How and when to let children have junk food

Your kids know that Little Debbie is out there. Even if snack cakes never make their way into your kitchen pantry, your kids have seen them and probably tasted them, too. When parents just say “no” to junk food no matter what, it seems like a good idea but it could very well backfire. When a parent bans triple fudge cookies from their kids they are turning that food into the ever-so-tempting forbidden fruit.

Instead of establishing an outright ban, try allowing your kids to make their own choices sometimes. This doesn’t mean that a parent can’t set a limit on junk food, it just means that you can strike a compromise. Doing so will help teach your children how to set appropriate limits for themselves. Parents can use these tips to help them start thinking of new ways to let kids make food decisions of their own.

1) Limit soda to one night per week. All the other kids get to have it in their lunches. It is supposed to come with their kiddie combo meals at drive-through restaurants. It is sugary and fizzy and bubbly and fun. And kids want it. When you tell your child that they can’t have a soda, ever, you aren’t teaching them how to make responsible, healthy decisions for themselves. Instead of never giving them a choice in the matter, make them think you are handing control of their own diets over to them.

Allow soda in the house one night out of the week, but let the child choose which night they want to have it. Only put enough soda cans in the refrigerator so that there is only enough for each person in the family to have one. If you have more leftovers, store them in a cabinet or in a garage so they won’t be ready to drink. This will also help you keep track of who has already had soda so your kids can’t trick you into having an extra.

2) Don’t make the school cafeteria food strictly off-limits. The best thing you can do for your child is t pack them a healthy lunch to take with them to school. But sometimes, that lunchbox looks pretty boring compared to burger day at the school cafeteria. Don’t keep your kids from the things they want, just limit how often they can have them.

Allow them to eat cafeteria food one day out of the week, say every Monday when you don’t feel like going to the trouble of making lunches, or every Friday to get them excited about the weekend. If once a week is a little too often for your liking, get a copy of the school’s monthly lunch menu and let the kids agree on which two or three days the cafeteria is serving food they would like to eat.

3) Let them have fast-food. On the nights when cooking just seems like more than you can handle, don’t feel bad about letting them go to Wendy’s. Just help them choose the least fattening option from the kiddie menu. If their meal comes with a free drink as if they can make that an orange juice or milk instead of a soda. If not, just make it water. And of course, never let them order super-sized food from the adult menu.

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