5 Foods I Never Feed My Children

By , SparkPeople Blogger
One of my biggest priorities as a mom is providing my kids with a healthy diet.  Sometimes I'm met with success (they love vegetables), but other times it's a little more difficult ("Eww!  What is this?!?"). I try to expose them to a wide variety of healthy foods, so that eating this way becomes a normal part of the rest of their lives.  My kids are 6, 4 and 1, and even though I control most of what they eat at this age, I still shake my head at some of the food that's served when I'm not around.  My kindergartner can't go to a Girl Scout meeting, sporting event or even morning snack at school without adults serving her junk food.  So when I'm given the opportunity to bring something, I see it as a chance to show kids that healthy food can taste good.
Sometimes I get flak from other parents (including my own) because I don't let my kids order whatever they want at a restaurant or limit the foods I bring into our home.  I don't think I'm denying my children the joys of childhood by not serving them many common "kid foods."  If substituting vegetables for French fries or telling them they can't have the corndog on the menu is the worst thing I do as a mom, I think I'm on the right track.   
At the same time, I realize that putting some foods off-limits often makes them the "forbidden fruit," and they can become the food my kids want most.  Just like adults, completely denying yourself the foods you enjoy makes you more likely to binge on them later.  I don't want my child to go crazy at a friend's house because their mom serves chocolate milk and I only serve plain.  My kids get treats and snacks they like, but there are certain foods they will just never get from me.  Recently, I read an article about the top foods nutrition experts won't feed their kids, which inspired me to write this blog.  Wondering what foods are on the "off limits" list for this personal trainer's kids?
5 Foods I Won't Feed My Kids
  1. Hot dogs.  I'm sure I'll get a little flak for saying this, but I have yet to find any significant nutritional value in a hot dog (or a slice of bologna for that matter).   The average hot dog has 4 grams of saturated fat and 540 milligrams of sodium.  The first two ingredients in a hot dog are mechanically separated turkey and mechanically separated chicken.  I don't know what "mechanically separated" means, but I'm pretty sure there's more processing involved than I'm comfortable serving my kids. In addition to that, processed meats, including hot dogs, contain nitrates, which have been linked to colon cancer.   
  2. Prepackaged lunches. A lot of my daughter's friends bring Lunchables to school as a "special treat".  Here's one variety:  Light Bologna with American Cracker Stackers.  Listed on the website as a "good source of protein, calcium and iron," they don't highlight the fact that one package contains 35% of the daily amount of saturated fat and 26% of the daily limit for sodium.  Without too much planning, you can come up with a much healthier lunch for your kids.  In addition, the ingredient list in a Lunchable is too long to count.  My general rule is that if a product has more than 5 ingredients, I put it back on the shelf.  This doesn't happen 100% of the time, but it's my goal as much as possible. 
  3. Soda.  Okay, I can’t exactly say “never” to this one, because my oldest two have had Sprite a few times in their lives.  But it really has been just a few times, on special occasions (like New Year’s Eve or birthdays.)  They never ask for soda because they are used to milk or water with all of their meals.  Soda is loaded with sugar, is bad for their teeth, and it has no nutritional value.  If your kids drink a lot of soda and you want to change that, don’t try and do it cold turkey.  Slowly start replacing soda with water.  If they don’t like the taste of plain water, try flavoring it with fruit.  My kids think it’s fun to squeeze an orange slice into their water. 
  4. Fast food.  The closest my kids have come to eating fast food is going to Panera on occasion.  I'd almost always rather make my kids a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner versus a McDonald's hamburger (which they have never had).  It's cheaper to cook at home and I know exactly what's going into the food being served.  And while PB&J might not be the perfect meal, it's still a pretty balanced meal that I can throw together in mere minutes—and my kids love it.
  5. Sugary cereals.  Growing up, the only cereals we were allowed to have were Cheerios and Rice Krispies.  While my friends dined on Cookie Crunch and fruity puffs with marshmallows, we were stuck with the plain stuff.  Now I'm glad my parents made this choice and I do the same.  Kids are much better off without a sugar-filled start to their day. Instead, our quick breakfasts of choice are peanut butter on toast, Greek yogurt with fruit or Cheerios.

