What to Say to Those Who Think Your Children Are Deprived

What to Say to Those Who Think Your Children Are Deprived | Growing Up Herbal | Do people like to think your kids are deprived because you feed them healthy foods? If so, here's how to respond.

“Give that poor kid some sugar!”

“What do you mean he doesn’t eat cereal for breakfast?!”

“What’s wrong with pop tarts? I used to eat pop tarts every morning.”

“No fruit punch? What do you expect him to drink, water all the time?!”

If you’re a parent who makes natural choices for your kids, statements like these are probably all too familiar by friends and family who don’t see eye to eye with your choices. Fortunately, there are ways to maintain relationships without sounding haughty or spiteful, while still standing up for your beliefs.

Understand Where They’re Coming From

Relatives often feel like you’re depriving your children of the good things by being too strict.

My son eats (homemade) ice cream and cobbler for breakfast sometimes. Strawberry smoothies with raw milk are a regular staple, and he loves munching on the occasional GMO-free potato chip. Our children eat treats, just not unhealthy ones. Not only are they getting better nutrition but better-tasting food as well.

“It’s interesting to me now that so many people still think that children need processed foods in order to be happy or not deprived. Deprived of what? Sure, we ate that as kids (most of us), and it formed a part of our childhood memories. But our children have no such memories. To them, those foods are just…foods. Just other products in the store, and ones we don’t happen to buy. Instead their memories are filled with baking healthy muffins or cookies at home (yes, we do have treats), or helping mama brew kombucha. As they get older, they get interested in learning all of these cooking techniques and practices and they cherish these moments in the kitchen with us. They learn why we choose what we choose instead of what others choose, and they begin to take on the same beliefs about healthy food.” – Kate Tietje from Modern Alternative Mama

Dealing with Allergies

If your children are eating a specific way because of food sensitivities or allergies, it can be hard to explain this to well-meaning relatives. They may not see the stomach ache, pain, and labored breathing from the foods that your children are sensitive to. This article has some tips to help others understand why you need to be so careful with your child.

“I explain that our health challenges demanded a radical diet change and once we experienced the benefits we never looked back. My kids have tasted the reality that real, nourishing food tastes fantastic and as long as I send them to an event with one of their favorite foods they don’t feel deprived.” – Andrea Fabry from It Takes Time

“It all started when I worked desperately to heal my son. Rather than two kitchens to accommodate his special needs, we all ate food acceptable for him. This was the best decision ever!” – Mandy Lee from Fostering Nutrition

Why Do Friends and Family Get So Defensive About Food Choices with Kids?

In our culture, food is linked to memorable events. Hot dogs and sugary, colored popsicles for 4th of July. We have cookies at Christmas and cake at birthdays and weddings. When we challenge these food traditions, friends and family may feel like their memorable traditions are being attacked.

“I explain to family and friends that our kids enjoy the same foods their children love–chocolate syrup, ice cream, hamburgers, and even candy–just homemade or less processed varieties of these favorite foods. I’m a firm believer in not making food into a good/evil scenario for young children so I don’t make my kids refrain from the birthday party cake or occasional processed treat, and family and friends are aware of this (and respect us for our decisions!). Because my kids eat so well most of the time, when offered processed foods, they gladly accept but often don’t like the processed sugar taste or complain about a tummy ache later. This is a great way to teach by example and share why we make our own yummy versions of these popular treats. I think it’s important to teach our children, and family and friends, that food isn’t about what we can and can not eat. Rather, food is meant to be celebrated and created with real ingredients we can pronounce out of love for the process and the people we serve. I think when approached with this attitude, the me vs. you mentality associated with children/parents and outside family and friends is greatly reduced.” – Kristin Marr from Live Simply

Instead of only putting the emphasis on food at gatherings, start non-food traditions together.

Create a Food Culture

Food is a part of our culture and traditions. It’s good to not only foster food traditions with your own family at home but also when you’re out. Every Christmas our extended family gathers for a big, pot-luck style meal. My family brings our own dessert and a few side dishes for everyone to eat. We don’t eat any food there that we don’t feel good about, and no one notices the difference.

Your children won’t care about “missing out” if you create a healthy, vibrant food culture for them. Take them to the farmer’s market, let them help milk the neighbor’s goat, give them their own corner of the garden to grow veggies in. They’ll feel involved and enthusiastic about the process and may not care as much when well-meaning relatives offer them store bought treats and other unhealthy foods.

