Raising Our Kids on a Healthy Diet Is Not Going to Ruin Them

In case you missed it there was a conundrum on my Facebook page yesterday – after I learned my daughter was buying items in the school cafeteria I was unaware of – that spawned more than 3,000 comments (on both posts in total). I don’t think I read every single one of the comments, but I did read most and noticed something very interesting.

We’ve all heard the warning, “If you are too restrictive with your kids’ food choices now, it will backfire later!”

There may be some truth to that and I do personally strive for a “healthy” (and guilt-free) balance when my own kids want to indulge, BUT what I did notice yesterday – that was different than usual and that I really liked – were many of the following comments that REALLY struck a chord with me.

It's important to teach healthy habits

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These are the stories I think a lot of us don’t hear enough and also serve as a GREAT reminder to keep instilling healthy habits in our kids (despite the naysayers many of us have in our lives)…

“I WISH my parents had ‘forced’ a real food or healthy lifestyle on me. IF they had i would not still be 50+lbs overweight (since jr high) and have such a warped relationship with food!”

“I wish my parents made me eat healthy whole foods when I was younger. It would have saved me a lifetime of health issues that have pretty much subsided since I changed what I put in to my body.”

“As a child I was taught good nutrition and given good choices and for that I’m thankful. I wasn’t given fruit loops and chicken nuggets. I wasn’t allowed to order off the kids menu I had what the adults were having —lobster and seafood! I’m grateful as an adult that I don’t really crave junk food–not to say I don’t indulge once in a while, I’m human right? I would have loved to have had all of the organic and vegetarian choices back then that we have now. Bravo to any parent starting their kids off on the healthy track!!!”

“As a 26 year old who has struggled with her weight since third grade, I wish my parents had introduced me to real food sooner. We ate at home, but corn was the only ‘vegetable’ ever to grace the table. As a parent you HAVE to introduce those foods and “force’ your children to learn how to nourish their bodies, or they won’t know how to do it themselves.”

“I wish my family had had better eating habits when I was growing up. I wish I had never learned to put sugar on cereal for example. We didn’t have a lot of junk food but I learned some bad habits. And didn’t develop enough really good ones. Now I’m 50 and gluten intolerant and overweight and who knows what other damage has been done?”

“I chose what I ate because my parents were absent during mealtimes. Mac and cheese. Cereal. White bread. Pizza. Now, I have PCOS, insulin resistance, and gluten intolerance and because of these, am struggling to get pregnant. I’m not obese OR inactive, but my body was made sick as a child. I am SO PROUD of all of you mothers that are taking charge of your and your family’s health. It is SO IMPORTANT. You are enabling your children to live long healthy lives, especially your daughters who will have babies of their own. I have control of my health now (just turned 21) but it took 5 years to figure out what was wrong with me. It was food. Now I’m fighting to get my fertility back and I will succeed!!”

“My husband and I both grew up eating healthy for the most part and even now at ages 24 and 25 we would much rather eat a healthy meal than junk food. How you raise your children to eat follows them into adulthood.”

“I only wish healthy food habits were ‘forced’ onto me as a child. Then I wouldn’t have had to spend the last 3 years completely changing my diet to avoid weight loss surgery (2 of my sisters have had this), avoid an autoimmune thyroid disease, remove anti depressants and anti inflammatories from my daily routine and really enjoy my life! Thankfully, I now know better and I pass this information on to my own children so they can avoid these issues too.”

“I was fed all natural foods from birth (and that was 1980 when it wasn’t even cool, lol) and of course I had my sneaky moments, but I am obsessed with eating healthy as an adult. People are absolutely more likely to eat healthy if they are raised to see that as ‘normal.'”

“I wish my parents would have provided me with whole foods. I have struggled all my life with weight….”

“I certainly wish I didn’t have to work so hard to overcome the UNhealthy eating habits my parents passed down to me.”

“I am teaching my children now, what I wish I would have known growing up. Fresh whole foods are better for your body than processed foods.”

“I grew up in a house where my Mom sprinkled wheat germ on my yogurt and substituted tofu for meat…as a child, I didn’t even know that a soda and chip aisle existed in the grocery store. I have such gratitude for that, and have passed that on to my children.”

“I grew up in a house without sugar cereal, little debbies, and chips. As a child I was not happy about it but now I am sooo grateful. Now my family eats a clean diet…its my job to educate and provide healthy options for my family”

“I wish my parents would have cared more to teach me better eating habits because changing them as an adult was extremely hard since I really had no idea of what real health and real foods were.”

“I wish my mother had taught me healthy eating habits as a child rather than using food as rewards and to soothe. It’s taken a long time to break that. You’re their parent not their friend! Teaching them to be healthy is a good thing. Anyone saying otherwise is crazy.”

