Just Because I Feed Them Junk Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Love Them (Right?)

I love cooking almost as much as I love not cooking.

While it’s my pleasure to prepare most of the family meals at home, the first thing I will spend disposable income on is meals out. There’s nothing like being served and being cleaned-up after. I can’t wait to be a ninety-year-old in diapers. Pure heaven.

It’s this level of ‘Where’s the Beef?’ fast-food thinking which perverted a recent ski trip into a guilt trip.

junk-food-kidsMy son began lessons at a local hill this past Sunday morning. We turned it into a family ski day – no small expense, once four lift tickets and the equipment rental for my wife were factored in.

In an effort to put the brakes on our budget’s downhill slide, I hurriedly packed snacks for us all: fishy crackers, rice cakes, half a cheese wheel, a box of crackers, and a Costco-sized container of cashews a friend had given me for my birthday (I’m a bit of a salt nut).

Look, they can go one meal without fruits or veggies, right?

By 11:30am, everyone was starving.

The hill was packed, so we were forced to share our cafeteria table with another family – another mom, dad, and two children similar in age to our own. Surely they would understand when I upended my back-pack of snacks and other food containing enough preservatives to survive a shuttle voyage. Parents of young kids are busy, and tired, and are rushed getting their kids to a 9am ski lesson. No time to start packing lunches. I mean, it’s not a school day. We get a break, right? Non-perishable, disposable goodies were invented for days such as these.

They began to unbuckle a fairly massive Tupperware container from underneath our shared table. I left them to their work as I went to search for…more food. I mean, budget aside, I had packed a plethora of snacks, but nothing which would constitute a real meal, even my wife recognized that.

By the time I returned to our lunch spot with two trays supporting 5 hot dogs, two poutines, 4 hot chocolates, and a diet Pepsi (in a pear treeeee), our familial counterparts had emptied their meals neatly onto their half of the table…

…Their children began with a chicken salad. Not the mayo-filled, processed stuff I bring home from the deli, but a neat bed of romaine, drizzled just slightly with a light dressing, topped with home-roasted white breast.
When (and only when) they had polished off the salad appetizer, the children were each handed a short stack of carrot sticks. Not the baby-cut ones I buy in bulk and scoop unwashed out of their resealable plastic bag, but rather the hand-cut, hand peeled, hand washed variety…probably imported from their Brazilian cousin’s veggie farm he’s bringing to maturity just in time for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

Did I mention the side of hummus dip?

My kids weren’t even taking notice, they were too busy pulling poutine cheese strings out of their ski-pant suspenders…

My lunch, and additional $42; theirs, $0. Numbers reminiscent of our respective cholesterol ratios.

Their healthy meal was causing my guilt began to grow as quickly as my heavy lunch was causing my consciousness to fade. Surely their children could not continue through an afternoon on the slopes on this low-cal diet?!

How do they survive?? I was convinced their eldest, who appeared to be no more than 8-years-old, was probably really a nutritionally-stunted 27.

Finally, after all (and I mean all) the carrot sticks had been happily devoured, the health-parents reached into their bag for dessert. I became excited with possible vindication as I recognized the familiar sound of pre-packaged cellophane…yes, it was true…they were about to reveal a processed food!

Nope. All natural, health-food store brand, nuts-and-grains-only granola bars.

I didn’t even know those bars came without marshmallows.

They had all the food groups covered.

I had food groups covered as well: saturated fat, sugar, preservatives and MSG.

Yeah? Well I’ll bet, I told myself, I love my kids more than they do.

But, if that were true, why did I seem to spend my lunch time telling my kids to sit down, to stop playing with their food and eat, while the health-family’s kids seemed quiet and well-mannered, allowing the adults to talk amongst themselves?

I was the poutine parent, they were the carrot parent. All that was left was for me to acknowledge their victory:

“Excuse me.” I said “I have to say I’m really impressed with how well you feed your family, and how receptive they are to such a healthy meal. I’m feeling a little guilty. Just so you know, we were rushed this morning, and I didn’t have time to pack properly. Usually we always insist on a good portion of fruits and veggies with every meal, I’m going to make up for it with a healthy supper, for sure”

Even in victory, he was gallant: “It’s funny you should say that. Our kids were telling us how jealous they were of your family’s meal.”

I laughed and he laughed and I looked at his kids and told them what great parents they had and how they were going to grow up to be tall and strong and healthy. Secretly, of course, I was praying for an explicable numbers of cavities to show up under their next molar scan.

