort of thing.

    Actually there’s one other thing: remember that toddlers are basically food factories. They eat, therefore they are. :) There may be days your kid eats more than you do, and provided it’s healthy food, that’s more than fine. It’s fueling the growth of his body and brain, and letting him grow in great ways. Other days he may simply pick at foods given. That’s okay too. Just don’t get into the “I wasn’t hungry at dinner but now that you’re serving something I like I’m suddenly hungry” syndrome. Not being hungry is a valid thing. Not being hungry because you know you’ll get something perceived as ‘better’ later is NOT okay. :)

  32. Being the health/exercise nut in my family I have been trying to win my wife over to less processed, organic, more whole type foods. I do 90% of the shopping so what we eat at home is pretty easy to control. We are slowly coming around to an even healthier lifestyle than what we already lead. With the warm winter that we’ve had the new garden is about ready to get started. My biggest concern is my son who will be one here very soon. I have become thoroughly disgusted after reading the ingredients on most toddlers “food”. My question is what are some ideas of foods to be giving him as he is getting older? Right now we’re doing rice puffs and Cheerios as finger foods as well as some fruits/vegetables; asparagus, carrots, potatoes, bananas. Any other suggestions would be extremely helpful and sincely appreciated.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Mike – As your child turns 1 I would suggest feeding him exactly what you are eating…there is little need for special “kid” food once they reach that age…

  33. What if women who lived 100 years ago read this post? I often try to think about them to help me day after day after day preparing 3 meals from scratch—two before 8:00am during the school year. But, talk about busy? Our ancestors spent 3 days doing the laundry and allocated one day to make a week’s worth of bread. They didn’t have 7-11 convenience stores or fast-food restaurants in a pinch. At the same time, their kids weren’t begging for Chicken McNuggets that have 38 ingredients. They were used to the chicken prepared in the home — with what, four ingredients? The other thing I think about is what I fed my kids their first year of life. Milk, grains, veggies, fruit, protein. Why should that diet change when they are 2 or 12?
    I do think things are changing for the better. With the help of blogs like Lisa’s, we’re moving forward by going back to the recipes of our great- grandmothers.

  34. I think what should also be noted is not only processed foods but GMO’s(genetically modified organisms). It is not mandated by the FDA for food companies to put in their food labels if they use GMO’s we the consumer should know! They are alternating our food at the cellular level and the repercussions of this is unknown! Corn, soy certain vegetables, are known to have GMO’S. Please research dr. Mercola and subscribe to his website to educate yourself and feed u and ur children better food for your health and theirs!

  35. I just started reading your blog and I was wondering if you could do a post focusing on one day in your life and all the foods (meals) you had or what your children had. (I dont know if you already did a post like this, if so please direct me to it) But I thought it would be neat to see what a day of food (meals) is like in your household.

  36. I have teenagers plus kids down to the age of 4. I have explained to them what is in the food(that is not good for them). Told them why I don’t buy that food anymore. Sometimes I do allow a treat(about once a month) and it is working so far. Also told them why we do not eat out much anymore, and why I am picky about where we will eat out at(Oh No no more MickeyD). I have a child that is ADHD and impulsive, since we have gone away from food dyes and processed foods his problems seem to have gone down. I also do not let him eat the school lunches. I have not gotten all of the “sugar” gone(my hubby still wants dessert) but I feel we have to go a little slower getting that stuff out.

  37. Once again… (strong opinion coming) People who fell that Lisa is being JUDGEMENTAL need to realize that in all truth you are feel guilty for not being able to provide a whole food diet for your children. You might want to blame society, childrens ages,peer pressure, your job, money but if you look back you are realy using the disfuctional norm of todays society to pass the blame (here where we have to be adults and take resposibility for ones actions). Im not perfect but my kids eat great I have worked my resposibilities around making it work since this is what I feel is important!!! I work just like the rest of you but I do I am on the afternoon shift!!!! I cook and shop during the day and stay up till midnight at the hospital. If everyone put their phones down, or games down and truelly focused on using time wisely you would be able to accomplish this also…. I have as much time in a day as you guys do!!! Use them wisely. Cook in bulk, food saver what can be done, mulit task, slow cooker, freeze this all cuts down allowing you to have stuff ready when needed…. in a flash consider it like making your own TV dinners!

    1. I don’t feel guilty for what I feed my children. I serve a fully organic, non-processed diet to my kids. However, I don’t think we should be looking in other people’s carts and making judgments, but instead solve the bigger problem. We should also vote with our shopping carts (as Michael Pollan suggests). There are people that have economic restrictions – this is reality. Not everyone can afford Whole Foods. There are time restrictions. Not everyone can make their own ketchup, or has a green thumb to grown their own organic garden. In fact, they may not have the space. And there is the reality of what OTHER people serve. If I tell my kids school to stop serving Powerade, I am fighting what Jamie Oliver himself hasn’t yet been able to fix. I have said something, of course, but they still serve it. I can tell my kids to eat only what I serve them, but that is not reality either. They go to other people’s houses. They eat at school. They trade food. And when they get old enough, they can drive and eat wherever. I live in a town that has ONE organic restaurant. That’s it. If I want to go out with friends, I’m not getting organic food, though I want it very much. I do my very best to teach my children why it is so important. I think I’m laying a great foundation, but it doesn’t stop what they are exposed to – only they can make those choices. My oldest son is an adult…when he was a baby, they didn’t even have organic food in the supermarket, though I made all his baby food from scratch. Organic products are much more available than when my children were born, especially my oldest.

      I’m not trying to start a war….we are all on the same side. I just don’t want people peeking into my cart or anyone else’s. The point isn’t to compare ourselves as to who can serve the most pure food, but to change our society so that what is readily available at stores and in restaurants is pure (and, even better – economical, too), so no one has to worry what their neighbor is feeding all the local kids, or what the school cafeteria is serving up for lunch, or what kind of hormone-laden meat or pesticide filled salad just got served at a party.

    2. Lauren, No war is started. I am a very strongly opinionated mother who feel that Lisa should be able to express her opinion on her blog. I am by no words perfect and never claim to be a whole food saint. I do however hold this concept of real, pesticide free, food coloring free food for my children as a “commandment” (for lack of better turn) to me as my childrens mother. As a women born in the 70, raised in the 80s by a mother who felt “Box” is best everytime (and still does as she gives me crap routinely for the amount of time I may cook) I am attemting to teach my children to make better stronger decisions. Yes, I might pass a internal mental jusdement on peoples carts (as a pediatric nurse I get really pissed when I am dealing with a overweight 5 year old that is sick due to food neglect)because I hate seeing children through painful procedures due to their early onset obesity and stupidity of parents. I fight all the time with family, friends and even strangers based on my choices. Why does this make me a bad parent? How did society get to a point that parents that just dont give into every crappy food fade is causing my children to have a horrible childhood. Yes, I made all my kids babyfood from scratch. Yes, mychildren are 7,5,5, but even my 5 year old can identify food coloring and white flour. I provide a lunch every day to my kids and they know not to eat colored stuff. I hope that I am establishing a strong foundation to allow for good food choices. Yes, like today we went to my nephew birthday party and there was nothing but everything we do not eat. I let them have it with knowing that this is a once time exposure… like I said I am not perfect… and was made fun of because I was allowing them to eat this … I can not ever win!! Oh well I am ramballling.. have a nice weekend

  38. Though I agree that it is very important to make the right choices for our children, I do feel that your article is a bit judgmental. I work full time out of the home and I am able to 90% of the time have my son eat non-processed foods that I make. However, I work so hard at that that I often miss doing other fun things with my child. It is very important and I continue to search for ways to freezer/batch cook and so on. I have found myself looking at other parents carts and internally judging and then stopped myself when I realize that I don’t know their circumstances and that no everyone is lucky enough to have the knowledge, time, finances and so on. I love your site and look at it often for ideas, but have to be honest that this post was a bit harsh.

    1. Hey Patty, 90% of the time is better than 80% and better than 70%, etc. You’re doing the best you can and making a real effort. Feel good about that and don’t worry if something ‘seems’ judgemental.

  39. I had my “ah-ha” moment while at our pediatricians office this winter during a sports physical. Hearing our doctor explain to me that my daughter was heading towards the overweight category on the BMI chart was hard-but hearing her lovingly (she and I are colleagues outside of her practice) remind me that what we feed our children rests in OUR choices as parents was stunning. I am ashamed to admit that it took this interaction to provide a very necessary wake up call in our home. We have embarked on a slow journey of cutting out refined sugar, and even though we are not a big chip/candy/soda family, we do use convienience foods on a daily basis. I am planning on a “food revolution” that been announced to our five children and will start on June 1st-school will be out and I will be able to have more control over what the kids are eating at every meal. We will be using your site as a guide-thank you so much for providing the recipes and information. It is a blessing!!!!

