How to Talk to Children About Addictive Foods

In this week’s vlog, I discuss my approach to encouraging a healthy relationship with food in our children.


  1. Thank You

    This is really hard, in how one talks to kids about nutrition. Like Susan said, on one hand; we want to inform our kids. On the other hand, informing might create issues around food inadvertently. Would error with giving some information as they ask about nutrition and let them figure things out over time.

    In the end nobody can control someone else, whether young or old. Eventually they will do as they please. Keeping ones mouth shut is usually what is needed. Hopefully ones example will lead to change in others. Let them come to you, do not force anything.

    Keep doing a great job,
    Thank You

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  2. Laurie Barshay

    Such a heartfelt and thoughtful response to talking with kids. When you come to your answers from a place of truth, things become right-sized.

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  3. Pam

    Great information! I don’t have children, but these concepts apply very well to the pain of watching friends and relatives go down addictive and disease-causing foods paths, too. One can say very little to them, and similarly has no control over anything but our own inner feelings about it.

    Another great food film to watch is called “That Sugar Film.”

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  4. Oonagh

    I loved your video about how we talk to our children. The part that resonated with me most was the refining of character through tests and how that is a necessary part of life. Our children and us have gems within us to discover and reveal and test are the process of exposing them. Thank you for articulating it so beautifully.

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  5. CUSai

    Great VLogs & Wonderful Information.

    Thank you.

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  6. Jennifer Thomas

    Wow, first of all THANK YOU both to the person who asked this question and to Susan for answering it. This has been the bain of my existence lately. I have a 7 yr old, a 5 yr old, and a 1 yr old. I’ve noticed lately that my eldest has been showing some signs of junk-food addiction. I recognize it very clearly because I see myself in him. When I was 11 my parents started worrying about my own sugar addictions and though their intentions were good (they simply wanted me to be healthy), the way that they went about it was very destructive to my psyche. And later in my teens and 20’s, I developed an eating disorder and major self image problems. It actually took me until my mid-20’s to figure out that it all stemmed from this childhood monitoring of my food, the comments, the way I was made to feel that I would only deserve to be loved if I were thin. Don’t misunderstand, I love my parents and they truly are wonderful – BUT they just went about it the wrong way.

    So I have my own set of fears as I’m now raising my own children of not wanting to repeat the same mistakes. I never talk about my body negatively in front of them, I never talk about dieting or losing weight, I never comment on someone because of their weight, etc. BUT now as I see my oldest pretty much eating way too much, putting on some extra weight (it’s not critical yet, but I can see it), refusing to eat anything healthy, etc I see red flags. Things I have done is sat my kids down and given them lessons about healthy eating, we’ve talked about sugar and why it is not good for our bodies as well. I have also taken the time to explain to them why I am not eating sugar (again I don’t mention weightloss, but I always defer to “Mommy is trying to be healthier”). I am making small changes in our household slowly. We recently stopped buying all sugar cereals (we used to have them just for the kids), and now they have either Life or Cheerios because they are 5 grams or less. I also have started making all homemade after-school snacks for them so we’ve gotten rid of sugar-ridden processed foods. I also don’t buy them juiceboxes for their school lunches anymore, but instead they get milk. And we also have not baked anything since I started BLE, honestly because for one it’s too much of a temptation for me to have in the house and also because I’ve realized my kids don’t NEED it.

    But this vlog was so incredibly helpful – just from the standpoint that you really can go too far into it if you’re not careful and do some damage (like I dealt with). But you also don’t want to ignore it or your children won’t learn healthy habits. I think the BEST thing is to simply live by example. A good friend of mine recently told me that when your tastebuds are used to eating sugar, it takes anywhere from 3 to 7 times of eating non-sugar food for the pallette to readjust. And so I have been trying to remember with my kids that they might not like the lower sugar options at first, but if they keep trying it their tastebuds will eventually adjust. 🙂

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  7. Margaret

    Susan, thank you so much for the spiritual wisdom you shared in this vlog, which extends far beyond the current discussion. I actually wrote it down to keep handy as I journey with my three young adult children. Here’s what you shared: “Our kids’ tests and difficulties are tailor-made for them, for their spiritual growth, and if we were wise we wouldn’t want to shield them from their challenges anyway because it’s the work that they need to do in this life to become the human beings they have to become….Achieving some amount of acceptance about whatever form these struggles are likely to take is your job as a mom.”

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  8. Madalyn

    My son is 16 and has struggled with his weight for several years. A lot of it is emotional eating and he is significantly overweight. We tried WW, Nutritionist and everything under the son. I too struggled with my weight until I found BLE. I have released 22 lbs and have cleared the house of most flour and sugar based foods.

