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Should You Let Your Kids Eat Junk Food?

Our readers sound off on a recent article about parents who who don't let their kids eat candy, soda and chips.

As the staggering rate of childhood obesity continues to climb, many parents are trying to counter the influence of genes, peers and pretty much the entire marketing industry by strictly managing their kids' diets. In many homes, candy, soda and chips have been entirely banished in favor of the wholesome, unglamorous offerings of the organic fruit aisle.

But is forbidding junk food the best way to keep kids healthy?

Writer Laura Benneth doesn't think so. In " My War Against Food Nazi Moms," Bennett points out that far from arming their kids with healthy eating habits, health-obsessed parents deprive them of essential lessons about moderation and good decision-making. The child that rarely encounters junk food will desperately gorge itself on sugary, fatty treats when given the chance. The adult that never learned to moderate is prone to over-eating and other addictions.   

So how can parents protect their children's health? Is keeping junk food out of the house the best way to teach kids about nutrition? Or does banning junk invest unhealthy food with the thrill of the forbidden? Does sheltering kids stunt their ability to make good decisions?

AlterNet commentators had a lot to say about these questions and more.

Many readers agreed with the Laura Benneth, arguing that giving kids space makes them more responsible. Dyolfknip claims that his mother's permissiveness helped him develop important life skills:

When I was 15 years old I asked my mother if I could have a drinking party at our house … Since I had never up till this point been really drunk I just kept wanting more and more and more, until I realized that I was hanging over a toilet vomiting with such ferocity that some of it was splattering back onto my face … I cannot thank my mother enough. That torment is impressed upon my mind and when I drink now (and ever since) it is never to excess. It took till second or third year university for most of my friends to fully appreciate this lesson.

Realmuzik agrees that teaching kids moderation is key:

Moderation is what must be emphasized in teaching children how to be good eaters and discretionary food consumers. Kids indeed need to be taught that there are reasons why they can't have "junk food" treats at their beck-and-call demand. However, they should be treated as treats/rewards rather than be deprived of them entirely. 

Overseas writes that even their children's doctor is wary of entirely denying kids junk food:

We asked [our pediatrician) about nutrition …  What he found was … the more kids have Nazi parents on food the less they can self-moderate. In fact, studies in preschools show that if good and bad food is placed out for grazing over a period of a month kids will take a balanced diet.

According to Mom1, while it's important to guide your kids towards healthy eating habits,  it's much more important to help them develop good decision-making skills:

I'm into the organic stuff a fair bit now, but I don't plan to ever ban the junk because I have had visiting kids in my home from the exact scenario the writer described, and experienced the same thing! I want my kids to see it as 'no big deal' -- something they know how to manage.

Lady L brings up the point that our obsession with food is unhealthy:

I'm all for healthy eating, and I despair almost daily of my Aspie son's extremely limited palate, but like anything, focusing on whether everything you eat provides perfect nutrition is, well, unhealthy.

DeBear takes the argument a step further, pointing out that over-managing our kids is symptomatic of a larger surveillance culture in the U.S.:

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