We were all collecting our belongings – them replacing their geometric Tupperware back into its larger geometric mother; us throwing our Styrofoam and plastic refuse into the waste basket – when my salvation showed up.

“See? Grandma’s here.” My counterpart announced. “It’s not always health food.”

He motioned as their grandma handed over a package of Skittles and a Hershey bar to the kids.

“Oh! I feel so much better.” I chortled.

Little did they know that my kids’ grandparents were coming over for supper that night. The poutine and hot dogs had better hurry up and digest. Hosting grandparents for supper was a special occasion. If they don’t clear their system of lunch soon enough, they won’t have room for the apple pie defrosting on the stove at home.

Should of at least made a carrot cake.

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Kenny Bodanis

Kenny Bodanis is an award-winning blogger and radio & television parenting columnist. His book "Men Get Pregnant, Too (despite never pushing a watermelon through a pigeonhole)" is available through Amazon, iTunes and all major online outlets.


  1. Lyn-Anne says

    Hi Kenny,

    I’m the mom who was sharing your table at the ski hill- the one who made chicken salad for lunch. When I was reading your blog, I laughed so hard. Very funny!!

    • says

      Hi Lyn-Anne!

      I was thinking I should have asked you for your email address to send you the link, but I figured I had been chatty enough. I freak strangers out sometimes by talking too much:)
      I’m really glad you read it, and I look forwward to meeting again! (I’m carrying around sacks of broccoli just in case).

  2. says

    What a great laugh….food and kids have to be what parents spend the most time fussing over. I totally hear ya on this one. With 11 kids that were always hungry – easy and maybe nutritious was all for me! Now they’re all grown up and they can be 100% nutritious if they want! Ha!

  3. says

    What a fun and truthful post! I enjoyed reading it. My kids are all grown now, but as they were growing up we traveled a lot for my husband’s job. Lots of hours in the car. We ate a lot of goldfish, jerky, Pringles and Chex Mix. It all travels easy. Also, lots of fast food for meals. I feel a little bad about that now, but at least we were together, having a great time and creating memories.

    • says

      We used to go from long trips to visit my cousins in another province. Everytime I saw a sign advertising a McDonald’s at the next exit, I would attempt to lure my parents off the road with an ‘I’M HUNGRY!’. My mother always reached into the little plastic bag at her feet and offered me a peach….ugh.

    • says

      Thanks! Observing each other is really what we all do isn’t it? Sometimes to much…(your kid is READING???? Mine isn’t…I’m a horrible parent!)

  4. says

    I can so relate! Especially when packing snacks for a day out–who has time to put together salads and all that? I’m lucky if I can get PBJ’s and sliced cucumbers together–and if I do, I feel like an alpha mom. Great post!

  5. says

    absolutely loved this.. I was just like you and my 4 kids never had the most healthy meals and snacks but they are all grown up from 30 down to 25 and guess what.. all happy, healthy and turned out just fine.. so no guilts! Thanks for a great article!!

    • says

      Thanks, Carol! Same here. I remember having tons of chocolate chip ice cream (onto which I would sprinkle chocolate milk powder and corn syrup!). Now, I really no longer have a sweet tooth (and have just recently promised myself to cut down seriously on my chip consumption!)

  6. says

    You know it’s bad when kids look in the beef stew and say, “What the heck is THAT,” while pointing to a vegetable. We need like remedial vegetology lessons or something.

  7. says

    I love this post. We eat out a minimum of once a week. I do try to stick to healthy options when I can but when eating out healthy is EXPENSIVE, which is sad. I ate fast food as a kid growing up and I turned out just fine. I believe that everything in moderation is okay. When your out shopping and the kids are starving, you don’t stop your trip and go home. You go to the food court and feed them. Life happens!

  8. says

    What a great story! My mom has before said that she wishes we had eaten healthier when my twin sister and I were little. But with 2 parents working full-time and living during the era of novelty snacks, convenience was grabbing some Gushers or a burger on our way to whatever school program twin and I had.

    As I have gotten older, I realize now that I can balance between the line of delicious goodies and healthy food. And when I have children, I will do the same.

    It seems that every parent can sympathize with taste buds craving junk food and wanting your family to eat healthy foods. Damn those taste buds!

  9. says

    lol your title is awesome! Loved reading this post! I think its impossible to resist kids when they beg for junk food and candy. Its probably good I don’t have kids. I don’t think I could ever tell them no. lol

  10. Jennifer Brown says

    Very funny. Enjoyed reading.
    My kids played football, our house quantity over quality for many years.
    Sad but true.

