Kids & Junk Food: What Are Your Standards?

girl eating giant lollipop

Since I like to send veggies for Selah’s morning snack at preschool, you might think that my kids are vegetable eating chipmunk fairies. While I am hardcore about eating veggies in the morning for both kids and adults, I’m not an iron-fisted Catholic nun who gives broccoli bits to the church mice when they really want some cheese.

My kids eat junk too, but we are super intentional on what and when junk happens.

I like to use the word “junk” playfully. I joke about my online junking problem, and I engage the word with humor to stereotype non-nutritious food. I consider food as junk when it is processed in some way and lacks nutrient density. In other words, junk is something your body doesn’t require or need for your optimal health.

There’s a spectrum for junk, as with many things in life, where some junk is really really bad and some junk is not so bad. The body effect of the not so bad junk is like killing a fly. The body effect of the really really bad junk eaten on rare occasions, is like running over a squirrel. When the really really bad junk is eaten every day, the body effect is like cutting down an entire forest that will take years to rebuild.

Since not all junk is the same, you need to determine what kind of junk you want your kids to be eating and when you want your kids to eat it.

The junk I allow my kids to eat on a regular basis must pass our junk food standards test, and even if it passes the standards, it doesn’t mean that they’ll get it every day. Here are our standards for “junk” snacks:

  • allergy friendly
  • absolutely no trans fat
  • no sugar or very low in sugar
  • no chemicals
  • as close to nature as possible
  • as whole foods based as possible
  • as organic as possible

Here’s the junk snacks we usually buy:

  • Trader Joe’s Crunchy Curls
  • Kirkland Signature Roasted Seasoned Seaweed
  • Snapea Crisps
  • CLIF Kid Organic Z Fruit Rope
  • Enjoy Life Soft Baked Cookies
  • Organic Fruit Leathers
  • Peanut Butter Cookie Larabars
  • Organic Dried Banana Chips

In terms of our “when”, my girls do not eat junk snacks at home every day. But even if they did, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, since they eat so many fruits and vegetables by the time lunch is finished. We try to reserve our junk snacks for afternoon snack time at preschool (see, I’m not a total Turnip Tyrant), morning church, and errands. It really is a jicama juggling act.

With all this being said, there are two situations where I throw some, if not all, of my junk food standards out the window because I want my kids to experience what it’s like eating normal junk food a few times a year. I don’t want either of them to be that kid at youth group who ate the whole bowl of Doritos because her mom never allowed her even a nibble of junk. For the sake of their mental health, we often pay for it afterwards with itchy but painful rashes, belly aches, diarrhea, and crankster tantrums. But I love that I can say the following a few times a year, “Why yes, of course you can have a [glutenated & sugar loaded] cupcake!”.

Those two situations are:

girls birthday party cake

1. Birthday Parties

Selah absolutely loves birthday parties. Depriving her of cake could be a little traumatizing for her. There have been times where I let her have the cake all the other kids were eating and other times where I brought selahfriendly cake for her. One time, when she had normal person cake, she couldn’t finish the icing because she said it hurt her throat. Yeah, that was all the sugar. We don’t go to birthday parties every weekend, and if we did, we’d have to readjust our standards. We’ve been averaging 2-3 a year.

2. Adult Parties

One of the best lessons I have learned from a seasoned parent was this: don’t over parent your child at adult parties. This not only helps you to have a good time but helps your child to have a good time. Most of the adult parties we’ve gone to with our kids have been in the summer, so this exception has come to us in the form of s’mores. My friends still joke about that time Selah and her little friend kept themselves entertained at one of their backyard summer parties. The parents were happily enjoying themselves around an outdoor fire while the two girls tip toed outside in between Yo Gabba Gabba episodes and gradually devoured the graham cracker supplies for making s’mores.

We have to use discernment when it comes to giving our kids junk. They are constantly bombarded by junk at school, birthday parties, holidays, church, the bank, and even your Starbucks run. Because of the junk food plethora, the opportunities to eat junk are endless. I don’t feel comfortable with any child eating junk as often as it’s offered to them. 

You need to choose what kind of junk you want your kid to have and how often you want your kid to have it.

Do you have junk food standards for your kids? If so, what are they? What junk do you allow your kids?

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2 Responses

  1. Emily

    Those are some good snack ideas. I wouldn’t consider some of those junk – like the fruit leather or banana chips. I try to give the kids whole food snacks too. We have dessert once a week on Friday night.


    Dr. Archer Atkins

    Hi Emily! I put the dried banana chips in the junk category since I can not find them sugar free. We get the organic ones from Trader Joe’s and they have sugar added. Yeah, the fruit leather is borderline, but I put it in there because I’d rather my kids eat fresh fruit instead of the leathers, so they are saved for those “junk snack” occasions.


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