Let's Talk: Should You Allow Your Kids to Eat Junk at Birthday Parties?

Let’s Talk: Should You Allow Your Kids to Eat Junk at Birthday Parties?

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Here’s the scenario: Your young son or daughter has been invited to a friend’s birthday party. You know this family to some degree and are aware that their eating standards aren’t the same as your family’s.

The party will likely include white-sugar and food-dye cake, chips, pop and candy in the goodie bag, all foods which are standard no-no’s in your own home.

What do you do in this situation?

  1. Remember that birthday parties like this happen only occasionally, you eat well at home 90% of the time, and allow your child to eat freely at the party.
  2. Try to fill your child up on good, whole foods at home, prior to taking them. Remind them on the drive that the foods that will be served aren’t ones that will keep their body healthy, and that while it is ok to accept a piece of cake when offered, they should try to avoid other junk foods if possible, and look for better options (fruit or veggies, crackers and cheese, etc.). (And if you’re with them at the party, this becomes easier to enforce).
  3. Stay at the party with your child and bring along your own snacks. Inform the hosts prior to your coming that your child won’t be partaking of the food offerings, and that you will be bringing them food from home instead. Tell your child that the foods atย theย party are yucky, and feel free to get into a discussion with the other parents at the party about why your child won’t be eating along with everyone else.

Last week I was reading a book I picked up on sale while on summer vacation, but haven’t gotten around to reading yet. It’s called The Great Physician’s Rx for Children’s Health by Jordan Rubin. I have previously read and enjoyed The Maker’s Diet (it was quite influential for me in my real food journey, actually). I knew that he would have solid information and suggestions, geared towards children’s health in particular.

I was surprised to be so immediately turned off within the first chapters of the book, however, by the “holier than thou” attitude that I perceived in Dr. Rubin’s and his wife’s approach to shielding their young son from the dangers of processed foods. When their 3 year old son was invited to a birthday party, they came prepared with all of their own snacks from home.

He even proudly states at one point that their son has never eaten anything in his entire life that they do not consider to be “real food” (nothing processed or refined, no pasteurized or homogenized dairy products, no commercially raised grain-fed meat, no white sugar or table salt).

I’m not quite sure what world they live in, where they are able to have such complete and utter control over every single thing that ever enters his mouth- has he never been to a relative’s home with different eating habits or to another family’s home for dinner? Have they never been on the road or on vacation and needed to simply eat the best they could with the restaurants and choices that were available?

But I digress… back to the birthday party.

I know this is a hard area to deal with. I don’t like allowing my children to eat processed, refined, toxic foods in the slightest. It makes me cringe, and as their mom, it’s my job and responsibility to steward their health and train them in their eating habits.

Yet, as I’ve said many times before, people matter more than food.

Personally, I would opt for something along the lines of option #2 in the birthday party scenario, sending them with a full tummy and some words of wisdom, yet allowing them to graciously accept something celebratory like a piece of cake to enjoy with their friends. When I accompany them to parties, I encourage them towards the better options that are available, and allow them very limited amounts of the not-so-great options. But that’s just me.

(And I’ll even confess that although I’m usually the mom that makes the “weird” homemade spelt carrot cake with cream cheese icing colored pink with raspberry juice, this year I came down with an awful flu and was completely debilitated the day before my daughter’s 7th birthday. We bought a store cake, for the first time ever. Sometimes, life happens, and my husband and I both felt that it was a priority for our daughter’s party to continue as planned, whether mama was up for baking healthy cakes or not.)

I’m curious (and yes, I know this might spark a heated debate, so let’s just use our big-girl words and keep it polite)…

What would you (or do you) do in this kind of scenario? How do you balance celebrations with others, while still guarding your child’s health and nutrition?

Image by andy_carter

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  1. My son has food allergies, so I have no choice but to bring alternatives when we go to parties. But if he didn’t have allergies, I would opt for #1. I like him to have whole grains, minimal sugar, etc, but on special occasions I don’t have a problem making exceptions. When I host birthday parties for him, the cakes I make are allergy-proof but otherwise use mainstream ingredients, and then I’ll serve pizza along with fruit and salad.

  2. Food allergies aside, I am totally with you and sadly we face this a LOT just in school alone. My kids have been known to turn down snacks that they know we don’t normally eat and that makes me proud. But yet other days they eat them. However, they are ALWAYS honest with me. If they had a cookie at school for birthday they are well aware they will not get any other sugary treat later on and they weigh the costs when they take that cookie. If they know mommy is baking at home, they will be more apt to say no. They don’t need to know mommy’s treats are “healthier”. ๐Ÿ™‚ You’re right, we cannot shield them completely and we shouldn’t want to. We need to raise children that understand the temptations as well as how the body works. We need to allow them to make their choices, when feasible. Yet, the more I learn the harder this gets. The more I learn about what hydrogenated oils actually DO to change our body’s chemistry in a sense, freaks me out, and I am sure one day I’ll more apt to become even more controlling. LOL

  3. I am totally a #1er – we don’t even eat perfectly at home most of the time, but it’s a sight better than a year or two ago. I definitely think it’s about the big picture and not the occasional treats… Life is too short (and busy!) to obsess over every little thing that goes into our mouths. Of course I say this as a mom to 3 under 4 – I just have my hands too full to worry too much…

      1. Yes I agree. All this worry is worse than just eating the piece of cake!! I feel eat well at home but dont have everyone looking at you like your crazy in social situations.

        Just be balanced.

  4. besides with the issues of allergies, I think a child should be able to be able to be a child and have a few goodies. If you arefeeding them healthy the majority of the time, what’s the problem? You cant completely shield them from stuff and if you completely disallow something, all you are doing is setting your child up to sneak it.(and in mass quantities, not in a more controlled setting)

    1. I say let them eat junk food at birthday parties let them enjoy life . once a week have junk food day. The rest of the week have healthy foods and snacks. Kids that have that option .kids that don’t have that option. Will lie and do it behind you back anyway and there more important things to worries about anyways.

        1. So dramatic. Get a grip! All you fear mongers regarding food are so overly controlling & obsessive over every bite of food that goes into your childโ€™s body. I can see your children growing up to have an unhealthy relationship with food and look back and reflect on how isolating it was to not be able to partake with other kids at parties, to you know, just be a kid and enjoy themselves without worrying about mommy helicopter parenting them over every bite of food that goes in their mouth! Itโ€™s just a piece of cake!

          I just had a bday party for my child & a friend at the party wouldnโ€™t let her kids eat any of the food – pizza, cake, chicken because it wasnโ€™t antibiotic free. Her kids stood in my kitchen hungry after playing outside for hours & rather than allowing her kids to eat, she brushed off their hunger complaints because it was more important to her to keep their perfect diet than to, God forbid, feed her kids my unacceptable food.

          Itโ€™s ok to prioritize being happy, joyful, relaxed, and stress free! Kids benefit from that, too, probably more so than from a restricted diet. Moderation is key, not perfection.
          Be healthy, yes! But thereโ€™s a fine line between being healthy & having an unhealthy obsession with food. Stop it with the holier than thou passive-aggressive judgement… Itโ€™s just cake!

          1. I agree.
            At birthday parties the other kidโ€™s Moms let them have 2 cupcakes.
            When my grandson asks for a second cupcake she says no and offers him a carrot.
            Imagine how he feels . All of the other are having 2 cupcakes.
            While being denied a second cupcake he might wonder if it is because he is not good enough .
            Being so overly strict can cause low self esteem and other psychological problems.

            If you are too strict about letting your kid have some junk food he may not learn to self regulate. So when he is older and not under your misplaced control , he might eat more junk food than he would have
            because you so harshly deprived him,

  5. (yes, food allergies aside)- I think while it’s important to feed your kids only the best, there is definitely a social side to food. Each situation needs to be evaluated not just on what food is present, but the people involved. Relationships are more important than if your child eats too much processed food one day. Now there is of course other issues that can arise, but overall I think it’s a good learning opportunity to teach your children about making choices. You can talk to them about choosing one goodie, etc and let them decided. If they overindulge, then you talk about why their tummy hurts, etc. Honestly I think going in with your own snacks when there is not an allergy issue can be (to most people) quite offensive. It can also have a negative effect on the child when he/she cannot participate or feels controlled in the eating department. Now, I believe in standing up for one’s morals, but it’s a very delicate balance that has much more going on than what is going into one’s mouth.

  6. It makes me really nervous when parents attempt to control every single morsel of food that goes into their children’s bodies. If your kids are eating healthy, real food 90% of the time at home, then you are doing great by them. But how else will they ever ultimately learn SELF-CONTROL if they never even get the chance to make their own choices with the other 10%? If they never learn- on their own – “Oh, I felt pretty awful when I ate that big piece of cake, drank that soda and downed that handful of M&M’s?” I think this is true of most parenting decisions, really. We can do our best to keep our kids safe and healthy, we can teach them our values – but if we give them NO “wiggle room” EVER – starting with the smaller stuff, like cake at a party, and moving up to the scarier choices they might face as teens – then we aren’t (imho!) giving them the tools to choose wisely.

  7. I like your idea of making sure they get some healthy food before the party. Then a piece of cake or a cupcake at the party is fine. Even some ice cream if it is served. Some parties go all out with lots of chips and red drinks. Yikes! I would just tell my child that if he is served a plate of things he could have what he wanted but don’t go back for more. At school parties I’ve seen children eat 3 cupcakes and 3 cups of red drink and I could go on and on. With there parents helping out there was nothing I could say. But boy did that child look sick after a while. To much of what they thought was a good thing. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. I’m a combo of #1 & #2. I’ll sometimes feed them ahead if it is feasibly appropriate and we often have discussions about how foods affect our bodiea, etc. But while I discuss choosing amounts carefully, I don’t deny them non-allergy sweets at a birthday. Relationships are more important. And I would NEVER say that someone else’s food is “yucky”… that is the kind of rude and disrespectful behavior I am trying to train out of them! Discussion of health is one thing – and I try to do that respectfully -treating other people as lesser than we are is another.

  9. My children are grown. They are healthy, smart, very sociable and active in life. Barring some serious health issue, such as food allergies, any person that come to any event at our house bearing their own food would have never been invited back. I am completely for eating healthy, wholesome foods but there is so much more to good health than just food. Bringing healthy food may take care of the physical but it negates the emotional toll.

  10. I’m lucky in that most of our friends eat at least “sort of” the way we do. Most kids around us have food allergies or their parents are concerned about too much junk (that’s not to say that they eat totally like us — some definitely frequent McDonald’s and such, even if they eat better at home). In these situations, I wouldn’t worry and would just let them eat what was there. However, in these circles, since so many kids do have food allergies, it is totally understood if parents bring other foods for their kids and parents always ask if there is an issue before serving a kid anything, and sometimes the hostess will try to make allergy-friendly food to accommodate the guests. Like I said — I’m lucky. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Supposing that were not the case, I’d fill them up at home and let them choose one or two “not so bad” treats. I tend to be very wary of food dyes because it makes my daughter behave like a crazy person (screaming, crying, bathroom accidents) so I’d try to skip that. I wouldn’t freak out about a little white sugar or flour though, here and there. I have even used white flour for birthday cakes in my own home (baked with sucanat, real butter, etc.) on occasion. A couple times a year won’t hurt. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. We’re definitely along the lines of #2. Although, we’ve found we have to watch our children like hawks. At the last family birthday party our oldest got physically sick after some (well-meaning) uncles gave her two helping of ice cream.

