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Is it all or nothing with junk?

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POSTED: May 6, 2014 2:00 p.m.

I realize there’s a fine line between making sure children eat healthy most of the time and being overly strict about every morsel of food they put in their mouths. As it turns out, I may not be doing a great job of walking that line.
My husband, Noell, has long cautioned me that I worry too much about our 2-year-old’s diet. I spend approximately half my waking hours obsessing over the items I pack in her lunch, reading labels, poring over nutrition articles and websites, and fixing meals as free of preservatives, chemicals, food dyes and other artificial ingredients as I can get them. When I have spare time, I nag my husband about his three-Cokes-a-day habit and hide his Doritos.
Before Reese was born, I never worried much about such things. When she started eating solid food, though, nutrition suddenly became important to me — for her sake and my own. To set a good example, I even entered and won my office’s recent weight-loss challenge. When I learned there would be a “round two,” I signed up for that as well. I’m now much more particular about what we eat. Maybe more than I should be.
My husband warns me that Reese will be the child who tastes soda and doughnuts for the first time at a friend’s house in elementary school and then goes hog wild by devouring a dozen crullers and a six-pack of Coke in one sitting. He claims small doses of “junk” are OK, as long as we limit Reese’s sugar, fat and salt intake and stress the importance of physical activity. That’s easy for him to say — he didn’t break 100 pounds until junior high.
I, on the other hand, have long struggled with weight issues and I want to ensure my daughter doesn’t face them. So, I say, “No junk!” And, until Reese’s birthday last weekend, such food has basically been absent from her diet.
That changed when mine and Noell’s families came from out of town to celebrate with us, and the whole clan packed a picnic and headed for Forsyth Park on April 25 for an outdoor viewing of Disney’s “Frozen.” Not wanting to spoil the fun, I agreed to let Reese have a few treats. “A few” turned into popcorn, cookies, licorice, gummy bears and sugary juice. Realizing she showed no signs of stopping, I cut her off and dealt with a mini-tantrum. Turns out, I was right to do so.
The next morning, Reese awoke complaining of a tummy ache. It was not short-lived. She struggled with digestive issues and refused to eat much all day. As I had suspected, suddenly introducing a previously junk-food-free child to a variety of sugary, salty snacks had not been a good idea.
My husband pointed out that, had I been letting Reese occasionally sample such foods all along, she probably wouldn’t have had such an uncomfortable reaction to them. Perhaps he’s right. However, I think it was the amount of junk food she ate that created problems for her. I’m pretty confident that one cookie or one piece of licorice wouldn’t have affected her much, even if she had never enjoyed such fare before.  
Now that Reese has tasted “the goods,” though, I hope I don’t have any trouble with recurring toddler demands for popcorn and gummy bears. If so, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to make a (very) rare exception on special occasions. However, the day I come home and catch Reese sipping soda from Noell’s ever-present Coke can, the carbonated sweet stuff will be banned in our house once and for all.

 

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