How do you handle other parents giving their kids junky snacks in front of your kids?

If you read my last post, Can Other Parents Ruin Your Kids’ Eating Habits?, you know that was the essence of Ali’s question.  And…

You also know that I said there were four different problems in the scenario she described.

  1. How to cope with the less than stellar food her friends serve to their kids and, by extension, to hers.
  2. The fact that her friends let their kids graze, but grazing ruins her daughter’s appetite for meals.
  3. Not being allowed to eat junky treats makes her young daughter food obsessed.
  4. Being denied the snacks she wants also makes her daughter have major meltdowns.

What can she do? In this post I’ll deal with the food issue.

Kids need to learn two lessons to cope with playdate crap (or any foods that you wouldn’t normally serve).

  1. Different families eat differently.
  2. Proportion: We eat healthy food more frequently than everything else.

Lesson One—different families eat differently—celebrates differences without judgment. 

Not only does it teach your children that it’s ok for other families to be different from your family, but it teaches your kids that it’s ok for your family to be different from others.  (This is a subtle distinction but it’s an important one.)

This lesson is particularly important if you can’t see your way to allowing your children to eat any of what’s being offered.

I suggest that you teach this lesson and then… let your child eat (at least some of) the junk.


  • Junk is part of the world we live in.
  • Kids need to learn to cope with junk in the right way. You might as well start teaching them to cope from the get-go.
  • You’re eventually going to have to let your kids eat this food (or they’ll get it on their own). If you don’t teach your kids how to cope, you’re sending them out into the world (even if that world is preschool) without an important skill.  Besides, teaching kids is what parents do.

Lesson Two (proportion) teaches kids that it doesn’t matter what you eat. What matters is how often you eat it.

Many people don’t agree with me, but there is room in your child’s diet for anything. Read It Doesn’t Matter What Your Kids Eat.

Proportion is one of the three principles of healthy eating. The other two are variety and moderation. Read Have Your Cake and Eat it Too!

How do you teach a small child proportion? Easy.

Start by talking about the principle:

  • “We eat the healthiest foods most often.”
  • “Goldfish are fun to eat. That’s why we only eat them sometimes. We eat things like apples more often.”

Then, when you know you are going to have a playdate where there will be junky snacks, talk about this to your child in advance. Say things such as…

  • “We are going to have a playdate later with your friend Susie. She always has yummy treats. So that’s when you’ll have your treat for the day.”
  • “We’re not going to have cookies now because I’m pretty sure that Susie is going to have treats for you at the playdate.”

You don’t have to get the principle of proportion 100% right every time.

So what if your kids have a few more treats today than you’d like. Think about this as a longterm project. You can’t teach your kids manners or how to brush their teeth overnight either.

Teaching proportion won’t solve all your playdate problems because it’s only one of the four issues  you have to address.

But, proportion the best place to start. (And, it will go along way to solving problem three: coping with food obsessions.)

In my next post I’ll discuss the problem of playdate grazing.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~