    We also usually offer to bring something that we know our children like and can eat. I know this probably only works for family gatherings or parties with close friends, but it’s worth a try.

    1. I am a combination between one and two. You see my son has ADHD, MMR, and possibly a form of Autism. Different foods make him act a different way. We have found that food made only from Organic farming with no added sugar are the best for him behavior wise and Academic wise.
      Therefore, when he goes to a party instead of not allowing him any cake, I will bring something sugar free so he is at least getting a treat and not feeling so out of the loop.
      I also do this at his school in which parents bring tons of sugary junk for birthday parties, V-day parties, and of course Christmas parties. I just don’t allow my kid to have all that junk, but I don’t want him made fun of. So, I got a doctors note that says he can not have sugar which gives me doctors orders to send him with good food.
      If anyone starts acting like what you are doing is wrong talk to your doctor and they can write an order for you. Then nobody has the power to say anything to you.

  12. To me, it seems like a no-brainer (but that’s just me). People are way more important than eating junk food one afternoon. In my mind, it’s impolite to bring all your own snacks for your child and totally reject the food provided by the hosts. I think a child that has eaten very well at home all his or her life, and is also respectful to his or her parents beliefs and wishes, would understand not to “pig out” on the junk. If we were in that situation, I would just stay at the party with my child and monitor what he ate, but still let him have some junk! ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. If I had a child that has food allergies or has difficulties with things such as food dyes, then I would bring snacks and monitor what the child does or does not get to eat. Otherwise I wouldn’t worry about it other than to monitor to make sure the child doesn’t eat too much junk (and get sick later).

  14. I am a great-grandma. Although I have never had to face this exact problem I can base my ideas on a lifetime of experiences. Teach your children and let them make the choices. The littlest ones cant do that well and may need guidance but children need to learn to make good choices and be responsible for the ones they make. Yes too much sugar will make you sick. When you are sick we can talk about why and how to avoid it in the future. You will not always be with them and if they dont learn early who will be the police for them later. Many a college student fails the first semester because the parents did not make them responsible and accountable for their choices.

    As parents your real job is to prepare them for adulthood not be the boss of them.

  15. I would have previously done #1 but now #2. Wow–#3 is so rude! Definitely not the way to win friends over….this is a real issue with our families and we just usually eat what they serve (although we never feel well after).

    However, now that my daughter can’t consume gluten, eggs or dairy, we have the perfect “excuse” to bring our own food. I don’t think it’s rude in that case. People understand!

  16. We are a combination of 1 and 2. We don’t have any real food allergies, though my youngest is sensitive to food dyes and we don’t eat them in our daily lives. All our friends know we’re the “crunchy family” and respect that, so usually there’s something somewhat decent on the table. But I do think that kids have to learn how to monitor themselves. With my 4-year-old I’ll set limits – one sweet and one glass of juice at a party, for instance – but with my six-year-old it’s up to her. She’s learned that too much sugar makes her sick, and too much junk food gives her constipation for days, so she usually chooses pretty wisely. She ate a whole “single serving” bag of doritos once and groaned for two days – definitely learned her lesson! So now she holds back not because I say so, but because she wants to feel good. Having absolutes in their eating habits just makes the forbidden fruit that much more tempting, and I’ve seen such families turn out kids with eating disorders. So we talk and educate the girls and hope it sticks! I do know they’ve both learned that stuff that looks fancy – like a lurid birthday cake or fancy swirled lollipop – usually doesn’t taste nearly as good, and often as not my girls will take a piece of cake, eat a small bit with the icing scraped off, and be done. Thanks for starting this conversation!

  17. 1) People matter more than food — absolutely agree.

    2) Children need to learn in situations like that how to act when they’re older. Are they really going to pack their own packs of snacks when they go to a sleepover? (PLEASE say no — haven’t read the book.) Empower a child, teach them right, then trust in what you’ve taught them about making appropriate decisions.

  18. I think it’s great how you point out and remind us that relationships are more inportant than food. It’s so easy to forget the important things or to feel guilty about it if you do let them have junk at a party, etc.

    I agree with what most said – filling up on good food at home, letting them have some junk while there. It might even be a good lesson for them. When you’ve been eating healthy & you eat junk, your body will let you know. Your kids may experience this & it’ll be a good teaching time. They may decide it’s not worth it & may even choose to avoid junk (or lots of it) the next time.

  19. I know PEOPLE who have the “I’m better then you, holier then you” attitude about food and what is ironic is many times I see serious character flaws in other areas of their life. I’m not trying to judge either but I find it to be such a turn off from what God has planned.

    I personally think it is GREAT to eat healthy, something I’m challenging myself now to learn more about but I NEVER want it to become an idol, NEVER! I’m also amazed how much God’s word talks about food, I just heard a sermon Sunday about how in the early church people were fighting over being more righteous if you ate meat and on the other side if they didn’t. So these fights are nothing new.

    But I love what Romans says: This is the message version so it sounds blunt but makes a good point. Romans 14: 15-16 If you confuse others by making a big issue over what they eat or don’t eat, you’re no longer a companion with them in love, are you? These, remember, are persons for whom Christ died. Would you risk sending them to hell over an item in their diet? Don’t you dare let a piece of God-blessed food become an occasion of soul- poisoning!

    This whole chapter talks about the ones who feel self righteous in their food choices and Paul makes it clear God doesn’t care about it very much! I’m not saying we are foolish for wanting good food in our bodies or our children’s but we need to be careful it doesn’t become an idol o make us lose our witness for Christ, that would be far worse then eating a piece of cake, That is my 2 cents.

  20. I have tried to feed my family in a healthy manner. I would say the biggest thing I have done, when compared to other families, is the restriction on sugar, followed by preservatives and artificial coloring. My daughter can bite into a cupcake at a party and immediately put it aside, all on her own. She complains that “It is too sweet”. She has also tried soft drinks and did the same thing. That isn’t to say that she doesn’t care for sugary treats, but her preference seems to be much less than usual.

    She also prefers fruits and vegetables. Parents are always asking me, “How do you get her to eat that?”, which is a curiosity for them when they see what she chooses for her school lunch. She is the only child I know who asks for a Greek salad to carry for lunch, for example. I also often post recipes that I am cooking for the day on Facebook and I get the same questions.

    I accepted a long time ago that I can’t police every single sip or morsel that enters my child’s mouth. We have grass-fed meat, organic milk, homemade bread, with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. If we have sweets, I make them myself.

    At home, I have control over the food, from the selection to the preparation. We eat fairly healthy, especially when we go out to restaurants, parties, and others’ homes.

    I have taught my daughter to politely decline foods that she does not like or feels uncomfortable eating. It is better than making a scene or having a holier than thou attitude. Most people don’t push it as they assume she has a food allergy.

  21. I have lots of food allergies so people are used to me taking my own food everywhere. And thankfully, most of our close friends are pretty health-conscious and have healthy food at parties. However, we have some wonderful friends/neighbors who eat almost nothing healthy (pretty much everything they eat comes from a package) so when we go to their house, I take healthier snacks to share with their family (fruit and veggie plates) so that my kids will have healthy snacks to eat while we’re there. I am hoping that we will influence them for the better! But they are dear friends, new in their walks with the Lord (and we are unofficially mentoring them) and we love spending time with them.

    1. Ad I’m very thankful that because we eat fairly healthy at home, my kids are very picky about their junk food! They won’t eat just anything you put in front of them.

  22. First, I agree whole heartedly that people are more important than food. Also, I may have an additional perspective on this issue because my children are a little older (14 and 9). When your kids get a little older you will not be able to control every social situation. They will attend many events where the food will be far from what you would have chosen. If they have never seen this stuff before they may overindulge just because they think they will never see it again. Far better to have let them have some limited exposure, and understand that junkfood isn’t as wonderful as it looks. It makes you feel icky after eating it and it often dosen’t taste as great as expected.

  23. I just wanted to say I really appreciate this post! Relationships/people are more important than our diets. I think there is a bigger lesson of graciousness and thankfulness to be learned than one of avoiding junk. We eat healthy at home (which is most of the time), but I have learned to stop obsessing about what they eat away from home. We talk about good choices. I have 3 boys. One continues to make good choices away from home and is very good at limiting sweets at a party, but the other two can’t wait to indulge in the cake and whatever else is being offered. Sure, I wish they all made good food choices all the time, but do I? No, and no one has gotten sick from a party yet.

  24. It is so funny to “happen” across this issue. My husband and I are not even expecting yet, but we find this issue coming up more and more. I’ve been eating whole foods and less chemicals, and changing over cleaning products for a while. He is entirely open to it, and we don’t get too bent out of shape when there aren’t really good options, we choose the lesser of the evils.
    I plan on being completely there by the time little ones enter the picture. And I’ve thought about this scenario a lot. Overall, one thing to remember is that we are forming little human beings. Teaching them to make the BEST choices they can, is the most reasonable thing to do. Unless a child sees a benefit to eating well, watching his parents’ example, and experiencing an occasional stomach ache when eating what seems like they want, it won’t help them choose wisely as adults. Being overly strict can make them run to the poptarts the instant they spend the night with a friend. I think that as they get older and more social, they have to be trusted and encouraged when they make the decisions about what to eat.

  25. I’m not sure if someone mentioned it already because I didn’t have time to read all the comments but I also agree with what you said about putting people first. This is crucial ESPECIALLY if the people are not believers. 1 Corinthians 10:27
    says, “If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience.” God gave us amazing bodies that filter stuff out and if my kiddo eats a piece of cake with a few drops of food coloring I know he is heatlhy enough to process (mind you, I don’t like it one bit, though! ๐Ÿ™‚ Also keep in mind Romans 14:15 which says, “If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.” I know this refers more to New Testament Christians freely choosing to eat something forbidden by Jewish law but it reminds me that loving one another is so much more important and even sacraficial if it means letting these food issues go for an afternoon to let someone know that celebrating with them is more important. It is so easy to get a one track mind with health and eating (I know-I’m very guilty of this) but sharing the love of Christ is so much more important!

      1. Good point! I thought of that scripture also, but did not post it. I think you did a good job of bringing the point home. Our love for our neighbors and friends is more important than a little bit of unhealthy food. Of course, food allergies are a totally different story.

  26. We opt for option 3, but we always always always bring enough to share. We are mindful to let people know that we have some food sensitivities in our family and that we are trying to do our absolute best to treat our bodies as if they are temples. I am one of those moms whose daughter has never had white sugar, white flour, pasteurized dairy, kool-aid, etc. It took some hard work in the beginning, but now that E is 4, she pretty much just looks for other healthful options on her own. My approach is by honestly teaching her (or any other children who come into our family) about how things are prepared and why we eat the way we do, that when she is older she will be able to make her best decisions because she will have the information that she needs. I am not delusional, however, I do know that she one day may choose something that I would never have in my home, but my stewardship (in my opinion) is to teach her correct principles now so she can govern herself later.

