Confessions of a Hypocrite: I don’t Want You to Feed Crap to My Kid


In response to my last post, Why I’ll Eat Anything You Serve Me, a few people brought up their kids. They wondered: Was it OK to turn down bad foods offered to your children? If so, what were some acceptable ways to do that? Or should you allow grandparents and hosts to express love in the way that they know best, even if you don’t think it’s best for your kid?

I confess, I slowly cringed internally. I hadn’t thought about that. When I’d written my post, I’d only been thinking of myself. I will eat anything you serve me.

But it’s a whole different story with my kid.

Or at least, I fear it will be. I don’t know yet. My daughter’s only thirteen months old, which means she’s only been eating solids for about seven months. And for the most part, it’s been pretty simple. I’ve been in control of what she eats. People generally accept that you bring special foods for your baby with you wherever you go, and don’t expect you to feed her what everyone else is eating.

Which is a relief. Because even though I’ve let her eat adult food from the start, I can pick and choose what goes onto her high chair tray.

So I haven’t run into this issue too much yet. But the few encounters I’ve had haven’t been too promising.

In other words, I’ve been kind of a CrunchyNaziMommy when it has come to feeding my baby.

See, I can deal with the thought of occasionally messing with my own blood-sugar levels or ingesting the occasional GMO. It’s my own body, and if I choose relationships over health every once in a while, well, that’s my business, right?

My anxieties rise, however, when it comes to my baby’s perfect, pure little body. It doesn’t belong to me, and yet I’m responsible for its well-being. How can I possibly allow that fresh, untainted little being to be polluted with toxins and carcinogens? While it’s still forming and developing? Before she has a say in any of it?

I want to build healthy food habits. I don’t want her metabolism to be hijacked by the horrible Standard American Diet. I want to avoid the destructive addictions inherent in our broken food system.

As a result, I’ve been rather severe about what goes into my daughter’s mouth so far. Many times already, I’ve given my dad stern looks and shakes of my head at the very suggestion of giving her a taste of sugar before her first birthday.

No grains and no sugar!” has been my oft-repeated mantra.

“I want to keep her teeth, thank you very much.”

(I have, in the last couple of months, started to give her occasional tastes of both. Yesterday she had rice for the first time and devoured it).

Once, I even called my mom-in-law while she was babysitting, after hearing that they were planning to have hot dogs for supper, to ask her to please not give Lydia any hot dogs. I just couldn’t bear the thought of all those preservatives and dyes and mechanically-separated meats going into my baby’s perfect body.

I don’t know what I’ll do as Lydia gets older. I’m already fretful when I think about all those birthday parties with their sugary cakes, laced with carcinogenic food dyes. My stomach twists at the thought of future Halloweens and Easters, and the mountains of harmful treats associated with them. What will I do? How much will I allow to go into her mouth? What will I say to loving friends and family members who want to offer her toxic crap?

I want to protect my child’s health sooooo badly. At the same time, I don’t want grandparents to feel scared to feed her lest they unleash the wrath of CrunchyNaziMommy. I understand that grandparents often feel most comfortable showing love through gifts of food and treats. And I want Lydia to be able to connect with other kids over shared meals and snacks, just as I do.

So that’s why I’m already collecting tips and tricks for how to keep bad foods to a minimum. Things like sending her to parties on a full stomach, and helping her to be aware of how crappy she feels after eating junk.

In the meantime, though, I might be a little nuts.

How about you? If you’re a parent, how do you deal with bad foods being offered to your kids?

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  1. I don’t have any kid-specific insights from a parental perspective. I wonder, though, if part of being a parent will be helping her learn to navigate the murky waters between relationships and food choices, like you discussed in your last post. Just like the rest of us, she’ll at some point have to make tough decisions about whether health or relationships take the cake (ha!) in any given situation where unhealthy food has been prepared for her or offered to her.