“We have a special glass pitcher that we often make herbal tea in, especially in the summer—and the kids know what to expect when they see that pitcher on the counter. When they grow up, they’ll have those memories, rather than memories of too much sugar or Kool-aid in the summer. It’s just different. Not better or worse” – Kate Tietje from Modern Alternative Mama

Share some of your food traditions with friends and family, so they can experience them first hand.

Is it Really That Good?

My husband and I used to eat at fast food restaurants and cheap Chinese places quite frequently. For the past several years, however, we’ve eaten whole, real foods as much as possible. A few weeks ago, for my husband’s birthday, we decided to eat at a Chinese buffet. This had been our favorite date night spot while I was in college. With each bite of food we realized more and more how it no longer tasted good, and afterward, we felt rundown and a little nauseous.

“I do have friends who are completely different than me, though, and they bring junk food to my house when they come over because they say I only have “diet food” (which I think is funny because I usually have high fat foods around, and most people here don’t really associate those foods with diet food, but anyway…) It’s just their way of teasing me. They know not to be offended if I don’t eat what they bring, and I don’t really have the opposite problem because, despite their teasing, they always end up eating and enjoying whatever it is I’ve made. They often ask me how to make it.” – Tracy Ariza from Oh, The Things We’ll Make

Bring some awesome homemade, healthier for you treats to the next group gathering. They’ll be able to taste the difference!

My Child IS Deprived

So yes, by giving my son real, healthy and tasty foods he will be missing out. He’ll be missing out on sugar crashes, excess cavities, nausea, indigestion, brain fog and food induced hyperactivity.

What he will gain instead is a vibrant childhood where he knows and appreciates where his food comes from. He won’t WANT to regularly eat processed, sugary foods when there are so many better tasting (and nutritious) options out there.

“I don’t need to be in charge of what all kids eat – but I do want to be in charge of what my kids eat…Most of all, I want my kids to outlive me, not be the first generation in recorded history to have a lower life expectancy than the previous one.” – Katie Kimball from Kitchen Stewardship

Inspiration for This Post

Simplebites.com: Why (and How) You Should Create a Healthy Food Culture For Your Family.

Now it’s your turn! What do you say to friends and family who feel your real food kids are deprived? Share in the comments below!
  1. Julie says:

    I was behind you until you mentioned raw milk. How can you feed anyone that, let alone a kid?

    • Meagan says:

      LOL! I guess I can assume by your comment that you’re new to the GUH community because around here we LOVE raw milk. It’s very healthy… much, much healthier than pasteurized, homogenized store-bought milk. What do you think people drank before store milk was common? LOL!

  2. Krista says:

    My kids are aware that what we eat is for the most part not “normal” but they’re ok with it. In fact my teenager will complain if we order a pizza or I grab some convenience food, they all realize the difference good healthy food makes and don’t care that they aren’t eating the same thing as all their friends!

    • Meagan says:

      Thanks for sharing Krista! I hope one day my boys get to the point where they realize the difference in healthy food. My oldest is starting to get there. He understands why we don’t eat candy bars and suckers whenever they’re offered, but he still wants them because they’re sweet. We just substitute with healthier options. Thanks for your comment though… it’s encouraging to a mama with little ones!

  3. Taylor says:

    I’m just starting to encounter these issues with my daughter (who only just turned two). Her daycare classmates have been celebrating birthdays with cupcakes and candy. The funny thing is, the kids don’t even like these treats – they are too overwhelmingly sweet. It makes me realize that we as parents are the ones creating these traditions and associations – whether they are healthy or unhealthy. So I brought a fruit and cheese platter for her birthday instead and the kids were all happy with it. The important thing to me is that my daughter learns and appreciates, as you said above, where her food comes from. I look forward to the time when she will be able to participate in food preparation, gardening, etc. Hopefully then she will be able to make healthy choices on her own, despite the prevalence and heavy marketing of junk food.

    • Meagan says:

      I think you’re exactly right. We as parents create these traditions that idolize junk foods. I’m not bashing the traditions either. I love egg nog at Christmas, but I think we need to teach our children the difference between prepackaged, processed foods that have loads of sugar added to them and foods made from scratch that can still be fun and tasty. We can still enjoy egg nog at Christmas or cupcakes at birthday parties, but switching them over to real food versions and teaching moderation is key… at least for my family. I love that you’re finding ways to make your daughters daycare b-day party fun for the kids. My sister-in-law recently did this for her sons birthday. He has terrible eczema and is restricted from gluten, sugar, and a whole list of things so she made his birthday cake out of stacks of watermelon and covered it with stevia sweetened whipped cream and other fruits. It was a HUGE hit with all the kids and no one missed the traditional cake. Thanks for your comment. Keep up the good work mama!!