    1. I like that you bring enough to share, and for those with serious food allergies or sensitivities, I think that bringing along a dish for sharing (perhaps gently asking the host if this would be ok first) might be a way to approach these situations for kids who truly can’t eat what is being served. I know that it’s hard to be the only one at a party who can’t eat anything that’s being served, and when it comes to allergies (which many people have mentioned in the comments) then I think there are some appropriate ways to handle the situation and still have food for your child to eat at a celebration or other social event.

  27. While in my heart I am a #3 parent, I usually suck it up and act like a #1. I admit, I have control issues, but I’m trying to let go for the sanity of my children, myself, and my new husband.

  28. I read “The Great Physician’s Rx” five years ago and I personally enjoyed the book. It was a catalyst for my family to start eating healthier. I was raised in a Christian home and taught that the Bible was true and I believed the God of the Bible to be loving and wise. He created us and all that is on the earth, he knows how it all functions best. I appreciated the points the author made in the book concerning eating foods in their most natural state, the way God intended us to eat them. In the beginning we made drastic changes to our diet (eliminating white sugar, white flour, partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup and pork from our diet). We didn’t do it 100% but we did our best to stay away from the “trouble foods” for the most part.

    As time went by, my heart changed. In the beginning I strove to eat better for health reasons, because I knew it was good for me, but over time I started realizing that God instructed his people to eat a certain way because that was his desire for us. He didn’t give us the option of eating whatever we wanted, he was very specific about avoiding certain kinds of meat and HE called them detestable/abominable. He also indicated fruits & vegetables were for all mankind to eat. He gave us the freedom to obey or disobey, but he was clear in his instructions.

    As I said, my heart changed. I love the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob with my whole heart, mind, soul and strength. It is out of my love for him that I seek to obey his instructions. This is how I instruct my children. I teach them the instructions handed down to Moses by God. They have the freedom to choose to obey or disobey. It is my hope and desire that they would obey these instructions out of love.

    At this point we as a family have sworn off “unclean animals for meat” as outlined in the Bible. My kids don’t even see it as a temptation. (They’re 8, 6 & 4) We’re still working on eating more fruits & vegetables (particularly vegetables!). It’s a process, but I believe it starts in the heart, not in the head, and least of all in the belly. Our bellies will always crave what our flesh desires…(and I personally struggle with gluttony — eating way more than I need to), but when our heart is bent on better health or in my case, on loving my God whole-heartedly, then I find it easier to bring our bellies & minds into submission.

    As for social acceptance, I think it is rude of others to condemn children for obeying the instructions of their parents. Naturally, it’s important to teach our children that not everyone eats like we do, and that’s okay. If their parents instruct them otherwise, that’s their business. We are to always be kind to one another. The motivation for not eating certain foods is not the food in and of itself, the motivation is loving obedience to our parents’ instructions. At least, that’s how I feel about it.

    1. When I said I thought it was rude of others to condemn children for obeying their parents’ instructions, I was responding to a lot of the comments that had already been made saying it was rude to not eat what was offered at the parties. I’m sorry if that came across badly.

      I do believe it’s rude behavior to turn your nose up at what’s put in front of you, especially when someone went through the trouble of preparing something for you (*and* they thought you would like it). But if a child learns to politely say “no, thank you” and explain that their parents have instructed them not to eat certain kinds of food, and that they’d like to honor their parents by obeying them, I believe that is perfectly acceptable. Not only is it truthful and respectful, it is a good witness on how to honor your parents amidst peer pressure to do otherwise.

  29. Thanks so much for writing about this. The issues you are concerned about are so near to my own concerns, it is like reading my own mind sometimes (except more articulate and with better solutions!).
    I agree with most of the commenters so far, and we approach this kind of situation similar to #2 in your post.
    I find 1 Tim 4: 8 helpful in keeping perspective. I know it doesn’t speak directly to this exact issue, but the heart of it offers some guidance.
    “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come”
    It seems to me that, in the heart of scripture and of God, our relationships with others is held is higher esteem than bodily care.
    That being said, it is hard and I struggle with the right attitude when my children are being offered these kinds of foods, and I battle right along with all the rest of you!

  30. This was a very intriguing article for me as it has been a question I have pondered since our son’s birth. We have been diligent about our son’s food and general health before he was even conceived. I breast fed him, made baby food for him, and he ate nothing out of a package. Despite all our efforts out baby is dealing with what appears to be symptoms of autism. In our son’s case, certain foods seem to exacerbate the problem, namely sugar, wheat and dairy, and thus we have adopted the lifestyle of always having food on-hand for him. We will be doing the GAPS diet intro with him in a few weeks, which is supposed to help heal the gut, which seems to be his primary issue, and I am hoping and praying that there will be a time where he can occasionally have a store-bought birthday cake, but it will be a while before that will occur.
    BTW: Stephanie, I feel you did a great job of addressing the issue. I think I would do just as you did.

    1. Charise, you sound exactly like me. Both of my children are fed in the same manner that you discussed. My oldest is 2 1/2 and despite all of the breastfeeding, non packaged, whole foods…he has been diagnosed as severely autistic. The diagnosis came when my youngest son had just turned 5 months old.
      It is a roller coaster of grieving and emotions. I did question many times if all the “work” was even worth it and if I should just let my baby Isaiah eat what is on sale, what is easy, etc. The answer is “yes, the work is worth it”.
      If your child becomes diagnosed with autism, PLEASE know that YOU did nothing to cause this. I also found out that a gluten free dairy free diet helps my son so much, as many children on the spectrum are sensitive to gluten and dairy. WOW all the home made loafs of wheat bread I have baked him in his little life…
      there was no way for me to know any different. If you need someone to talk to, please do not hesitate to email me. forhisglory58@yahoo.com
      We are all in this together. <3
      Stephanie, I am sorry I hijacked this thread. My answer is a 2 as well.

  31. It’s all about 80/20. 80% of the time I strive to fill their bellies with real foods but 20% of the time it’s about family and friends (or a sick/tired mama). The real world that our children will encounter as they grow is not padded or contained to our own ideals and we should raise our children to be gracious as well as intelligent and thoughtful about the situations that confront them.

  32. I’m a #2. My almost 4 year old knows now that he needs to eat a decent amount of good food at home or elsewhere before he can have any treats. We eat well at home.

    My problem has become with exactly how to talk about nutrition with him. He’s very perceptive and has started equating eating junk with a “bad decision” even though I’ve tried to only frame it in terms of health. I think he’s starting to see it as a moral issue. Or at least he’s having a hard time separating it in his mind. He often asks things like “why would grandma give that to me if it is bad and will make me unhealthy??”

    I’m pleased that he sees being healthy as responsible, but I’m a little worried about him inadvertently hurting others’ feelings. Anyone been here?

    1. anjanette,

      my mom tried to give my 4 year old daughter fruit loops for breakfast once and my daughter explained to her that we don’t eat them because “they’re too sugary and God didn’t make them that color.” when my mom told me about it, she sounded a little hurt. i think she feels like grandma’s house should be the place where there are no food rules or something. i was proud of my little girl for saying no to junk food, but i did take advantage of the opportunity to teach her to say no graciously. i told her a smiple “no, thank you” is usually enough. and that if someone asks why she can just say that she’d prefer something else, like a piece of fruit or some oatmeal (both things that i know her grandparents always have on hand)

      my daughter is going through the same phase of learning. she is always asking me if something is healthy or unhealthy and if i tell her it’s considered unhealthy she questions me about why the person is eating it or why they offered it to her. we’re working on learning about moderation now. ๐Ÿ™‚

  33. I basically handle it the same way you do (sort of combo of #1 and #2…I wouldn’t allow them to “eat freely” but I wouldn’t make it a big deal if they had more than one thing (our normal rule) if offered if otherwise it would be rude or offensive.

    I have always let my child (food allergies aside) have one choice of one thing. We don’t ever eat that sort of food at home, so I’ve actually noticed that they usually don’t want to finish what they picked out as their choice, or even eat a second bite. I never make them finish a sweet since its just extra. I find their taste buds aren’t used to something like that since we don’t have it around.

    I think if we are too controlling then they end up rebelling behind our backs, especially when they are older. If we teach them the whys of nutrition (in our own home not commenting while out) and how we also need to put people first and love others then I think they will learn the balance, or at least have the greatest chance of learning that balance. They might make mistakes (probably!) as they get older and they might do things we don’t want them to do (probably!) but that isn’t ultimately our job. Our job is to teach and show and then eventually its up to them.

    1. I completely agree with you. I don’t want my kids to completely rebel when given the chance because I was too controlling over their diets when they were young. My parents limited our treats when we were young (as they should) but it was excessive and I think that’s contributed to me having a bit of an issue/addiction with sugar and treats in general. I don’t want my kids to fight that same battle.

      I don’t allow much junk at home, but it happens (and then it’s homemade and still relatively healthy). I feel like they’re learning healthy habits where it matters, at home. When we’re out that’s different and that’s okay with me.

  34. Personally, I feed my children whole organic healthy foods at home always so that in social situations I don’t have to worry about them eating “fake” foods. It took me some time to get to this point where I can let go of the control over that part of my children’s lives (and a lot of patience from my extended family), but I’m glad I am at that point.

    On the other hand, I’ve actually been the host of a party where one of my guests brought her own food because she assumed I would be serving unhealthy food only (this wasn’t a food-allergy case). I have to say, it wasn’t a good feeling! After that experience, I stopped bringing along my own snacks or meals for my children when we visit in the homes of other people.

  35. This is rather timely. My daughter’s 4th birthday is tomorrow and her party on Saturday. I guess what I’m doing is meeting someplace in the middle. We will have regular very bad for you candy in the pinata but also some non candy goodies. I think I’m making some beet chocolate cupcakes and some sort of non chocolate cake. I’ll probably use non refined sweeteners. However, It’s a ladybug theme and honestly at this point I kind of want a cute cake over a non food dye laden cake. (I tried to do a caterpillar cake for my other daughter and the “healthy” green was more army than caterpillar.) I’m trying to figure out how to do red and green frosting!
    I know that those coming don’t have the same food ideas as we do but I’d like to serve them the best anyway.

    1. Oh, and as a response to what I do when we’re on the opposite side. I’d like to be more 2ish but am probably more 1 like.

    2. I made a ladybug cake for my daughter’s birthday last year and used strawberry frosting (with real, frozen strawberries as the only “dye”). It was pink rather than red, but it was super cute.

  36. We pretty much stick with #2. However, since we go to a lot of social gatherings with junk food, I don’t usually let Jonathan eat anything while there. He’s only 2 1/2, and I just feel like it would be too frequent to let him eat junk food each time we’re at a get together where junk food is offered. I always feed him a big, healthy meal before we go, and when offered food by the host I just say, “thanks, but we just ate and we’re still so full.” I make sure we have a glass of water at the party so it at least doesn’t look like we’re refusing everything.
    When we go to my in-law’s house I usually just bring food. They understand and are supportive of how strict I am with Jonathan’s diet, and while they eat a lot of junk they don’t get offended when I show up with a big salad or smoothies and whole grain muffins.
    People should always win over issues (including healthy food), but I do think many times there’s a way you can do both. At least when they’re 2 1/2:) Teenagers? Hmm . . .

