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.

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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 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. :)

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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 :)

  11. 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)

  12. 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

  13. 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?

  14. 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!

  15. 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!

  16. 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….)

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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 :)

  21. 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. :)

  22. 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…

  23. 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.

  24. 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!

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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

  28. 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.

  29. 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!!!!

  30. 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.

  31. 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!!

  32. 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!!

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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!

  36. 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.

  37. 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).

  38. 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!