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!

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 07-01-2013 to 07-07-2013

Last updated on March 2nd, 2018 at 04:08 pm

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues who are not on Twitter (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 20 events & stories.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:

Treating kids’ fever properly:
Most caregivers mistakenly believe fever will have harmful effects on children

Easing Your Little One’s Separation Anxiety

Last updated on May 30th, 2017 at 09:55 pm

Leaving our children for any reason (going back to work, etc.) is tough, but when we know they feel insecure it can be heartbreaking. Do know there are solutions you can do now to help ease the pain and help your young child feel more secure in your absence. The key is to slowly start implementing these tips in advance (potentially even several weeks before if you know when you will be leaving). Find what works for your family and then turn the strategy into a goodbye routine. Routines and structure are known quantities to help kids feel more secure.

Step 1. Prepare Your Child For Short Goodbyes

Provide a “lovey”

Give a security blanket, cuddly stuffed animal or some kind of “security substitute” for your baby to use inteddy bear security your absence. It is a way for your toddler to soothe herself when you’re not there. And here is interesting research on the power of those most-loved security objects.

REALITY CHECK: Does your toddler have a comfy? If not, you may want to consider giving her one now to help ease separation anxieties. For over three decades Richard H. Passman, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, has studied children and security objects. His research finds that tots who are more insecure but strongly attached to their beloved blankies, seem to adjust better in stressful situations. Those adored blankies and well-worn teddy bears (or whatever else is your little one has latched onto) really are great security builders, and that’s regardless of just how strong your child is attached to you. But an even more interesting study finding is this, If you had a blankie as a tot, your child is more than likely have one as well. Those comforting memories of our security blankets just never seem to fade.

For a slightly older child, cut a corner of the blanket for her to put into her pocket and carry. It works wonders for kindergarteners who have relied on that blankey but can’t carry it into that classroom. For an older child, try finding a special small object like a pebble or shell (or whatever). The child puts it in his pocket and each time he touches it, tell him you’re thinking about him.

Create secure transitions

Start several weeks before you leave by practicing good-byes with your little one. Start with just saying goodbye when it’s just the two of you. Then just leave a bit to go to the next room and pop back in with a big hello. Your child will begin to realize “Mommy does return.”

Step 2. Gradually Introduce the Child to the Caregiver

Find a caregiver now

Help your child learn to trust the caregiver with the three of you together. Just little doses of getting to know the new giver ahead of time will help when the official goodbye finally comes. The sitter, you and child can do brief little activities together. Your goal is to allow the sitter to slowly have more and more alone time with your child.

Pass on “what works” to your caregiver

You know your child better than anyone. So pass on your child’s special signals to that sitter. What works to soothe your child? What is your child’s sleep, eating and play routine? What comforts your child? If your child speaks or uses sign, translate any words that only you know to your sitter and day-care prover. If you are dropping your child off to the sitter’s home, bring a few of your child’s comfort objects.

Record your voice

Sing your little one’s favorite song or reading Goodnight Moon or Pat the Bunny or other favorite song so the caregiver can play it when you leave. The next time you’re singing with your child just push the record button on that tape recorder. Then leave it with care-sitter or grandma to use. This idea works especially well if you have to leave on a longer trip.

Skyping or calling at a set time can also help. Draw a clock face with the time you will call each night you are away and make sure you call at that set time. Routines help children!

Step 3. Use the “Right Way” to Say Goodbye

Don’t dawdle – or give in!

Your child’s tears and wails can wear you down. But studies find children’s anxiety will actually increase if you draw out your separation or make too big of a deal about your leaving. So be definite about leaving –and no changing your mind. Toddlers, preschoolers and school-age kids alike (and let’s throw teens into the mix!) are smart and will quickly figure out what antics will work, and will pull those next time around to make you stay.

Hold back the tears

Your distress will distress your child. A young child can read your sad concerned emotions and copy them. It’s best to have a cool and confident approach (even if you have to fake it). That look will be easier on your child.

Don’t sneak out!

Doing so only increases your child’s anxiety. Say goodbye and then do leave.

Cuddle, hug and support when you return

What safe looks like

Greet your child when you return. “Mommy’s back!” “It’s Dad! Let’s hug!” Then cuddle. Coo. Tickle. Hug. Play fingerplays. Sing. But if you stick to that same positive send off routine and then your “Parent’s back” return, your child will slowly come to recognize that you are coming back and feel more and more secure in your absence.

If the anxiety continues despite your efforts, please do seek the advice of a mental health provider or your pediatrician. Certain ages are more likely to trigger “separation anxiety” but the angst will gradually wane. Children who have experienced recent trauma or illness are more susceptible to anxiety. Is there something going on at home that could be triggering the concerns? If so, tune in closer to your child and seek counseling if it continues or increases.


Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180

Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research. The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at

Healthy Road-Trip-Friendly Snacks for Kids

Last updated on June 14th, 2019 at 12:50 am

Editors Note: Summer sun and holidays mean family road trips….and lots of challenges finding good-tasting but healthy snacks for your children. Check out these options which can be ordered online or obtained in most locations.

Funley’s Wholly Granolly ClustersRoad trip snacks

Kids will go crazy for the Peanut Butter Pretzel and Double Chocolate flavors, which come in mini clusters — perfect for tiny hands. You’ll love them for what they don’t have: preservatives, trans fat and high fructose corn syrup. (For a savory and healthier alternative, their Cheddar n’ Stuff Super Crackers have broccoli hidden inside.), $4.59

Buddy Fruits Pure Blended Fruit to Go

Fruit cups and applesauce tins aren’t really made for road trips. Enter these all-natural, pure fruit purees in convenient drinkable packages, which make kids eager to eat their produce. Best of all, they don’t need to be refrigerated., $18.98 (pack of 18)

Sensible Foods Crunch Dried Snacks, Tropical Blend

When your kids want something crunchy and sweet, reach for these intensely flavored dried fruit snacks. Filled with a mix of dehydrated apples, pineapples, mangos, and bananas – and nothing else — each .75-ounce pouch offers the equivalent of half a cup of fresh fruit., $17.75 (pack of 12)

EnviroKidz Organic Lemur Peanut Choco Drizzle Crispy Rice Barenvirokids-lemur

Moms, if you’re on the hunt for tasty organic, gluten-free treats that your kids will actually eat, look no farther than EnviroKids Crispy Rice Bars. Think of them as a healthier alternative to candy bars. If you’re going to be in a hot car for awhile, you might want to opt for the melt-free flavors, like berry or peanut butter., $3.99

Frigo Cheese Heads String Cheese

If you’re the type of mom who packs a cooler on road trips, toss in a handful of Frigo Cheese Heads. Kid-friendly and fun, without being too messy, string cheese fills kids up with protein and calcium while on the go.

Walmart (in stores only, price varies)

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 06-24-2013 to 06-30-2013

Last updated on March 2nd, 2018 at 04:09 pm

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues who are not on Twitter (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 15 events & stories.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:

Please: ask if there is a gun where your child plays
Important article…Please Read!

4th of July Strategies for Special Needs Kids

Last updated on September 12th, 2015 at 10:59 pm

July_4th_fireworks - fun from a distanceThe 4th of July is an exciting holiday, but for special needs kids it can all be a bit too much. Think about it: fireworks are basically EXPLOSIONS! Things blowing up can be challenging for someone who is sensitive to loud noises. Also, fireworks can’t happen until nightfall, which may mean staying up late. For typical kids that may be a treat, but some special needs kids find a disruption in daily routine very upsetting. Also, barbecues and parties may bring unfamiliar and even dangerous foods to children on a special diet. Plan ahead, be prepared, and you and your special needs kid can have a great time.

Planning ahead is essential. Pre-pack a bag of comfort items, medications if necessary, and any foods that fit your child’s dietary plan. Many special needs children find that earplugs or noise-reducing headphones help in loud situations.

If you are going to a live fireworks display, consider a vantage point that is a bit farther away. You will encounter smaller crowds and much less noise, while being able to enjoy all the colors and patterns. We found a spot across the freeway from a show and were able to see not only that one but also several other displays in our area, without battling for parking or having to cover anyone’s little ears. Some shows even simulcast a soundtrack on a radio station so check your local listings.

Speaking of local listings, another option is to watch fireworks on television or on Youtube. You might even want to do this in preparation for a live show as part of desensitization (or as theatre folk call it, rehearsal). Rehearsal is a great way to prepare for a big event, and it can be fun, too. Role play a visit to a dentist or hair salon several times with your child, and be sure to switch roles now and then!

The following social story comes from National Autism Resources where you can buy many great tools, toys and other items to help on your journey with your special needs child. You can personalize this story to fit any holiday or situation.

Fireworks Social Story

Every year we celebrate my country’s birthday on the 4th of July. We celebrate the 4th of July with fireworks. Fireworks are a fun way to celebrate.

  • Sometimes fireworks make loud noises and have bright lights. That is OK.
  • If the fireworks get too loud I can cover my ears with my hands or put on my ear muffs.
  • If I don’t want to look at the bright fireworks, I can close my eyes or look away.
  • I can watch the fireworks up in the sky or I can watch fireworks stay on the ground. If the fireworks are on the ground I will not touch them. I will let an adult light the fireworks so that I will be safe.
  • If I am scared, I will hug my mom or dad. Hugging my mom or dad might help me feel safer.
  • After the fireworks end, I will clap. I will be happy that I got to see the fireworks.