  37. I’m definitely a #2 Mum, though I doubt I’d say much if my kids chose to eat more than one thing – at least at the time. If someone ended up with a tummy ache after the party, it would definitely turn into a gentle learning lesson. It’s a learning process, and a time to show my children that although our food is important, people are so much more precious, and to offend over our snacks would be wrong. Unless my child had a very specific allergy to certain food/s, I would let it go, because as you point out, 90% of the time, I do have control over what they eat.

  38. First of all… man you guys get up early! I agree with most about doing a combo of being #1 and #2. I especially appreciated Bek’s comment. It’s great to see honesty in the comments. So many times, esp. in an online forum where nobody knows how you really are, people try to be “the MOST crunchy” or the “super organic mom” and aren’t entirely honest. It’s nice to see that there are those of us out there doing the best we can to feed our children real food, who occasionally eat cake.

  39. As others have said, with the exception of protecting children from serious allergies ( I grew up with a friend who had peanut allergies), I think that relationships are definitely more important. Especially if we want to strive to promote relationships with those who aren’t all like us. It can be easier to always pursue relationships with people who do things the way we do and have most if not all of the same values, but sometimes we have to sacrifice a little to expand our circle.
    Also, when I was growing up we didn’t eat junk food at home but when we were at others houses we were free to eat what we wanted. My mother’s philosophy was that I needed to learn to control my own eating habits and portions. She and my father raised me with their values regarding food and health, but ultimately it was up to me to adopt them. For a few years I got sick at every birthday party, stuffing myself to the gills with junk food and soda. (fortunately there weren’t too many). But eventually I learned my lesson. My mother could have made it “easier” for me by not allowing me to attend birthday parties, attending with me to monitor my food intake or sending me with my own healthy snacks. But mostly she dropped me off with a quick warning about not eating too much. Honestly, in general I am a fan of most things in moderation. Do we eat cake and ice cream regularly at our house? No. But has my 2 and a half year old tasted these things? Yes. At friend’s houses, family gatherings and even her own birthday parties. It’s all about balance, at least for us. But as I said, we don’t have any major food allergies to contend with.

  40. I personally think people who have had very serious health problems will be much stricter with their children eating healthy, cause they see first hand how destructive bad food can be. That is why I am sure Jordan Rubin is so strict with his children (have you seen how ill that man was? And how a change in diet was a big reason he was cured?) I too have had a severely disabling health condition, which has been so much better through diet, so I too, am very picky about what my children eat and they have never eaten junk. However, I don’t think I am better than others. I recognize that depending on peoples experiences will depend on how strongly they feel about feeding or not feeding their children junk. Healthy people don’t mind the occasional junk, cause they don’t feel it. Unhealthy people are much more aware of the effects of junk, which is why they (including myself) would be more strict. however, i don’t expect others to be like myself. When I was healthy, I wouldn’t have cared about eating sweets and the like. So it isn’t really a “holier than though” attitude. It is different experiences. Trust me when you feel ill from a single bite of food- you wouldn’t want your children eating junk. However, my children are raised to accept that all people eat differently. Even my children eat all sorts of things I can’t have (healthy of course). And they have learned we eat healthy, so that are bodies can work right. As far as bringing food places, I see nothing wrong with that. My friends already know we eat different- that my kids eat gluten free, so I just let them know I’ll bring a gluten free cupcake/muffin for my children if that is okay, or I send my kids with a larabar if a snack is given somewhere that they might be giving out junk. That way my kids still get a treat, but I am okay with it.

    Anyways, I think we should all accept that people eat different depeding on our experiences and should accept those who eat junk and those who eat completely healthy. People make different choices completely dependent on their life experiences or lack their of. So anyways, I won’t be offended if your kids eat junk (my kids would too if it weren’t for my health experiences) and don’t be offended if I send my children with a healthy snack that I am okay with!!!

  41. I definitely agree with you that people are more important than food. I learned that early on in my healthy food journey. I might be too relaxed now – I’d just go with option #1 and let my kids eat whatever they can (which isn’t much actually, due to food allergies) with some guidance (more fruits and veggies than other things for example). I probably wouldn’t even preach at them about the food available there; I figure their eating habits will largely be formed at home, so as long as I’m consistent at home with what I give them to eat, they’ll develop healthy heating habits no matter what they ate elsewhere.

  42. I must admit that, in theory, I would definitely choose #3. However, I strongly believe that relationships are more important than food choices, so, in practice, I would choose #2.

    We don’t have to deal with birthday parties yet, but have had to deal with being the weird family in regards to food choices for my son in other areas of life. The mom’s group I am a part of gives “puffs” to babies 6-12 months old for snack time in the nursery. Call me crazy, but my baby was not even eating solids by 6 months! Now that he is 9 months old and eating solids, I have had to put a BIG sticker on his shirt to remind the nursery workers not to give my son “puffs”. Oy.

    We also struggle with this with our families. My parents eat a SAD diet and it truly does make me sad! They are open to eating better, but just lack the discipline to change their ways. With them, I try to offer to make dinner and have them over to our place or, if we are going to their place, I will offer to give my mom some of my real food ingredients to incorporate into her meal. My in-laws also eat a SAD diet and they make me out to be the bad guy. We try to eat what they serve when we are at their house because they make a HUGE fuss if we skip over things, but we always end up feeling sick later.

  43. I think it depends on the circumstances. We are more of a #2 type of family but my good friend is very sensitive to foods. She had debilitating r.a. and was able to cure it with dietary changes but needed to be extremely careful with what she ate so she always brought along her own food. We all wanted her to be healthy so we were glad that she felt comfortable doing so. She is now, understandable, very careful with what she exposes her children to but tries to do it in a host friendly manner. If she knows that all the kids will be having oreos, she will try and find a similar type product (but organic, no dyes, etc) to give to her son so that neither he, nor the situation, stands out. And her attitude is always focus on what works for her family, and not on what the other person is doing, and is very loving about it so I don’t think anyone considers her rude or proud. Since my little one is only 20 months we are just hitting this area but I consider her my role model.

  44. I agree with preferring people over food choices. I have a friend who traveled to Japan once but didn’t want to eat white rice. I can only imagine how potentially offensive and challenging this decision was.

  45. I am trying very, very hard to incorporate more whole foods in our diet. I admit that neither my husband nor I grew up with the greatest eating habits and we want to instill better nutrition in our child. However, there are days (too many activities, late night at work for my husband, illness) that we succumb to picking up something out or eating something frozen. And just by admitting that, I feel a little panicky because honestly, I am trying very hard, but all of this is self taught and is very much a process and we’re not there yet. I’m trying. So I think my answer to the question would be #1 or #2 because we need to give grace to people who don’t eat or think the way we do. I know I would be offended/hurt if my party guests came with their own food and refused to eat what I’d laid out. It’s almost like saying that what I offer isn’t good enough for them. My parents don’t eat the way we do, but when I visit them, we eat what’s served. I can gently encourage them but it’s not my job to tell them how to run their homes.

    1. I just want to encourage you to stay the course. We are 3 years into traditional, whole foods eating for our family. However, there are still days that we eat take out as well (too many some months). Like others have said, we try to follow an 80/20 way of eating. If it’s great 80% of the time, it shouldn’t hurt too much if the other 20% isn’t so great. Don’t beat yourself up (or feel panicky)! ๐Ÿ™‚ I used to feel that way too, but it’s not worth it. No one is perfect, least of all me, so why put myself through that? I figure we eat 100 times better than most people, so there’s that…

  46. With my son’ allergies we are going through the GAPS diet. It is difficult, especially for family and friend’s to understand. It is not forever and Lord willing one day my son can have a piece of cake once in a while and not have any bad reactions. He is 4 and sometimes just skipping parties is easier. I know that sounds horrible, but it is easier than having to explain or bring other food, and have him crying and whining the whole time. We still want to hang out with friends but just not have it revolve around food. We are in the intro phase, so it is way intense for about 4 weeks. It will be easier on full GAPS and ultimately that restored gut! Now if it were just my 2 year old, I lean toward #1 because it is just 1 day and not the norm….

  47. I don’t restrict my daughter in social situations for a few reasons. For one, I don’t want to fight with her about it. We are both there to enjoy the company and celebration. And two, I don’t want her to feel deprived or left out. I don’t think that it’s fair to not let her have a piece of cake or candy while she watches everyone else have one. As my children grow older, I will not be able to be with them every time they eat. I’m afraid that if I deprive them too much, they will take every chance that they are away from me to binge on things I won’t let them have, setting them up for unhealthy eating habits as adults. A party is a special occasion and the treats that go with them should be viewed as such.
    I do really like the tip about filling them up on healthy foods before hand. I am going to try this from now on before parties and even before they go to their friends houses, who do not eat the same as we do.

  48. I think the more you make a big deal out of “no you shouldn’t eat that” or “no you can’t have that” the bigger problems the kid will have down the road. Kids will always want what their friends are having and will want it even more if they aren’t “allowed” to eat it. I think it’s just their nature. I remember several kids at school who weren’t allowed to eat junk food, but would drink/eat several sodas, chips and candy from the vending machines at school. My mom didn’t have those sorts of rules, so junk food didn’t mean as much to me as they did to the other kids. I was appalled at how much junk those kids could eat in one sitting!

    I think it’s entirely possible to eat awesome at home and not allow junk food in your home without making a big deal about it. My hope is that my kids will discover (on their own) that the stuff Mom makes at home tastes way much better than the “stuff” can pass for food these days.

  49. I opt between scenario’s one and two. We just had a birthday party last Friday that both of my kids went to (and I was with them). Since my kids are young (4.5 and 2.5) I fix their plates for them, so I get to decide what to feed them. And I would usually let them have a small piece of cake (or they can share a piece) but we had to leave before they got to the cake, so that was not even an issue this time around. But I totally agree with you, relationships with folks are more important than a few snacks or a meal at a party. We do eat healthy, but I still fall back on the “natural” boxed and packaged foods for snacks. Trying to work on that with my picky eaters. ๐Ÿ™

  50. Life is about balance. And in my home, that’s what I strive for. Extremes in anything can be harmful. That said…I find myself wedged between 1 and 2. I want my children to be fully aware of the decisions that they make, so we do talk often about our diet and why we eat the way we do. However, when it comes to visiting others and birthday parties we tend to just let it go. Obviously I’d love for them to choose the fresh foods (if there are any), but it’s not the end of the world if they have a piece of candy and cake a few times a year:)

    1. Yes, me exactly. Aside from this being just the kinder option, I think it’s also just a good learning experience for kids. There will be food temptations all their life – and we won’t always be there. So, instead of drilling an all-or-nothing approach into them, I think it’s better to encourage them to eat as healthy as possible and then enjoy themselves a bit.