    In early January my son said he wanted to become healthier. He made up a contract, found an app and is counting calories. He weighs and measures his food. He hasn’t gone the way of no flour and sugar but he keeps it to a minimum. Why did it work this time? Because I let go. I stopped encouraging him to be on a program. I stopped nagging him about his foods. He was just ready. He’s released 10 lbs in a month and is on a wonderful road to living happy, thin and free. Perhaps the example of BLE was the impetus? Whatever it is, he is feeling better about himself and I’m very proud of him.

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  9. Katrina

    I can think of two families who have been an inspiration to me concerning this subject. Years ago, back in the 80s, I use to workout frequently at Elaine Powers. There was a women who worked out at the same time I usually did, and she mentioned that her family did not eat desserts. This was not just her immediate family, it was also her extended family. The comment came up around Thanksgiving time. She said she would make pies because it was Thanksgiving but no one would eat them and they would go to waste.

    Another family was from my church. The children were taught at very young age not to consume sugar. If someone would offer a treat to them they would simply say “I can’t have sugar”. I might add they were the happiest and we’ll mannered children you’d ever want to meet.

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  10. Alana

    Susan, I love your brief and very excellent blog videos! Keep up the great work!
    You are affecting a great number of desperate folks who are actually changing before my eyes!
    When my son was little, I often took him shopping with me. He partially learned to read (yes, very young) by reading labels with me. I explained to him that if he did not recognize an ingredient, it was NOT food, WAS poison. We talked about how an apple/carrot/broccoli was a REAL food, we could identify it, completely consumable, and would give him energy and well being. Like putting gas in the car. You cannot put in coca cola and expect it to take you anywhere.
    The ingredients on a packaged food should only be maybe 3 or 4 ingredients and all recognized as food. All the rest is garbage! Sugar should come in natural foods like fruits, not in white sand! White sand can make you crazy and ugly, and sick. Tastes good, but will kill you. All truth! and he believed it. Now at 26 he eats almost NO sugary things, is a fitness and wellness geek, successful in his career, and hangs with friends who also embrace these values. I don’t think you can start too soon to explain these very important principles of eating. Children embrace for life what they learn young. Blessings of wellness! Alana, CNC, CCT. retired

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  11. Eleanor Bowen

    Dear Susan,
    Thank you for being brave and loving enough to put your thoughts out there from where you are, rather than waiting until you are sure they are perfect advice. I found this very helpful and thought provoking…also, coming at a time when the subject(s) discussed are taking place in our family life.
    Thanks, again.

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  12. Dorothy

    Since high school, in the 70’s, I was drawn to health food movement and health food stores. I didn’t understand nutrition, but the idea of eating healthy food spoke to me (although I never hesitated to eat McDonalds apple pie!). Fast forward to life after raising 3 kids, the youngest now 26. We decided to clear some of our land and grow some of our own food, without pesticides and now, no GMO’s. Five years ago, my youngest, who was in college at the time, introduced us to Forks Over Knives. All of us are on board about the worth of whole, healthier food vs. the processed junk, but it’s not easy to incorporate this into a family. I loved what you said Susan about each person needing to make personal choices and learn from this. My youngest celebrated his birthday by eating 1 quart of his favorite ice cream. Two days later he came down with a bad cold that has kept him home from work and from playing soccer. I connected the pieces in a conversation. I told him that in the past, every holiday I would get sick after eating sweets for days. It lowers the immune system. For years, in his head he agrees sugar is unhealthy, but until it really affected his activities, it didn’t stop him from eating it.

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  13. JD

    Susan, I thought this was a very good blog. My 2 children are grown but I hear about what is available in our school system. For a number of years there were soda machines in our school. Fortunately they have been removed now. These types of things are obviously not helpful to parents trying to get their children ingrained with good habits. Seems the younger the child is when you present your eating habits as good habits the more curious they are about them and the more they ask questions. As they get older and start school they only want to be part of the pack so to speak and they aren’t as curious about what is happening at home as they spend a larger portion of time away from the nucleus of family. Therefore to fit in they emulate what their friends are into. If the child is lucky enough to have a parent that is eating healthy and sharing why it is good for the body before they are school age then maybe those enlightened children can be the ones to be emulated because their peers will naturally ask why they are eating veggies and protein and not having chips and cookies. Kids as we all know when they are in K-4 are about the most inquisitive little monkeys about those around them.

    Keep up the wonderful work you are doing. And the opening of this vlog seemed a lot less ho hum than the others 🙂

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  14. Jessica

    Just wanted to add my funny story–my 5 year old son watched Forks Over Knives with us and really has engrained in him that milk is not good. He usually chooses water over milk at dinner. But when the Dairyman Council comes to visit the school and talk about how good milk is, you can imagine how hard it is for him to listen to such conflicting information! He even had a pretty good argument with a classmate about it. I forgot to equip him with ‘shut up’ skills….I don’t think any age is too young to give knowledge!