  40. Wow, I do not think she was judging anyone. I can totally relate. Once we started eating better, I too notice what others buy for their kiddos. It is super sad what “food” parents and people in general put into their carts. Most may not even realize it and that is unfortunate.

  41. I’m an organic mom. I do my best to give my kids real, whole food, however, I confess I felt a little judged by your article. The problem is we live in a world (or should I say our country) where the things that are quickly available to a busy, busy parent are garbage. It takes a lot of energy, time, and resources to provide an organic diet for our children. But most importantly, you didn’t address those of us who have older children….the ones who were indoctrinated by marketing and advertising ploys before we knew better….the ones who ate the wrong foods before we knew better. And the problem now is, I not only battle how long it takes me to find the right foods, and how much energy and money it takes to do so, but I battle teenagers who are very argumentative about what they eat. What I serve at home is one thing. What they find on their own is another…what they eat at school is…oh my gosh, don’t get me started about what schools serve!!! I just feel like it unfair to judge anyone what they feed their kids in the way you presented your article. I am trying very, very hard, but I am fighting with a society that serves high fructose corn syrup and gmo’s at school…peer pressure among their friends, and what they deem is “cool” from what they see marketed to them. I am hopeful that when my kids grow up, they will see what I’ve tried to teach them. I didn’t have the luxury of this information when they were toddlers. But I really hope I’m not judged when my kids eat something that I truly rather they would not consume. What I’d really love to see are organic and real, whole food products be cheaper than the hormone and antibiotic laden foods or delicious, healthy snacks more prevalent than the white flour, sugary garbage that is at every function and every venue. I think it is really important that we consider the factors that affect everyone and not judge them….economy, knowledge, availability of time, energy and other resources, and also the confusion that arises from the mixed messages we receive as consumers.

    1. Lauren, in regards to your teenage children and their food choices, give yourself some credit. You now know better and (like a lot of us), you can now DO better. As long as you are only offering the best possible foods at home and teaching them how and why they should make good food decisions, you’re doing the right thing. Even if they don’t seem to follow your lead today or tomorrow, chances are they will. And let’s hope the food industry follows sooner rather than later.

      1. Thank you, Saz. That’s actually how I feel…that I’m doing my best and teaching them so that one day they will have learned well enough to make the right choices for themselves. Thanks!

    2. Lauren, I resolved to bring the least amount of processed foods into my house at the beginning of the year. My family (including my husband) was not all that happy about it. I spent extra time gathering recipes and making my own versions of granola bars, brownies, cakes, muffins, etc so I would not have a mutiny on my hands, but while shopping I was totally in control. I have reduced our families food budget by 1/3, and feel good about what I feed my kids & grandchildren. Do they get junk elsewhere? Heck yeah, but I know I’m not contributing to it. Do what you can do and be happy with that. Kids have to learn to make choices on their own and nutrition is just one of them, but it starts at home. Be that good example and they will follow (at least some of the time). Just do your best!!

  42. Cassandra Appleton

    I agree with this completely. My problems stems from the Grandparents and the school. My daughter is a great student and “wins” M&M’s and skittles for good behavior and the like…I haven’t talked to the teacher directly about this because it make my daughter happy and I don’t want her to feel left out. She usually brings them home anyway and I trade her for something else and throw the candy away. The Grandparents is another story altogether – I get called a food nazi and told that children need sugar – it’s a battle every time. I still need to make some improvements, we are slowly changing to all organic over time, but I can’t get my husband to give up breakfast cereal no matter what I offer to make in return, and since he eats it the kids do.
    Thank you for all the information and help – yours was the first real food blog I stumbled upon and you have driven me to completely change the way my family eats! Thank you!!

  43. In a post, Shannon said, “It’s misleading to suggest that rice, grains, and beans are mainly GMO. In the US, the only commercially available GMO bean is soybean and the only GMO grain is corn. There isn’t any GMO rice in the US.”

    Actually, this is not correct. There are many GMO foods (unlabeled, unfortunately) available in the US. There’s a fairly good list here:

    While not every food listed is intended to go unadulterated to your table, it may be destined to feed the beef you eat, or go into the fertilizer you put on your plants. It can also drift… going out into the wild and “infecting” (for lack of a better word) other crops. Monsanto sues people that it infects, for “copyright violation.”

    1. That website has a few errors and is a bit outdated, but you should note that lots of the listed items state that the GM versions have been developed but are *not currently on the market*. That’s exactly the point that I would like to emphasize. The only beans on that list are soybean and peas, and the peas haven’t been approved by the FDA. The only grain on that list is corn.

      Since I’m vegetarian, I don’t worry that much about cattle feed, but for those who are concerned about GM animal feed, you will want to buy organic meats. GMO alfalfa, corn, and soybean are very likely to be present in conventional animal feed.

      Organic crops have the same susceptibility to pollen drift that conventional ones do. There’s not much that the consumer can do about that.

      1. Oops- typed too fast. That list has two grains, corn and rice. But, the GMO rice isn’t currently grown commercially in the US.

  44. I experienced this exact thing this weekend. Made lettuce wraps for dinner and fed my 1 yo some crumbles of meat (thinking he wouldn’t like the seasonings/sauce) and he ate what was on his plate then started begging for what my husband and I were eating. Of course, we have the same experience when one of us tries to sneak into the kitchen and scarf a cookie. Monkey see, monkey do.

  45. Lisa, thank you so much for this post. I am a teacher in a public school, and every time I have cafeteria duty I have to bite my tongue when I see what kids are bringing from home. I get it – I’m a full time working mom with a house to manage, activities to get my kids to and from, and volunteer organizations of my own that I’m involved in. Making lunches the night before is not my idea of a good time – but it is what gets my kids through their long day of working and being ‘on’ at school. They need to refuel their bodies midway through the day, and I know that by packing Lunchables or ‘fruit snacks’ (tell me, where is the fruit in those) I am doing their bodies and their minds a tremendous disservice. By setting the bar high, I’ve noticed my kids making excellent choices when they are presented at birthday parties and the like. Thank you, Lisa! Keep fighting the good fight!

  46. I thought my daughter (almost 3 years old) would never get used to the real food, but we are slowly finding things that she will eat. We just slowly starting substatuting things without making a fuss about it. We went from white bread to Great Harvest Whole Wheat and she never even noticed. I took her with me to Whole Foods and let her pick some seeds and nuts to put in her yogurt every morning. We used to let her “color” her yogurt with food coloring (eek!) or the powder drink mix, but now she puts frozen raspberries in it to make it pink.
    We still have some battles, but I refuse to buy any more junk. She lost a pound (and she doesn’t have any to spare!) when we first started because she refused to eat anything. That’s when I took her shopping with me and now she loves that she gets to make her yogurt and use “her food”.
    It has been difficult and I know there will be more hurdles to come, but I know it’s worth it.

  47. I went through this just this past weekend. My daughter spent the weekend at my brother-in-law’s apartment so she could play with her cousin. While we have very few packaged foods (limited to organic raw seed snacks, spirulina chips, and the occasional organic chip or cracker), their entire pantry was filled with Hostess cupcakes, Kraft Mac n Cheese, Cars 2 chicken noodle soup…you get the picture. Ordinarily, she wouldn’t even speak of these foods as they are no longer an option in our household. When she wants a snack, she happily helps herself to fresh grapes or an apple with homemade peanut butter. Yet, there she was at the end of the weekend, proudly talking about the frozen pizza, ding dongs, and other “unreal” foods she had enjoyed. I was ready to lay into my brother-in-law until I found out she had paid him back for the poor food selection by keeping him up until 1 a.m. playing and talking (not a surprise considering the sugar overload she was experiencing).

  48. My girls are 6 and 3 and we use the term “marker color” a lot when discussing unhealthy foods. For example they know we dont eat the “Dora” yogurt because it has marker color in it. THis is my way of explaining artificial vs. natural. Anyway it works for yogurt and other foods, but definitely not with everything!

  49. I admit to having a bad diet. I always want to do better but never seem to take that step. I do want to feed my 1-year-old healthy food. It makes me angry that my husband doesn’t see the big deal in letting our son eat junk. I mean, he does to some extent, but sneaks him candy a little too frequently. I feel like until he’s on board with changing our diets, it will never be successful. He is not willing to give up all of his diet drinks, for starters. Ugh. Good post today, though.

  50. Its funny how your blog posts come out almost always the same day that I was just talking about the particular subject!
    This weekend was my 3 year old daughters birthday. We planned a party (with homemade cake and Ice Cream) and of course a day out with Mommy and Daddy to do fun stuff. Yesterday (her actual bday) we went to a Disney show and went to lunch. We asked her what she wanted, her reply…salad. 75% of the time when asked what she wants she will say a salad. It might be from her hearing me brag to others that she picks salads over fries, or that she truly loves them, but needless to say she got it. The interesting thing: my husband. He is behind eating healthier, but when we went out to eat she clearly stated she wanted a salad, then added she wanted a burger. Ok bday fine. She then said she wanted milk. Sure, why not. What does my husband do…he gets her chocolate milk! I immediately say no and he actually tells me why not, its her bday. My reply…she never asked for chocolate milk so why give it. The point: she would have been perfectly happy with her reg milk and never known the difference, but we put it in her body. Yep she LOVED it, but she would have loved the reg milk too.

