Junk Food: How Harmful Is It To Our Kids?




From our friends at Parents Ask

We know that we’re supposed to limit the junk food that our kids eat—especially sugar. But how to do it, when to do it, and with what foods, well that takes some guidance! So, in addition to Dr. Cara Natterson’s parenting secrets on how to limit sweets, we are devoting our Parents are Asking column to a round up of the best tips from all our experts when it comes to food and nutrition. Enjoy!

Q: Just how bad are snacks like Goldfish and pretzels? How about Gummy vitamins?


Dr. Guy Efron: I prefer a wide variety of snacks if possible to get kids from getting hooked and creating balanced intake.  All things in moderation as they say..and pretzels (high salt) and goldfish are included in that. As for the gummy vitamins, I am not a big fan. They have less vitamin content then chewables (ie Flinstones complete) and dentists hate them too!!  I usually recommend a liquid multivitamin until the age of 2 (ie poly-vi-sol) and then a switch to chewables.

Q: I was late to pick up my 2 year old son from day care and he was very upset; I comforted him, of course and then proceeded to take him to McDonald’s for french fries (something we NEVER do). Was my decision to cure my son’s sadness with little golden sticks of salty goodness a poor one? Am I helping to create an unhealthy relationship between food and feelings?

Dr. Bonnie Zucker: 
First, one event like this is not going to teach your son to have an emotional relationship with food. For an association to be strongly linked (food and coping with distress), it would need to be repetitive and consistent; so if every time your child is sad/upset/disappointed, etc, you give him food to help him feel better, then you are teaching him to cope with negative affect (emotions) through eating. This is not the case for you- this was a first time/one time incident and because you are smart and competent as a parent, you won’t let it become a pattern…. Once in a while rewarding your child with food or giving your child a treat when they are sad will not lead to a problem with food. Again, for a pattern to be learned it needs to occur frequently.

NEXT: What works and what doesn’t in the toddler food battle.