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  15. Shannon

    Great vlog! I feel the pain of parenting a child with the SAD everywhere, and my child is very aware of fast food places (they are flashy and fun looking places) as well as all the colorful looking junk food that’s around wherever we go. Even though we eat real food in our home, at age 8 my child is already pushing for sugar and processed foods all the time and it does feel like torture. I do exercise my right to say no to certain things, and I’m also very sensitive to my child’s need to engage in her world, understand what the world has to offer (even if I don’t like it) and let her explore without too much control.

    The two keys I keep coming back to are how I model my own choices of food, and developmental appropriate communication. Since my child was 5 or 6 and started becoming aware of what was available outside our home, I have explained to her that those things she is seeing are not real food and do not in fact feed her growing body. I have said that while sugary treats may make us feel happy and want more and more, it does not actually provide food to our bones, muscles, brain, etc. She seems to understand this. And now that she’s 8, I can say no to her request for Doritos by mentioning that it’s a snack that won’t give her any nutrition or fuel, which is what her body is requesting with she’s hungry. But that doesn’t end the struggle or stop her from wanting to eat those things, and sometimes she gets them (usually through other people, which I prefer so that it doesn’t come from me).

    It’s a hard road to walk for sure! Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing more harm than good by standing my ground for healthy food in my child’s life while she little and growing and I’m the aware adult responsible for her well being. I can only hope for the best outcome. And I love what you said Susan, about the spiritual outlook here… we ultimately are not in control of their lives and the struggles they are here to work with. So doing my best to be engaged with the struggle and staying connected to my child is the best I can do, and then I have to let it go!

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  16. Karen

    This was a great question! I’m so happy to not have children. This is such a tough subject and I don’t envy you parents! Parenting, in general, seems like a difficult endeavor. I’m sure that this aspect of life is no different. Especially when their friends may be gobbling down fast food or other convenience foods. All the best to you moms and dads out there!

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  17. calle


    Drugs are drugs. Sugar is a drug, and having an over all plan and protocol is so needed.
    Buying a car, a house a school wardrobe is all needed.
    So why not do research on foods, chemicals, life skills needs to start pre-pregnancy.

    Better early than late!
    Allowing our kids to go out into the world without the knowledge and armor to protect them is a horror.
    My parents raised us healthy and there was not any wiggle room. They knew best and they built in healthy lifestyles from day one.

    Just say “no”.
    Put together your own “unit studies” on foods, chemicals, body systems. Would you put sugar into your gas tank? No
    We have found that today after using stevia and raw honey, that bakery sugar ladened products taste so bad.
    Just do it, make a plan and start.
    Blessings and success. It is a journey not a destination.

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    1. Sarah Wells

      Hi Susan,
      I have twin boys who eat no sugar, refined grains, and other processed food. I have talked to them honestly from the very beginning at the level they could understand, never to scare but just to be honest. I want them to see the truth out there about the consumption of junk and how harmful it is to our society and to them personally.
      I did not expect the results of this at all… I fully expected I would have battles with them, but in truth it just doesn’t happen. We changed our eating around digestive and health issues and the side effect is that they don’t eat the addictive foods and therefore don’t care about them. They aren’t technically allergic so that is not the reason. They enjoy their fruit, nuts and coconut as snacks ; they know how to make their own cookies and deserts if they want them with a little stevia or fruit, but rarely bother to do this as of late. They love love love their food! They eat lots and lots of vegetable, we buy only the best meat and fish and they have legumes on a daily basis, and often some quinoi, along with fruit at breakfast and snacks.
      When they are at school, they always have their own food and at birthday parties we have been bringing our own special treat for about 7-8 years with success. It is very interesting that it is usually me who is most stressed about this – in terms of them being different in front of others – but they really don’t seem to care… it has become normal.
      At school when there are treats around, they just don’t take any – I don’t have to control this at all. They live by a kind of family code that they firmly understand and believe in. I ask them now and then, how they are managing this, and they say it is fine, they are not having a problem resisting.
      I have to admit the way this has all worked out has amazed me, it was really accidental.
      I teach yoga/meditation and nutrition and also teach students with special needs – I see what is happening in the school everyday around food- it is very very sad!
      I also trust that as my boys get older, there will be choices they make I may not like, I have done the best I can, and every step forward will do the same.
      What I see now as they prepare their own food for breakfast and snacks is a conscious attempt to create both pleasurable and healthy food. I am also aware not to make them “crazy”about this!
      When we travel and visit family we all acknowledge some bending of the rules around not getting organic food for eg. but we don’t bend around gluten, sugar and processed food with chemicals.