    Birthday party day: Having a discussion with a friend about how my goal for the party was to make everything trans free (cake, ice cream, snacks, everything) I wouldn’t say everything was real food (sorry used loads of sugar and dyes in the cake), but all homemade. She had started a new “diet” and was trying to eat healthy, so only the healthy stuff that day for her. Luckily what did my daughter want…a fruit tray, veggie tray and cheese and crackers. So that is what we had! As we are discussing the “heatlhy things” I am trying to pull out recipes for her that are not so high fat (fish, chicken, no meat recipes) and tasty that her kids will eat. She is telling me about this awesome and healthy marinade she used for her chicken, but explained she made a seperate meal for her husband and kids. WHAT?! She knew they wouldn’t eat what she was eating so she made them what they did like. My retort, heck no would I do that! I am not a short order cook! As I keep pulling out recipes they all include whole wheat breadcrumbs or pasta or whatever. I see her nose wrinkle up. So I calmly tell her that yep when we first changed over (about 6 years ago) it was a bit different, but now its just habit. Our daughter has only had whole wheat bread items at our house, but she has had the white version at Grandmas (who wrinkles her nose at wheat) and other places and honestly she eats both the same. I truly believe that children will eat what you give them if it is the only option. And since she is with us 90% of the time, we try to give her good stuff to balance out the 10%. Not to say she doesn’t have an opinion. She does not like alot of normal “kid” foods. Spaghetti and pasta type dishes she doesn’t like. She points out to us that fried foods are bad for us and shouldn’t have them. (Very hard to explain to a 3 year old that baked sweet potato “fries” are ok to have, b/c they are not fried in oil. She loved them and loves fried fries but she knows they are not healthy. Very hard headed Ha!) We had to laugh when she was playing with her play food and had to ask us what a doughnut was. She has had one since and loved it, but when asked if they are healthy for us she tells us no they are only a treat. We have raised her with the policy, you must take one bite of everything on your plate and swallow. If you don’t like it you don’t have to eat it. If she barely eats her food and says she is done, we explain no snacks, or anything so she really needs to think about it. Sometimes she is just done, other times she just is being stubborn. If we are trying something new, she gets it but we will put something she does like on the plate, like carrots. And yes sometimes she will eat 1 bite of the new food and then nothing but carrots. I remember reading in a baby book, you are not a short order cook. Kids will not starve from missing one meal and they will learn that by balking at the meal served they go hungry and you do not compromise. So they will eat what is on their plates to fill that hunger. As parents it is your job to make that meal count. If you give them a happy meal to fill that hunger, they will love it, but nothing good comes out of it. On that note, the husband of the friend was listening and pointed out that our daughter prob still loves MCD’s. Actually she has been their 3 times. Once with us, as a “you should have a happy meal once in your lifetime”. She ate the apples and wanted the toy. And the other 2 times, with Grandma. (don’t even get me started on that struggle! Apparently Grandmas find it necessary to fill your kids with sugar and crap because I swear they are trying to buy love from their grandkids with food.) The husband dropped his mouth! Asked how is that possible!? My reply…we just don’t go there. I don’t like it so its not an option. She just doesn’t know or care. Their boys LOVE those places and they give them those options as treats for doing something good. Don’t get me wrong we give our daughter treats that aren’t good for you, which is ice cream. Basically because that is my vice! But because we rarely partake in those type places she just doesn’t know or care.
    Long story short LOL: I fully agree…parents have control of their kids diets. Kids are with their parents majority of meals and if you can make those meals healthy and great, the few meals they do have that are “bad” they are more likely to make better for you choices, b/c it is all they know. There are always going to be treats and noone is perfect, but if most of their food is good for you then your kids are well on their way to be the healthiest in their class!

  51. You are exactly right about this. I often feel guilty for not finding time to make everything from scratch or for not always having the very best ingredients. Have to say, it doesn’t get any easier than to have organic fruit and veggies around to slice some up for snacks. That’s something we can all do for our kids.

  52. We eat well at home, but I don’t feel like I can always control what is eaten when the kids are not with me. The pink slime news coverage just put me over the edge on school lunches. I sat both boys down and explained in detail what it was and why I was going to start packing lunches. I showed them the school lunch menu and said they needed to pick at least three days a week to pack a lunch. (Eventually going to five days a week.) Well that article scared my six year old son. He has taken a packed lunch every day. Three days a week I am packing for my nine year old, but most of the time he brings the lunch back home. I keep money in their lunch accounts so they can buy milk or a lunch on days I don’t pack. I’m just not sure how to get the older one on board. As soon as I use the word “healthy” he wants to push back.

    And even though he eats more than I do most days (he is growing!) he will sometimes skip a meal just to prove a point that he won’t eat healthy.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Some moms with older kids have said they give their kid lunch money everyday, but if they pack (and eat) a lunch from home they could keep the money to buy whatever they want.

  53. I agree. I think that one of the biggest problems nutrition-wise that we face is that children are learning from their parents, who really don’t have the first clue about nutrition, and then when those children grow up, they really don’t know anything either. The earlier we start with kids, the easier and more natural it will be for them.

  54. I was just telling my husband about this post last night, from when you had previously posted it. Within the last month out family has radically changed what we are eating and. Ost of. Y education is coming from you! I watched Food Inc the other day and was totally disgusted and will never buy regular meats again I have a few questions about what you purchase organic and what you don’t. I see a lot of times you don’t purchase organic cheese. I’m about to place an Azure Standard order and wanted to see if it’s really worth it for me to spent $6.50/lb on grass fed organic cheese. Could you tell me what the top thing you buy organically are? Do I need to make sure all the nuts, seeds, grains,riceetc are organic? I’m sold on the animals but not sure about the other stuff. Thanks for your help!

    1. Julia- Switching over to real, organic food can be a shocker to the wallet, for sure! But IMHO it is something we all must try and do for the sake of our health. Because so many everyday things have become GMOs, it is critical for us to be vigilent. You mentioned rice, grains and beans and these are all things that are being reproduced by Monsanto. They have all been engineered to withstand multiple sprayings of Round-up. Now, sometimes it is just not possible to find every darn thing organic, but do your best.

      Also, watch this cute video of a little girl that did an experiment with a regular sweet potato, an organic sweet potato from the grocery store and an organic one from the farmers market. It is pretty interesting!

      Also, when you have a few minutes, watch this video….

      1. It’s misleading to suggest that rice, grains, and beans are mainly GMO. In the US, the only commercially available GMO bean is soybean and the only GMO grain is corn. There isn’t any GMO rice in the US.

        You may choose organic foods for other reasons, but if you’re just doing it to avoid crops produced using biotechnology, it’s mainly a waste of money since there are only a few crops that even exist as GMOs. You can easily avoid them by selectively choosing the organic version of foods that contain corn, soy, cottonseed oil, canola, squash, and papaya.

      2. Here is a list of foods that are GMO in America. You will see that it includes rice. However, Monsanto has gotten its hands on most of the rice throughout the world. India used to have thousands of strains of rice, but thanks to Monsanto, its down to like 4.

        There is no organic version of canola. It is a GMO product made by Monsanto. Its original use was for making mustard gas. I wouldn’t touch it with a 10 foot pole.

      3. That website discusses Vitamin A enhanced golden rice as GMO rice, but that isn’t available in the US market. You would recognize it by the yellow color. GMO varieties of rice DO EXIST, but they are not currently grown in the US. Several years ago there was contamination of two varieties with some GM seed, and Bayer was sued and reportedly settled for $750 million (

        Canola was bred naturally, not using GMO. Organic canola oil is readily available. Any person reading this can go to a grocery store that has a good selection of natural products and look on the shelf to see that your claim is false. Monsanto did take canola and make it Roundup-Ready (glyphosate tolerant). That is the GMO trait, and if you want to avoid GMO canola, just choose organic canola oil.

    2. 100 Days of Real Food

      So glad the blog has been helpful! I try to buy organic everything (even if the cheese isn’t certified organic it might say hormone-free, etc. on the package), but I supposed if I had to prioritize I would definitely only eat organic meat, dairy and produce over some of the other stuff you mentioned like nuts, grains, etc. Hope that helps!