“I grew up on junk because my mom allowed me to be picky and let us eat what we wanted, and I have had a weight problem. So now I am trying to do better by my children and some people think I’m being mean and should let them eat whatever they want (the oldest being only two years old!). It is hard to make changes when you are used to eating poorly, so I want to make changes for them now and plant the seed of good health and eat real food. I think it is a crying shame for anyone to be ridiculed and put down for that.”

“I only wish my mother had the knowledge of eating clean and healthy growing up. My whole life, I ate unhealthy. Processed food. Fast food. I didn’t know any different. And all I knew to cook for my husband was the processed food my mom taught me to make. It’s so hard to change my eating habits of 22 years.”

“I feel so fortunate that healthy eating habits were ‘forced’ upon me as a child. I thank my mom all the time for that b/c I believe I am a healthier adult b/c of it. And I am passing along the same healthy habits to my children.”

My Own Childhood

There was also one comment (that I just cannot find again to quote!), but it said something like,

“I was allowed to eat all the junk I wanted growing up and I still snuck candy and other treats behind my parents’ back.”

And actually now that I think about it I was that kid, too. We were provided homemade dinners complete with vegetables of course, but beyond that I do recall a childhood filled with plenty of packaged food options (including Doritos, Kraft Mac & Cheese, Golden Grahams, Little Debbie Snacks, Frozen Pizza, Snickers, etc.). And even so I’ll never forget how many of my grandmother’s chocolate chips cookies I would eat as a child (while no one was looking!) when we visited her house.

During the holidays her famous chocolate chip cookies would be out on a tray in the dining room, and every single time I passed by I would pop one in my mouth. Man, her cookies were good. It’s not that I wasn’t “allowed” treats by any stretch of the imagination (although I am sure my parents did have some limits!), but there I was still eating an embarrassing amount of cookies and I don’t think anyone knew except me. Even despite my sneaky ways as a child though, I’ve always had a healthy relationship with food. So long story short – junk food restrictions or not – children might sneak food and while the issue certainly shouldn’t be ignored, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to be set up for a lifetime of negative health consequences as a result. Just my two cents based on my own experience.

So now I am really curious – what was your childhood like from a food perspective and how did that shape you as an adult? It seems there is really no “one size fits all” answer here so I’d love to hear your stories as well.

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290 thoughts on “Raising Our Kids on a Healthy Diet Is Not Going to Ruin Them”

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  1. I think my experience has been different from most of the comments I’m (admittedly) skimming here. I grew up with very healthy food, fruits and vegetables, home-made meals all the time, no sugar cereals, etc…and contrary to the things I’m reading here, like your “warning” above, it actually did backfire.

    I had a terrible sweet tooth, and every time I was out, with my own money, I bought myself candy and treats of every kind. My mother was terribly judgmental about the kinds of food we “should” eat, so I started to feel like I needed to sneak it and hide it. When I went to college, I gorged on the unhealthy stuff at the cafeteria, and when I had my own apartment, I couldn’t stop eating.

    To this day, I have an extremely unhealthy relationship with food. I gorge on unhealthy things; I hide food at home (even from my husband); I keep it in the car so I can get to it later. I try to always feed my kids healthy stuff, but it is very much a do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do situation, which of course gets harder as they get older.

    I would love to see a therapist that specializes in food issues, to get to the root of all these things that food has come to mean to me. But I do sometimes feel that if my mom had been a little more flexible and less judgmental, I might be in a better place right now.

    So…there’s always multiple perspectives to any situation.

  2. I was certainly an eater in my teen years and during my first pregnancy. All comfort foods. The only salad I knew as a kid was Caesar with lasagna. Later, my husband would make me eat tossed salad :) I still like cheese and meet in it; what can I say. And sometimes Doritos :p Anyway, I never ever understood the full realm of nutrition and what it meant to truly feed your body. I was sick often. I lost my gallbladder at the ripe old age of 22. I was sent home from the hospital with no new eating instruction and no idea why this happened to me. And too young and stupid to question it.
    In 2010 I was shown some shocking info about what is really in the products we use daily; cleaners, cosmetics, etc. I was suddenly obsessed with researching and started to question what was in our food. I tossed the processed crap, switched to traditional foods and took my gardening more seriously. I was healed! No more pain, no more being so constipated that I’d throw up. I lost a lot of weight and felt healthy and strong. I felt somewhat horrified about what I had done to my body -the bad state I must have been in to require surgery -the toxins that must have been building up in my body… I finally ‘got’ it and now my kids can see what it means to eat nutritionally dense foods. They still get their cookies and cakes but they are loaded with good stuff.

