Saying an absolute “no” to those cookies and chips may be doing your child more harm than good.
As our children grow we have less say over all areas of their life including their nutrition. While we may pack a healthy lunch, there’s not much you can do to stop them trading their nutritious apple for cookies, or spending their allowance on a chocolate bar. While as a parent you may not approve, keep in mind that there is a place for junk food in a diet … as long as that place is a very small one. Pediatrician and co-author of All Shapes and Sizes, Dr. Miriam Kaufman adds that “junk food is sometimes very good for the soul and it’s very important not to deprive our children of this.”
So how do we fit in a little junk food without overdoing it? Dr. Kaufman suggests that we “go with smaller portions, go with them as things that you have every once in a while so that potato chips are not dietary staples. Go with one scoop of ice cream instead of three. Even make your own ice cream with low fat yogurt and milk instead. There are lots of treats which are low fat. Popcorn is one of the greatest. If you do it in a hot air popcorn maker you can stick a tablespoon of butter on it and it’s still pretty low fat.”
Nutritionist Jadine Kairns agrees that a little junk food is okay. In fact, if it’s never allowed it may become the forbidden fruit and that can be trouble in itself. “I think all snacks can be offered. I even advocate chips and candy once in a while. I believe junk food does have a place in our diet, because the more you say no to yourself or have someone say no to you, the more you can really value that. So I really believe in variety, moderation and a relaxed attitude towards eating and what it entails.”
And as for the odd meal at the local burger joint Kairns feels that “the approach to fast food should be the same as to junk food. In moderation it’s okay. You don’t necessarily want a steady diet of it, but when you put together a shake, fries and a burger, you’re getting the milk, protein, starches even a little vegetable. So the four foods groups are covered, but what they are high in is fat.”
So relax when your child is out with friends and has had nothing but junk food. As Dr. Kaufman says, “every once in a while it’s okay for your child to go out and have ice cream and cake at a party.”