  51. Barring any food allergies or intolerances, people matter so much more than food. I am the child of missionaries who have always asked me to consider whether or not my food choices would be a barrier to relationships (and of course in my own home I choose whatever I think is best for my family). People cook as a way to show love! That’s why I ate meat in other people’s homes even as a vegetarian. I’ve eaten chicken feet, goat, hot dogs, and so many things I would’t be able to identify, all in the name of love for my brothers and sisters in Christ. Unless I had already had a loving, non-judging conversation with the host, I cannot imagine sending my child to a party with their own food.

  52. I probably go back and forth between numbers 1 and 2. We were faced with this kind of scenario recently and the conclusion I came to is that I want to do what’s best to keep our family healthy, BUT I don’t want to allow food to become a barrier to fellowship. Though I haven’t done an in-depth study, looking at it from a biblical point of view, there is minimal mention of what we should eat in the new testament, versus a huge emphasis on loving one another. So for me that’s the best mindset to go with: fellowship is more important than food.

  53. I’m a #2, but I try not to make a fuss at a party. My kids don’t get many treats at home and I would try to fill their plates with healthier alternatives, realistically one meal isn’t going to make a huge difference. At home I make about 98% of foods from scratch and thankfully I don’t have to worry about food allergies. I would rather they have a good time and enjoy the party which also is a little less parenting work for me for an hour.
    I probably wouldn’t have commented since there are a lot of similar opinions posted. But I actually had a party where a parent brought all the kid’s food and snacks. It really threw me off! I knew this family ate organically (no allergies) but I had a very good and healthy spread (and we eat organically too!). These people are friends of mine so I honestly thought it was a little rude.

  54. # 2 Coming to the party full and bringing your own snacks as well as selecting the healthier options for your child is what I would do. But we dont go to school friends birthdays yet.. we go to our close friends homes and we know they serve healthy foods and follow our moral.

    Letting a child have junk at a party teaches them that at celebrations its ok to eat unhealthy and this is a message that will stick with them as they grow.

    What does that mean for your child who eats healthy at home but is allowed to “party” once and a while? Well it teaches them that fun equals junk!

    Its not appropriate to be snickering with other moms about the unhealthy food at the party or to tell your child that this family whose home your at eats unhealthy.

    This will back fire on you as children will talk and you could seriously hurt someone’s feelings.

    A more appropriate idea is to offer to bring something to a party you know might have disappointing food.

    Bring along some healthy food your family can eat. If your child has a very healthy diet with limited processed foods then eating junk could give them a horrid stomach ach that is more appropriate to tell your child if they start reaching for candy and chips, its the truth.

    If you get your child to help you make it then they will be looking forward to trying it once you arrive at the party making it easier for them to stick with what you brought.

    Some people think oh its only at parties that we at junk.. well I dont know how many friends you have or how many children are in your childs class but during the year your child could be invited to over 12 Birthday parties. I know I was a preschool teacher) Thats a lot of junk and a lot of mixed messages for a child. Live by example -at your childs party provide all healthy foods make super cute labels or signs to attach to the servers “organic cheese platter” Organic farmers market veggies” The signs look cute and they leave a little message in your party goers brain like “hey maybe I should do more fresh fruit and veggies”

  55. I have a little bit of a hard time understanding the rationale that we should pick people before food and therefore eat the food. (have to say i’d probably pick 2, that’s not the issue). If you choose not to go to parties bc you dont want your child to be around those foods, then yes you are picking food over people. But if you choose to go to the party, but maybe bring your own food, for whatever reason, then I don’t see that as picking one over the other. You choose not to compromise your health standards but are still there to celebrate. I go back and forth with this issue a lot bc my son is only 2 1/2. But no matter what, if I can prevent it, there are certain things I dont want him ingesting no matter what. So if that means bringing my own food or saying no, then that’s what it’s going to be. I’m not going to compromise to not hurt someone’s feelings…so I can hurt my child’s tummy instead? Nope. There’s too much importance and emotion placed on food. If someone comes to my bday party and doesnt eat the food for whatever reason my feelings wont be hurt. I’m just happy they came n I understand.

  56. Personally, I feel that option #3 would come across as very rude to someone who is including you in a celebration of their child’s life, as well as extending hospitality to you. Of course there are exceptions to this, such as a food allergy or sensitivity. in which case I think it would be perfectly fine (and necessary) to inform your host/hostess that you plan to bring an alternative choice for your child. Otherwise, I feel like the scripture that talks about food sacrificed to idols (1 Corinthians 8:1-13), can apply to this situation: knowledge about real foods and healthy eating is good, and is an essential part of stewarding our bodies to the glory of God. But showing love, honor, and thankfulness towards one another is of far greater worth and is also a form of stewardship as we seek to nurture the relationships the Lord has placed in our lives (especially in the case of unbelievers). All that to say, I think I’m an option #2 kinda gal. ๐Ÿ™‚ But truth be told, since we eat well at home the majority of the time, sometimes I opt for option #1… just for fun! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  57. We have eight children who currently range in age from 9 to 24. We went whole foods / no sugar, grain or starch about two years ago so our family has a *long* history with processed foods, white flour, sugar and starches so we tend to be a mix between 1 and 2 and it’s not just at outside events but also at events here at home.

    As an example, we have ALWAYS had a big spread for Super Bowl Sunday that included Nachos made with corn tortilla chips and -gasp- Velveeta cheese. Instead of removing it from the menu I served it with a smile on my face alongside our new love; a piping hot spinach & artichoke dip. Did everyone have the non-food Velveeta dip and chips? YES! But here’s the happy news; they also ate A LOT of the Spinach & Artichoke dip. Who knows, as the years go by we may notice the Velveeta dip less and less until eventually, it falls of the menu on its own. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Thanks for another GREAT post.

  58. HI,

    Birthday parties are my thing. I run theme parties for kids. In my experience it’s very rare if a parent doesn’t have a balance of food. I find that kids are often not very hungry because they are excited. However, they do seem to eat the fruit and veggies that are offered first. I find it’s the parents that serve these big pieces of cake or large cupcakes. The kids barely eat them. Mini cupcakes or cookies seem to work great. I think that all we can do as parents is our best. Food is a very personal aspect of any family. When you are invited to their party, you are being invited into their life. I think that you have to grin and bare it. It’s only a short span of time. Unless your child has an allergy, I think that a child can from pick from what is being offered. Having fun is what’s important!

  59. We stopped useing Bleached sugar 3 years ago & have slowly change the majority of our pantry to clean food….so we have this happen to our Family at least once a week and ALWAYS get a Food Hangover! We traditionally encourage our friends to provide for whatever special dietary needs they might have…but exstended Family is harder..This Past Christmas We tried to get them to Eat at Resturants Like “Panera” who have a reputation for offering clean foods…But they told us next year they want to eat at 5 Guys with the MSG, GMO Loaded Foods..talk about a Hangover we will never agree to.

  60. This is such a struggle, not just for birthday parties, but even snack at preschool. My feeling is that if I can provide real food at home nearly all the time, then the little processed food the kids are exposed to in social settings will be less detrimental. Basically we follow an 80/20 rule. Some weeks are certainly better than others, depending on their social schedule.
    I wrote a similar post about the same struggles.

  61. I’m a #1 or #2 mom. It’s so hard. My kids don’t get invited to a lot of birthday parties, but we have a real struggle with church. They hand out smarties at the door and goodies and snacks all the time! It’s so hard to be gracious, be fair to my children, and stick to my food convictions!
    That said, we are about to start GAPS for my 2 year old, and we’re just all going to do it together (except my husband). Especially during the initial phase and for the first year or so on the full diet, I think I would be a #3 or just decline altogether, but I would try to explain as best I could and not be rude.
    I was watching some YouTube videos last night with the authors of Body Ecology and GAPS, and something they both talked about was how once your gut is healed, you can have some junk once in a while, and particularly if you eat or drink a food rich in probiotics along with it, you’re not going to suffer ill consequences. I think we can all afford to be gracious guests!

  62. I’m a #1 mom for sure, with the exception of food coloring, since my son is so sensitive to it. I do bring snacks everywhere (a piece of fruit, usually) in case there is literally nothing he can have.

  63. I have a 2 1/2 year old and most of my friends know how I feel about junk food. I am usually a #2 person. At the majority of get togethers, everyone brings something to eat, so I have the opportunity to bring good whole foods. I always offer my daughter these whole foods first and then if there are other good choices like fruit, veggies, and cheese, I will give them to her too. But as she gets older, I will be teaching her the importance of choosing whole foods and let her live with the consequences when she does not choose whole foods. She does get goldfish every Sunday in the nursery and that is fine with me as she only gets this once a week and I don’t give her any chemically processed foods at home. We do eat out about once a week and always try to choose the best foods, but these are’nt always whole foods. My opinion is that as long as my friends and family knows my views on eating that I have the freedom to bring the best food options for my toddler and feel no guilt in graciously turning down junk food.

  64. I’m at #1 from these choices. I grew up not having the option to eat a lot of the ‘treats’ that other kids got and it definitely made it harder once I had the opportunity to partake of them. (I would sneak off to the store and spend my paper delivery money on oreos, crackers, chips, etc., take them home and devour all in one sitting.) So I have pretty big feelings about making foods forbidden. I also am aware that young children don’t always have the best filters on their speech and don’t want them going to a party and telling the host that their food is ‘yucky’ or something similar. What I’ve noticed as they get older is that my children are capable of setting their own limits. At one of the first parties they attended the host had a bottle of red punch. My kids asked for water. Guess what? Almost every other kid ended up asking for water as well. The red punch went untouched. They have learned on their own that store bought cakes are often just too sweet and after several bites they are done. I am hoping that as they grow into adulthood they will continue to be able to apply these lessons to their own food choices and not have to go through the stage of eating nothing but junk before they learn what foods make them feel best.

  65. ‘People matter more than food!’ True…. but this does not mean that our children have to eat all their junk food. If it offends someone because you are not eating their food… by all means have a piece with no guilt. Usually the child’s friend doesn’t give a whiff what they are eating… they just want to have a good time. To take your own food and eat it in front of them is ‘in your face’ rude and needs an explanation if they are fighting a disease. A great idea is to offer adding to the party food and bring healthy yummy snacks, and tell all the children to help themselves. Many adults decline cake, a child can learn to decline cake with grace as well. Teach children to receive with thanks, use moderation, wisdom and enjoy life to the max!

  66. I am struck by how many of the comments focus of the importance of relationships and allow that to mean that having another alternative is “choosing food” over people. I encourage my son (12years old) to be proud of his healthy food choices, restrain from foods that are not good for him, and most importantly, keep a positive attitude no matter the scenario. I care deeply about the relationships nurtured by birthday parties or other “food” events, but beyond the host providing food, I care for the host!

    If I provide, very casually, my son with an alternative food I believe it does 3 things. 1.) it does not create a big stink about the host not having known about our allergies (gluten, food coloring, etc.) 2.) it enables my son to see that sometimes the right choices will leave you on the outside of the pack, but that doesn’t mean you don’t still make the choice that is right (think peer pressure induced drinking, drugs, etc.) and perhaps most important, 3.) it shows my friends a great example of how easy and non invasive great health choices can be without staying boxed up in my house when social events occur.