  3. I grew up with lots of McDonald’s as a young child. And homemade meals were usually casseroles, or meals such as pork chops with rice (and cream of chicken soup), meatloaf – always very heavy on the meat and carbs and if we did have veggies, there were usually straight from the can. Breakfasts were always sugary cereals or frozen waffles. And we can’t forget my favorite thing – pizza every Friday. All in all, I was not raised with much healthy food, but did learn the value of eating together as a family. At 28 years old, I find myself constantly trying new ways of eating healthy and trying to find what works for me. I have found it very hard to stick to eating healthy as there are so many things that I still love – freezer pizzas, Doritos, Cheezits, ice cream. However, as long as those things aren’t offered to me, I can pass them by. I think my journey into eating healthy came from a combination of how friends ate and their stories about food, as well as my family’s background of diabetes and obesity. My family has not really changed in the way they eat. My mom will even admit that she doesn’t enjoy cooking (my dad is a picky eater). Anyhow, that’s my story and I look forward to eating real foods!

  4. I think I’m grateful now to have grown up eating like I did. My parents raised 6 kids on a meager budget and were not able to buy all that expensive junk food like everyone else. The boys in our family hunted/fished for our meat, or my mom got it from the local butcher for a discount. We always had a large garden and ‘put up’ (canned) whatever was leftover for the winter. I remember snapping beans on the front porch until my fingers hurt. To this day, I will not grow green beans in my own garden! LOL. And stringing up hot peppers to dry in the sunny window so Mom could grind them up to use them for chili seasoning… Grandma had an apple tree, so we ate lots of that fruit (hey, it was free!). We didn’t have much sugary drinks, but there was usually “sun tea” in the fridge. A normal lunch for me was homemade venison summer sausage or leftover chicken sliced thin on homemade wheat bread with cheese and mustard, sliced bell peppers for a side and homemade applesauce for dessert. I remember feeling so self-conscious at school when I would look to my left and right and see greasy cafeteria pizza and lunchables with capri sun drinks. I mean, that stuff was so colorful and cool-looking when I was a kid. But now that I understand what real food is, I’m grateful that my parents’ frugality led to my being introduced to healthy, local foods from an early age. Of course, I still needed education on some things. We always had apple butter with lots of sugar, and Mom’s homemade bread had an entire stick of butter melted over the top. Not to mention the green beans cooked in bacon fat! ;) But overall, I think my parents did a great job introducing us to real food. I can’t even imagine the taste of fast food or something like Twinkies now. The idea of it turns my stomach!

  5. I grew up with divorced parents who had very different eating lifestyles. We loved with our Mom who raised us vegetarian and was very health conscious. We had a rule at the dinner table that we eat our “salad first” and then we could eat whatever else was prepared. But usually what else was prepared was healthy too. It was a rare day when my Mom let us buy/have at the house candy or sugar cereal and such. I remember being thrilled when we came home with regular Cheerios once. My Mom is a very good cool, so I grew up with a variety of healthy foods in my ledger. Maybe it was because we were kind of poor, but when we went out to eat, we were never able to get anything but water, and never dessert. And that’s just how it was, I knew not to ask for it with six other siblings.
    My dad’s house was another story. When we went there every other weekend, I was always so excited to gorge myself on sugar cereals, candy, milk and lots of cheese, chocolate, etc. our step mother is a very good cook also, she just had all those “good tasting” foods that were never available at Mom’s. of course I over indulged and snuck treats here. Crappy food tastes really good! But I had a lot of health issues growing up. I was sick a lot, my body is just really sensitive to malnourishment, I guess. It was a tender mercy though, because I learned at an early age how different foods affect my body and how it makes me feel.
    Even in college when you can start technically buying whatever you want, I chose the healthier lifestyle. Now, as a married woman, I still choose that route. It is a rare time when you see packaged food in my house and I try to have vegetables and simple-ingredient foods at every meal. I’m proficient in vegetable stir fry’s and can make salads that make you go back for seconds. I’m more balance now, and don’t overindulge very much, because I can feel the difference in my body when I eat healthy. It’s more difficult to balance with a husband who had an upbringing similar to the one at my dad’s and is not a vegetarian. But he has only said maybe two times that he didn’t like something I made for us. I’m planning on raising our kids the healthy way. Indulgence happens with the intense flavors we have available to us these days, but if my kids know that at mom and dad’s house they eat healthy, then hopefully it will instill in them a taste bud and a habit of a healthy eating lifestyle. Maybe they won’t choose that in their own homes, but at least they will have been started that way, and that’s still a proud mama in my book.

  6. I grew up eating healthy foods, maybe because my parents were hippies when I was born, and then later because my mother watched what she ate?
    I think there is a lot of blame on parents in above comments, some just, some not. Only one comment stuck me as truly appropriate, and it was the one where the writer said, she wished her mom knew better. When our parents were young, there were not a lot of convienience foods, and then new stuff came about, mainly in the 80’s when both parents seemed to work more, and easy food was helpful. To be fair, our parents didn’t know the effects that these chemical laden foods would have on us, after all the FDA approved them for consumption. I had whole foods and healthy snacks as a young child of the early 70’s, but when my sibs were born in the mid 80’s that was a whole new story. My mom worked full time, and still provided healthy dinners, but we also had every toddler friendly packaged snack you can think of. My sisters and I grew up very differently in many ways, and this was one of them. Today, my siblings and I really don’t have different views on food, and we all eat healthy, with a few slip ups here and there.