  55. I agree, if junk food is not in the house, kids (and grown-ups :)can’t eat it. My kids have only known healthy food at home such as: whole grain pasta, bread and pancakes/waffles, plain yogurt, cheese, fruits and veggies, milk, etc. My 5 year old asked for a snack today and told me she wanted raisins, cheese and nuts, last week she asked for peas, grapes and carrots. When my girls are thirsty they help themselves to water. To them healthy food is just food. Though, it helps that I like to cook. My girls still gobble up my mac and cheese even though it didn’t come from a blue box. One of my keys is fake-outs. I have healthier recipes for favorite snacks that I refuse to buy, such as graham crackers and granola bars. In fact when my oldest asks for some processed snack she sees, I often reply back, “if we can find a recipe for it”. I also allow them the occasional dessert as long as it’s homemade, such as: popsicles, fruit juice jello, ice cream, cookies, etc. They still get junk food from other sources, visiting their grandparents, snack at preschool, birthday parties, etc. I wish I could control 100% of what my girls eat, then again, my 5 year old turns down Go-gurt when it’s offered for snack at preschool, so I must be doing something right.

  56. Yes!

    My husband’s cousins have brought McDonalds Happy Meals for their toddler children to more than one family holiday dinner, stating their children “won’t eat” the turkey/pork plus myriad trimmings the rest of us all share, and my husband and I can’t help but feel they are wrong… if a child is hungry and offered food, he or she will eat. A preference for deep-fried junk food doesn’t happen without an adult’s consent, conscious or not.

    Our toddler, by the way, seems to be positively crazy about fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins. Hmmmm, I wonder how that happened. :)

  57. As parents, we do have the responsibility of providing the best for our children — that includes food. My son is always asking for donuts and juice because his pa and grandpa always, always bring him that when they come home from work or the mall. Now, we went to his pedia and I asked her to explain to him why he should start eating those less and less. Everytime he wants them, he tells me his doctor said it’s better if he has milk and homemade cookies. Or something like that. Never too late to change our habits / lifestyle. It’s really just a difficult thing to do but once you set your mind to it, it’s possible. It’s all about making wise choices.

  58. I wrote a letter to the editor of the paper about 5 years ago along a similar line. One of the parenting columns had a letter from a grandmother, asking for advice regarding her grandson, who would only eat bowls of plain white spaghetti for every meal. I wrote a letter questioning how a 2-year-old was able to make pasta for himself 3 times a day, since that’s obviously what must have been happening; otherwise, the adults in his life surely could have provided something else for his meals and simply not given him the pasta to eat. I actually had a total stranger read my letter in the paper and go through the trouble to get my phone number and CALL me to thank me for writing the letter. This was even before we started a “real food” journey at our house. I don’t think I’m simplifying it, really: if it’s not in the house, they can’t eat it. If it does happen to be in the house, we’re still the adults, and they STILL don’t have to eat it. And they won’t wither away to skin and bones. They will eventually eat the healthy food that’s prepared, even if it takes a while, even if they stubbornly refuse for longer than we think possible.

  59. An Exacting Life

    I recently blogged about what a fussy eater I was as a kid, and how grateful I am to my parents for sticking to their principles. My kid was the same – I tried to have some compassion, but was tough about some things, like not offering alternate meals. We both became very adventurous eaters by the time we were young adults!
    Food Stories from a 1970s Kid:
    How I Fed My Kid:

  60. Guilty as charged. I must say that even after 4 months of eating “real” food I still find myself fondly remembering the days of convenient boxed/frozen meals from the past. But I’m going to tough this out for all of us because I really know this is better. And the daily inspiration from you and all the readers really helps a lot.

    My almost 5 y/o is mostly fine with the changes, he was the stubborn one at first, but now my 7 y/o has begun to request the junk again. So now I take her with me to the grocery store and have her read the ingredients. If she can find something junky without chemicals then we get it. I have to explain that if she needs me to pronounce the word, or if it has a number (yellow #5), it’s probably is a chemical. Now hubby is another story.

  61. I completely agree with you! Every time I hear a parent say their kid will ONLY eat chicken nuggets, white bread, etc. I think, how did they get so attached to those foods in the first place? When my daughter was born, I started researching how I could help her learn to enjoy a lot of different, healthy foods. I make her baby food using mostly organic fruits and vegetables. She eats full-fat, plain yogurt from humanely-raised cows and oatmeal that I grind in my blender. I put lots of spices on her baby food and she loves them all, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, oregano, basil, sage, CURRY! I realize she is only 9 months old and I can control EVERYTHING she eats right now, so when she’s a little older maybe things will take a turn for the worse. But I do the best I can for her and when she is introduced to chips, sugary treats, etc. it won’t be at home. (Most likely, it will be at grandma’s house.)

    Now if only I could control what my husband eats! Ha, ha. Actually we both have a few vices (soda and sugary treats mostly) that we need to work on, but we’ve made so much progress it is amazing.

    1. Yeah Liz, be prepared for a fight.. My son was the same way, I made all of his baby food, he did vegetables fine, put spices in his food…. then as he started eating more solid foods all of a sudden vegetables are the devil. I’ll eat them in front of him, give him different ones to try and he will shake his head and toss them. Oh well. I’ve still got him on the good yogurt, fruits, very little sugar, and I figure I’ll just keep trying with the vegetables. One day it will work again.

  62. The other thing we have found (even tho i do give a few processed things (like chips) occassionally!) We mostly eat Real Food for the past 2 years, and even more strictly this past year, that when you do try to go back to something as a “treat” no one wants it or if they do, they feel sick later.
    We hadn’t had ice cream from our old favorite local place in a long time, so we recently got some. And I am not kidding you, all 3 of us got sick afterward!!! My kids were even saying, we can’t eat that anymore! Now we can eat healthy frozen yogurt fine and believe me we will :) It’s just weird, your body has trouble going back. And that’s a good thing.

  63. This is so interesting to me…
    When I was preggo, I was sick the ENTIRE nine months. I ate whatever would stay down. I simply could not keep fruits down, although I love them. Veggies were tough as well. Often, it took something salty to make the rest of the meal digestible. So even though I began my pregnancy with the best of healthy eating intentions, I did whatever I could do to make it work as it went.

    With my youngest son, he is a very picky eater. His older brothers are not. But he….as a baby, would eat every kind of pureed fruit and veggie, and when it came time to eat ‘table food’, refused almost all of it. Frustrating? Extremely. I continued (and still continue) to introduce healthy foods, but at age 11, he still turns his nose up at all fruits and many vegetables.

    We have a large backyard garden, and he helps take care of it, but is still not a huge veggie fan. He *does* prefer whole wheat bread (which I bake) to white bread. I hide tons of veg in spaghetti sauce, etc. He will drink pure fruit juice. However, he also loves chicken nuggets and mac’n’cheese.

    I keep trying. I don’t keep many processed foods in our house. But I have to say, it’s not as easy as ‘feed them the right foods and that’s what they’ll eat’. They eat what they like. We can only offer the good stuff and hope it’ll catch on. ;)

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Angela – That’s why I said “for the most part” because there are always exceptions to the rule, but there are loads of kids out there who would gladly chow down on an apple if their parents simply gave them one.

      1. Point taken. :)
        This is a great discussion, and is, quite literally, food for thought for all of us. If we were more mindful of the food we eat, I think many amazing things would happen.

  64. Food and eating are such emotional topics. We eat for more than hunger. It takes recognizing that to make real changes. It takes motivation to change what we eat for the better and not always give in to convenience or emotion. No one is perfect. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t at some point allowed their child to eat what we all know is “junk.” it’s nearly impossible to avoid it 100%. However it IS our job as parents to patrol as much as possible. If your child has a severe food allergy you make darned sure they don’t get exposed right? So why can’t it be the same for junk food. Try thinking of it as an allergy and maybe it will make it easier.
    I have Celiac disease so out home is largely a gluten free zone. I avoid it at all costs. And yes, sometimes I’m hungry because of it but I’m not going to perish! Saying “no” to your child is sometimes the best lesson for them. If I’ve learned anything from raising 4 kids including my twin 2 year olds and 2 teenagers, is that once they learn that no is no, you have won most of the battle. Children do well with rules as long as they know they will be enforced.
    I battle in my own home, but not with my kids! It’s my husband who doesn’t hold the same view about what we should be eating! And that’s a much bigger battle than any I’ve fought with my children!!!
    However, when we go to a party I forget most of my rules and don’t get hung up on what they’re eating. I don’t want to offend someone by not eating at their home because of their food choices. An again, it’s a rare treat to do something like that, not an everyday occurrence.
    We all have to do what we feel is best for our families and hopefully we will all continue to strive to do better. Just remember that guilt doesn’t get you anywhere.

  65. My kindergardener is a strong reader, which is usually a blessing and sometimes a curse…but I love that, while eating her breakfast this morning she was reading the label on a bottle of marinade/dressing we left out from the night before (oops) and she blurts out,”Mom, this isn’t healthy – it doesn’t have any fiber or protein!” We have never sat down and had a lesson on nutrition labels, but we have discussed the things that help keep our bodies healthy. We may start having her check labels more often so she can learn on her own what is good instead of us having to ‘force’ healthy choices upon her.