I hope this list doesn't make me seem like a food snob, or imply that I'm better than any other mother who serves these foods to their children.  I strongly believe that every parent should do what they feel is best for their kids and within their abilities, finances and priorities. Serving my children a healthy diet full of wholesome food is important to me, so I put a lot of effort into the meals I serve.  Sometimes I get strange looks from friends and family when they see what I feed (or won't feed) my kids.  I've accepted that I'm different than most moms, and I hope that the older my kids get, the more they will appreciate it too.
But it's not about perfection. My kids do get treats.  They love pizza, whether we make it at home or go out to eat.  We enjoy going to the local ice cream stand in the summer, and sometimes we make cookies together at home just for fun.  They eat cake at birthday parties, and enjoy these "fun" foods just as much as any other child.  But in my family, treats are seen as special—not an everyday occurrence.  
If you're interested in changing the diet of your family, A Parent's Guide to Nutrition for Kids or SparkPeople’s Healthy Family Makeover Challenge is a good place to start.  Kids can be stubborn, so don't expect all changes to be well-received in the beginning.  But if you stay consistent, changing a few small things at a time so you don't overwhelm them all at once, eventually they will come around and your family will be much healthier because of it.
Are there any foods you won't (or didn't) serve to your kids?  Do you think my list of off-limits foods is reasonable or unreasonable?

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RHETTDOG 2/4/2021
It’s easy to do as long as your partner eats the same as well. My husband has a terrible diet. So on the days I work it’s junk food for dinner. I do not participate hoping my son will notice that I have a different diet. Report
SROSE326 2/4/2021
Good article, but a bit restrictive. Never saying never to unhealthy foods might back fire. We all do things differently when it comes to feeding our children, and we hope they develop healthy habits as adults. In my house hot dogs and sodas are NEVER part of my grocery list, BUT my kids are allowed to enjoy a few times a year at church functions or at someone else's house. I cringe when they eat donuts at our church occasionally but I let them. We eat fast food about once a month, we try to stick to healthier places, but occasionally my kids (and husband) enjoy their big macs and fries plus soda ; they are aware the food is very unhealthy. I never buy sugary colorful cereals with marshmallows etc. I always mix the ones that are too sweet like honey cheerios with regular cheerios; honey bunch of oats with bran flakes etc. and It must have more than 3 grams of fiber. I have big containers of mixed cereal that my teens devour on a regular basis . I never buy potato chips or other similar junk, only tortilla chips because they like to eat with salsa or guacamole. I never buy cookies, I prefer they make their own batches at home. I buy Ice cream only once in a while. I never buy fatty meats, we stick with lean meats, fish, grains, fruits, and vegetables most of the time. I think this is a good compromise for my family, and hope I'm doing the right thing. Report
MARTHA324 2/4/2021
Interesting....as a kid my Mom was the queen of healthy food and portion control. When I got out on my own I decided to "show her" and pretty much stopped paying attention to portions and my weight ballooned up. Now that wasn't the only reason, but I know I did over react to her way of feeding us. Report
JANIMOEN 2/4/2021
I was the same with my first child for sure, relaxed the rules a bit with my second. But they both know we don’t just eat whatever we want all the time, and we always add a healthy option (fruit or veggies) even with our treat meals. My oldest is 9, he occasionally asks for pop as a treat on a Saturday but he knows he’d never get it at supper time during the week! My youngest doesn’t even care about pop! Report
ECOMAJOR 2/4/2021
I don't think this post is snobby or arrogant in any way. When I was growing up My parents didn't allow me to have soft drinks, sugary cereals, etc. Although we occasionlay had hot dogs? and we had some sweet treats as well, like ice cream. But it had a lot to do with the fact that we were on a budget so my mother would allocate the budget to getting as much nutritious food as she could. Report
RNOCHICK 2/4/2021
This post screams priviledge and arrogance. When her kids get older they are going to rebel in the biggest way. Everything in moderation & making something off limits is the fastest way to make someone want it. Report
Well written, concise, you're the mom in charge of your children's health. Food snob? No way. You sound like a great, caring mom. :) Report
RABBITOLM 2/4/2021
We don't buy sugary cereal, and very rarely does pop come in the house, but we do have fast food as an occasional treat (no more than once a week), and are limited by my youngest's severe food allergies.