    I am not saying we need to go crazy rigid on our kids experience of the food world that is America, but I strongly believe we must enable our kids to choose both people (with loving words of affirmation and quality time) AND also stewardship of our bodies (with deeply committed, quality food standards). The moment I imply to my son that it will hurt someone’s feelings if we don’t eat their poor quality food is the moment I show him that pleasing others is more important than the stewardship of our bodies.

    Now this all being said, visiting great grandma in middle-of-nowhere Nebraska opens the door for “make the best choice with what you’ve got” conversations. (think iceberg lettuce, iron kids bread, spam………)

  67. All of my kids are grown so gone are the days of parties for us. But when they were little I would usually allow them to eat what was offered at the party. I fed them well at home and figured a few “unhealthy” foods wouldn’t hurt them. It didn’t. They are all healthy eaters now and still enjoy the occasional junk food. My boys are runners and healthy eating is important to them. “Train a child in the way he should go, Proverbs 22:6

  68. Part of the problem, from my perspective is that isn’t really an isolated event. There are birthday parties, sports parties, church potlucks, snacks at clubs and so on, so I do think (polite) vigilance is required. With my older two children (ages 12 and 15) we mostly take the #1 approach. My youngest, however, has many food allergies & sensitivites and we cannot be flexible with eating in her case. We do opt out of many events but for close friend birthday parties my friends have been super gracious and made available healthy snacks that my daughter is able to eat. When it comes to things like the birthday cake or ice cream, my daughter must opt out (or she’ll spend the next several hours in great pain on the couch) but we send a little “safe” treat for her.

  69. I’m a number 1 all the way. We’re fortunate that our kids can handle some sugar in their systems every once in a while- some friends’ kids will just be jittery and out of their own skin if that happens. So I feel like a little dose of sugar and artificial coloring every once in a while is not a big deal.

  70. It depends on the situation, but we’re usually a 1 or 2 family. People and relationships are more important that food! If we’re eating a meal at someone’s house or another situation where it would be pretty obvious, then we just eat it without comment. (Okay, the comments are still a work in progress. My kids now recognize what things we don’t have at our house and will sometime audibly protest, “Mommy that’s ___! We can’t eat that!”) If it’s more potluck style, then we try to eat some healthy stuff beforehand and then help guide their choices while we’re there…and they still get plenty of compromise food. The only exception is food dyes. Our boys are super-sensitive, but people are usually very understanding.
    We’re kind of a 3 in the church nursery. It’s just easier to check the “has own snack” box than to fill out a form on what he can/can’t have, try to graciously explain every time and still know that he’ll probably get fed the offending snack anyway (ahem, Froot Loops!). I’m not preaching to the workers or other parents on it though. ๐Ÿ™‚

  71. I usually fall between 1 and 2 here, but inside I feel like I’m more of a 3 most of the time. But I think the root of that is my battle for control, there is a large part of me that wants to be controlling over everything my family does, food related or not. And that’s not healthy. With God’s grace I’ve been able to recognize this and move the other direction, but I think that while this is about healthy eating there are issues of control at play here too. And as women, when we are holding tightly to our control of things that’s not God’s best for us.

  72. You know, when I was growing up there was a mom (who’s daughter I was friends with) who always did the veggie platter over the cookies and soda and though both options were served, I remember her saying that the kids usually gravitated towards the healthier stuff. Whether this is because they’re sick of the cookies (I know I usually was!) or because they know their bodies need more than another soda I have no idea. But I think its important to let kids make those choices on their own. (obviously this comes with a certain amount of age and maturity) But really, are you going to be going (and chaperoning!) the party with the spin the bottle game? REALLY?? You do your best to teach your kids correct principles and then let them go out in the real world and test their knowledge. If they do choose the junk food then they have to face the consequences. If they choose the healthy food then great, they’ll be better off. If no healthy food is served you could bring your own and present it to the parent hosting or even ask beforehand, so you can fill your child up before going. But honestly, kids are kids, let them figure it out! You can’t protect them from every bump and sugar cookie out there!

  73. I am for the most part a number 1 mom. I don’t want my kids to grow up and resent the fact that they couldn’t have a piece of cake at a birthday party. I feel it’s rather harmless, and I also feel that it could make the hosts of the part feel insulted, or that we look down on them for allowing their children to consume junk food. However, obviously if there was an allergy or food intolerance that’s different, and it’s also different if it’s a re-occurring event, like church, etc. When we have church potlucks, my kids are still young enough that I am dishing out their food for them anyways, so I have control over that, but I’ll still allow them to have a treat that was brought to the potluck.
    Also, I read Jordan Rubin’s “Maker’s Diet” book years ago and absolutely loved it, but have since read up some stuff on him regarding his credentials, etc, and not being truthful. I am not sure how accurate it all is, but I do recommend doing some research on him as an author. Nonetheless, I still learned a lot from “The Maker’s Diet”.

  74. I’ve always been a #1 parent, but I’ve recently started changing my tune. I realized that special events were happening EVERY single week. They would be given candy twice a week by coaches, snacks provided at Bible study, donuts and snacks at church, and on and on and on. We decided to take a break from all of that and only eat food that was made at our home. Some of the kids’ teachers were a little upset, but the constant sugar cravings needed to be addressed–particularly as all four of my children are going through growth spurts and my eldest is beginning puberty. This is only for a season, but I think it’s an important season for us.

    1. elisabeth,
      that’s a really good point. i hadn’t considered how many “special events” might occur as my kids get older.

  75. Well, I would be the mom serving the yummy cake and icing for my daughter. I know some people are really controlling about what their kids eat, but my husband and I just aren’t like that.

  76. Well, I would definitely be the mom serving the yummy cake and ice cream! I know some people are really controlling about what their kids eat, but my husband and I just aren’t like that. In fact, my daughter’s a really picky eater and if I can get anything in her, I’m glad about it.

  77. I’m a #1 and #2 combo. I don’t *love* my kids eating junk, but I’m also not going to be holier-than-thou or rude about it! So, we allow moderate junk eating at other’s celebrations, and I do feed them real food before we go, and let them decide how much of the treat they choose to eat.

    Normally, what happens in they’ll have some cake (minus frosting–none of my kids like the production stuff, so they just eat around it), they’ll snarf down any fruit or veggies, and they’ll eat enough candy to be happy, and save some for siblings at home. I’m good with that!

    When we have our own celebrations, we share foods we normally eat (largely unprocessed and homemade), so they’re free to enjoy it all to their stomach’s content. We don’t have a “clear your plate” rule, so the kids are used to being able to eat to satisfaction, even if there is still food in front of them. Since we don’t have a blanket ban on junky treats, they don’t tend to go nutty when confronted with them.

  78. I tend to stick with a combo of both #1 and #2. I feel like it is so important to eat healthy and teach our children to eat healthy, but I also don’t want to develop an unhealthy obsession over food. I can understand why parents who have children with food allergies need to be more careful. I feel blessed that my children do not have any food allergies that I know of. So, while we are at home I try to feed them whole, unprocessed food. I always limit candy intake when out or if someone offers I typically decline. But, when we are at a special event like a birthday party I allow my kids to eat what everyone elses child is eating. And, I don’t want to find myself completely obsessed over food to a point where it is unhealthy, even though I have a passion to study healthy foods and nutrition.

  79. I think this is a very challenging issue especially when one chooses to eat a vastly different diet (gluten free, dairy free, food coloring free, mostly grain free) than most people. While our family doesn’t have “severe” food allergies to these items, we do notice a difference in behavior, ability to control emotions, and general well being when those foods are avoided. As a result, we treat on-going “special events” (church, weekly get togethers, school snacks, school functions) different than truly special occasions (birthday parties, special parties). For the more routine events that are often “pot luck” style, I try to make sure to bring an alternative to the more tempting items (desserts, breads, etc.) that fits our family’s diet with enough to share with other folks there. I then encourage my kids to make healthy choices and won’t let them have the “contraband” (said tongue in cheek) as long as there is an alternative. So, I guess I’m a #3 mom for routine functions in our life, but I always try to provide enough to share. For other rare events – like birthday parties, I approach it more in a #2 manner, we are there to celebrate and person and an event, not the food. Thanks for bringing up a sometimes sensitive topic.

  80. I am not a parent just yet; our first child is due in May. As I think into the future I want to be a parent that feeds my child fresh, healthy real foods. I hope to accept the mindset that I do personally in my own life. Eat 90% wholesome and fresh and the other 10% it is OK to relax and enjoy some boxed brownies! ๐Ÿ™‚

  81. I’m a #1. For me, life is too short to not value relationships WAY above an occasional treat/junk food session at a party. Why am I trying to give my kids good health? Ultimately, it’s to glorify God (I pray), and if anyone was about relationships, it was Christ. So you do the best you can and look at the big picture.

  82. I have read that book also and I completely agree with you. I just don’t think it’s realistic to completely shelter them from junk food. I am one of those mom’s that cringe at birthday parties also. I think if it was just the cake it wouldn’t be a big deal but usually there is hot dogs, chips, pizza, ice cream and lots of other sugary foods. It’s especially hard when these things come up often and you have church dinners birthday parties, and family events all around the same time. I try to tell my kids that when we get to do these things it’s fun but we don’t want to over do it and that we try to eat the best we can at home but it’s fun to get treats sometimes. I also try to bring something that they like to eat that is good for them(if it’s a church event or whatever). I try to remember as you said people or more important than food. Also if my kids are given candy, I tell them to take it and say thank you and bring it home with them. Sundays are our special dessert day and so they can eat a piece of their candy that day or I might make a special dessert.

  83. We approach it from the 1 & 2 perspectives, mostly 2. With our firstborn, we were very careful and most of the parties he went to had parents who were also very health conscious. We now have seven children and lots of friends with differing perspectives. With the little ones, we definitely try to fill them up first and remind them of why we try to eat healthy, but let them partake. As our children have gotten older, they have the liberty to approach it as they choose. Frankly, our older children have not fully bought into our standards of eating, but they are home with us for meals 90 % of the time. We continue to teach them, and they continue to develop their perspective, but they need the space (as older children) to find their own convictions.

  84. i would say that it’s not unacceptable to do a combination of the 3, but i also don’t think it would be in a party spirit to tell your kid that those other foods are “yucky” – kids latch on to what they are told and you don’t want the poor birthday boy or girl’s day ruined by your child running around telling them how yucky their awesome party food is.

    i am a huuuuge sucker for sweets and snacks and i would offer to bring at least 1-2 home made sweets or snacks – veggie sticks with home-made ranch and french dressing, or healthy less-sugar versions of some brownies, cookies, or muffins (yumm). even popcorn is cheap and totally friendly for kids, and if they aren’t already trained on the over-salty drenched-in-oils version, plain popcorn popped on the stove in butter with a tiny bit of sea salt is my favorite salty snack … and kids love popcorn! it’s magical! the way the little white bits melt on your tongue…

  85. I am a little concerned as to how the hostess feels if people are bringing their own food and having a little ‘put down’ session about the hostess’ food with other parents. If I had invited families for meals and they bring their own food without any prior arrangement, I would be very hesitant to invite them over again!!