    Just like there are negative health consequences for poor food choices, there are negative relationship consequences for relationship choices that upset loved ones. Might it on some level damage her relationships with others if CrunchyNaziMommy is overly (?) protective of her little body? If so, would you be comfortable accepting that reality? Is it worth it? (And is there such thing as overly protective of her body?)

    I’m not trying to sway you one way or the other, because I honestly have no idea what I’d do if it were my kiddo, just musing. I’ve been dealing with these kinds of decisions a lot lately for myself, because I’m on a diet now to help (I hope) with IF but we eat with friends all the time. Ah, the joys …

  2. I sooo get you. Not about the food. I do my best, but it is not #1 to me. I am the CrunchyMediaNazi. Stephen had night terrors when he was two. For A YEAR. After finally handing the issue over to my hubby, he prayed about it and said we needed to protect him more from the things he watches, etc. So, goodbye Disney, and goodbye all movies, book and toys I don’t feel are on our moral compass. Will they come back? I don’t know. But I know it’s hard to go to other people’s houses and all the kids are watching a movie that is FINE to them, but to us is completely filled with spiritual overtones. At home, it`s easy. If I don`t like it, I toss it, or don`t let them read it, watch it, etc. Even today at the speech therapist, she pulled out a Scooby Doo book, and read it to Silas. I was HUMMING. I didn’t want to make a big deal, and make her feel bad, yet I do not like the subject matter at all. Camping this summer, on the playground the kids were exposed to all kinds of children with all kinds of attitudes, and that is something I have definitely not allowed in our house, through any kind of media. Do I not let them play with them, because they say a few yucky words, or they are rude? How much can we shield our children? What do you do? Heck if I know. Let me know when you find out :)

  3. Stephanie at Keeper of the Home talked about this last spring:

    I’m inclined to extend the “I’ll eat anything you serve me” thing to my daughter. I understand your point about how our children are our responsibility, and they don’t yet have any say in what they eat. I also think that it’s important to teach our children that we are polite and grateful when others share with us. I believe that it is important to teach my daughter good eating habits, and to help her avoid the SAD, and I also think that it is important to teach her how to be gracious with other people. But then, I have a four month old, and she isn’t on solid food yet, so maybe that will change! It’s interesting to think about, at any rate.

  4. Personally if I have a decent amount of control over my kids diet I’m satisfied. Example: My son spends part of 2 days a month with his grandparents when B. and I work the same weekend day. Occasionally my mother likes to buy “fruit” snacks and give H. one packet as a special treat (and the majority of the time sticks to dried fruit, crackers, cheese, etc. like we do at home) and really I can’t make myself go crunchynazimom about it. It’s such a small fraction of his diet and I’d rather he have a little taste of such things now and growing up than go crazy and indulge over the edge once he’s on his own.

    I’m not going to turn down birthday invites because Jimmy’s mom didn’t meet the cow that the hamburgers are made of or if there aren’t at least 4 kinds of vegetables in the birthday cake. Will I encourage him to limit how much cake he has or tell him that I will be in control of dolling out the birthday or halloween candy? yes. Will I take to him about why he gets a stomach ache after eating all day at the picnic? yep, but mainly because I think there can be benefits to experience and learning the signs of your own bodies reaction to food.
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  5. I used to feel strongly about controlling my daughter’s diet too–but now I live in a country where 1) people love children, and they shove food into their little hands in the blink of an eye–as irritating as that can be it really is symbol of kindness and affection; and 2) to reject food is the cultural equivalent of slashing someone’s tires.

    Now I try to focus on teaching my daughter healthy eating habits and I try to instill in her a love for whole healthful foods. Like so much of parenting there is only so much I can control. But I can do my best to lay the foundation for her to make good choices of her own down the road.
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  6. ElizabethKBelle says:

    My kid is three. Food has been a terrible issue. People have been respectful about what I don’t want her to eat (meat, animal fats, gelatin, etc.), including her daycare/preschool – the owner is a vegetarian and makes healthy versions of the “kid-friendly” foods. I know she does this as I have swung by at lunchtime unexpectedly a few times.