To keep a balance between treats and healthy foods, we have "Treat Day". Every Friday, to celebrate the end of the week, we break out some cookies or some other special goodie that we don't normally have the rest of the time. It makes it special, and nobody feels they are denied. And I feel it's setting up some healthy habits and relationships with food. It works really well for us. (And keeps me in check, too, when I think about saving that cookie or whatever for Friday.) Report
Thanks Report
MIAMI_LILLY 2/4/2021
Many people cannot afford to take their kids to Panera. A burger off the dollar menu is why obesity is on the rise. While some things I totally agree with, like the hotdogs and soda, the idea to NEVER give your child fast food is unrealistic. Report
TRAVELGAL417 2/4/2021
I wish my DS & DIL would read this. Even though I have suggested other options for my GD. Report
NEPTUNE1939 2/4/2021
ty Report
Thanks. Report
CECELW 1/16/2021
My husband is the only one around here that still drinks soda. diet soda. Report
DEE107 1/4/2021
thanks Report
EVILCECIL 1/4/2021
Great. Thx Report
ERIN_POSCH 8/24/2020
thanks for sharing Report
MUSICNUT 7/16/2020
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
My kid is grown, but it's good info. Report
NANCYPAT1 7/4/2020
Thanks Report
Great article..and good for you in working at feeding your kids healthy things. I notice a lot of flack from some people but you are doing a great thing in cutting out unhealthy foods. Plus, how many people never have certain foods for other reasons (such as certain vegetables or fruits because they don't like them, or religious and cultural reasons). As long as your children know why they aren't getting the foods, and you know they will make their own choices as adults, you are giving them the best gift a mother can give to her children - guarding their health, taking care of them the best that you can, and helping them to grow into healthy adults.

I also totally agree with your choices. There is nothing healthy in soda - I personally consider it liquid poison which is making a few men wealthy. As far as hot dogs: there have been studies that have identified processed meat (bologna and hot dogs included) as causing cancer (2015 - the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and it is more than just the nitrates (and those that say they are "nitrate free" contain celery juice or powder which contains nitrates. Good for everyone to stay away from them, although hard because they are so cheap and convenient. Those are the two curses of our fast-paced lives!

On top of it all is the SUGAR that is being added into everything! If you research any of the background of sugar and how "fat" was made out to be the bad ingredient in the 70's instead of sugar, then the correlation of increased obesity around the world as processed foods (with sugar added) have become available globally, fast food has permeated our society and is everywhere, advertising pushed food and drinks at us from every level - it is really eye-opening, and it is what turned me to eating whole, REAL food, and real weight loss and health!

So, good job - good article - hang in there and don't worry about being a food "snob" when you are making choices of what food your children eat - that is what you are supposed to be doing no matter who says what about it! Report
Great Advice! Thanks for sharing this one! Report
When I was growing up we never ate out, everything was home cooked. My husband never ate vegetables growing up, not sure why. But he now says he has "lived this long without eating a vegetable, why start now". My kids grew up eating healthy food but I did not restrict too much. Now my grandchildren are also healthy eaters, they eat all sorts of fruits and veggies. Report
You are a very wise woman! Report
You are a very wise parent. Report
Well done! I wish I could go back in time and do the same! Report
I can tell how you love your kids. I can see the love! Report
I read every single comment and have come to this conclusion: Our children are going to grow up and make their own decisions.
*Some who grew up eating healthy thank their parents for that. Others blame parents because .... whatever.
*Some grew up eating junk food, and as adults make better and more informed decisions. Others blame parents for continued poor eating choices.
The vast majority of parents are doing the best they know how and the best they can afford. Shaming the author for your perceived "parent shaming" is ridiculous and hypocritical.

I am grateful to have better information and more disposable income than my mom had. With these things I have tried to make better choices for my children when they are small, and teach them my "whys" as they get older. Hopefully they will also learn that taking self responsibility is a good thing.

To the author: Good article! I don't think it was parent shaming in the least. I would hate for you to feel that you can't post an article here because of that feedback. Your approach seems very reasonable.

And to the person who said diet cola is a healthier choice. Are you freaking kidding me??? Report
This article is interesting but I also think it's 1. parent-shaming (no matter how I read it, it does come off as I-am-better-than-everyone-else 2. I feel a bit sorry for your kids because they have to be the odd kids at gatherings because their mom won't let them eat certain things. That's a lot of pressure to put on a kid socially 3. This is the direct path to an eating disorder as the children get older and you don't have that much control over what they eat. There are ways to present healthy choices to your children, but a superior attitude because they are beyond a Happy Meal isn't the way to do it. It sets them up to fail in the long run. Next thing you know, your cute 5 year old turns into a not so cute 15 year old binge eater. Report
It is my opinion that this perspective was not intended to shame anyone. It is what this person has chosen to do with her family. I think it was (good) food for thought with a rationale for the choices she has made. I appreciate all of the comments that were shared. It provides me with additional inform so that I can make even more informed decisions. Report
Great info. Report
This article sort of does come off with a holier-than-thou vibe, despite your efforts not to. Shaking your head because other parents served your kids junk food? Parent shaming at it's finest.