  7. I grew up eating either organic, all-natural, gluten-free things from the food co-op, or Taco Bell. We weren’t allowed much candy, or colored sodas, or McDonald’s, but Sprite and bean burritos were staples. But I also are a lot of organic and home-grown produce.

    I started having weight problems around age 12. I was always interested in losing weight, even before I actually started getting fat, so even as a teen I knew how to diet.

    In my house, there were always healthy foods available, and we weren’t supposed to eat anything but fruit or veggies for afterschool snack. But when you get home from school at 3 and have dinner at 9, that’s hard. When I was in high school, we had pasta at least once a week (big mistake), and I don’t ever remember portion control happening.

    Now I KNOW how to eat healthy, but I find it to be a constant struggle. However, as a new mom who just recently started introducing solids into my son’s diet, I hope to set a better example of truly healthful eating than I was raised with. At my house it was always one extreme or the other.

    I’ll allow the occasional treat, even downright horrible stuff like McDonald’s once in a great while. But I will also “force” him to eat fruit and vegetables and have healthy food at home all the time.

  8. We ate what was put in front of us or starved. Home made, but always meat and potato dinners. Over cooked mushy veggies. Never dessert. As i got older,things got worse. Lack of food was our problem. Not that we did not have any, but was not allowed to have any.( This was back in a time when no one said a word about what parents do in the home) At 63 i still worry about the next meal. I tried to teach my children better eating habits and no fear of hunger.In turn they did much better with their children.

  9. My mother was always on a diet, so we were too. We ate what she ate. Want a snack? Have a piece of fruit. Thirsty? Milk or water. Cereals of choice were Cheerios, Chex or Kix. I’ve never liked cereal, and I’ve never liked milk, so a banana in the blender with orange juice and wheatgerm with a slice of toast (always homemade bread) was a typical breakfast. There was no junk or sodas in the house. As an adult, I spent about 10 years eating everything I hadn’t been allowed. I’ve paid for that ever since. We weren’t told we were eating healthy. We were eating “diet food” and that really screwed me up.

  10. My grandparents immigrated here from Italy so I was raised with a very healthy Mediterranean lifestyle. I continued that pratice with my 5 children not really giving it much thought at the time. And I am eternally grateful. Eating healthy is a habit that involves education, loving yourself enough and listening to your body. I was inspired to established a wellness ministry, co-creating with people to enhance their physicaly, financial and spiritual wenllness. It is essential to look at health and wellness as a system that will create a sustainable lifestyle.

  11. Oh I agree, children will thank their parents later! I loooooove all of the food memories I have from my mom and grandma, healthy,wholesome, and my siblings nor myself are picky eaters bc we learned to eat the healthy stuff! My mom did not give in and feed us junk all the time! And I think that’s why I like so many different things!

  12. My family ate meals together at the table. My mother is english and made pretty boring meat, potato and 3 vege meals, and we were allowed treats occasionally. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, and I don’t put sugar in my coffee or on my cereal. If guests ask for salt at our house we have to go look for it because it isn’t out on the table.

    I had a few childish dislikes, mushrooms, capsicum etc. I was told I didn’t have to eat them if I didn’t want to, and eventually I grew to love them.

    The exception was cauliflower! For some reason my parents decided I HAD to have it. It became a major battleground, and I remember sitting at the table until 10pm because I wasn’t allowed to leave the table until I’d eaten my cauliflower. I’m 45 and I still don’t eat it!

    So I say model healthy eating with your child and they’ll probably grow up healthy eaters, but don’t get obsessive about it, and the occasional treat won’t hurt them.

  13. I certainly don’t think that introducing children to healthier food options when they are children is going to do anything but keep them healthy later on in life. I guess it’s about achieving a balance between healthy eating and a few junk foods so that your kids don’t resent you for ‘forcing’ them to eat too mane healthy food stuff!

  14. My mother started feeding me chocolatebars before . I was even walking she always thought it was funny. But it set up a relationship with food that is very unhealthy

  15. I was raised on a whole foods diet. As a kid I would sneak junk and when I got to college I ate a lot of junk and I gained a lot of weight. However, my friends, who were raised on the SAD, suffered the same problem. The big difference was that because of my upbringing, I knew what I needed to do in order to get my health and weight back on track. Many of my friends had no clue on how to eat healthy and became victims of the diet food industry which made things worse. Now I am an adult with two young children. I raise my kids on a whole foods diet. I am sure they will stray as they grow, but I know that I am giving them the healthy nutritional foundation they need and hopefully will choose to follow when they are adults and have families of their own. Keep up the good work Lisa! Your kids will thank you when they are grown!!