  66. Again, just want to support those who are struggling. I thought if you offered only heathy food they would eat it. I was proved right with my older son. I was proved wrong with my younger son. So, I have been offering him healthy food for 4 years and he just keeps getting pickier and pickier. Oh well.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Don’t give up…repeated exposure to whole foods is the right way to go whether they take it or leave it right now!

  67. I am known as the Food Nazi in this house, and they MEAN it. I do the shopping most times, and when I buy food, I do not buy HFCS or most chemicals. I have this funny theory… if I don’t buy it, then they can’t eat it. I judge the foods available at school (we have a pretty good menu, actually… 50% of it is “real” food, which I consider great, and grilled chicken on salad is always an option, which one of our twins loves) before they get to eat it. If I don’t like it, they get a packed lunch. That’s that. They’re six, and they’ve grown up with this.

    I’m one of those “fine, if you don’t want me to fix it, ti’ll turn black and fall off on its own, whatever” type moms. You won’t starve yourself – eventually you’ll find food you like in what I offer you. If you want to whine about my food then you can go without. If you whine before tasting it, that must be because you’re so tired you need to go to bed. NOW.

    That said, I don’t force a billion tons of new stuff every day. I do my best to make sure one “loved” item hits the plate each and every meal. I don’t serve up hot and spicy stuff and expect them to love it when I know they don’t tolerate spice well. Each item of food served is put on each plate (even the grown up plates, and I don’t CARE if you don’t like it, because you’re setting an example for the children). Everyone gets a “no thank you” helping unless more is requested, and everyone EATS the small helping. If you dislike it and you eat your small helping without complaint, you may then make a peanut butter sandwich or a cheese sandwich (good whole cheese and home baked bread) and everyone will be happy.

    Were there complaints? Hm… sometimes, yes, although our kids have been treated this way since birth. I just don’t *care* if they complain LOL… I mean, I care about our kids, but not about the complaints. “I don’t like this!” usually gets a reply of “Well, I don’t like whining, so I guess both of us are unhappy.”

    Have to say, though… their favorite snack is leechees (those little white fruit thingies from the Chinese buffet, but I have an organic source for them). While they like freezies, we get the “all fruit” ones, and this summer I’ll be making smoothie freezies for them. We do almost all the bread products at home, and I bake cakes and sis does pies and such. They’re not lacking for treats. :)

    1. I love this reply. Whining and complaining don’t bother (or sway) me, either. I am one of those “you won’t starve yourself” moms, too. I consider myself to be a pretty nice person, but when it comes to our food…either eat it or don’t, but this is what we’re having, period. I have an 8-year-old and a 9-year-old, and it works here!

    2. My kids *know* if they whine about a good, home-cooked meal I will think they are tired an not hesitate to send them to bed at 6:30pm. My kids are not picky eaters (except fish!) so when they do complain, which is rare, there is usually another reason for it.

  68. Tiffany, I love the part about the “poo” . It is sooo true! If we go out for pizza, that white flour crust will do just that for my son and I. Definately have to get something with fiber afterwords!

  69. Totally agree! I’m pretty strict with what Jonathan (almost 3) eats, and I don’t think he even notices that his food is very different than a lot of his little friends’. A few times he has had junk food at someone else’s house he did like it. I really think the processed carbs and chemicals are that addictive! So I try very hard to keep him away from it.
    There are healthy convenience foods for the times when you’re just too busy to cook something. All grocery stores sell fresh fruit already cut up, applesauce, yogurt, nuts, dried fruit, etc. I just don’t believe that any processed snack is faster than popping open a fresh banana for your kid. It really is all about making the healthy choices for your child.

  70. I agree with you that we need to be aware. I think however, the hardest part is the cost of changing to that style. I am looking forward to being able to plan my own garden and help with the cost some, but when you are on a tight budget it is very hard. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, please share. I would love to see a blog about eating healthy on a budget.

  71. I agree with what you have said 100%. We haven’t gotten there totally but at the same time I can at least take responsibility & admit when there is junk (even if it happens to be healthier for you organic junk) that it’s my fault it is in the house. When it’s not here we don’t eat it. Plain & simple.

    I just wish more parents would quit using the “don’t make me feel guilty” angle every time there is a conversation like this. I feel like a bigger failure because I KNOW better but just write it off as being to busy that day and having a “treat”. It’s not a treat if my stomach feels like crap for two days after eating it or if my 2-year old doesn’t poo for days because of eating that one Wendy’s cheese burger. PLANNING is key and when we don’t plan is when we start making poor decisions.

  72. when in the grocery store the other day I was like – how much real food do I buy — sadly to say not much –until reading your posts I never really thought to much about the processed food I buy —a good friend said “shop the outer part of the store down the isles you won’t find much real food.” REALLY trying to change my habits

  73. My parents were doing the whole foods plan back in the 70’s and I did really well, but then I joined the army and all that went out the window. I’ve been retired for a bit now and I’m slowly getting back on a whole foods method but it’s really a matter of re-training my taste-buds (as my daughter puts it) and picking one food in each month’s shopping trip to ‘fix’.

  74. I have cut down on processed foods and sodas. I’ve even stopped buying juice. My kids are 11 and 13 and haven’t really noticed. It can be done!

  75. I’ve been cooking pretty much 100% from scratch for the last 3 weeks. It is a lot of prep. It is a LOT of dishes. It’s not hard, but it is extra work. I understand the draw of processed cheap food. It is a decision we have to make and be dedicated to – even if it means a few more dirty dishes.

  76. Is it too late? I have an almost 3 year old. He eats ONLY chicken nuggets, grilled cheese, bread with butter, corn dogs, pizza, CHIPS, and frozen smoothies (homemade-the only healthy thing he’ll eat-no added sugar just fruit) I realize I introduced this junk to him and he won’t try anything new, even if he has gone an entire day of not eating. The bread is ok because it is whole wheat (but the butter is ICBINB). If he sees a bag of chips he goes balistic if he doesn’t get. I realize this is also a parenting problem and I’ll have to go through some bouts before he gives up. The good thing about that bad food is that when he is hungry it is quick and I know he’ll eat. I’ve even involved him in the cooking of our meals and he is super excited about it until he has to try it – he’d rather feed it to me. Any suggestions out there for me? I don’t want him to starve by trying to force healthy on him but I would rather him get off the chips and frozen processed junk. I do not buy chips for the house. The only ones in the house that are “more” ok with me are goldfish.

    1. Start with substitutions is my advice. I know that I can get away with changing an ingredient here or there without them noticing. Also changing HOW you prep things (fried vs. baked). It’s a long slow process with kids. But if you just start with baby steps and know that it’s a marathon and not a sprint I think it will go better than stripping the entire pantry and going cold turkey. ;) Good luck! Oh yeah, and it’s not too late. :)

    2. Stop bringing in chips and frozen processed foods and you will quickly get your son off from them. You can make chicken nuggets for him from chicken breast you buy in the store….not the fast food or frozen kind. You could bake your own bread without preservatives and offer it to him with natural peanut butter. Try putting some frozen chunks of bananas in a food processor or blender with a little peanut butter for protein and some cocoa powder and you have something that tastes like great ice cream. I even have a hard time believing it is not ice cream. You can hide all kinds of vegetables in spaghetti sauce. :) I hope this helps even a little.

      1. For people who haven’t made their own bread before – I just want to mention that when I started make my own 100% whole wheat bread,immediately, my husband and i fell in love with it and felt spoiled. My kids took 2 whole weeks before they would start eating my whole wheat versus the dutch county whole wheat we used to buy. Now they gobble it up. Some changes are super easy for kids and others take time. But I stuck to my guns because I knew how awesome and how healthy the bread was. I wasn’t trying to force feed them beets or something. I also rename dishes so it sounds more fun to try. My daughter regularly requests “green soup” which is chicken broth with eggs and spinach and noodles. She doesn’t even know she likes spinach. She just LOVES green soup.
        Using the word “party” or “silly” or “princess” helps too!

    3. Amanda- Even though it feels frustrating, you really are in an ideal place right now to implement real foods into your son’s life. First, you should watch this 20 minute video. It’s a snippet of an entire video, but it will give you a decent grasp on the WAPF message….

      Then once you watch that, check out the blogs by Kelly the Kitchen Kop and Cheeseslave. Both are mothers feeding their kids by the WAPF principles. They have a lot of good, kid friendly recipes that will give you a ton of ideas. Along with, of course, the recipes on this blog.

      I would do anything to go back and change what I ate during pregnancy and what I fed my daughter during the first -most important- years of her life. I remember the 3’s. I thought they were tougher than the terrible 2’s. But once you get some ideas of what you can make, you can include your son, so eating will be fun. If he likes baked potatoes then find things he likes to put on top of it. Make whole wheat pancakes together. Make your own crackers and cookies. Make homemade ice cream with wholesome ingredients. Does he like bacon? Find good pastured nitrate free bacon and let him eat that. How about soup? Does he like potato soup? Veggie soup? Sweet potatoes drizzled with real maple syrup? Scrambled eggs?