    Our children eat healthily at home and when they are out, they are sensible re eating ‘sometimes’ foods and will often ask if it’s ok to eat some foods if they are unsure. We are to train our children to make healthy choices, but not in a way to degrade someone else’s offerings of food.

    I think a little balance is needed…if you cannot allow your child to enjoy a party or celebration by partaking in a small amount of cake then perhaps you and they shouldn’t be there….children would prefer to miss out, than to have to look different.

  86. I am definitely a #2 mama:), but I find it is a constant struggle to find the balance in a very social community. I have watched my kids’ mild cold symptoms get obviously worse over the course of a few indulgent hours at a Birthday party. Ack! Sugar is so bad for our immune systems!
    But, we have found a few things that work for us- we have a set plan for how many and which days of the month the girls can get school lunch (gross, right!?). I also have a standing offer that I will buy from them any junk food they receive at parties, as school rewards, etc. They might get a sucker as a reward from their teacher and I would give them a quarter in exchange. A goodie bag from a party might earn a couple bucks. They have to save the money for a bigger ticket item later. They don’t always opt for the cash, but I’m glad when they do. Like others said, I too always offer to bring a dish to share and make it something tasty and nourishing.

  87. Oh how I long to be a #1 or #2. Both of my daughters have multiple food sensitivities so I usually try to find out what is being served and make them a safe some-what similar version.
    I truly would love to one day drop them off at a party and just say, “I love you! Have fun sweetie!” instead of “Here is is your food, remember not to eat anything else, it’s ok that you’re different, we love you, have fun!”

  88. Restricting children too much (unless necessary) can backfire. I’ve had personal experience with this. Children need the freedom to have fun and indulge once in a while. I’m a #1 person as much as possible. I think option #3 is completely rude unless there is a reason (food allergies, etc.). One of my children has food intolerances and can’t eat certain things. When it’s a gathering I’m attending it’s not an issue because I can say yes or no to what she eats. However, if it’s a birthday party I’ll just tell the parents that she can’t eat certain things and she’ll eat what she can. She’s old enough to know what she can and can’t have. The same at school. Most of the treats that they bring in she can’t eat, so she just doesn’t eat them. If I’m asked to send something in, I always make sure that it’s something she can have but it’s not weird stuff that the other children won’t want to eat. There is always someone having a birthday at school and most of the time she can’t eat what they bring in. She doesn’t like it but she’s used to it. I don’t expect anyone to make special allowances for my child.

  89. I am SO glad you posted this. I was just thinking about this. I just threw my son a birthday party, and tried to keep it on the healthier side, but for the season of life we are in right now, I did have to lean a little more on the “convenience” side than I would have wanted to.

    The hardest thing I am encountering is school parties. My older 2 boys are in school now, and it seems like every month there is some excuse to decorate store-bought sugar cookies with store-bought colored icing, candy and wash it down with a sugary “fruit” drink! I don’t think I’m going to send them on Valentine’s Day for their party. I feel horrible, but enough is enough! There is really no way I can control how much they eat these things when they’re at school, and I really can’t justify sending them time after time to eat this junk I have been trying to purge from our house.

    Any ideas about how to think through school parties? I guess it’s just the same as birthday parties…

  90. I definitely go with #1 and 2…I try not to make a huge deal out of the junk food because I don’t want it to become some huge prohibited food that he’ll be dying to try when he’s older. And maybe it’s just my son, but he’s been known to turn down cake or other junky stuff totally on his own (not much of a sweet tooth, maybe). When we get home with a “goody bag,” I sneakily throw out the worst of it, and then let him go at the rest–he usually doesn’t like it as much as he thinks he will and then the lollipops and candies get thrown out half-eaten, hehe. But then he’s only 3, so maybe it will get harder as time goes on.

  91. I usually am #1.
    Granted, the majority of my good friends know I aim to steer clear of a bunch of the icky stuff (so things like plain apple juice instead of kool-aid or whatnot tend to appear more and more often), so letting the kids have a cupcake or a slice of cake doesn’t really phase me much. Besides, our diet isn’t 100% perfect, and likely never will be. Because hey, we’re human, and we’re all going to make mistakes or slip up or whatever.

  92. I am a 1/2 mix. My oldest has food sensitivities and can’t have tomato, strawberry, watermelon or red 40. She is also 4 and tells people that she is allergic to —— and will not eat anything red. All of Mac friends at church know we “-eat organic” and some offer healthier snacks at parties, but kids will be kids and if she eats cake and a to dog (cringe on the hotdog more than the cake) I am ok. Sweets are a big part of our house because of my hubby and as much as I would like to limit them, it is not happening!

  93. I let my kids have treats at parties. If they had a food allergy, I would bring my own food.

    I am changing a little though. A sweet lady at church brings candy for the kids twice a week. They also get other snacks at church. I don’t want them to eat that stuff so frequently. I’m cutting out our at home treats, but still working on what I’ll allow on such a consistent basis.

  94. I like the comment that relationships matter more than food. Though I would prefer my children to eat healthy all the time, it doesn’t always happen. One rule I have made that the kids are pretty good to keep is they have to chose between having a soda/juicer drink or the dessert. Most of the time they opt for the dessert (in small doses). We too deal with someone from church that constantly gives out candy treats. They’ve learned to graciously say thank you, then it comes home where it may or may not be eaten. Most candy holidays we end up throwing a lot of the candy given to them from others away as we just don’t eat that much. We would much rather use our sweet tooth on the things a bit better for us.

  95. We honestly don’t get out much, or spend time at events other than family (who have close to our food philosophy, with the exception of organic “junk food”) so I go with #1. We eat a very strict diet at home, and I don’t fuss at them when we go out. If they went to school, or spent a lot of time at other people’s homes where the food was way out of line with our way, I’d probably do more of a #2-#3 ๐Ÿ™‚ In the past we’ve all been off of wheat, for example, and at those times I explain why to the kids and they refuse on their own. I think it’s important to have the children on board with and understand why we eat the way we do, so we aren’t fighting them along with the world. ๐Ÿ™‚

  96. My four children grew up eating mostly good food. We did the Dr. Denmark way of life when they were babies. The youngest is now 20 years old and they are all four very strong, healthy adults. I have seen the gamut of philosophies in eating/food/supplementing and have known many people from many different sides of the equation. In the end, looking back, I wish I had had more endurance, because I got weary towards the end of the teen years, and I am having to backtrack now with my own eating and health because I’ve not been careful myself in these last few years. Saying all that, I loved your comment about people being first. I’ve known Moms to come marching in to parties with attitudes and silliness, making a mountain out of a molehill at times and often I am afraid they are simply trying to prove their “righteousness” or what a good mother they are. I would rather somebody stay at home, if they are going to be rude or offend their host. Moderation is key. I know Moms that obsessed and controlled their children so much that when that child grew up, they immediately rebelled and abandoned everything. Or when they were in an environment where their parents were not watching closely, they were scarfing down all the cake/M&Ms/whatever as quickly as they could. What matters in life, in the end, is not what you ate. Yes, what we eat affects so much, but loving people matters more.

  97. I have to say, I have begun to tip toe into this health movement. I personally avoided it at all costs because it felt like food was all that the “food crowd” in my circle of friends were willing to talk about. Or how uncomfortable I’d feel if I’d bring brownies to a party and be asked, “Are these gluten free?” My husband was unemployed and we were spending $100 a month on groceries, while my friends of equally sized families were spending $500. It wasn’t until at 24 years old that my organs started “malfunctioning” that I decided to give it a try. And I got better.

    It was honestly these “party stunts” that would make me desperately want to avoid food “snob-dom” that I so often caught a foul smelling whiff of as their kids would reach for a go-gurt in my fridge, “My children are not allowed to eat those [you crappy mother].” And so now, I’m all in…health is important to me. I believe it. But as you said, people matter more than food. Any day, no matter how you slice it. For me, I believe that God holds absolute grace over those who are not in a position of knowledge or monetarily equipped to join the “food movement.”

    So if you’re going to a party, spare the host the anxiety and shame of not feeding her kids superior, in your opinion. I had a good friend who started coming to my mother’s group. Her husband is extremely abusive, often giving her black eyes and trying to kill her. She is allowed out once a week, seriously. She comes to our mother’s group, or, she did once upon a time. One morning she ran out of the house because he was freaking out on her and she stopped at the store to buy her toddler a donut because she didn’t have time to give her breakfast. She came to the group and we were having a lesson on the healing power of herbs and the lady who was speaking, very knowledgeable on food, called her out and said she shouldn’t give her daughter donuts. It was incredibly embarassing…she never came back to church after that. I’m nearly a self-hating healthy person because I get so discouraged when I see people act like that. Oh well, just wanted to share my opinion.

    1. As an aside, you can also teach your children to quietly come to ask you whether they are allowed to eat food at friends’ houses. We have friends with very strict diets whose kids very quietly and sweetly go ask their moms if they can eat such and such, and if their mom says no, they either quietly say “no thank you!” or don’t say anything at all to the host. There is no snobbery at all– she just knows her kids and how food affects them (in their case for days after wards). A lot comes in how you say stuff; whether the tone is “holier than thou” (MY kids don’t eat that crap) or just conversational (oh, thank you so much for offering! Eowyn doesn’t do so well with __. This [other snack you’ve provided] is wonderful, though!).

  98. To be fair to Jordan Rubin I think you have to examine his decision not to allow his son to consume any junk food in the light of his own experience with Crohn’s disease which he attributes to the deviation he made as a teenager from the wholefoods diet he had been raised on. I didn’t perceive a holier than thou attitude when I read that chapter and felt that he explained well how they would approach the dilemma of children’s parties. Part of their strategy too was to give him something to eat before such gatherings especially at places such as McDonalds. It’s a decision he and his wife have made and it’s one I respect and I’m sure that their friends who know what strong advocates they are for health and well being understand. Sometimes I wish I had the courage to stick to my convictions about food all of the time and on all occasions as Jordan Rubin does and not make compromises but I do. I have some regrets about the compromises now and hope to return to following the Maker’s Diet with a greater commitment this year as it brought so many benefits to our family.

  99. I am more of an option #1. We don’t go to parties very often so when we do my kiddo is too busy jumping on the trampoline, jumpy house, or running around. At the end when the goody bag comes out my 5 year-old smiles at me as if she pulle done over on me. I learned to not make a fuss because then she really wants that sugar. I think ‘”Dr.” Rubin has some good points and I have learned a lot from one of his books but just be aware of his credentials (not that I think one needs a lot when it comes to real food):

    His “NMD” (naturopathic medical doctor) is from the Peoples University of the Americas School of Natural Medicine, a nonaccredited school with no campus.
    His “PhD” is from the Academy of Natural Therapies, a nonaccredited correspondence school that the State of Hawaii ordered to close in 2003.
    His “CNC” (Certified Nutritional Consultant) comes from the American Association of Nutritional Consultants, whose only requirement for “professional member” status has been payment of a $50 or $60 fee.

