Yesterday, Psychology Today changed the title of my post from “Are Child-Friendly Foods Really Gateway Drugs” to “The Truth About ‘Child-Friendly’ Foods.”

I understand the desire to be cautious.  After all, it’s not my usual style to be so provocative.  But in this case, I have to say I was seriously disappointed by the change.  I chose my words carefully.

There’s mounting evidence that eating a diet high in sugar, salt and fat produces changes in people’s brain chemistry in a way that mimics drug addiction.

  1. Most “child-friendly” foods are high in sugar, salt and fat.
  2. Therefore, introducing children to these foods puts them on a path…

What else can we conclude?  Goldfish crackers might seem like a safe snack, but they just might be the beginning of something bigger.

Have you heard? Ice cream is addictive. Not addictive as in “I just love ice cream.” Addictive in the way drugs are addictive.

That’s how I begin my Psychology Today post.   It continues:

In a study recently published online by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers showed that, over time, kids who regularly eat a lot of ice cream need to eat more of it to get the same “high.”1

You’ve probably read about this study; there’s been a lot of hype about the findings—The Times of India even picked it up.  Still, at least one of the researchers is reluctant to say ice cream is addictive. Instead, he prefers to say that foods like ice cream, “can elicit neural responses during consumption that parallel those seen in drug addiction.  So it has addictive-like properties.”2

You say tomato; I say tomahto.

Read more.

I’m not trying to be an alarmist. I believe there is a place in the diet for everything.

Even total crap like Devil Dogs, which I happen to love.

And if you feed your kids “child-friendly” foods from time-to-time, sprinkled into an otherwise “adult” diet, then carry on.

But before you decide how “child-friendly” foods might be affecting your kids, think about the whole “ball of wax.” Goldfish crackers, sweetened yogurt, chicken nuggets, chocolate milk, hot dogs…

Let me be clear: It’s not feeding kids any one of these—alone—that’s the problem.  The problem comes from feeding kids the entire collection, and how, as a group, they impact your kids’ habits.

Read The Truth About “Child-Friendy” Foods and Why Toddlers Don’t Eat Vegetables.

The culture of nutrition encourages parents to think small.

The nutrition approach asks you to look deep inside individual foods, to detect protein, calcium, fiber.

At best, the nutrition approach directs your attention to the composition of individual meals.  That’s why My Plate is an improvement over The Food Pyramid.

But to understand how your kids eat, you have to think about their overall diet.  See the forest, not just the trees.  In other words, you’ve got to think BIG.

I advocate parents switch from thinking about nutrition to considering their kids’ habits.

  • Today: What is your child’s overall diet?
  • Tomorrow: Where is your child’s diet going?

It’s only by thinking about habits that you can truly shape how your kids eat (and how they’re going to eat) for a lifetime of healthy eating.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~