    My kid was very easy going and would eat pretty much whatever you put in front of her until she was eighteen months old. I don’t know what happened. She became the most stubborn child I had ever met. She refused to eat vegetables, she refused to try anything new, and all she wants to eat is cereal (my blessed husband decided to bring in the sugary garbage and repeatedly bought it until my screaming got to him and he stopped – mind you my definition of sugary and his are a tad different) and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Some fruit, thankfully. No amount of niceness or behavioral tricks have worked on her. She has stumped many child professionals. It’s at a point where she is complaining about headaches and stomachaches because she won’t eat anywhere but daycare – who does the same niceness and behavioral tricks we do. The kid calorie supplements, including the ones claiming to be unprocessed, have as much table sugar as a serving of soda. I may as well just feed the kid ice cream and give her a vitamin supplement. Not that I would, but it would be cheaper and she’d eat it.

    Hopefully your child will eat more than four things. My case is of the more extreme, but most kids go through picky eating even if all they have eaten is real food in their life despite what others may tell you. It lasts at least a year. Good luck.

    As for other people – I’m fortunate in that the people who cook and want to feed my kid on my side of the family make everything from scratch, and my husband’s side will only feed her what we say she can eat. Daycare moms are a tad more strict than I am, but I’m thinking that has more to do with appearances than it does sincerity. She will eventually go to elementary school, which is probably when the issues will begin.

    I’m ready, though. The only birthday treats her friends get from me is box-free cupcakes. The only birthday treats my family gets is from the most awesome bakery ever that is owned by two very old people who make it a point to not use crap in their food. Stash of coworker approved recipes. All-purpose East Asian knife that looks like something out of a horror movie. I’m a force to be reckoned with.

    One last thing, and I’m not saying this to be combative – I get a tad squeamish when I see Nazi references made to be humorous. Both my and my husband’s families have relatives who lived in Germany, Poland, Romania, and what was Austria-Hungary during that period, as well as a US World War II sharpshooter who couldn’t talk about what happened to anyone but his wife until he was over eighty years old. Also having visited that part of the world, antisemitism is alive in a similar way that racism in the US is alive, except that expressions of antisemitism are illegal and will result in jail time. It’s a nasty, painful history for many people and a lot of countries have barely healed from it. I know a lot of people in North America share a similar history (relatives living in Eastern Europe and/or fighting in the World Wars) and are OK with Nazi humor, but that is just my point of view and there are people who share it. /end

  7. Hmm. I’m about a year away from confronting those same questions. Yaaaaaay!

    I think the other commenters have had good things to say–remember proportion (how much damage will one bad food a month do?) and that it’s just as important that we teach our children how to navigate these same murky waters of health and relationships as it is to protect them when they can’t yet defend themselves.

    I can tell you that, in my teaching experience, children whose diets were very strictly controlled at home often went crazy as soon as they were away from NaziMommy’s watchful eye. They might bring lunches of carrot sticks and homemade hummus, but they would trade their souls for a HoHo from another kid’s lunch, or beg, borrow, and steal quarters for candy bars, or snag sips of the other kids’ “fruit” drinks and leave their water untasted. And from overhearing the mothers’ talk, they obviously had no idea. Plus, eventually Lydia will go off to college or elsewhere living on her own and if she’s never had to make choices herself, she’ll be ill-prepared to do so.

    But how you start that teaching process, and at what age, that’s tricky, I guess. Sometime between the time she’s able to start understanding the concepts but before she’ll really be faced with the issue by herself, away from you? I don’t know. Child-rearing is hard.

  8. New commenter says:

    Very interesting and thought-provoking posts… These have brought to mind a couple of issues in my own life that I thought I would share.

