Help! My kid has a junk-food addiction

Tracy Chappell's daughter has become a junk-food junkie. And Tracy can relate.
1JunkFood-August2013-iStockphoto

Photo: iStockphoto

Follow along as Today’s Parent senior editor Tracy Chappell shares her refreshingly positive take on parenting her two young daughters. She’s been blogging her relatable experiences for our publication since 2005.

“What are we having for dessert?” my seven-year-old asks me. Again. This is as I’m cooking dinner, and it’s not even the first time she’s asked this question today. I recall her inquiring about dessert while we were eating lunch. And after lunch. And while we were having an afternoon snack.

Anna is obsessed with sweets these days. It’s been going on for a couple of months and it’s driving me completely crazy. Every day we get into some kind of conversation about treats or candy, how she can earn some, or how many bites of dinner she has to have first, or how long she’ll have to wait until she can have the blessed item in her mouth. It doesn’t usually matter what it is — freezies or pudding or a cookie or a candy she’s discovered at the back of the junk drawer in our kitchen. Anything will do. I say yes to one, she asks for two. If I say no, she’s like a lawyer in heavy-duty negotiating mode. If I say maybe, she’s so relentless about the “when” or “if” that I have to say things like, “It will be 10 minutes more for every time you ask me!”

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The peculiar thing is that Anna is actually very keen on healthy foods. She loves salad and will happily devour a bowl of baby carrots or cucumbers or apples while she’s watching TV or colouring. She likes lots of different foods. She’s not used to us packing treats in her school or camp lunches (I usually put something in there on Fridays). We don’t even have dessert after dinner most days, and even then it’s usually fruit salad or something.

But I feel like “junk” (as my kids call it) has been starting to creep into our life more often this summer — and it’s obviously showing. Our kitchen has somehow become stocked with frozen yogurt tubes and granola bars and cereal, things I know aren’t necessarily healthy, but tell myself aren’t so bad. I also tell myself that it’s summer, and don’t we all indulge a little more in the summer? Isn’t an ice cream cone the universal symbol of the season?

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As you can see, I do a pretty good job of talking myself into bad habits. This past month or so, I’ve fallen off my fitness bandwagon in the worst way, and I promised myself I would never come back to this place. I’ve got a terrible sweet tooth — add to that summer holidays, after-work drinks on a patio and the ridiculous ice cream truck that insists on pulling up outside of our house every evening, and it’s a recipe for disaster. I want so badly to be able to just say no to it all.

I always hoped to raise my kids to not suffer the same cravings (is it nature or nurture?). I started out so well, filling their tummies with stir-fries and legumes and whole wheat pasta and water instead of juice. But somehow, our menu has evolved to a place I’m not overly comfortable with, and Anna’s insatiable desire for sweets is a good kick in the pants to get us back on track.

How content are you with your children’s diet? Do you make an effort to limit their sugar intake, or do you cave to their sweet desires?

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