How do you convey to relatives, especially grandparents that you don’t appreciate the sweet treats and junk food they feed your kids when they visit? A friend recently emailed me about the frustration she feels when her in-laws bring over loads of sweet treats for the holidays. She is a working mom who tries hard to make sure that her kids eat nutritious food throughout the year. However, all her efforts are put aside at Christmas time when relatives show up with boxes of junk food that the kids can’t resist. This is a common theme I see in my practice as well. Some parents of obese children might be trying hard to change their eating habits, only to feel sabotaged by grandparents who can’t seem to stop the endless supply of junk food. I sometimes suggest that parents bring these grandparents to their follow-up visits so they can hear from me how important good nutrition is.

Here are some things to keep in mind when dealing with relatives who offer junk food to kids:

  1. Food may be their way of showing love.
  2. Bringing junk food and sweets may be be one of the only ways that they know how to relate to your kids.
  3. They may not realize that nutritious food is a priority for you.
  4. They may be out of touch with the statistics of diet-related illness in children.
  5. They may be junk food eaters themselves and may not realize the health implications of a poor diet.
  6.  It may be hard to get rid of the junk food once it gets to your house (and it may hurt their feelings).
Here is a sample letter than you might send or email your relatives BEFORE the holidays.  (Think, preemptive strike!!) This letter can adapted for use before any visit, not just holidays and can even be used for grandparents or relatives who live nearby.

Another idea would be to make a poster to put on the fridge declaring your house a “junk food free zone.” This would be a great project for the kids and could serve as a reminder to relatives who were visiting or stopping by.

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