How does it balance out?

When children choose their foods, they will choose things you didn't expect!

Everything I've read about has really happened. The first couple of days, my youngest ate nothing but Twinkies and Spider-Man snacks. Then, amazingly enough, he got up the next morning and asked me for grapes for breakfast. You could have knocked me over with a feather! It truly didn't seem possible until I experienced it for myself.

Whimsigal/Evie, at Unschooling.Info/forum (when it was there)

Jessica Hughes wrote:

My older children were 9 and 12 when I let go of food restrictions. A few weeks back there was a post similar to yours and I shared a photo of a gallon sized Baggie still ⅔ full of chocolate chip cookies that had been around over a week, in a place where everyone who got anything from the kitchen passed it, in a house where anyone could have eaten the whole bag if they so chose. Three weeks later I threw it out with still probably half the bag full. Boxes of cupcakes sit uneaten for weeks sometimes and when I say I'm grocery shopping and ask for requests I'm more likely to get the sort shown here from my 16 year old than candy or cakes or what have you.

But right now, it's much more important to live in the moment with your kids, absorb information about who they are and what they like, and present options with joy and free of fear, than to focus on what this will look like when they're grown, or next year, or even next week. Fear and worry transmit to them. It helped me to remind myself when they were choosing lots and lots of sweets or cakes and I was still afraid it would harm them physically (it never did), that a belly ache is far easier to mend than broken trust.

—Jessica Hughes, August 2016

Sarah Dickinson wrote, in January 2016:

There is often a lot of talk about 'balance' when what the person means is a finger on the scales to influence decisions in the 'right' direction. Real balance is when the persons own body tells them that something is needed to restore wellbeing- physical or emotional. A person cannot correct for imbalance if there is a too much of the 'finger on the scales' because their assessment of what is needed is being rigged.

So in my own house today the children had a large pizza for breakfast, left over from last night. They are very full and they enjoyed it immensely.

Talking about our plans for today I mentioned lunch and they commented that they wanted something 'fresh'- we got a big box of fruit and vegetables delivered yesterday which was very impressive and exciting looking (our first delivery trying out a box scheme). They want to get into it.

That's balance for them yesterday and today- two full meals of pizza followed by one of fruit, vegetables and salad because that's what they want- not me insisting on a bit of each food group at every meal.

It's also emotional balance- the pizza was ordered on coming home after two busy days away and eaten as a homecoming in front of a film feeling very cosy. The planned lunch is about excitement and novelty- big box of options in exciting colours.

At other times balance looks different.

the original post at Radical Unschooling Info

Colleen Prieto, February 2014, in response to someone who had written *** I personally don't keep candy in our house. ****

A birthday package arrived in the mail today for my son. Inside it, there was a huge pack of Twizzlers (my almost-11 year old's favorite candy). He smiled when he saw it, said "cool!" - and put the package on the coffee table as he hopped past to do something on the computer.

It will take him months, probably, to finish that pack of Twizzlers - and he will undoubtedly offer several to me and to my husband along the way as he eats them. He might not finish them all before they become hard and stale.

That's how it goes with candy here at our house. Having no restrictions on food, and whenever possible saying "yes" when he asks for more, or for something new, or for a bigger package of whatever he likes has not made him obsessed with eating candy (or barbecue potato chips, or ice cream, or other favorites). It's had quite the opposite effect - his favorite foods are part of his everyday life, and as a result they are nothing he finds a need to gorge on or hoard or otherwise surround with issues or baggage. Pretty cool, that. 🙂

Sarah Dickinson, August 2013, Radical Unschooling Info

Birthday stories about food:

My middle boy is six today. We went out to a cafe for breakfast and everyone chose what they wanted. Our two year old wasn't sure so we gave him a little of everything from our plates. He had marshmallows (from his brother's hot chocolates), bacon and croissants, but what all he wanted was the fresh orange juice.

We came home for presents- my husband got the birthday boy a huge pot of lollies (which are his favourites). He was delighted and immediately offered to share them with his brothers. None of them ate more than a few licks of one, I think the gift is going to last a long time!

Amy McDonough, July 2013:

I was reading a post about food choice in Radical Unschooling Info. Some days my kids ask for a bowl of ice cream for breakfast and my oldest daughter loves a soda first thing in the morning. I think about how some people would cringe at this and how I myself would have cringed years ago. But when they ask for ice cream sometimes three different flavors for the three different kids I smile, I feel happy and joy—joy because my kids are happy and they're not forced into eating things that make them sick or textures that don't feel right in their mouths.

The other night I had a friend over for dinner—we had lasagna and salad (lasagna is my specialty). She could not believe that my daughters (ages 4 and 7) had not one but THREE bowls of salad...this is a usual in our house so I thought nothing of it. But the pantry in our house is always stocked with everything from candy to apples to oatmeal to gronola bars to pop tarts and Kit Kats—the food is on all levels of shelves and it's always open.

Well, she noticed it and said, "Can they just help themselves to anything in there?" And I said, of course. That made the 3 salads seem even crazier to her.

Later I think the kids did go over and have some candy My son (6) liked broccoli as a baby but since he was about 1 or 2 he's mostly a meat-and-potatoes kinda guy. He loves chocolate milk and ice cream and when I read about people forcing veggies (Like the just eat 5 pieces method) I think if I were on a desert island and I had to make a choice, like for survival, I think I'd pick the pint of ice cream over the broccoli. I think that would take one further.

