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Sneaking foods is a common behavior that many people and children engage in, often driven by emotional eating and the pressure around ‘right food choices’. In this blog post, we will explore the reasons behind sneaking foods and provide practical strategies to address this behavior. By creating an open communication environment, encouraging mindful eating, removing food judgment and offering alongside healthier alternatives, we can build trust around food choices for our children and ourselves.
Emotional eating is often at the root of sneaking foods. It can be a coping mechanism for stress, boredom, or other emotions. By understanding the underlying reasons behind this behavior, we can take steps towards healthier habits. For children the food they’re sneaking is typically perceived to be something parents have set limits on or something that’s been called ‘unhealthy’. They also know that the food tastes delicious and they enjoy eating it, which raises lots of confusion for littles who have poor impulse control.
Children aren’t often considered to be emotional eaters, I mean after all what do they have to be stressed about? Quite a lot actually!! To overcome emotional eating in kids or sneaking foods, it’s important to address this eating openly but also without judgment. One of my favorite ways to do this is – ‘Hey I noticed this wrapper in your room, were you feeling really hungry when you ate it or very excited for this treat, or maybe both?’ Then validate their answer and thank them for telling you- don’t tell them it’s wrong, or reply with ‘but you had already eaten 2 bags of it earlier’. For a moment, imagine how differently your relationship with emotional eating would be if you didn’t hear negative self talk each time you did it.
Open communication plays a crucial role in breaking free from the cycle of sneaking foods. This includes talking openly about emotions, food choices, and seeking support from family and friends who have a strong relationship with food and won’t use guilt or shame. It should always be okay for your child to tell you when they’d like to eat a certain food, and you are always allowed to decide if it will be offered or not. Do your best to use calm, fact-based and unbiased language around food and their requests. So instead of ‘we can’t have chips because you haven’t eaten enough real food’ you could use, ‘I’m not serving more chips just yet because we have lots of other foods on our plates to fill our bellies with’. Do you see the difference?
Mindful eating is a powerful tool to combat sneaking foods. One way we can encourage health for our children long after they leave our house is to cultivate mindfulness during meals, savoring each bite, and being aware of hunger and fullness cues. That’s something babies are aware of but often goes away as children get older because of pressure from adults – no you’ve had enough, you need to eat more before dessert.
By incorporating healthier alternatives into our daily routines, we can curb the urge to sneak foods. We want all foods to be treated equally so that kids don’t obsess over sweets or other processed foods. Serving cookies alongside broccoli and trusting your kid to eat what feels good will set the expectation for them as they age. This can be strange for parents at first, but when used consistently across meals and caregivers it really cuts down on the food obsession.
Building trust in our food choices is crucial for long-term success, and it starts today with our kids. It is positive to develop a positive relationship with food, including self-compassion, embracing balance, and celebrating progress rather than perfection as a child and have it carry through into adulthood. Just imagine skipping the years of dieting and mistrust you experienced, it’s possible for your child. By using the tips above that’s just what you’ll do, and many clients I’ve worked with have found that by working on their child’s relationship with food it actually heals the adult’s as well.
Sneaking foods is a behavior that can be overcome with awareness and practical strategies. By addressing emotional eating, creating an open communication environment, encouraging mindful eating, offering healthier alternatives, and building trust around food choices, we can make positive changes in our lives. Let’s embark on this journey together and take control of our eating habits.