  4. Terra says:

    Love this! We started down the “real food” train about 1.5yrs ago because of various foods sensitivities and health issues. My younger kids have never known difference but my older kids still struggle with being so “different” from everyone else. Because of food sensitivities, we are all gluten-free and a few of them are also dairy and corn free. This extremely limits any processed foods (even the healthier versions). I will say that they’ve grown leaps and bounds over time but I look forward to the day they “own it” themselves. Right now, they still often see me as the person not allowing them to eat all the “yummy” stuff they used to eat and every other kid on the planet gets to eat. We have 5 kiddos (ages 6mo to almost 8yrs). I’ve often been told I’m “depriving” them so this hit home. Praying for healing and wellness in this home! I just realized I used a lot of quotation marks… hehehe Thanks again!

    • Meagan says:

      I can definitely relate Terra. My oldest often goes back and forth between wanting unhealthy junk because others are eating it and it tastes good and then not wanting it because he knows it’s bad for him. I’m sure one day they’ll get to that “owning it” stage and all our hard work will pay off. Thanks for sharing, and I too hope that over time your little ones heal and are well!! Thanks for your comment!

  5. pat says:

    Hi megan im also a nurse your blog is awsome. Have a 4 year old daugther aslo does not now how junk food taste never mind sweets. First 7 years of a child crucial when it comes education and food . This is like the ten commandments to remind us everyday how to live. Many at times she repremand people in grocery stores what they have in their shopping car is junk food. Then i can see hoe people getting angry but then i had to intervine by saying we don’t buy this that’s why she said that. Im interested in your receipt books. I also wash he once a week (shower) and no lotion since birth beatiful skin. eating garlic,onion raw, peppers,broccoli,,cabbage,ect
    how did i get to your blog i was looking for something natural on the net for my mom with right heart failure.she present with edema of lower extremeties++++ God bless and have a blessed day pat south africa

    • Meagan says:

      Nice to meet you Pat. I’m so glad you’re here, and thanks for sharing your story and how you’re raising your little one in a healthy manner. My kids definitely notice when others are eating things that are unhealthy and are more than happy to tell people it’s bad for their body or will make them sick if they eat a lot of it, but they usually only do that if they’re asked why they aren’t eating it which keeps people from getting mad at them. Kids love to teach other people what they know which is a great thing as it helps them to learn more. I just try to make sure they’re not coming across as bossy or demeaning to others. As for natural help for your mom… diuretic herbs and cardiac tonics can help. Look for those two things, and definitely consult with her doctor before starting her on anything!!

  6. Jacinta says:

    Great article! !!
    People don’t say stuff to my face but sometimes they can be passive aggressive about it or they will ask me questions.

    No one gave a shit when I fed my kids McDonald’s twice a week but now we have switched to a real food diet people ask me things like where do my son’s get their calcium & carbohydrates from if I don’t give them bread & cow’s milk?

    Or if we do eat something once off that’s not Paleo people will point it out saying it’s not on my diet.

    I’m not on a diet I am just trying to eat the best I can without being too stressed out about it.

    • Meagan says:

      Yeah, it’s funny how little most people know about nutrition. I mean, veggies have vitamins and minerals so it’s not like those that stay away from cow’s milk never get calcium… they get it in veggies as well as from other foods. And it is funny how some people expect you to be perfect when you start eating healthy. Healthy living is a journey, and we don’t all just go from 0 to 100 when it comes to healthy living. We have to work our way into things. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  7. Sarah says:

    My 16yo just had 2 weeks in the US and while he came back extolling the virtues of Taco Bell I asked him if he was going to return to LCHF/grain free which he’d been on for 6 months. He didn’t miss a beat – yes, he was getting back on track. We fall into the “choice” category derided by many but the health benefits are so plentiful and specific that it is only a matter of time before science catches up and explains what we’re experiencing. The carb eaters in our household eat with us, I cook, so they eat what I prepare. Some complaints about ingredients but I’ve had some real wins too where the paleo version is actually requested over the packet-mix version.

    • Meagan says:

      Good for you Sarah! I’ve noticed that older kids tend to notice that they feel better when they eat healthier so that can help them be more aware and make better choices too. Unfortunately younger children don’t notice that as much. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Regina hall says:

    Much gratitude ! This article came to me in divine timing! I completely agree with all you communicated . Plant-based / holistic / cruelty- free lifestyle is definitely a more nourishing way to live, and our children will appreciate all the sacrifices and investments later!

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