  16. My childhood varied. Often we would have home grown veggies, then other days it was boxed or microwave dinners – whatever was cheapest when times were tough. I grew up slightly overweight, but gained a lot after my pregnancy 10 years ago.

    Since stopping all junk food in the house and eliminating everything but water, juice, milk, and my morning 1 cup of coffee, I have lost a pant size this year – and on the cusp of being down another size (hopefully by the time warmer weather comes). We do occasionally go out to eat, but I find myself eating smaller portions and never craving the fast food chains. We buy NO processed foods, if my hubby or kid want cookies or sweets, I home make them with all natural/organic ingredients and only every once in a while. My child has enjoyed broccoli, a variety of peas, and even begs for “whole bean” burritos now. I allow him the snack at Sunday school and some treats at holiday parties – BUT he knows this is something special and not to expect it at home. We have not had many complaints and he doesnt go wild at gatherings stuffing his plate full of junk either. Our experience has been a positive one and I hope others will have the same.

    After a while, I think kid’s change their taste. When you arent giving them loads of sodium and sugars, they start to actually like the taste of veggies and fruit. He loves apples with organic unsweetened peanut butter, and he ate 2 servings of my veggie “meat loaf” last night (just throw in some corn and shredded carrots with your meat and spices!).

  17. My sisters and I were raised by a single father. We ate a lot of processed foods growing up because that is what he knew how to prepare. Lots of canned soup, hot dogs, steak um, boxed crackers and snacks, etc. I’m not trying to complain, I think he did the best he could do given our situation. We always had plenty to eat and I never worried about not having food, which I think is a luxury.

    I cook from scratch for my family now and avoid junk food. I still crave some things and will sometimes turn to the “healthy” junk food option, or make something from scratch to fulfill the craving.

    It’s very important to me to instill healthy eating habits in my daughter, who is two. We eat lots of vegetables, whole grains and beans at home and worry less about what we get while we eat away from home. I want to teach her to balance the good with the not so good. Of course, at age two, this is probably easier than it will be when she’s older! I hope that what I’m doing now will come back to her, even if she does indulge in junk later in life.

  18. Our day care academy is trying to incorporate REAL, organic foods into our daily routine. It’s tough sometimes, but I think if we stick to it, it will eventually become something normal for the kids!

  19. just a funny little story to share as we continue our journey, raising kids with healthy eating habits. we were recently at a birthday party for one of our son’s friends and my oldest (7 yrs) noticed the juice box he was handed said 66% (or something less than 100%) juice on the box. very loudly and for all to hear, he says–hey mom, this juice isn’t 100% so it’s not healthy! nevermind he had a nice slice of pizza on his plate and cake on the way. and we continue our journey….

  20. Im only 19 but I was just thinking how I don’t think being fit and healthy is difficult…its breaking my lazy and fatty food loving habits that’s the hardest!!

  21. Hello Lisa,I recently found your blog and love it, thank you!
    I am an Indian and growing up my parents insisted on eating fruits, vegetables and leafy greens. We are vegetarian and in India that is Not difficult. My dad explained cookies were processed food and did not encourage us eating any sweets with color in them. But we ate lot of white rice, deep fried snacks and sweets.
    Also, junk food industry was not very rampant in India back then. That too helped us. When I came to the US as an adult and working full time, I was drawn to convenient foods, sauces, frozen foods and impressed how US food industry makes cooking easy. I ate pizza and drank soda every week. Though I don’t eat as much junk foods as my friends ( I’m popular on snacking mostly on fruits and eating healthy among my friends), I had my share of processed foods. Now I have 2 kids and cook almost all meals. The biggest change in our diet is using more whole grains. My son wanted to eat cafeteria lunch 2 years ago but now he loves taking lunch from home and doesn’t enjoy cafeteria lunch. That’s a big win for me. I agree that healthy eating habits should be taught in childhood and eve though the kids deviate from it sometimes, they will come back to eating healthy. I am thankful to blogs like yours which help me learn everyday and add variety to my home cooked meals.

  22. I grew up with homemade food every day (my mom stayed at home) and only desserts on the weekends/holidays. I would request McDonalds or similar things from time to time, but never got it.

    When I moved to go to college, I had 6 months of junk food frenzy, but got tired of it and started cooking healthier stuff again. Now I do 75% real food for my family and both of my kids enjoy eating veggies, fish and other healthy options.

  23. I grew up on homemade foods and desserts. There were generally two cooked vegetables to choose from at dinner so that at least one would appeal to all. Desserts were abundant. I learned to like most veggies, but not all my siblings did. Only one of us has gotten overweight. I think we learned moderation in the dessert realm. It was always there, no need to gorge yourself. Dessert was never considered ‘bad’ just a normal treat at the end of a meal. Mental attitude toward food is a huge deal. Moderation is my main mantra. I can still wear my wedding dress easily twenty years later. And I’ve never dieted.

