How to Navigate “Sometimes” Foods

Moms, we know you’re working hard every day to feed your kids in a way that’s going to keep them healthy and happy. We love that! We also know that life happens, and there may be certain times when your kid wants a food that you know is not the healthiest for them. Whether they see an appealing box of sugary cereal at the grocery store, go to a birthday party that’s serving sweet treats, or want French fries with every meal, balancing less-healthy foods with healthier choices can be tough! But don’t worry, we’re here to help! In this post, we’re giving you all the tips and tricks to help you navigate your child’s requests for what we’re calling “sometimes foods” with feeding them a healthy diet. Believe it or not, both healthy foods and sometimes foods can be part of a healthy diet.  

What is a sometimes food? 

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First things first, it can be really helpful to avoid labeling foods as “good” or “bad.” When we call foods good or bad, it may make a child feel like they are bad for eating “bad” food, or vice versa While it’s important for kids to learn about food and understand what is healthy for them, food is just food, and what you eat doesn’t make you a good or bad. This is why we like to call foods that are less nutritious “sometimes” foods. Think chips, cookies, French fries, soda, sugary cereal, candy, and so forth. These foods are not bad, they just are not foods we eat at every meal, which is why we are calling them sometimes foods, because they are to be enjoyed some of the time!  

Avoid banning foods 

Sometimes foods are just that: food that is eaten sometimes. There’s a reason they’re not called “never” foods! Allowing your child to have a cookie or a serving of potato chips once in a while can help them have a healthier relationship with that food. Studies show that kids who aren’t allowed to have sometimes foods often eat more of it when they have the opportunity, like when they are away from the home. The reality is that kids are going to be exposed to all kinds of foods outside of the home, and we want them to be able to enjoy less nutritious foods in a healthy way- meaning they eat a small portion of it, enjoy it, and move on, rather than overeating or hoarding a food because they rarely have access to it.   

How often is “sometimes”?

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That’s a good question! Ultimately, it’s up to you and your family. Friday night dessert might be your “sometimes,” or perhaps “sometimes” is a special event like a birthday party. What is most important is the way sometimes foods are served, or the structure around sometimes foods. Just like meals, we want food to be enjoyed, rather than a free-for-all. Show your child how to enjoy sometimes foods with a healthy mindset by serving the food on a plate/bowl, and having them sit down with others while they eat it, rather than standing or eating in front of the television. Enjoying sometimes foods with others is a great way to support your child’s relatedness and remember- kids follow the lead of their parents. If they see you mindfully enjoying a serving of a sometimes food, they’re more likely to do the same.  

Talk to kids about food & how they make them feel 

Because sometimes foods have less nutritional value, they’re easier to overeat, because they don’t leave you feeling full or satisfied. That’s why it’s important to talk to your kids about the food they like, and how it makes their bodies feel. For example, if your child asks for chips, you might say, “Chips are okay sometimes, but why don’t we have something that’s going to make you feel a little more full and give you some energy for playing outside later?” Encouraging kids to think about how they feel after a meal or snack is great too- it helps them to recognize when they are full and listen to the cues of their body. When they are in tune with their bodies, kids are better able to self-regulate, meaning they know how much food they need and are not over or undereating.  

 It all comes back to structure and support 

When you give kids a supportive structure around food, they feel safe, secure and willing to learn and explore. By having some structure around sometimes food, like how often it’s consumed and how it is served, you help kids to learn healthy habits around eating sometimes food. By supporting kids to make healthy choices on their own, they get better at feeding themselves a healthy diet and enjoying sometimes foods just as they are meant to be enjoyed- some of the time!  

Do you have any questions about sometimes foods? How do you establish structure in your home around sometimes foods?