    • says

      Ahhh…yes, bribery! I admit, I get lazy sometimes. I try to combine health and fun. Last night (when I was alone with them for supper) I gave spaghetti (a guaranteed favorite), but with an artichoke and oil/balsamic vinegar dip on the side. My daughter loved it, my son, not so much. But the fact that it was a dippy finger food encouraged them to try it and get messy. (I now have a bloated stomach from polishing off all that leftover artichoke.

    • says

      It’s great to be vindicated by gramma, until it’s YOUR kids gramma…then you think she’s ruining their health fro life….we parents are crazy.

  11. says

    What a well written post! Loved the story. It’s funny how you both thought that you each side of the table thought that they had it better. Sometimes convenience trumps healthy and vice versa. No matter what it’s all about moderation.

  12. says

    Such great writing! Super funny and so real. I am bad at taking the easy route because there is no time to be making my own carrot sticks. I guess we find a balance but it doesnt always ease the guilt.

    • says

      If there were a pill for easing guilt, my kids wouldn’t live past the age of 15. It’d be 3 poutines a day for them, and three pills daily for me!

  13. says

    I loved reading this post! Your writing is so fun and refreshing to read. I don’t have kids yet, but I was still funny reading this story! I always to eat healthy just because I like the food choices :)

    The Tiny Professional

  14. says

    Eating healthy, balanced diet is very important but sometimes it’s very hard to do that. I always keep gold fish and some other munchies handy that way we don’t starve.
    Great blog!!!

  15. says

    You are an excellent writer, its a great story to read, despite your guilt about not having a healthy lunch or dinner. I think many more parents have these issues too. I do.

  16. says

    It shows that you love them becasue you took them to their ski lessons when you didnt have to do anything for them. Keep doing what your doing.

  17. says

    I mix healthy and fast food. I think it’s important to get the nutrients and eat healthy, without all the added chemicals. But children do deserve occational unhealthy snack. To me it’s all about the proportions. Which proportion is bigger, the healthy one of the unhealthy one.

  18. says

    We all have been guilty of that & honestly as much as I try to feed my kids healthy & balance diet sometimes on the hill they just want the poutine & smokie even if I have healthy snacks in the bag. The way I see it they work hard all day skiing & the little indulgence is perfectly fine.

  19. says

    Its all about balance, if this were every day, I would have to pull you aside and say “dude, not cool.” BUT from what you say, its not an every meal thing, and part of childhood, IMHO (and sane parenting, if you want to get nitpicked) is letting go here and there, I mean- I WISH I could get a serving of poutine every now and again, but living in the lower 48 makes that impossible, so I would respond this time by saying, “dude, I am jealous of your kids!!!”

    • says

      You live where there is NO POUTINE?? Don’t you have a congressperson who should be getting on that, like, asap?? I would threaten to revoke my citizenship.

  20. says

    Your convo with the other parent made my day! Lol

    “It’s funny you should say that. Our kids were telling us how jealous they were of your family’s meal.”

    It’s okay to have a not so healthy foods sometimes, shouldn’t be a big deal at all as long as it’s not everyday right?


  21. says

    I wouldn’t stress it too much really. I mean you know you love your kids, even if they get unhealthy food here and there. They sound like healthy active children, so count that as a blessing right? 😉 I try not to worry too much about what’s being fed with other families around me. Though I will admit to feeling a little heart broken (and upset) when I see an obese young child eating their own bag of cheetos while drinking from their own personal 2 liter of soda at the beach in the summer!

  22. says

    No i don’t agree, if you love you must demonstrate in your act. Your reasons for serving junk food may be good to you but not to most parents, junk is junk not so much healthy. Oh but if once in a while it’s ok, after all taste buds need change!

  23. says

    we all have days like that–I think the biggest thing is to watch that it doesn’t happen daily. THAT’s where the trouble begins– Although I did just see a study where a man ate only McD’s for 3 months and lost 37 pounds…he did exercise regularly and counted his caloric intake.
    I do LOVE that Grandma came with skittles after LOL

    • says

      Gotta watch those studies, though. (I know, I’m getting too heady here), weight loss is not an indicator of health. TOO much of that food will skyrocket your blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.
      We try to encourage grandparents to not reward kids with sweets…so now they show up with arts and crafts and office supplies for the kids. Our house is starting to look like Staples.

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