  24. Although my family still ate white bread and processed foods and drank a lot of soda when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, my mother laid a good foundation for healthy eating. Snacks were mostly fruits and vegetables. She only bought us breakfast cereals with low sugar content (I remember standing in the cereal aisle one time BEGGING her for Apple Jacks, but she stood her ground). And fast food was a once-in-a-while treat rather than a regular occurrence. This all gave me a great start in feeding my family in a healthy way, and from there I’ve gradually eliminated a lot of processed, artificial stuff from my family’s diet.

    My children are learning about healthy eating, too, and about reading labels. About a year or so ago my husband took our older son (who’s now 10) to the grocery store to pick up something. While he was looking for what he needed, our son picked up a package of something and read the ingredients. He commented about it has this and that bad ingredient, and then said something like, “This is junk!” There was another customer nearby holding the same item. When my son said all this, the guy put the item back and walked away!

  25. I grew up with very poor food habits, in the heyday of the convenience food era. Frozen, prepackaged, and highly processed meals were prepared for dinner nearly every night. Or if not that, then we stopped at fast food restaurants on the way home from soccer practice (the irony!) and had our fill of Taco Bell, McDonalds, or Burger King. I also remember plenty of soda, chips, twinkies, sugar cereals, etc around my house, and the only fruits or vegetables I ever had came out of a can. I remember my school actually supporting the frozen pre-prepared meals with something called ‘Market Day’ and every Wednesday after school, parents would come to the gymnasium to pick up their boxes of frozen food which they had pre-ordered and it contained things like chicken nuggets, hamburger patties, fish sticks, burritos, waffles, ice cream etc. This all sounds SO disgusting to me now and makes me CRINGE to think I grew up putting that poison in my body! Money was not an issue for my parents so it wasn’t that we were limited in resources, and my mom stayed at home with us, so lack of time didn’t seem to be an issue either; I think that it was just truly a lack of education and complete unawareness about the dangers of such toxic food. And because we live in a culture where food corporations RULE, their food is the norm, and real food is not. And my parents, being part of mainstream culture, were driven by the idea of “fitting in” with the majority.

    I am now 27 and have come a long way in my food journey. It has taken me years but I have changed my food lifestyle drastically and have cut out nearly all processed foods. I have also grown in my passion and fervor for local, ethical, and humane food production. It began with baby steps around the time I was 20; simply hearing about the antibiotics in cow’s milk and making the switch over to soy milk, and from there my real food journey seemed to have begun. Over the past two years I have grown in leaps and bounds (almost entirely thanks to your website!), making huge sweeping changes in my kitchen and in my eatings habits. I have noticed the upswing in my health, mood, energy, everything. However, because of the unhealthy food environment I was raised in, I do have huge issues around food that I struggle with every day. Food has become sort of a battle ground for me and I see it as an enemy I have to fight with. I was never raised with opportunities to appreciate good, real food, and because of all the junk food I was fed, I think I developed a guilt complex. Now even when I prepare an amazing meal of all real food, I still feel like I’m struggling with the guilt of just eating!

    But I do have to say that 100 Days of Real Food has literally changing my life by changing the way I eat, and you have been the biggest inspiration for me in my food journey. I am so grateful I randomly stumbled across your blog one day. Thanks for all you do and please don’t be discouraged by the negative voices out there! People are just afraid of what’s different and unknown to them, and it comes out in bizarre ways. I always appreciate having a place to come to where people share the same values as me and it encourages me to keep it up! Thanks again!

  26. I grew up eating very healthy – no sugary cereals, whole-grain everything, steamed vegetables, alfalfa sprouts and yogurt in the 70s when they were still health food. We did still get our treats – the occasional pop, Halloween candy etc. I’m very grateful for the healthy foundation my parents laid down for me – I’ve never had weight or health problems, and when it comes down to it, I prefer real, healthy foods. I’m happy to be able to pass down these good habits to my children.

  27. I really wish my parents were into healthy food choices back when I was growing up. They always made sure we were super active and into sports, so when i stopped playing so many sports and continued eating the way I used to, I was lost. It’s been 14 years since high school and I am still struggling to get to my goals. I try to eat really healthy but those darn comfort foods that flowed a plenty are still lurking. :( i am teaching my daughter to love her greens and be active.

