Monitoring Teens' Eating

Parent Q&A

  • Teen 'stealing' food out of the fridge

    (15 replies)

    Hi BPNers - My husband and I disagree over food issues in our house.  We have two kids 14 and 12.  They both have ADHD and are not great decision makers and forget most everything (ie house rules, chores, etc) we tell/ask them.

    We monitor their food choices VERY closely.  They cannot go the fridge and just grab something.  They always have to ask - juice, granola bar, yogurt, sandwich, etc.  They have made bad choices in the past - eating straight sugar or sugary foods (cake, ice cream) at 6/7am, grabbing pizza at 10pm, eating other people's food or eating ingredients we needed for a meal.

    I'm much more - 'eat whatever you want within reason' and don't really care to monitor what they eat or when.  Problem is they have made bad choices in the past.  My husband is more 'ask us and we'll say yes/no'.  They always forget to ask and get 'in trouble'.  We have gone as far as locking all our cabinets and refrigerator so we don't have to police them.  I feel like a food Nazi - it doesn't feel good or healthy.

    I wonder what other parents do.  Do you care what your kids eat? or when?  Like eating a slice of pizza as dinner is being made?  or eating the cupcake you bought for yourself?  or eating the last yogurt/using all the milk and not telling you so you can buy more?

    We disagree in that I think we are too strict on them.  But I'm curious to hear if these 'issues' are in all households and you deal with them or ignore them or just don't care??

    Any insights greatly appreciated!

    Locking up the fridge and making them ask before they eat anything sounds pretty extreme for kids that age. I think you guys need to lighten up now that you have a young teen and an almost-teen.  You are risking making food into such a big issue that your kids are going to have issues with food.  I have a 15 year old ADHD kid and two older kids already past their teens. Here are a few things I know:

    1. Teens are hungry ALL the time.  You need to stock up on stuff.  Let them eat when they are hungry. They might need something to eat every 2 or 3 hours. Buy more yogurt. Have plenty of granola bars if they like those (my kids hated them after years of granola bars in their lunches.). Have tasty fruit on hand, like blueberries and grapes and bananas and other stuff that doesn't have to be cut up or washed or peeled. Pineapple and canteloupe wedges Bagels and tortillas and sliced bread should be plentiful and at hand. Protein too. Always have gallons of milk on hand. Teach them how to make quesadillas in the microwave, or scrambled eggs or omelets. Make extra food at dinner and keep leftovers in the fridge for them.
    2. As teens get more independence, you will have no influence over what they eat when they are not at home. This can mean they are buying a huge bag of candy on their way home from school every day and eating the whole thing in 5 minutes and disposing of the evidence. My high school freshman and all of his friends have the same thing for lunch every single day: pizza from the very disgusting Papa John's.  Here's my advice: make sure they get a lot of fruit and veggies at breakfast and dinner and don't worry about lunch and snacks. They will be fine!
    3. My ADHD kid is on meds that take away his appetite. You didn't say if your kids take meds, but my kid hardly eats anything between breakfast and dinner aside from the slice of pizza at lunch.  I make him a milk shake every day when he gets home from school with whole milk and a lot of ice cream, and I actually don't care that much what he eats because he likes fruits and vegetables and eats those at breakfast and dinner. 
    4. I totally understand the disagreement between parents and I feel your pain. I think it just goes along with co-parenting with another adult.  Everybody has their issues.  If it's really bad, think about couples counseling.

    My son is 17.  I have not had a major problem with him eating something that's needed to make dinner (he's eaten all the salad greens a couple of times) but he has finished off the milk at night despite the fact I've requested that he please leave a couple of spoonfuls for my tea in the morning. I threatened to wake him up to make him walk to the market, and that has gotten better.  Generally he can pretty much eat what he wants when he wants. He does make some choices I'm not crazy about (such as eating six bagels as his only food all day) and we discuss that.  He will ask around 5 what we are having for dinner, and decide what he wants to snack on based on my answer (e.g., a giant pastrami sandwich if we're having something he doesn't like, or an apple if we're having one of his favorites). His dad on the other hand is famous for eating ALL of the snack food in the house overnight, including snacks for my son's baseball game the next day, so both of us have taken to hiding things we don't want him to consume. Basically I think it is really hard to control.  And I think they need to have some freedom around their food choices by ages 12 and 14.  Can you have a middle ground? Like a shelf on the fridge where it is OK to take anything any time without asking, and a cupboard for treats like chips and cookies where you always have to ask.  And stick a postit note on the last milk carton that says "put this note on the counter when the carton is empty."  

    At their ages, making them ask for food is a really bad idea. They need to know that you trust them on some level, which it sounds to me that you don't trust them on any level. Perhaps give them more trust and responsibility and they will rise to the challenge. When my son was 13 he ate everything in the house, kids are just growing and hungry at this age. I left him fruit and sandwich makings and said he could eat all of that he wanted. I also got him an electric sandwich press which forced him to take more time between sandwiches. I also started tasking him with prepping for dinner, so he'd know which food were dinner ingredients and he wouldn't eat them, as well as knowing dinner would come faster if he helped. All teens/tweens have eaten sugar and pizza at whenever times, this is normal too.