    My sister-in-law has been very particular about the foods that her children consume. She shares your philosophy of natural, healthy eating. When her daughter started school, she would come home with her lunch uneaten. She was being teased by her classmates and embarrassed about the food in her lunch box (black bean salad may seem delicious to you or me, but when kids compare lunch boxes, there’s just something weird about it). SK and grade one children can be relentless, and she simply refused to eat. My sister-in-law decided to bring her home at lunchtime so that she wouldn’t starve and would not be subjected to the crappy food choices other parents made for their kids. This did little to resolve the fact that this little girl was perceived as different, and the teasing persisted. She’s older now and things have become less traumatic for her at school, but those early years were really hard on her and I’m sure she won’t soon forget it.

    I had similar (but less acute) experiences in school when I was young. My mom is a dietitian, so food choices for me did not include sugary fruit snacks and drinks – whole foods, healthy choices only. At home, we ate healthy ALL THE TIME. I can count on my fingers the number of times we had pizza delivered (usually only when my dad was in charge). As an adult, I discovered that I terrible habit I had developed was something my sister had also – we’re both covert bingers!! If you put a big bag of chips in front of me, I will eat it all… I have no restraint when it comes to these items. It started when I was about 12 years old. If my husband is away for a weekend, I will buy crap and eat all of it. It’s bizarre, and way outside of my normal eating habits. I value my health, my wellbeing, and my normal diet reflects this, but I seem unable to control myself when I’m alone and in front of an unhealthy food choice. (wow, as I write this I feel like I need to see someone about this!! I swear it’s not an everyday occurrence – maybe once a year).

    So, I guess what I’m saying is that yes, healthy eating is so important… I completely get why any loving parent would be Nazi-like about what their children consume. However, I think extremes in any form can be dangerous and have unintended consequences. I agree with your commenters that what’s most important is teaching your kids to make responsible choices for themselves and to understand the consequences. I was never taught the “why” apart form the obvious “it’s bad for you” — which just pushed the behaviour underground, and is something I still struggle with today.

    Good luck navigating this! I only have cats and they eat what I tell them to (most of the time) :)

  9. In our home I try to educate out children about real food and things that are called food. My son is a mini Sheldon Cooper and what I say goes ( unless a book has said otherwise). My mom called me the other day to talk some “sense” into my son because he wouldn’t eat the pop tarts she was serving. Why? Because they contained soybean oil. Yes, he read the ingredients. My children prefer homemade food but will still eat other foods in moderation. *twitches* I have explained where food dyes come from and what they can do to one’s body. That usually does it.
    My in-laws now fill easter eggs with money, toys , fruit snacks etc. rather than candy. They get it:)
    Halloween is not done, so nothing to worry about there.
    We have a family history of diabetes so that’s my excuse to placate those who roll their eyes at me.
    Great post again.

  10. Your kid is your kid. People often respect when you say that your kid shouldn’t eat certain things. The issue I have as a younger (26) parent is my family thinks they know better than me on what my kid should and shouldn’t have. We have a reoccuring issue with my family members about my kids drinking pop. The one saving grace that I have is that I’m a Dad, and people usually respect Dads.
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  11. We are not faced with this yet (although we hope to have reason to be within a couple years), but I am already having anxiety over this exact issue. I see how my parents, my dad specifically, interact with my niece and I have no idea how I am going to navigate this without hurting him. My dad has always shown love with food and treats. While this is often in the form of a deliciously ripe peach or similar, it is just as or more frequently in the form of candy, ice cream, or soda. My father is by most measures remarkably healthy, in spite of a diet incredibly high in simple sugars and a goodly amount of processed foods. This is well and good for him, but I don’t want my kids to be exposed to those foods any more than necessary when they are small. I am still working on how to navigate that when the time comes.
    I find my in-law’s diet objectionable for different reasons, but we will contend with that much less often since they live out of state.
    I hope I am able to find a way to show our children how to accept the gift of food with grace and thanksgiving and how to find pleasure in eating while still understanding how to live and eat healthfully.
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  12. I am more worried about how my husband’s diet will affect our son more than anything else right now. He still has a hard time eating right, and seems to think that once a week and during the weekends are ‘off time’ meaning we can pig out and eat whatever we want and that we’ll be ok eating healthy the rest of the time. I try to stick by the rule if I don’t want my son eating it I don’t need to eat it either, but my husband doesn’t agree. I think Malachi is getting old enough though that he is noticing when daddy has macaroni and Malachi has salad and if my husband thinks I’m going to be the one forcing good food down our son’s throat while he sits there with crap, he’s got another thing coming! So even though daddy is more the food nazi in our family regarding our son, I think he’s going to have to start walking the walk if he wants to convince Malachi to eat well.