My son never drinks soda. We never exposed him to it until he was in grade school, then he tried it and didn't like it. But he eats hot dogs, and fast food. He also loves veggies. Allowing kids to try fast foods also gives an opportunity to teach about moderation. If you don't make it a forbidden, and use it as an opportunity to teach, then everything else falls into place. Report
Thanks for sharing article Report
Awesome article Report
My mom did this with us. There are 5 of us. No proceed foods all homemade. And in my eyes it was the worst thing ever to do. When I moved out on my own at 15 years of age I was only 130 and 5feet 7inches. With in the 1st year on my own I gained over 100 pounds. I want to try all the food I never had. If my mom would have let us try them then I believe me and my other sisters and my brother would not be heavy. I am now 30 years old and weigh 350 pounds. I have 3 kids how are healthy and are at a healthy weight. Unlike my mom I let our kids try fast food and junk food. We have tought them that it is okay to eat junk food sometimes but not all the time. They would choose fruit and veggies over fast food and junk food any day. They like the taste of healthy foods. In our grocery store they have free fruit and veggies for kids to snack on while their parents shop they also have cookies our kids go for the banana or the baby carrots and if they don't have them our kids will ask for the banana or the baby carrots they know that the cookies taste good but are they going to make me feel good no they know that they need healthy foods and we ask them if they want fast food most of the time they say no I want a salad or something like that. If you don't let you kids try something they will do anything and everything to get it . That is what I did and now I am paying for it. Just teach your kids how to eat healthy don't limit them from trying foods because they are not healthy enough for you. The creates eating disorders I know I have been down that road and I am still on that road. Report
I agree that soda pop should be consumed only on special occasions and only in sample size sips. However, hot dogs are available in lower calorie and lower fat variations, such as reduced fat beef, 98% fat free beef, fat free, low-fat, or reduced fat turkey, reduced fat chicken, and bison. Prepackaged meals, such as Lunchables and frozen TV dinners, are portion controlled, which helps keep total calorie intake under control. Fast food is not totally unhealthy if ordered in small portion sizes. Sugary cereal is actually a decent breakfast choice if only the recommended serving size is poured into a bowl and if the rest of the bowl is filled with milk and cut-up fruit; besides, sugary cereals taste way better than plain cereals. Report
Ok I need to speak up here! Growing up was mix of good & not so healthy foods. As a child I was a tooth pick, & ate healthy food w/o lots of preservatives. As I grew my diet changed in the aspect that I became a sneak eater. So my weight was all over the place but still doing good it was my round of yo-yo dieting.
Which carried over to adulthood! I've been on a diet so
many programs. Oh, yes I lost weight but when I hit a
maintaining after weight lost, I would go back to my old habits. Yep that's right here came the lbs. In my 50s I finally got the lbs off & maintained for over 5yrs.
But I fell back to those darn old habits as I'm also an
emotional eater! Now I'm my 70s I finally have learned to life for a healthier lifestyle NO more diets! I'm down lower than I been in 40yrs. Now I know I can do this! I have nothing to stop me! My praise belongs to my
L-rd fully! So my kids have had a hard time with their weight but they are always working to be healthier, that includes working out. Sneak eating & emotional eating is a hard pull to swallow but you can do it with a positive attitude. So if your a mom who wants her kids healthy & on a low budget do your best. You watch what is fed to your loved ones & remember goodies are not bad in small doses.

despite this quite "I hope this list doesn't make me seem like a food snob, or imply that I'm better than any other mother who serves these foods to their children." when you title it 5 foods I wont feed my children, you are actually shaming other parents. Im not all about being coddled, but dang, just because you cant find a hot dog to fit your criteria doesn't mean they dont exist. I do a lot of things I said I would "never" do because sometimes survival is more important than fighting a kid to eat something. I try. I hope I am making a positive experience out of food and helping them to develop healthy eating habits, but when you present info like this, it isn't that helpful. Food shaming other parents isnt helpful. Report
This is a very smart Mom! Report
I also used to get the lunchables but stopped because the food just wasn't filling enough for them. Report
You're funny. The more you tell a kid they can't have something the more they want it. Like when they go to a friends or a outing with out me. Get real. Report
This was a great article and although I don't often comment, I had to weigh in on this one. I grew up with meat and potatoes and lots of it along with homemade root beer, plenty of desserts, lots of candy and fast food. I was obese by the time I was in the second grade and Mom was giving me Ayds, the caramel like diet aid one took with a glass of warm water prior to a meal. Ayds never curbed my eating; in fact I used to sneak them as I thought of them as candy. Family outings and any get together with friends always centered around food, never anything like hiking or swimming or just taking a walk. Yes, I did ride my bike and played softball as I got older, but I'm now 72 years old and still struggling with my weight which for short periods of time has been normal, but most of the time has been in the overweight to morbidly obese category. Throughout my life there has always been pressure from myself, my family and friends to "lose the weight." I'm so sick and tired of hearing the phrase "Such a pretty face if only she would lose weight." And yes, with diets starting when I was 8 years old, I am now a binge eater needing to "get while the getting is good" because tomorrow (which by the way never comes) I will start to moderate my food once again.