      Your teachings are perfectly demonstrated in us all, when you don’t surround yourself with these foods at home or most of the time and get over the addictive phase, it really works!
      I have seen some addiction around chocolate for eg. (still no sugar) but they acknowledge how this plays out as a frequent desire for more, so it goes somewhere out of reach so it is not in front of us.
      As I go into a different time in life with hormonal changes, my challenge is managing the desire to overeat “healthy foods” that surround me because I want them available for my boys – like roasted cashews 🙂 I have learned if I don’t eat any even when they are around, I am soooo much stronger – it is sooo much easier and I don’t always get it right!
      I know this is long! I think we are unique in our situation but I often want to shout it out to parents, you can do this! It is easier if you get it started early. We did have to back peddle from “health food store treats” around the age of 5 – they had developed a love for certain things, but it does fade!

      I would love to know if you are reading the messages, I would understand time restraint to reply.

      Thanks for all your amazing work! My boys usually hear your vlog along with many other audio teachings in the area of health and spirituality, I am not their only teacher! I believe you are included in the various teachings that strengthen them; you likely have no idea how far your message is reaching! Yes even to the children.


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      1. Trissa

        What you shared is so valuable, Sarah. Thank you so much!!!!

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  18. estherpearlman

    Hi Susan, I was a macrobiotic person for 20 years. It is rice, beans, seaweed, vegetables. No milk or meat. I now try to eat meat, no diary, trying not to eat glutton. When my husband would take the children for ice cream. I would sit in the car waiting for them. I was very careful not to eat any sugar. My husband eats sugar all day long still. Sometimes I eat with him sugar, don’t feel that good after. Fill kind of doppy and sluggish. I like to feel that we are doing something together, enjoying something. Our children who are grown now, are different. One loves bad food, is diabetic. Another mixes it up and eats good and bad food. My youngest, husband has a glutton problem. She cooks for him. But she has gained weight, a lot of the food is loaded with sugar. What do you think of the glutton products that are in the market? Thanks for all of your information. It is very informative. Esther

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  19. Stacey

    I think your absolutely right about attempting to keep it light hearted when speaking to a young audience. I actually think 9 years old isn’t too young to see some of those movies. In defense of food was on pbs and my 6 year old daughter watched it with me. She had lots of questions, and even at one point said: mama, the food at school isn’t very healthy. Can you give me more healthy foods to take with me” (!!!)
    I would encourage any one to just be light hearted and flexible and to lead by example. I love how Michael Pollan says: do everything in moderation…. Even moderation. 😉
    Great vlog, great way to start this conversation. I look look forward to hear what others think.

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  20. Linda Taylor

    Susan, that was an incredibly great vlog. I continue to be impressed and amazed at your ability to articulate the concepts and to be real about this particularly difficult topic which is fraught with potential sinkholes for parents. Thank you so much.

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  21. Carol Willis

    If kids are brought up to learn to like all kinds of good foods and tastes, they gradually develop a mature and diverse adult palate, and the occasional party treat is not going to be an issue. A focus on inclusion and abundance vs. exclusion and deprivation. They need access to good snacks that they like, such as fruit, raw nuts, hummus, for example. This is important not only at school, but also and especially when they get home from school. Getting adequate protein, fats, and vitamins-minerals are important to minimize the risk of developing a “sweet tooth” and other skewed food preferences.

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  22. Lydia

    I just had this conversation with my two youngest children this morning (9 & 11). They are allowed to bring a snack to school and wanted to bring food with no sugar. This proved harder than they thought. They examined the honey roasted peanuts (5 different sugars!), the juice boxes, the trail mix, the granola bars, the fruit snacks (all “healthy” snacks that my partner stocks for sporting-events and the teenagers). In the end, they packed a hard-boiled egg, a whole apple, 2 carrots, and peanuts that they shelled themselves. They were so proud of their snack bags. We had a wonderful time, and it was definitely a learning experience, tailored for their level. But I think they would actually very much enjoy a simple explanation of the insulin/leptin connection to hunger. Their school has tried to make some healthy changes in the lunch program–and they are very tuned in to this. It will be nice when they are older and can watch some of the videos you mentioned, but it would also be wonderful to have materials written for this age group–I find that they definitely have the interest. My daughter said–but what about the scale, Mom? Shouldn’t we be weighing things. I chose to explain that I weighed my food in part to make sure I get ENOUGH vegetables! That one of the secrets to not eating sugar, was to eat lots and lots of vegetables. I think they would like to use the scale this way–it would be fun and positive. Lastly, I have this little display with 6 vials showing whole wheat berries, the wheat germ that is removed, the middlings that are removed, the oil that is removed, the wheat bran that is removed, and the white flour that is left. Visuals like this are very compelling and they spent quite a bit of time examining this display. Thanks for everything you do, Susan! I think our young children are definitely on board for being part of the food revolution.

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