      Three is a tough age. There is a lot of challenging going on. He is seeing how far he can push you, but I believe once he starts getting nutrients from real sources instead of chemicals, he will begin to behave better. And once you stand strong -which you’ll have the energy for if you are avoiding chemicals too!- you will win this fight! Don’t worry if he doesn’t eat what you and your hubby are eating right now. Just make him sit and eat something he enjoys that is good for him. Even if he only has some bacon, sweet potatoes and some ice cream, he is getting wholesome nutrients. He’s not getting that from Goldfish.

      You can do this!! Hang tough! You will win! When my daughter was 3, I had to sit down and call her on her game playing. I told her I was “on to her” and that she wouldn’t win because I had more years of practice. It changed our dynamic dramatically!

      So check out that video and those other blogs and you will be on your way!! :)

    4. AWESOME – Thanks all for your comments. I have a lot of advice to go on and will be following all your suggestions!

      1. Amanda, you are brave for being honest about what your little boy eats and how he fights for his junk food One thing I will say is that as SOON as the processed food were out of my son’s body, whining and tantrums about food stopped. It was a matter of days. He’s 3-1/2 and he gets it. “junk food makes me grouchy” is what he says when people offer it to him.

  77. I agree, and disagree. We started our switch to whole foods right around the time our oldest child was born (he’s now three). So they’ve had very limited exposure to cereal, white bread (which they spit out), and the like. However, the first time they tasted goldfish crackers and mac and cheese, it was like a switch went off in their brain “mmmm…yummy!”. We don’t usually keep packaged food in the house, and if we do it is organic, and I try to keep the ingredient list fairly simple. My daughter is under two, and she only eats yogurt, fruit, and string cheese. It doesn’t matter how many times I give her vegetables, she refuses them. She’ll lick beans, and then refuse to put them in her mouth. But the first bite of chow mien at a Chinese place, and she was hooked! And she was raised on a whole food diet (what she would eat of it, anyway). I think our genetic makeup is meant to crave salt and fat…and I can already see that in my kids. It’s not just as easy as “feed them good food and they’ll eat it.” But I try to remember that as long as my children are growing and healthy, I don’t have to force them to eat. My daughter has been doing really well on her yogurt/fruit diet, much to my dismay…I’d really like to see her branch out. I keep sugar and refined foods out of my kitchen, and if they don’t want what’s there, then they are out of luck (don’t worry, I buy stuff they do like). I have a feeling there will be a lot of training needed to get them to eat a wider variety of whole foods. That being said, as parents we CAN and SHOULD teach them to do just that. I wish my parents had taught me.

    1. If you are inclined to read non-fiction books, I bet you’d like “The End of Overeating” by David Kessler. He does go into detail about how foods are engineered (yes! engineered!) to tap into our natural cravings for salt/fat/texture. It is fascinating. :)

    2. 100 Days of Real Food

      Sarah – I think your situation is a case of “for the most part” because some kids do pose a much bigger challenge than others. But is great that you keep trying with your daughter (which is what you should do) because you never know when you’ll have a breakthrough. Repeated exposure to these foods is key! Also, my kids love all that junk food you mentioned, too. Some moms write in and tell me their kid would choose fruit over chips…not mine. But since chips are rarely an option at our house it’s not an issue.

    3. Yogurt was our daughters favorite too. Try adding hemp hearts or chia seeds to it. Just a little at first and then more as you go. My daughter is allowed as many bowls of yogurt she wants but over the years we have transitioned her so now its 1. plain yogurt with homemade jams (sweetened with honey) and 2. the first bowl gets hemp hearst and any subsiquent bowls get sunflower seeds raisins, etc.

      She knows thats the rule, and enjoys the hemp hearts now anyways. Works and they are a complete protein so I feel at piece with it!

  78. Looking back, I can honestly say that my parents were not as aware of what they were offering us as I am of what I am offering my kids these days. I wish they would have given me, starting at a young age, more choices than we were given.
    It is our responsibity as parents to provide and give our children better choices. It does take more effort, on our part. But it is worth it in the long run. Great post! And I loved your applesauce pop’s story. Gotta love the kids who enjoy healthy options… if only they were given them every day at home!

    1. AT least back then a lot of the (real terrible) crap in our food wasnt around yet. So HFCS, and crazy synthetics are new to our childrens generation I think. Thank god.

      I always think that people tend copy the habits of their parents exactly, or go the extreme opposite (obviously shades of grey too). For me growing up on KD and hot dogs, I was over it by the time I was 8. I would fight to death to NOT eat that crap. When I moved out, I ate healthier than every before. Its weird .. cause my parents made me sit there and eat til it was gone or it went in the fridge. It blows my mind, cause it was the worst food, why woudl you force your child to eat it?? I wasnt even close to 100% real foods but still… much healthier than growing up. Seemed so sad to me.

  79. I completely agree with this article. My husband and I have 2 children together ages 4 and 2. My husband has a 14 yr old daughter from a previous marriage. We mainly feed our children real foods. My stepdaughter has eaten junk since she was born. She has asthma, pres diabetes and weighs 195lbs (more than her dad) on her 5’1 frame. I do blame her mom (who stays at home). Unfortunately we only get her in the summers and its kind of out of our control. Without dieting every summer she loses about 25lbs just eating what we have in the house.

  80. Very true… However, I’m still waiting for my 4 yr old to get thru the “I don’t like it” without trying it stage… Some days are better than others. I got him to eat 4 bites of artichoke hearts knowing he could have mac-n-cheese if he did. At least I’m able to get some good in the belly and he’s trying things somewhat. I shop Whole Foods so at least the snacks don’t have high fructose and artificial dyes. But he’s getting ready to go to PUBLIC school which serves “cheetos” and such… yuck… I’m going to have to tell the school not to provide it during aftercare…. It was actually easier when he was a baby, I made almost all his food and rarely bought jar food. If I did, it was organic. One day…all that changed and the struggle began eating fruits. He only eats apples,grapes and bananas. Refuses to try anything else. Can’t even use the “one bite rule”… lol I know it will change one day, just wish that day was today!

    1. I used to battle with my daughter about eating at every meal when she was younger. It was my least favorite time of day.
      Now at 14 she is a very healthy eater (who still occasionally indulges in treats like donuts or girl scout cookies). She is also totally adventurous and likes spicy and exotic foods. Don’t give up the hope. ;)

  81. I work in a Donut shop it makes me sad every time an overweight child comes in there with their parents to buy a dozen or two.Groups are forcing restaurants to not include toys in their kids meals because it entices children to eat there.I told one parent awhile back that if she didnt want her kid to get fat from eating at Mcdonalds then she needed to either quit taking him there or stop giving him money to go.It is so easy to place the blame somewhere else than where it needs to be.

  82. I totally agree with everything your wrote.

    I’ve read M.Pollan’s books, watched Food Inc & Supersize me and have lots of knowledge. Lots of head knowledge.

    But I must say that I am at the point in life when everything we SHOULD be doing is totally overwhelming. We should be eating organic, local and healthy. We should be exercising an hour a day. We should check over their homework at night. We should have a clean house. We should pray and read the bible every morning. We should, we should, we should.

    How do we choose the most important things? How do we fit it all in? How do we not live in guilt for all the things we find we aren’t doing… even in the midst of doing so many things so well?

    My point is this, I totally agree in my head. Living intentionally, in ALL the ways that we are “supposed” to starts feeling like a heavy weight after a while. Trying to think up super healthy dinners when we are juggling preteen schedules is hard.

    I am finding a way to walk a happy and less stressed midline. For the most part we are eating pretty well. But I do feel like it needs to be said that it’s ok if your kids drink an occasional chocolate milk. Or if you have to stop at Subway one night after ballet. It just has to be ok. Otherwise… well, otherwise it’s just too much. When we are all trying hard to move in the right direction what we DON’T need is to feel judged for the occasional “less than perfect” meal. :)

    Like I said, I completely agree with what you are saying. But I think we need to be careful that we aren’t beating people down with “judgement” who aren’t walking the walk perfectly.
    :) I do love your blog.

    1. “I am finding a way to walk a happy and less stressed midline.”

      I feel ya! I defintely have a way to go, but I have come a way as well. We aren’t 100% at my house by any definition, but little by little we are making better choices. Our goal is making healthy choices right now. We’ll take it up a nothch here and there as we go.

      There is a lot of misinformation out there about “healthy”, but parents who make good choices should be proud of that even if the choices aren’t the best choices. Sometimes you do have to choose your battles. And sometimes you do have to balance other factors in besides what is the absolute most perfect food option at the moment.

