Here’s the scenario: Your young son or daughter has been invited to a friend’s birthday party. You know this family to some degree and are aware that their eating standards aren’t the same as your family’s.

The party will likely include white-sugar and food-dye cake, chips, pop and candy in the goodie bag, all foods which are standard no-no’s in your own home.

What do you do in this situation?

  1. Remember that birthday parties like this happen only occasionally, you eat well at home 90% of the time, and allow your child to eat freely at the party.
  2. Try to fill your child up on good, whole foods at home, prior to taking them. Remind them on the drive that the foods that will be served aren’t ones that will keep their body healthy, and that while it is ok to accept a piece of cake when offered, they should try to avoid other junk foods if possible, and look for better options (fruit or veggies, crackers and cheese, etc.). (And if you’re with them at the party, this becomes easier to enforce).
  3. Stay at the party with your child and bring along your own snacks. Inform the hosts prior to your coming that your child won’t be partaking of the food offerings, and that you will be bringing them food from home instead. Tell your child that the foods at the party are yucky, and feel free to get into a discussion with the other parents at the party about why your child won’t be eating along with everyone else.

Last week I was reading a book I picked up on sale while on summer vacation, but haven’t gotten around to reading yet. It’s called The Great Physician’s Rx for Children’s Health by Jordan Rubin. I have previously read and enjoyed The Maker’s Diet (it was quite influential for me in my real food journey, actually). I knew that he would have solid information and suggestions, geared towards children’s health in particular.

I was surprised to be so immediately turned off within the first chapters of the book, however, by the “holier than thou” attitude that I perceived in Dr. Rubin’s and his wife’s approach to shielding their young son from the dangers of processed foods. When their 3 year old son was invited to a birthday party, they came prepared with all of their own snacks from home.

He even proudly states at one point that their son has never eaten anything in his entire life that they do not consider to be “real food” (nothing processed or refined, no pasteurized or homogenized dairy products, no commercially raised grain-fed meat, no white sugar or table salt).

I’m not quite sure what world they live in, where they are able to have such complete and utter control over every single thing that ever enters his mouth- has he never been to a relative’s home with different eating habits or to another family’s home for dinner? Have they never been on the road or on vacation and needed to simply eat the best they could with the restaurants and choices that were available?

But I digress… back to the birthday party.

I know this is a hard area to deal with. I don’t like allowing my children to eat processed, refined, toxic foods in the slightest. It makes me cringe, and as their mom, it’s my job and responsibility to steward their health and train them in their eating habits.

Yet, as I’ve said many times before, people matter more than food.

Personally, I would opt for something along the lines of option #2 in the birthday party scenario, sending them with a full tummy and some words of wisdom, yet allowing them to graciously accept something celebratory like a piece of cake to enjoy with their friends. When I accompany them to parties, I encourage them towards the better options that are available, and allow them very limited amounts of the not-so-great options. But that’s just me.

(And I’ll even confess that although I’m usually the mom that makes the “weird” homemade spelt carrot cake with cream cheese icing colored pink with raspberry juice, this year I came down with an awful flu and was completely debilitated the day before my daughter’s 7th birthday. We bought a store cake, for the first time ever. Sometimes, life happens, and my husband and I both felt that it was a priority for our daughter’s party to continue as planned, whether mama was up for baking healthy cakes or not.)

I’m curious (and yes, I know this might spark a heated debate, so let’s just use our big-girl words and keep it polite)…

What would you (or do you) do in this kind of scenario? How do you balance celebrations with others, while still guarding your child’s health and nutrition?

Image by andy_carter