    • We’ve done the no-baby food for our last 4 kids. It really is wfdenroul. I nurse them exclusively until they’re at least 8 months old, and usually longer, and then they just eat (in baby form) whateve we’re eating. It really sets you free!And you don’t need to worry about seasonings or spices, either: your baby has been nursing whatever you’re eating, and he doesn’t know he wasn’t born in India! It gets easier, too, each time you nurse a baby longer, and hold off table/baby food longer. It really does. The first time I thought I was depriving the poor boy. Not that they didn’t have little tastes of this and that along the way I mean, there’s such joy in seeing a baby’s face as he licks his first candy cane at 5 months! Hello!:-)

  13. For what it is worth, take it w/a grain of salt, etc…. The first article I read by you (Why I’ll Eat Anything You Serve Me) was FANTASTIC, outstanding, yes, yes, yes. All I will say to THIS post is: please read your LAST post again :). I have 6 children: 18, 17, 16, 13, 9, and 4, including a Lydia :). God is in control of your child’s health. For the 90% of the time that she is with you and in your control, you can feed her whatever you know to be best for her growing body. It is so easy to create a food-snob. The first time you hear your child criticize someone else’s food choices or preparations as being “bad” or unhealthy, at the wrong place/time/manner, you’ll cringe.. I’ve been there. I also remember a small child from someone else’s family declare to me, nose in the air, that “We do NOT eat chocolate; chocolate is bad. We *only* eat carob.” Ouch. I think perhaps it would be beneficial for that mom to give her child just a TAD of chocolate to break down some of that attitude ;-). It is just what children DO with our careful teaching, despite our best efforts! A HUGE part of teaching them has to be to not stick their noses up at other people’s food offerings or choices (*inwardly or outwardly*), and we mostly do that by not making a huge deal out of what we are serving, nor what other people are serving. “Take no thought of what you will eat or drink…” is the attitude. ESPECIALLY with the grandparents! It took me a while to realize that it is pretty offensive to be dictating what is healthy and not to grandparents (and mostly grandparents understand the nature of young parents so they accommodate our silliness as much as they can w/out saying anything..). Sending your own healthful snacks w/your child helps.. being the mom who signs up to make the refreshments at kid gatherings, etc… helps. But after that… give it up and know that your child will be fine. :-)

    • Anna: thanks for your thoughts and reminders. I’m especially taking to heart your warning, “It is so easy to create a food-snob.” You’re right — that’s not what I want. And you’re also right that as long as she gets good food 90% of the time, the occasional treat is not going to destroy her. Thanks!

  14. I just read this post, so coming very late to the discussion! I don’t have kids, but wanted to add a different perspective. My Mum raised me to eat very healthily, I had treats sometimes but not regularly, so didn’t get hooked on them. I would eat chips and chocolate at friends’ houses, but not having them at home it never entered my mind to buy them for myself as snacks with my pocket money (as my friends did). I think a few treats don’t do any harm – they key is to give your child those healthy eating habits at home as they will probably keep them for life, and also to explain the reasons for your choices (e.g. which ingredients are particularly unhealthy/unethical and why you choose not to eat them) so its logical and they understand you cook that way because you care about them, not because you want to deprive them of treats! Now as an adult I still never buy junk food for myself, except maybe the odd chocolate bar! Not having grown up with take away food I never order it either, but always cook from scratch.

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