Just the other day I was at a friends house and she served some mac'n'cheese (the homemade kind). Her son (5) wanted the Kraft kind so they had this struggle over the issue and finally she talked him into taking a bite, actually she just put it in his mouth and he literally gagged. I saw the look on his face, and I'm not trying to be dramatic but the look in his eyes said "betrayal" to me. It made me sad. He trusts his mom, he tried to explain he doesn't like that kind but she forced it and he gagged. It made me happy that I have read from moms like you about partnership and choices, about food and about life and living. Thank you.

I didn't even mean to share all that. I was just thinking and typing and feeling happy that I have a partnership with my kids and my husband. He just brought me an egg sandwich because I was busy on facebook and he put a jalapeño on the side because he knows I love spicy foods especially in the morning (and I thought that is LOVE).

It got me thinking how thoughtful my entire family is when it comes to food. We're in the process of packing up for a four-month road trip around the US and Canada. I was packing some things for my son (6) and I came across a bunch of candy from Easter and various things. I asked him where I should put it and he suggested I put it in a bowl and leave it out for his sisters. He said he had forgotten all about it. His sisters were happy because a lot of it was their favorite types.

Holly Dodd report, March 2006:

Holly has had braces since she was twelve years old. She's fourteen and they come off next month. She's been able to choose or reject foods her whole life. On her Myspace page she has posted this:

Things to do when I get my braces off:

  1. Have corn on the cob like all the time

  2. Go to Shoney's and get like a ton of gum from their really cool 25¢ gum machine

  3. Eat carrots until my skin turns orange

She doesn't chew gum much at all; never has. But she's frugal, and to spend a quarter to see that big gumball roller coaster work when she can't even eat the gum seems wrong to her. She has definitely been missing carrots, and grated carrots just aren't the same for her.
—Sandra, Holly's mom

by Katherine ["queenjane"], November 2004:

Weight issues . . . run in my family, and I would do just about anything to help my son avoid that burden. What we did was not restrict his food at all, not use food as a reward or punishment, allow him to eat what he wanted to eat when he wanted to eat it (while offering a wide variety of healthy choices, as well as the typical "junk" food). My son views food not as a source of comfort, but as fuel for his body. He literally NEVER and I mean never overeats. Here's a conversation we had last night:

ME: Hey seamus, why didnt you go to more houses on Halloween? I mean, you passed on all that free candy!

SEAMUS: Yeah, but I get free candy whenever I want it...I mean, if I asked you for candy you'd just buy it for me. Candy's no big deal really.

ME: Hmmm....well if I buy you all the candy you want, why don't you just eat tons of it, all the time?

SEAMUS: Well that would be stupid. I mean, it's not like it's real food. Too much candy gets boring and gross. I'd rather have Chinese food or something.

ME: Do you think if I restricted how much candy you can eat, you'd eat more of it or what?

SEAMUS: Well, yeah, cuz I wouldn't know if I'd get any more. But I know I can always get more candy, so it's no big deal.

ME: Thanks for sharing your halloween candy with me, even the good candy bars.

SEAMUS: You're welcome!

Just had to share that!

By ~heather at www.unschooling.com (first incarnation of now-long-defunct message board)

This morning my two year old wanted mini marshmallows for her breakfast and nothing else. I offered raisin toast, cantaloupe, grapes, cereal, oatmeal, eggs...nope she wanted her mini marshmallows and in a baggie so she could carry them around. I gave her the marshmallows because that was what she wanted. She topped it off later with a chocolate pudding.

A few hours later she had lunch with her brothers, pizza and milk. She munched on two whole carrots later, a piece of celery with peanut butter.

She loves to dig in the fridge and this afternoon she found a box of alfalfa sprouts I just bought and wanted to try some. She ate half the box.

She is also my child when we have brocolli will eat 2 or 3 helpings and finish off her brother's and want more. If we have a stir fry she picks out the broccolii.

I have learned about food issues from my sweet kids. The issue was really in MY head. My kids will eat what they want and it all balances out eventually in the day, week or month. However, I still can't help myself to offer other things to them when I feel like they might be hurting their little bodies, but at least I am accepting of it and have learned not to say NO when they want their mini marshmallows (in a baggy) for breakfast.


In June 2003, on Unschooling Discussion, someone had written:
My daughter still has Easter chocolate.
I/Sandra responded:

Keith pulled an Easter rabbit out of the cabinet the other day. I don't even know which kid it belonged to, but it was put back in public pantryspace. Kirby still has Halloween candy. More evidence: Marty (14) and I stopped at Furr's after his long day of working out.

He could have anything he wanted. He didn't get salad. He didn't get jello. He got potatoes, turkey and dressing, bypassed gravy (though he usually loves it, he wasn't feeling really well and said the grease wouldn't be good); got broccoli (and ate it), got bread, no butter (thought about butter but decided against it). He didn't even look at the desserts. His tray was full.

He drank an IBC rootbeer and a glass of water. There's ice cream. He wouldn't have gotten any even if he had been feeling great, I don't think. He rarely chooses ice cream ever. He had first planned to share my fish, but he was too full.

That's what comes of letting a kid eat what he wants. I neither praised nor teased nor coached him about that stuff. I wouldn't have if he had gotten jello and pie, either, because he can listen to his own body and doesn't just eat for fun.

He came home, put his uniform in the wash, watched wrestling, and went to sleep at 9:10.

This is a kid who honestly can do what he wants to do, and that's what he wanted to do.


The "long day of working out" was one of the five days of an intensive "Junior Police Academy," and the uniform was a police academy t-shirt and work pants. (There was a hat, but he didn't put it in the wash.)

The original is in this archived topic, but I expanded the end note, and split a paragraph, for this page.

food and eating

Balance (in more than food)

True Tales of kids turning down sweets