      Kudos to anyone who tries! :)

    2. Jen von Gradulewski

      I dont think anyone is judging for 1 less than perfect meal.

      I hear this one a lot, where there are so many things to avoid, where do you start? Yes there is lead in your makeup, and toxic chemicals in toys.. but if you want to start somewhere FOOD is the best place. Its the lifeforce that sustains you, you are what you eat. Every food you put in your mouthm breaks down and its basically forming what your childs body is made out of. So food is definitely the place to start! And dont worry about 1 bad meal. If you can follow the 80/20 then your body is getting enough nutrients and real food that it can help clean the crappy stuff out quickly.

      and I am not going to say you wont be judged, because people always judge, sometimes outwardly and often silently. But be comfortable with your decisions and the judging attitude wont bother you as much. As for this blog, and everyone on it. These people are here to support a real food diet, and back each other up. IF you want someone to tell you its okay to eat junk food, I just dont think this is the place . There is enough of that “out there” already. But dont take offense from everything either. Just be happy that your providing your children with excellent options!

      1. Your reply is actually the sort of judgement that I’m talking about. My family does better in terms of our diet than most (statistical) Americans. I am committed to eating real food just like you. But if you notice the comments a lot of people here are struggling with trying to do better. Your comment is essentially telling me that maybe I shouldn’t be here if I am looking for people to back up unhealthy eating options. I’m not asking for that. I’m just saying that rather than beating ourselves up with these sometimes super lofty expectations that we can’t always meet or beating each other up for feeding our families certain “not okay” foods it just creates judgement and animosity rather than a supportive environment to encourage each other in every step forward. I have been criticized on blogs like this for not doing enough… even when I’m sharing an accomplishment I’ve made in terms of our diet. My comment is simply to encourage everyone is any little step they take. Not to condemn them for all the steps still left on the journey that they haven’t made it to (yet). :)

      2. I agree completely, and I am not 100% perfect and wasnt implying that. Just saying.. IMO out of all the things to aim for perfection (working out, praying, homework) food would/should be number 1. But its my opinion just putting it out there. Workign out is good for you, but I just think that the food that grows us has to come first.

        MY comment wasnt even judgemental, and I am not judging you, but just providing my opinion on your comment. You haven’t really said the things you do great so I can’t really say great job. But the fact that your on this blog makes me assume you are doing great things. Like I said above, I am a strong beleiver in the 80/20 rules, which I think is a great way to encourage people. You dont have to quit foods cold turkey, or worry that one imperfect meal will ruin everything. Everything in moderation right? including junk food.

        And I wasnt saying you shouldn’t be here, but just that comments that back up traditional ways of thinking (eat whatever you want) are already everywhere. Your post exactly shows that because instead of showing all the great things you have done, you focus on mentioning how you dont do it perfect… No one does! But doesnt mean we can’t strive for it!! So why not just supportive comments here for people to grow further. I dont think there needs to be pressure, but just support for real foods.

        My biggest struggle is not planning ahead, cause when I do my cooking life is sooo much simpler, and the need for quick foods is eliminated. But when I do think ahead I can prepare bulk foods that are convenient when needed. We just made perogies the other day using freshly ground wheat, potatoes, cheese, spinach, squash. Now when we need a quick meal I just pop them out of the freezer.. its awesome!

    3. I completely agree with you Michelle. I love this blog and appreciate all that it contains. The best lesson for me was to stop feeling guilty when we eat out and continue to try to give my kids the best foods that I can afford / make home made. Great discussion!

    4. I also agree with Michelle. This blog has completely transformed my thought process on “healthy” food and I have never once felt judged. That being said I do hope that this blog will continue to help all of us, the 100% real food eaters and those that are making our way towards 100%, feel supported by the commitment that we have made. I feel it is better to add real food, even if it is only 10%, rather than none at all and commend all of us making the effort. I am well on my way and am sooo thankful for the resources on this site and all the different views that go with it :)

    5. Michelle,

      You put my thoughts into words so well, that I’ll just echo your comment (and add a few words of my own!)

      Yes, I’m learning and growing in this natural foods journey, but I also accept that there will be treats from grandparents, occasional processed snacks, and meals eaten in restaurants that will go against all the “rules.” Life – even one prolonged by not letting anything “evil” enter our bodies – is too short for me to stress over that.

      I really enjoy sites like this one that teach me and encourage me, even when every suggestion isn’t one that I follow.

    6. “But I must say that I am at the point in life when everything we SHOULD be doing is totally overwhelming!” OMG I totally feel this! Sometimes I just feel totally overwhelmed too. Reflecting on your comment, I realized that in the last 2 years, I have made a lot of changes as I a) have learned more but more b) as I got used to the changes it was habit so I felt like I could intentionally change another thing that I “should” be doing. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to reflect. Now, back to being overwhelmed :)

    7. 100 Days of Real Food

      Michelle – I couldn’t agree with you more…we also occasionally eat junk food (anything from homemade cookies to Dunkin’ Donuts). Enjoying special treats in moderation is key and a fun part of life!

  83. I can’t tell u how many times I’ve said this…kids only know what you teach them and give them. However, when I say it’s out loud, most seem offended as though I am judging them. I hate that.

    1. I agree with you, but what about the times the kids are out of your sight? I don’t even have kids yet (and not sure I want them), but if I do it will be a no-win situation with my in-laws. Let the kids stay with the grandparents, and they will eat crap. Put my foot down and stand up for my kids and don’t let them stay with grandparents, and my in-laws will be mad. Urgh.

      1. Then don’t let them go over there unsupervised. That sounds harsh, doesn’t it? But it’s the only choice – either get a babysitter who will adhere to your rules for your family, and leave the kids with him/her, or take them with you. My FIL is the ruler of the household, and my DH grew up afraid of discipline because of it. When we had kids, he started down the same road with them – and I politely demanded of him that he leave the parenting to us. He was a little shocked at first, I think, but then backed down; it would be the same with foods. If they can’t feed your child the way you prefer, then they won’t get to eat together. I’m sorry that it might have to be that way! :( Hopefully they would come around to your way of thinking with enough persuasion & intelligence.

      2. I do wince when I see the candy and processed food that my children are sometimes offered when they’re with their grandparents, but the love and nurture our children receive from our parents and the pleasure they bring to the grandparents’ lives far outweigh the occasionally negative food choices.

      3. My 9yo son had a busy day out yesterday and ate a bunch of “normal” American “food-like edible substances” (Thanks, Michael Pollan!) all day with his cousins and grandparents–hamburger, chips, pizza, movie popcorn, Icee, chicken strips, etc. Around 2 a.m., he woke with a stomachache and promptly lost his lunch, so to speak. I really AM sorry he felt so bad, but the silver lining is that the incident made for a very productive conversation this morning about the relationship between what (and how much!) we put into our bodies and how we feel. This review and the memory of throwing up may help him make better choices the next time I’m not around. I have no doubt that a similar conversation with my folks when I see them today will ensure they help steer him toward healthier choices the next time he’s out with them, too. (I have to admit that all that red food coloring from the Icee threw me for a loop when I was half asleep; I thought at first that he was bleeding!)

      4. Hey, at least it didn’t come out the other way ;) that food coloring is so nasty. Not that I’ve had experience with a green-colored slurpee or anything in the past… no, never ;)

    2. 100 Days of Real Food

      Yes, I am sure some are offended by me saying it as well, but I decided this message is important enough to risk it.

  84. It is so true- they do eat what is served. If you don’t buy it you can’t eat it. Of course it’s best if you start young, if you raise them on processed junk and then try to switch it’s more difficult, but if you start young they don’t know any different. My boys love fruits and veggies because it’s what I’ve always given them. Even when I used to give them processed mac & cheese I filled it full of chopped broccoli, carrots and frozen peas. There may be one or two veggies that they don’t care for, but if you serve it they will learn to like it (and make sure no one tells them it’s yuck). Give them a choice between fruit snacks and real fruit and they might choose the fruit snacks, but if you only give them real fruit they will eat it and like it.

    1. Cari, I think you hit the nail on the head with “no one tells them it’s yuck”. My niece is almost done her 3rd year of school and one of the biggest changes in her has been her eating habits. Gone is the child who would devour butter chicken, Spanish rice and lasagna. Now it’s peas are disgusting. Spinach is terrible. Mushrooms are the worst thing to happen to a person and everything is too spicy. Not a day goes by that she’s not asking for fruit snacks or to order plain cheese pizza for dinner. Many of her classmates live around me and I know that most of them eat a mostly processed food diet. I don’t give in to her ridiculous demands and I know her parents don’t either but everyone is sick of the constant fight over meals. It’s starting to rub off on the younger kids too, they hear her whining about the injustice that is scrambled eggs for breakfast and assume that she must be right.