Well, fast forward to my step grandchildren whose mother from the time they were able to eat food on their own never offered anything with a lot of sugar, fat or processing. Snacks were always fruit, vegetables and healthy choices. My grandsons grew up with a healthy diet which they preferred when it came to making their own choices. They also learned the value and pleasure of bike riding, hiking, swimming, canoeing and organized sports. Today all three are a normal weight and have nary a thought about diets or "good" or "bad" foods.

So, even though I have never raised children of my own, I certainly see from my own experience how valuable it is for kids to think that having an apple after school for a snack is just exactly what they wanted.

Jen, your kids are still young, don't give up and I know you won't in giving them healthy foods. I believe as they get older and can make their own choices that likely they will be like my grandsons and choose what tastes good...that apple rather than fries and a coke from McDonalds!
I don't have children, but I sure wish my parents would've instilled better eating habits into me and my older brother. I'm sure if they had've, we wouldn't have formed such terrible eating habits and struggled with our weight as adults.

When we were kids, my mom bought all the Frosted Flakes, Apple Jacks, Cookie Crisp and Cap'n Crunch we wanted while I remember friends of mine whose parents only allowed them to eat healthier stuff like oatmeal, plain corn flakes, or Rice Krispies.

I used to think, "poor suckers!" ...But now as an adult, I realize that I was the "poor sucker" with parents who simply weren't educated about nutrition.

If I'm ever blessed with a child, I'll certainly know better. Report
My mom was like yours. We ate what the adults ate. My parents did buy cookies for me and my sisters. But when the package was done, so were we til my mom and dad's next weekly shopping trip. And the whole family ate franks and beans on occasion. But my mom never served dessert, so we never got to expect it. And we drank milk til we were in HS. Report
Great article! I don't think you're a food snob because if I had to do it all over again with my nine year old, I'd do it the same. In the last year, we have started letting her have 1 can of soda throughout the weekend (she usually does half a can on sat and the rest on sun). This is my way of letting her have some without it being all she drinks and also getting rid of the forbidden fruit deal. Throughout the week her drink is usually water. Report
While I think it's great that you're raising your kids to be healthy, please be *very* careful. I know a LOT of people who were completely deprived of junks/sweets/soda in their childhoods, and they've spent their adulthoods being obese and addicted to junk.

Complete restriction/forbidding will probably make "bad" foods more appealing to them, just like with anything that parents forbid their kids from doing. In that case, parents should never be surprised if their kids are doing stuff behind their backs. Report
This brings back memories. My children are now 35 and 38. They were allowed to choose any cereal, as long as it was a shade of white or beige and wasn't frosted with sugar :) They weren't supposed to have sweets without asking me first, and I was thrilled one day when a neighbor came by to tell me she thought it was great that when she offered my kids (then about 4 and 7) candy, they both said they'd have to ask their mom. She thought it was remarkable that they stuck to the rules even in my absence. When times were rough and we went to the food pantry, colorful cereals provided a rare treat. I don't want to demonize any food, but focus on moderation. Report
As a child of the 70's I have experience with this sort of parenting. My parents fed me health food, denied me soda, limited my television viewing. What they created was a food-obsessed television technician. My relationship with food, my impulse to categorize some foods as "good" and others as "bad," dominates my life. I am eternally struggling with the idea that if I'm not "healthy" (which really means skinny) I have failed morally.

And it's not just me. The kids in my family, who I grew up with, struggle with the same exact issues.

So, be very careful about what you teach your children. Report
My child really doesn't eat (or drink) any of these, but then again, she has always been very underweight and doesn't eat. The only one she eats are hot-dogs, but she only likes them at a particular restaurant located 450 miles away from our home. She doesn't eat fruits, meat or veggies on a regular basis. She actually also hates cake, honey and candy.

I guess this is a good list. I usually look at any childhood articles in hopes of finding something that she would eat and not necessarily what she would not eat, but this is still a good article. Report
Totally agree. My 4 kids had porridge for breakfast many times and still love it.
They ate a huge variety of REAL foods and now as young adults have good habits. Yes we all have an indulgence once in awhile but parenting by feeding healthy foods and also teaching kids to cook them are treasured life skills! Report