Food Peer Pressure and Your Family: Helpful Strategies

Last updated on August 29th, 2015 at 10:32 pm

I’ve been conducting my very own, very unofficial behavioral eating lab here at the house now that it’s summer. And it all started with a question from my 8 year old, Hannah…

Food peer pressure“Mommy, why don’t you buy those super processed, full of additives already- put-together lunches of meat, cheese and crackers?” (OK, so she didn’t say that, but I can’t say the brand, so you guess). Me: “Um, I like to make things for your lunch that is closer to the way God made them and those are not.” Hannah: “Well, all my friends have them and I feel like I am the only one that doesn’t get to eat them.” (Moment of silence while I was thinking about the best way to handle this situation.) Me: “How about we make our own, one-of-a-kind lunch kit? We can do some meat, cheese and crackers, and even add some more good stuff to the mix. It will be fun!” Hannah: “OK, but can you make it look like the super-processed, full of additives already put together lunch (again, she said the brand name)?” Me: “OK!”

I know I am not a mom on a deserted island here. There are several families out there that are health-minded, committed to focusing on whole foods that have to deal with this type of scenario. And unfortunately, other well-educated, well-intentioned parents are breaking down and choosing these lunch kits for convenience, but some even get them because of – well, let’s call it was it is – it’s food peer pressure. Kids don’t want to feel like they are left out and parents will save them from feeling that way at all costs. I get that. But think of these types of situations as teaching opportunities for our children. Just like anything in life, we need to resist the tendency to go with the flow just because so many others are doing something. I see children as young as Hannah’s age getting smartphones! Just because our family may be able to afford getting her a smartphone, doesn’t mean we will do it. We need to stick with our principles in parenting. This is no different. It’s not always the easier road, but it’s the right road.

Kids are not the only ones that are affected by food peer pressure. My husband has been the brunt of male co-worker jokes for eating healthy at a past employer. They were all overweight and out of shape; and they ate what they thought was considered “men food” (greasy, high fat foods). Luckily, Jeff didn’t care what they thought. Now he works somewhere that has a much healthier environment. They don’t commune for high fat group lunches, and there is a great gym that he goes and works out at regularly at lunch time. What influences do you encounter at home or work, or even lunch with friends? Are you undergoing positive or negative peer pressure when it comes to healthy eating?

Positive Food Peer Pressure

Back to my in-home behavioral eating lab. Studies and experts say that kids eat healthier when they eat with their friends. I have been studying it for myself. There have indeed been many occasions where peer pressure has helped the group of kids eat better. One time we were at our neighbor’s house having dinner and I was bragging to my neighbors about how Evan loves broccoli. His friend overheard me bragging on him, and he said, “I love broccoli, too!”  The other kids chimed in one by one and said that they, too, loved broccoli. It resulted in a competition of who could eat more broccoli at dinner.

Today, another situation occurred that reminded me I needed to make this blog post. We had one of Hannah’s friends over for lunch and I presented a super colorful plate of raw vegetables in the center of the table along with some low-fat dip. I said, “Hmm…I’m trying to figure out who likes super power foods more?” All the kids chimed in, “Me!” “Me!” “Me!” And they proceeded to devour the entire plate of veggies. As they ate, I explained how they were making their bodies super strong and smart. That seemed to encourage them more. Hannah’s friend asked for more grape tomatoes so I had to refill the supply!

So you can use food peer pressure to your advantage. Stay strong and encouraged to choose whole foods that can also be convenient and quick to prepare like the pre-packaged stuff. Set a positive peer example for the sake of your children, family and friends!

About the Author

Angela Lemond, RD, CSP, LD is a mother of two precious children. She also is a devoted wife, entrepreneur and a woman striving to live the healthy life. As a Registered and Licensed Dietitian that is Board Certified as a Specialist in Pediatrics, she knows that knowledge is one thing....living it out is another! Angela shares her tips for mothers and families on www.lemondnutrition.com/blog. Follow her as she learns the tricks of the trade combining knowledge with living it out.

Comments

5 Responses to “Food Peer Pressure and Your Family: Helpful Strategies”

  1. My husband does all right at work because I send him in with leftovers and I typically cook a healthy dinner but I have the hardest time with lunches. My boys only want to eat chips or peanut butter and I don’t think we’re allowed to send peanut butter into school so chips it usually is. I’m going to have to figure something out for this school year.

  2. Julie,
    Here’s some ideas to get you started: http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6748&terms=lunch%20ideas

    Check out kidseatright.org and eatright.org for more practical tips!

  3. Rogue says:

    Here is a great site with kid’s lunch ideas for this very issue:

    http://cookiecutterlunch.blogspot.com/

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