  28. I totally agree! I do have a question and although it’s not fully related, I wasn’t sure where else to ask.

    I know you’ve said before a rule in your house is that the kids always have to try atleast one bite of whatever it is that you made (say it was a veggie they didn’t like.) That’s our rule too. Here is my question… my toddler has always loved food and has always eaten whatever I gave him. The past few months he has entered a picky stage and at times will refuse to eat (even if it something he’s had before and liked!) I refuse to make him a separate meal since what I’m cooking him is straight forward, healthy foods..no crazy ingredients that would cause him to not like it. Tonight this happened and I offered to puree the soup (it was a chicken and broccoli soup). Sometimes I think he just doesn’t like chunky things. So I pureed it and he ate the whole thing. Would you say this is wrong and possibly a bad habit to start? What would you do?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Essie. This post will help: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2013/07/08/top-10-feeding-mistakes-parents-make/. Check out #4: “Get Off Track with Picky Eating: In toddlerhood, children become skeptical of new food and previously accepted items (especially veggies). Most parents don’t understand that picky eating is a normal part of development and they may begin to bribe children with dessert, insist they eat a certain amount, or cater and only provide foods they know their child will eat. All of these things make picky eating worse and negatively affect self-regulation. We recommend the Ellyn Satter Division of Responsibility where parents decide the what, when and where of feeding and children decide the whether and how much of eating. It melts away the battles, keeps eating enjoyable for all, and makes children feel more confident with eating.” Hope it helps. ~Amy

  29. When I was growing I ate healthy and naturals foods. I grew up in Lithuanian at the time I was a kid it belonged to the Soviet Union and we didnt have too much junk. We had three different kinds of ice cream,two kinds of chewing gum,not too many desserts or any healthy or unhealthy food. So we made everything ourselves. At the time I wasnt happy and was complaining because I wanted some junk that american kids eat but now I realize I was very lucky because it taught me to make everything from scratch. Now I still make everything myself and my kids know that labels in the store not always say the truth and that moms made food its fresh and healthy. I started my blog because I want to show people that eating healthy can be very quick and easy .http://healthymammastyle.com/

  30. Each generation in my famliy gets better. My parents both had less than desirable childhoods -what food was eaten was lower on the ‘what to worry about most’ scale. When they had their own family, they did the best they could to feed a family of 7 on a budget of little. We always had veggies and fruits, but mostly ‘southern’ style and not that healthy even though present.

    I remember in high school walking out the door with buttered white bread toast and a huge big red for my ‘breakfast’. Even though I was thin, I was not eating healthy. As soon as I was out of my parents home, I ate fast food all of the time since we didn’t have the money for it before then and it seemed delicious.

    I know how toxic it is and I don’t want my children to follow that path. My 7 year old has stomach issues, so we feel it’s the right time to start. My kids love lots of veggies and fruits and will usually try anything we give them. We just don’t know where to start to ‘change’ once and for all. Sounds silly, but it’s a ifestyle change and that feels so hard in our already hectic lives.

    Processed foods, frozen foods, junk food, diet sodas, etc. I know we need to stop the cycle and do the right thing by our children and ourselves. It feels so overwhelming. My search for help & answers is the reason I found this blog! :)

  31. I just want to add my thoughts because I’ve been thinking about this. I struggle with weight. I wasn’t raised with many whole foods.

    I think you are right. Children need to be taught what healthy eating means. But, I do believe it is a mistake to ban foods. I, like you, am trying to teach my kids what healthy means and help them learn to take good care of themselves. But, food is a huge part of life and something to be enjoyed.

    I don’t want my kids to obsess about food in any way. That’s where “healthy” is not.

  32. I grew up eating very healthy. I was raised on a ranch so beef was a popular meat. My mom also grew a huge garden every summer and then canned and froze everything she could. So vegetables were always served at dinner. And if we got treats it was homemade cookies. I didn’t know what little Debbie’s or nestle pop in the oven and bake cookies were until college. Soda was never in our home and that was not even an option of we did go out to eat. Which we seriously never ate out because we lived pretty far out of town. College I had awful eating habits but after I got married I started working out and really getting back into healthy foods. My problem now is I have a very very picky two year old. I am struggling to get him to eat anything healthy. I need help as to what I can feed him and how I can make him eat it. I’m really at a loss!!

  33. I was brought up by my vegetarian granola mama. So much so that my idea of comfort food is a meal of tofu, brown rice, broccoli, and sweet potatoes, lol! We had treats, but they were treats, not everyday foods. I am striving to bring up my own children in a similar way, although we eat humanely raised meats as well.

  34. My Mother raised us on healthy food. We always had a garden and she canned vegetables. She bought live chickens and killed and dressed them herself. She bought beef from local farmers and stocked the freezer. She made everything from scratch even ice cream.
    The things that I would change would be no fattening dessert every evening after meals and less fried food.

    I went more of an unhealthy way for my kids mostly due to lack of time, I guess, being a single parent. I hope they lean more towards healthier eating as they mature.

