Diets in Review - Find the Right Diet for You

The 15 Worst Pieces of Diet Advice We Feed our Kids

We’ve all been fed bad diet advice at some point in our lives, usually with negative consequences. But what about the diet advice we feed our kids? Is it healthy, constructive, inspiring? Are we setting them up for nutritional success or failure?kids-diet-advice

These are questions we should be asking ourselves when raising a child. The diet examples we set for our kids and the words we use to guide them will no doubt affect their relationship with food. Unfortunately, just one poor example or one piece of bad advice can cause a flurry of negative results.

While there’s a descent amount of truth out there regarding kids and diet, there’s also a lot of bogus advice. This is especially sad considering this is such a crucial time for our nation amidst a childhood obesity epidemic.

A recent study suggested that kids should simply eat off smaller plates to avoid obesity. This isn’t terrible advice, per say, but eating off a smaller plate isn’t going to solve the problem. Kids need to develop a healthy understanding of food as nutrition instead of learning little “tricks” to hopefully divert them from health disasters.

Our own Mary Hartley, RD has done much research on the topic and we’ve asked her to weigh in, sharing the 15 worst pieces of diet advice we’ve ever fed our kids.

1. Kids can eat “kid’s food.” (i.e. mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, etc.)

2. If a kid won’t eat dinner, then you should fix him or her something else.

3. Children don’t need an eating schedule.

4. Children should influence purchasing decisions at the supermarket.

5. Sugary cereal is not that bad. We disagree.

6. It’s healthy for toddlers to drink juice – or squeezable fruit – in between meals. Instead, dilute juice with water and keep it to 1/2 cup per day.

7. It’s OK to eat fast food more often than not.

8. Good behavior can be rewarded with food. Candy-free potty training anyone?

9. It’s fine to have junk food in the house. (cookies, snack cakes, ice cream, chips, etc.) If the temptation is there, poor choices will likely follow.

10. Hurts can be soothed with food. Soothe hurts with love instead.

11. Kids don’t need to drink milk. Controversial issue or not, there’s still plenty of evidence that milk does the (little) body good.

12. Children don’t need to learn how to cook. Something we, and Tyler Florence, are most passionate about!

13. Sugar desserts are part of dinner. (Acceptable dessert = fruit and/or yogurt)

14. Snacking goes with movies. Why not try a few of these healthy snack ideas, if you must snack at all?

15.  Breastfeeding is unnecessary. A topic we’ve touched on many times before, and a practice that nearly all medical professionals would agree is extremely beneficial for childhood development.

Bear in mind, this is not the full list nor the perfect list. But let it be a reminder to be conscious of the examples you set for your kids regarding diet. Are you teaching them food is a reward? Are they consuming more sugar than vegetables? Is McDonald’s your dinner table more often than your own? If the answer is ‘yes, yes and yes,’ don’t be overwhelmed, just pick one area and start from there. After all, nutrition starts young and if we can start laying a healthy foundation today, our children are far more likely to succeed tomorrow.

Also Read:

The Worst Childhood Obesity Prevention Ads of 2012 

The Big Sticky Mess of Childhood Obesity on Biggest Loser 

Has Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Made a Difference in 3 Years?


April 16th, 2013

> Leave Feedback

User Feedback

(Page 1 of 1, 6 total comments)


Unfortunately, I didn't find this article helpful in any way!

posted Apr 24th, 2013 12:21 pm


This is a pretty poorly written article. It's hard to figure out the differentiation between what you think is good and bad. Also, you offer no explanation at all for some of them.

posted Apr 23rd, 2013 5:20 pm


@Barbara Roberts: Research may very well show that kids who are forbidden to have junk tend to binge at a friend’s house or when they are old enough to buy their own food. But the more MEANINGFUL question is, does research show that these kids CONTINUE to binge on junk? I’d be willing to bet that children who grow up in homes where junk food is not allowed (or very rarely allowed) quickly make the connection that they physically feel awful when they binge on junk. I’d think this is particularly true for those kids whose parents teach and demonstrate the connection between food and how it makes us feel. Your comment implies we should allow some junk food in order to prevent our kids from binging on it at friends’ houses or when they leave the nest. How ‘bout educating our children on how food makes us feel? And how ‘bout when our children do have junk at a school function or birthday party using that as an opportunity to help them tune into their bodies and assess how they feel afterwards? This seems like a more effective and sensical approach than allowing some junk food now for fear of our kids binging on it later.

posted Apr 23rd, 2013 3:22 pm


Good article. However, I think having dessert "around", isn't a bad thing as long as parents educate about timing and amount. Teaching balance to kids from the start will help them make smart decisions later. "Bans" create demand.

posted Apr 17th, 2013 9:45 pm

Barbara Roberts, MS, RD, LD/N

I am also an RD and disagree with a few of these. It is okay for kids to eat kid foods, sometimes. And, #9- when you forbid foods research consistently shows the kids who were forbidden from having junk are the first ones to binge when they see it at a friend's home, or when they grow up and can purchase food on their own. Please follow evidence-based guidelines when promoting nutrition information. Thank you

posted Apr 17th, 2013 7:45 pm

Cynthia Lair

Thanks Dana,
I'm a native Wichita KS person who has dedicated my work to feeding kids better food (Author of Feeding the Whole family, host of Cookus Interruptus). Couldn't agree more.

posted Apr 17th, 2013 2:22 pm


Leave Feedback

Skip the moderation queue by becoming a MyDIR member.

Already a member?

Need to sign up?
It’s free and only it takes a minute.
There are two ways to join:

Or, proceed without an account