    Also, his first book made over 40 million so I think that helps in controlling his kiddos snack. I can understand though- if he fears Crohn’s. My mother believes that if raised too healthy, when they become junk food eating teenagers, one’s body goes into shock.

  100. Just a reminder to all out there, as I know very well this is a touchy subject & usually sparks a heated debate, that when we talk about food we are talking about personal convictions. Period. Biblical “food law” is strictly Old Testament, under the OLD covenant. Wonderful guidelines, certainly, and God definitely knew what He was doing when He put them into place, but WE are not bound to it! We now live in New Testament times and, praise Jesus, we are no longer held to the Law but live by the new covenant –the GRACE of God.
    So what do we do? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I HAVE BECOME ALL THINGS TO ALL MEN, THAT I MIGHT BY ALL MEANS SAVE SOME. Now this I do for the gospelโ€™s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.” Never ever EVER should food be a stumbling block that we put in the path of others. We must remember that we are all in different places in life & our walk with the Lord, and convictions come by the Holy Spirit. If a person does not share our “food convictions”, we should NOT press them, but allow the Spirit to work in His timing instead. It is perfectly okay to share what you know in a loving & tactful manner, but most of my experience is that this is rare (because convictions can be such a passionate subject) & it is better to just keep your mouth shut. Remember that our purpose is to spread the love of Jesus –the Gospel– and not to win everyone to “your side”.
    Options 1 & 2 (and, of course, I lean toward option 2) above are the very best way to handle situations like the birthday party. Don’t let food become an issue that gets in the way of Jesus, please! “Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:2-4

    1. I respectfully disagree that “Biblical ‘food law’ is strictly Old Testament under the OLD covenant”. The “food law” is just as applicable as “Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another. … Do not defraud your neighbor or rob him. … Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” (Leviticus 19:11-15) It’s just as applicable as “…Do not practice divination or sorcery…Do not degrade your daughter by making her a prostitute…Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God.” (Leviticus 19:26b-32) The instruction, “Do not eat meat with the blood still in it” is nestled between all these in verse 26.

      I believe Paul’s words have been twisted to say something that he is not really saying as Peter warned would happen in 2 Peter 3:15-16: “And consider that the long suffering of the LORD is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you; As also in all his epistles, he spoke concerning these things, in which there are certain things so hard to be understood that those who are ignorant and unstable pervert their meaning, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction.”

      Paul obeyed the will of the Father (aka the law of God), and he taught others to do the same; the instructions given in the Old Testament still applied at the time of his letters. It is the Old Testament from which he taught.

      The grace of God was demonstrated at Passover, when by faith we put the blood of the lamb over our doorpost, stay in the house, consume the lamb and we are passed over by death. (This was for both the Israelite and the Egyptian who joined themselves with the Israelite.) That is the grace of God and Jesus is our Passover Lamb. But then, we were taken out of the bondage of sin and death (as pictured through the Israelites coming out of Egypt), and commanded to walk according to the Spirit (as pictured through the Israelites time in the wilderness, being led by the pillar of cloud/fire, and instructed to obey a set of instructions. These “instructions” are not meant to enslave us as we think of shackles against our will, they are to teach us how to live so we will be blessed. They teach us how to worship our God, how to relate to one another, and how to care for our bodies…they demonstrate how we are to love God and love one another as ourselves, which is precisely what Jesus was referring to when asked what the greatest commandments were. He was quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5. If he kept on quoting, he would have said, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. (referring to what Moses had said to the children of Israel as they were getting ready to enter the promised land) Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (verses 6-7) Those instructions we are to impress on our children include what we are able to eat and what we may not (Deuteronomy 14:3-21).

      Unfortunately, we have inherited false doctrine over the years that paints the will of the Father as some kind of bondage (as in shackles and chains), and that it is optional or perfectly fine to disregard. Boy, if someone came along and started telling my kids that they didn’t have to obey my instructions anymore, that they were good ideas, but my kids were “free” and didn’t have to listen to me anymore, I’d give that person an earful. lol

      The fact is Jesus said that he didn’t come to abolish the instructions of His Father, and that these instructions would not disappear until heaven and earth disappeared. (Matthew 5:17-18) He said his family were those who did the will of his Father. (Matthew 12:50)

      I don’t believe Paul is telling the Corinthians to live like the heathen to save the heathen. We don’t behave as the world to save the world. We don’t disobey the instructions of God in order save those who don’t obey (for whatever reason). We still obey his instructions, but we put ourselves in their shoes figuratively so we can minister to them. (At least that’s what I perceive it to mean.)

      I wholeheartedly agree with your statement, “If a person does not share our ‘food convictions’, we should NOT press them, but allow the Spirit to work in His timing instead.”

      I am sorry if this comment feels like I am trying to press you or anyone to have the same convictions toward food as I do. That is not my intent. My intention was to share a different perspective on what is commonly taught regarding grace doing away with the law and what the New Testament is really saying concerning the Old Testament.


  101. I truly feel good when I feel my family real food, and I am dedicated to making sure that we have truly wholesome and real food in our home. It takes time and energy and money but I would give that all to make sure we are eating the right stuff. That being said-I have learned that when I go overboard I can cause problems. My kids know that though they would never find a speck of candy in our home, that they are going to find it at grandmas and they are going to see it at parties. And they know that treats are okay. If I am so excessive and so restrictive that I cause my children to lie to me, or hide ‘illegal’ food, than anything I teach them is in vain. Besides, the junk is so incredbly rich that I have seen them put down and avoid finishing or even eating half of whatever treat they got. The point is that when we feel restricted, we tend to want to rebel. I want to teach my kids to make good choices because they feel good doing so and not because mom will yank it out of their hands/mouth.
    Besides, if the food issue is so important- it would be better to stay home and not even mention the party to your kids- than to go and to make a fuss and draw attention and make the host feel lousy for the ‘poision’ they are serving. ๐Ÿ™‚

  102. Thanks for this post…it is something I have been thinking about lately as we go further and further into an eating style that involves no processed food, and healthy things like raw milk and healthy fats. I have started to ask my daughter (age 6) how she feels after she eats certain things (like when I let her have hot lunch last week and it was AWEFUL!). Because once you start to eat well, I think our bodies react to the junk and they noticeably don’t feel as good. She is having times where she is putting it together…eat lots of junk = feel yucky. But her learning thru experiencing it is better than me telling her if she is to have any hope of carrying on these eating habits. I like the idea of giving her lunch before a party (even if you know lunch will be served). Haven’t done that yet but I will. I am more concerned now about what to do when we go to someone’s house for the weekend, when we know that family doesn’t eat like we do. It isn’t like going out to eat is the solution. We can bring some of our own food but I am worried that all of us are gonna have tummy issues or worse. Not what you want on a road trip or when you are a house guest. Have to pray about that one!

  103. We do a modified version of #3. My son is on a restricted diet, so by necessity most processed foods are out. I let the parents know in advance and if there are things he can eat, then he can have them. I dont tell him that the other food is yucky and he understands that he cant really eat the same as others. Thankfully most parents are not only very understanding, but often provide items that he can have, so he isnt so isolated.

  104. I really think you have to know your child(ren). When we were kids, my sister’s health was so fragile that any processed food would send her into a sneezing asthma attack along with stomach cramps that affected her the rest of the day… If you’ve got a kid like that, it just might not be worth it! I have several friends with kids with ADD who are SUPER sensitive to red dye and refined sugars, to the point that their kids will be dancing in the street (literally) if they have them, totally out of control. I think those moms probably also would say it wasn’t worth it for their kid to be disruptive and getting into trouble just to have the icing on the cupcake. I personally have gluten & soy allergies, and it is out of the question for me to indulge. But if your kids do ok with less-than-perfect diets every now and then, that’s kind of different…

    My approach is usually to offer to bring something, and then to bring something that I know my child can eat & encourage her to have as much of that as she wants, to let her pick one treat to eat, and definitely not to talk about the other food being “junk” etc in front of anyone at the party. But it really could be different for each kid. You alone know the consequences down the road!

    1. YOu bring up a good point, about people’s whose health is truly that fragile. My SIL is also like that, with sugar and multiple other things. It makes her feel just awful for days and she can hardly function. In those situations, because there are definitely kids with very sensitive health as well, I think it’s possible to just approach the issue really gently and be willing to talk to a host on the side, explaining the issue tactfully. I think that care just needs to be taken not to approach it from a “your food is bad” point of view, but more from a “my child is very sensitive and requires a special diet and I really want to make sure that they feel and function well so that everyone can enjoy this birthday celebration”. (Which I know you’re not saying, Christina, I’m sort of just adding to what you’ve already said and agreeing with you, really).

      1. As the mother of a child who is very sensitive to all food chemicals (it took me so long to figure this out too) I have to say that it really isn’t worth it to “indulge”. The offending chemical continues to cause behavioral problems for days and it weakens our mother-son relationship. So there’s the other end of the spectrum of people being more important than food. My son-and our relationship/his self esteem/etc are negatively impacted by food chemicals, so it’s important for us to simply avoid them.

        It does present a huge challenge though. The allure of it is usually more than he can resist on his own, so if I’m not there to be the “mean mom” in that instant, I end up being the mean mom for days, having to counter his out of control behavior.

  105. What a great post Stephanie…God makes it very clear that people are more important than food. Food is not a god…it is a tool. The fact that this topic sparks so much debate is because it really has become a worship issue for many. There is freedom in this area…and it is wise to exercise moderation in this, as in all things. It is not what goes IN the body that defiles us, according to God…but what comes spilling OUT of our hearts. This is God’s beautiful, balanced approach, and I appreciate your bringing it up! Hope you’re having a baby today! : )

  106. Speaking as a kid who wasn’t “allowed” to eat things like cake at birthday parties (and who actually followed the rules set by my parents), I must say it made birthday parties into embarrassing, isolating events. On the occasions that I did partake in that confectionery delight, I was quickly reminded why we try to eat healthy most of the time as I fought the inevitable sugar crash and upset tummy. So when I didn’t eat cake I was lonely and embarrassed, but when I did eat cake, I learned to pay attention to how differently it made me feel physically and decide for myself if I really did want to make that dietary choice. I quickly developed a happy medium: accept that slice of cake, but scrape off the icing to give to a new friend (who could rarely finish a double helping of icing, but who was always delighted with the offering).

    1. Hannah – thanks so much for presenting the point of view of the child. I just returned an hour ago from a birthday party where I think I made my son feel isolated and embarrassed. We keep to the Feingold Program, which eliminates artificial dyes, sweeteners and preservatives. He is usually very agreeable about it, but today was an exception. For some reason, he was really sad that he couldn’t have the Veggie Tale Fruit Snacks that were offered – he knows they have food coloring and it just annoyed me that he was even bringing it up. I went ahead and let him have them, but warned him that there would be consequences if his behavior was affected as a result. Perhaps I need to lighten up and think more of how he feels in the given situation.

  107. I usually go with more of number 1 option with one major exception. My oldest son is very allergic to nut and peanuts. If I can’t guarantee that the food is allergy friendly he doesn’t eat it. I usually call and inquire ahead of time and bring something with that we know he can eat.

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