Letting Go: How Junk Food Made Its Way Into Our Home

Like many parents, I was determined to raise my babies with a taste for healthy food. I obsessed, researching to find out if rice cereal really was the best first food, or if a homemade quinoa cereal would be better. I hovered, sure that a well meaning grandma would try to feed my babies cheese or, even worse, sugar. Trans fats, artificial colors, GMO food, corn syrup — none of them were making it past my sweet darlings' lips into their delicate, pristine guts. I followed all the rules, raising the bar by making my own baby food from all organic ingredients. And I'm glad I did. Even with three children, the oldest 14, I know I made the right choice. We still encourage them to eat well by offering fresh, whole foods and explaining why that sort of thing matters. We want to make nutritious food a habit.

But we also have a mini fridge, stocked with things I never imagined in my home on a regular basis. Years ago, I received a small inheritance, which should have gone into savings. I bought a pool table. It's the perfect place to gather with friends and family, and gosh darn-it, I had always wanted one. A refurbished hotel fridge cabinet found on eBay completed the room.

The table brings kids to our house. Like most parents, I like my children nearby, where I can keep an eye on them, at least within shouting distance. Most teenagers don't appreciate unsweetened herbal iced tea, homemade granola bars with agave, and salt-free raw almonds. When I invite my grown-up friends into my home, we share special treats, like prosciutto, decadent cheese, crispy potato chips, a good bottle of wine. My children's friends deserve the same courtesy.

The snacks aren't altogether horrible. I usually have cheese sticks, packaged nuts, and healthier versions of things like snack mix and dried fruit. But the soda is real, not naturally sweetened. The cans are small, and I also stock juice boxes. (One in five teens prefers apple juice over soda, at least according to my anecdotal study.) The Diet Coke is mine, all mine; they know it's off limits. If they go through the sodas too fast, I have a simple solution: I don't restock the bar for a while, and no one complains.

Have your views on nutrition changed over the years? For parents, how strict are you about food?

Related: In Defense of "Kid Food"

(Image: Anne Postic)

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