      1. I love this! This is something I had to learn with my kids. I never told them things were yucky but I didn’t offer things I don’t like. Wouldn’t you know it, my daughter loves fish (I hate every variety, literally gag every time)! And instead of saying, “Oh, you won’t like that” to foods that sometimes have an acquired taste, letting them decide for themselves.

  85. This is so hard for me. I recently wrote a post about it too, which spawned from a comment of yours on facebook, because I totally agree but am struggling! I know “I’m the mama,” but my kid is the 2-year-old in the supermarket having a tantrum because I won’t let him take home a box of sugary cereal — which he’s never had before anyways. It’s just the colorful packaging and cartoon characters that catch his eye. I’d love to either bring my husband as a reinforcement — he knows once we get home if I actually DO give in and let my son take home a “treat” he’ll maybe eat 2 bites of it, so he more often says no and can help me control the tantrum — or go shopping alone, but that’s just not always practical. Even Target has temptation lurking in every aisle — and that means more tantrums for things he doesn’t even know he doesn’t like.

    I’m not a picky eater, nor is my husband, but of course our 2-year-old is. He hates nut butters, chokes on apples, will eat string cheese and raisins one day but spits them out the next. I’m hoping all of this is just a temporary battle, a call for attention, but the rest of the kids in my family (and my parents) are bad examples — they’ll sometimes eat yogurt and cereal for dinner, and their pantries are always stocked with sugary treats that at any visit my son wants.

    It’s a daily struggle but one I’m trying to surpass — not caring if people stare when he has a tantrum and setting a good example with what I’m eating are things I can and need to do NOW. Next, I suppose, will come saying no to treats at other peoples’ houses and again ignoring the tantrums! With another new baby coming in May I know I should start being stronger now. At least he likes organic meat!

    1. been there – done that. Now we have a 4 year old, 2 year old, and one on the way. Occasionally i will bring dried fruit, fresh fruit slices, or some sort of favorite “treat” for the kids and wait to give it to them during the times we HAVE to go down the bad aisles (otherwise we avoid or have no need to go down the processed food aisles) Cereal aisles were once bad (even though we never bought the sugary stuff – kids just knew they were supposed to beg for it). Now I can go and grab my oatmeal without a whine (an occasional request). Sometimes it helps to run down the aisle as a distraction – lol. It is just consistency and being confidant in your choice. If your kid tried to run across a busy street you would firmly refuse despite the protests – you just have to start thinking of food in the same way.
      I have a strong-willed child that would leave me haggard and tired at the end of each day (she still does!) but eventually she learns and now she is a health food promoter and tells her friends and grandparents about the benefits of healthy eating – not that she won’t eat bad stuff if i let her! (we have new battles we are working on now – I am victorious on the food front though it took a little time) Your child will not starve. Eventually the most picky eater will eat something. Just make that something healthy when they do give in and their palate will eventually change (reasonably) Mine love salad as a pre-dinner snakc now. They used to only want crackers or other processed crap for a snack.

      1. Thank you, Gretchen — you give me hope! I know I am worlds ahead of other moms when it comes to this topic, not that it’s a competition or anything, but I also try not to be too hard on myself for having Goldfish in the house (rather than Goldfish, chicken nuggets, chocolate milk, cookies, ice cream etc)…I just feel like there’s so much more I need to do at the same time, like yes, finally get rid of the Goldfish too! I dread even walking into Trader Joe’s because all he wants is bread made from white flour. Even the one-change-at-a-time philosophy kills me, because I don’t know where to start with the few things left to eliminate on our list! It’s a constant battle and everywhere I turn there’s another no-no — the hamburger buns have more than 5 ingredients; I can’t find organic ground turkey; I myself have significant food allergies (corn, peas, peanuts, soy, shellfish and walnuts) and my husband is supposed to stay away from saturated/animal fats. Sometimes it feels like our food options are dwindling. But we won’t starve either, I suppose — it just takes discipline and that first step, like an addict — once you’re off sugar, for example, you really do stop craving it!

    2. 100 Days of Real Food

      This might be a little off-topic, but as I was reading your comment I was thinking about the free parenting seminars that Amy McCready is doing for my readers. She has some great parenting tips for dealing with tantrums and such (we have all been there…you are not alone!). But yes, I agree…you should not care what anyone in the store thinks and not give in (easier said than done…I know!). Also, you can create your own idea of “treats” that aren’t really that bad. For example I rarely buy apple juice, but occasionally my 4-year-old will beg for it so occasionaly I say okay. I feel as though (and hope) that satisfies her need for something special/exciting/etc. The same goes with cheese sticks…she has a strange infatuation with cheese, but cheese sticks are more expensive so every time we are at the store she asks for them, but I only occasionally “give in” and get them. Hope that makes sense and help

      1. I agree with you – Amy is AWESOME! I am only reading her book, not online, but it’s great. :) And my boys are weird about food treats, too – they love string cheese. It’s just mozzarella! So I get a big chunk & cut it myself, into cubes or long sticks; just as good. I love your not above about the applesauce frozen treats. They sound great! I’m going to have to try them.

        As with all things, moderation and sensible choices. :) Good luck everyone on dealing with toddler tantrums – we’re over that, thank goodness! Now I just have the teen years to look forward to…

      2. Yep, I put some popsicle molds in my cart on Amazon today. That will work for all of us after dinner!

      3. Thanks Lisa! I will look more into your seminars, I never put that together before in my head! Don’t we all just think we have the perfect child and don’t need any help… ;)

      4. 100 Days of Real Food

        My Peace of Food – Oh I know I need help…the minute my daughter turned 7 it was like someone taught her how to talk back! That’s okay though…they really are good kids for the most part, but there is always room for improvement that’s for sure. :)

    3. Kids are actually way more understanding than they are given credit for. I think a firm “No. We don’t eat that, it is bad for us” would satisfy a lot of kids, even 2 yr olds. They deserve to know the “why” behind the no. And then the parents need to follow it up by not having the (sugary cereal, or whatever) in the house, ever. I know it is hard but you need to make the decision and not be wishy washy about it. Going back and forth with ‘you can have the sugary cereal today, but you can’t have the sugary cereal next time we go to the grocery store’ is very confusing to a child and is probably what spurs tantrums.
      Know that what you are doing by cutting out the processed foods is a great decision and what is best for you and your family. You are doing a great job, Mom! Now just make that leap!

  86. I totally agree with you, it’s a parent’s choice what goes into a kid’s mouth. While we do not feed our kids 100% non-processed, we try our best (goldfish crackers will always have a place in our lives). Our kids basically subsist on fruit and ‘real’ peanut butter on whole wheat bread.

    I do have to say that this post reminded me of one you wrote in the past, where you discussed going to a free kid’s night at your grocery store, and seeing parents giving their kids nuggets and chocolate milk. In the post, you suggested this must be how those kids eat all the time. My children have a great diet at home (using many of your recipes), but on the rare occasion that we go out, they do get to have chocolate milk and nuggets. It’s a treat for them, and not a reflection on their diet in general.

    1. I am on the same page as Kate. We are trying our best to reduce the amount of processed food in our family, but have not gone all the way. We have included more organic food in our diet (including milk, sour cream, butter, most meat and many veggies during growing season), and limit the junk food. I admit to eating junk after the kids are in bed, though, and I hope to work on that bad habit soon!

      I do, however, let my daughters have a treat when we are out to eat or traveling. Chocolate milk is a special treat, and they occasionally eat fast food, which they don’t even really enjoy. Most of the time, we offer them nutritious choices and they eat them happily. The occasional treat isn’t going to worry me.

      1. The other day me teenage daughter and I were out running errands. She told me kept seeing commercials for Shamrock shakes at McD’s and could we please go get one. Ewwww. I thought as I remembered there are like 43 chemicals in fast food shakes. But once she pointed out to me that we haven’t had a “treat” in 4 years, I relented. I hated it, but I relented.

        Well, imagine my surprise when she got 1/4 of it down and then said she didn’t want it because it tasted like chemicals! She threw it out at our next stop. When we switched to real food 4 years ago, she was 12 and went along with my reasoning pretty well. I just kept telling her over and over again what these fake foods do to our bodies and brains. I never even realy knew if she was even listening! How pleased I am that she had been.

        The beauty of eating real food is that you become so accustomed to the fresh taste that nothing else will do. Its neat to know that a teenager even noticed!

      2. 100 Days of Real Food

        AlisonT – I also eat a little treat (dark chocolate) when my kids are in bed or when they aren’t looking! No one here is perfect…which is not what this is about anyway. Just being aware and making the right decisions the majority of the time can go a long way…

    2. 100 Days of Real Food

      Kate – I remember what post you are talking about and yes there are absolutely always exceptions to the rule. But at the same time since we live in a world where processed food rules I think it’s safe to say the majority of the patrons eat that way all the time. Which is honestly fine…but since I used to feed my kids that stuff because I just didn’t know any better I feel the need to spread the word! :)