Healthy Parties - Part Two: Attending
Taking kids to parties that have a lot of sugar, chips and other junk food can be tricky for parents to manage. I have been asked many questions about how to handle this!
How can I get my kid to choose healthy food at a party? Your child has ultimate control over what they eat. Provide them with healthy options as much as possible in your regular lives so real food is normal for them. Find a way to talk to them about the food that they eat, what it is, where it comes from and what it does to a body…but not at the party! Talk about these things at regular meals. See below for some more ideas…
How can I make sure they don’t make themselves sick? It is quite possible to monitor your child and help them make food decisions at a party, especially if you have already spoken about food and health. If they do end up eating too much and feeling awful, perhaps they will make a different decision next time? Don’t treat it as an “I told you so” moment though, as they are still a child and need to make mistakes to learn.
How can I manage my kid who is anaphylactic, or intolerant? If eating something will potentially cause anaphylaxis, vomiting or other unpleasant or extreme reactions, then you should definitely ask the host about the suitability of the food, and pay close attention to your child.
Should I talk with my child about healthy choices or will this create a problem? This really depends on how you do it. Be open, be clear and speak factually, but not emotionally about food and food choices. It will potentially create a problem if you try to affect their food choices by manipulating the truth or making them afraid of unhealthy food.
Will I be setting up bad habits if I try and control what my child eats at parties?
This is a tricky topic as there are really no hard and fast rules for success. Each child is different and may require a variety of different approaches at different times! Children do not just do what parents want them to do (in fact, you’re probably more likely to wind up with the opposite). You have to work with your child, in each situation. When they are very little, it can be easy to help them make choices. If they have not yet been exposed to junk food, then it can be easy to keep them away from it. Once they are a little older, this can be more challenging.
Be brave! Be creative! The truth is that you don’t always have the final say as a parent, but you do have a lot of opportunity to create awareness and set up habits. There are many things you can do, especially if you feel passionate about the health of your child. Don’t let convention, social norms, your family traditions or other people’s ideas get in your way! If you do need a hand…
Here are 3 hints to get you thinking;
Feed your little one before you go to the party (suitable for any age);
Potential Positives -
your child will not be interested in party food as they are already satisfied with the food in their belly.
Your child will just have one or two lollies or cakes and will feel fine
Potential Negatives -
your child will still eat a lot of food at the party…thus making them even more likely to be sick later on!
Take some snacks that you know your kid likes and try to keep them away from the party food (suitable for any age)
Potential Positives - They will be blithely unaware that there is party food (especially if they are younger and more inexperienced) and be thrilled with the options you give them.
Potential Negatives - They will become aware of your deception, see it as manipulation and will throw a monster tantrum at the party, scream that they only want to eat the junk food and leave you in an awkward situation.*
*dramatised for artistic effect
Talk about party food and come up with a creative plan for how to choose what to eat (more suited to 3-5 year olds)
Potential Positives - it is really possible for children to make healthy choices at parties, of their own free will, because they prefer healthier food. Discussing the bigger picture will allow them to build their “making healthy choices” skills. Over time they can come to understand that what you eat affects how you feel and how your body works, and they can learn to make choices that suit them.
Potential Negatives - they will succumb to temptation and be unable to say no when they arrive at the party and see the available food. This does not have to be seen as a bad thing (unless you have a fight over it!). Over time they can understand how they feel when they eat lots of sugar/junk food and may choose differently next time.
Do know that it is entirely possible to grow children who enjoy healthy food and who say no to lollies, chocolate, chips, soft drinks, hot dogs, cake etc because they don’t actually like them. It is also possible for healthy children to choose these occasionally, and stay healthy.
Lastly, remember that parties are about fun and celebration. Enjoying yourself at a party should not be dependent on junk food! (if it is, then there’s another opportunity to challenge your beliefs).
All the best!