  35. As a child we were VERY poor. We waited in lines for public hand outs- back then it was a far cry from today’s food bank. We were given 5lb loaves of processed cheese, corn meal, dry milk, etc. . . sometimes my Mom received boxes of rice baby cereal. Other than those processed/refined food items, we ate what we grew (mom canned and dehydrated everything) and what my father killed (avid hunter, also raised rabbits for food). We did eat canned or frozen veggies, I don’t recall much fresh fruit, but I’m sure we ate those as Mom was canning or drying for later. We did typically eat cereal for breakfast (as “healthy” as Mom could get- cheerios or wheat biscuits). Eating out wasn’t something that happened often (so rare that I don’t have memories of it until high school), I do recall an ordered in pizza with the neighbors one time. One of my favorite memories of mom (she passed 5 years ago) was her making homemade deep fried donuts. . . not healthy, but completely from scratch and rolled in cinnamon and sugar. It was a rare treat. Candy and junk wasn’t readily avaliable to us– but I don’t remember conversations about healthy food other than the time my grandparents were giving mom a hard time about her bread molding– she would only by 100% whole grain and they said if she’d buy the white stuff with “preservatives” then she wouldn’t have that issue. :-) Now, I tend to be a food natzi and I have to watch that. I want my kids to grow up with healthy attitudes and to understand moderation and that occasional indulgence is okay (but to really understand occasional doesn’t mean every day!). In high school, I lived with my aunt and uncle– they ate a typical SAD diet. I often enjoyed giant Costco double chocolate muffins for breakfast, many varieties of crap in my sack lunch, and Sunny D with cookies for after school snack. Hamburger Helper was a frequent meal (although dinner was always cooked and sit down together). We also frequently got fast food and went to restaurants. I didn’t think twice about enjoying three Otis Spunkmeyer cookies and chocolate milk at the school store mid day– or getting candy/cookies/soda at the market. I dealt with a lot of health issues into adult hood from this way of eating– now I’m back to my roots with an even healthier twist and I spend a small fortune each month to ensure my kids have the best nutrition I can provide ($1500+/mo). I refuse to budge on food– even when money is tight– it’s just too important (and part of this probably comes from how poor we were growing up!). I try to temper our food choices with plenty of conversations about food is fuel and why healthy fuel is important.

  36. I think your last quote/paragraph sums it up! All kids innately know what is good for them and bad for them….that’s why we (me included) and your daughter sneak food!
    It’s why kids hide homework, won’t brush their teeth, put their dirty clothes under the bed instead of the hamper!

    As parents we need to teach them and force some right choices on them! You and many others choose to stay on their kids about healthy food choices…wait till their in high school! It then becomes weekly discussions about tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. If you don’t talk to your kids about making healthy choices about saying no…they will sneak that too!

    I love your blog and ideas! Keep up the great work!

  37. Growing up, my family ate quite a bit of unhealthy food — soda at every meal, lots of fried meats, potato chips or ice cream every night, lots of Twinkie-like pastries. We almost never drank water — it tasted so plain compared to Hawaiian Punch and Pepsi. Although we had vegetables at every meal, they were usually canned, which tastes SO inferior to fresh, so I grew up not liking most vegetables. (Creamed corn was the worst. And I never knew until I was an adult that asparagus tastes so much better crisp and fresh rather than limp and soggy from the can.)

    I didn’t start eating healthier until I became pregnant in my 30s, but I slipped back into some of my unhealthier eating habits as my boys got older. I allowed too much sugary cereal, ice cream, candy, chips and soda into their lives, and now they ask for it way too often instead of the once-in-a-while treat that it should be. About a year ago, I switched to a mostly vegetarian diet (occasionally I eat chicken and shrimp), and I have been
    S-L-O-W-L-Y trying to change the diets of my resistant children and husband to more healthier food. It is a HARD struggle, especially without great support/role modeling from my spouse. It is SO MUCH HARDER to break bad habits when the kids are older than it is to just be more strict when they’re younger and teach them good habits.

  38. I am not saying anything that hasn’t been said already, but I was raised with a very balanced diet (not even as strict as I will be with my children some day). Ice cream was a treat, food made at home, veggies, homemade lunches at school (fruit, veggies, wheat bread, etc). I did not really realize how fortunate I was to have healthy food choices instilled in me from the beginning until I was talking to a roommate in collage about how hard it was for her to learn healthy eating habits as an adult. Yeah, kids rebel, but a lot of that (from my experience) has nothing to do with food. For me, it was (I now know) me trying to assert my independence. Though I am only one example, my bad eating ‘rebellion’ subsided when I really thought about it and learned about it. I think the part of the point is learning WHY whole food choices are the better choices.

  39. I love that you teach your children about healthy foods! I grew up eating dinner at the table with the whole family- we didn’t start eating until everyone was seated. Each meal consisted of a vegetable, starch, & meat. There were many convenience starches, but fresh ones also. To this day I would rather a piece of fruit for a sweet treat over a little Debbie cookie/cake. I realized how awesome this was when my then 4 year old chose a piece of fruit over a cookie. Good for you for teaching them right from wrong- on both aspects of this- they will sneak, you will be hurt, and life will continue to go on.