This article was updated on January 16, 2020.
Is your child eating too much at parties? If your child is overeating, help is on the way. Learn my 6 strategies to help your child navigate party food, and enjoy eating without overdoing it.
The party scene and party food can be challenging for kids. My own pediatric clients know how difficult it can be to go to parties, celebrations, or gatherings.
Food is almost always the central focus.
The truth is, some adults find it difficult to avoid overeating at parties, too (myself included!).
In this article, you will learn:
- Why the party scene and overeating is a growing reality for kids
- 6 strategies you can use yourself, and teach to your child, that will help circumvent overeating at parties and other food-centric venues
6 Strategies to Avoid Overeating at Parties
- Survey all the food first
- Select the most desirable, important or valued food item (usually a treat or sweet)
- Choose the main meal or snacks first
- Use a plate to avoid grazing
- Drink water
- Eat small portions
Help! Party Food is Everywhere
More and more, everywhere you go food is available.
School parties, birthday parties, end-of year celebrations, holiday festivities and sporting event gatherings are just a few examples of events where food is abundant.
And the food isn’t always healthy or good for kids to be eating everyday. In fact, 94% of Americans snack daily.
For some families, food and unhealthy snacks are a daily obstacle. And, a major frustration.
The sheer number of food-focused parties and events kids have to face, avoid, or make decisions about can be overwhelming and exhausting.
Especially if you’re a family who is trying to balance healthy eating as a priority.
A Child’s Perspective on Party Food
It’s helpful to understand what goes through a child’s mind when they face an event that showcases food.
For one, there is great excitement, because your child might see foods he doesn’t routinely see at home.
Second, he may be overwhelmed with all the choices and have the natural desire to try everything available.
Here’s what some of my own clients have said to me over the years:
“I can’t decide what to eat…I want it all!”.
“There are so many desserts and they all look so good…”.
“All my favorite foods seem to be at parties. It’s hard to choose.”
These are real sentiments from real children.
True, parties and celebrations may be loaded with foods such as the “fun” foods you may be trying to regulate or serve less at home.
While you may dread every party your child gets invited to, or feel your blood boil when you hear your child had yet another cupcake at school, you need to know how to handle your child’s eating at parties.
There are some strategies that can prevent overeating and help your child prepare for the snacks at parties and the party scene.
Overeating Help for Parties
Here are my 6 strategies to teach your child about before he gets to the party in more detail:
Check Out All the Food
Encourage your child to do a broad survey of all the food that is available without eating anything.
Have him look at it all, take mental notes of what he’d like to eat, what looks interesting, and what is an absolute no-go.
Select the Most Important, Valued or Special Dessert (or Treat)
Have your child choose the item he cannot leave without eating!
Being “good” or selecting the “healthier option” may leave him feeling deprived and unsatisfied and more vulnerable to overeating at the party or event.
In my experience, when kids eat what they really want to eat, they do better in these social food environments.When kids eat what they really want to eat, they do better in social food environments. #foodchoices #healthyeating #funfood Click To Tweet
Select the Main Meal or Snack Items
Encourage your child to fill her plate with fruits and veggies first (and eat them).
She will easily quell the hunger pangs, while filling her belly with good nutrition, contributing to the overall health of her day.
Get a Plate. Don’t Graze.
Cow’s are notorious for grazing, or eating all day long. That’s good for cows — they need a lot of calories.
But, it’s not good for kids or adults. They tend to lose track of how much they have eaten when they are constantly eating.
The same goes for drinking calorie-rich beverages. Instead of grazing at a party, grab a plate and select your main meal or snack food items.
Make your plate (or bowl!), eat it, and move on.
Choose Water. Limit Sodas.
The calorie and sugar content of sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages are significant and can add up, especially when children are having a good time.
Remember, all sweets and treats count as “fun foods”, even the ones you drink.
Small Portions, Like a Spaniard
Spaniards eat on a little plate, and with a little portion. They savor the flavor of little bites of different foods, rather than a large portion of one food.
This can be an effective way to let kids try all the foods at a party. I personally like this approach for myself.
Strategies and Help for Overeating
These six strategies may help your child be more thoughtful in their food choices, and make good decisions at parties. It also gives them help when faced with tough decisions about which desserts and how much to eat.
Remember, you wouldn’t give your child an unlimited budget for a shopping spree! Yet, kids need help navigating these environments without feeling guilty for wanting to eat, or deprived from too much restriction.
Take the same approach with smorgasbords, holiday gatherings, and birthday parties.
Teach your child how to manage sweets and treats, so they don’t take over and derail your child’s diet and health.
Need More Help with Feeding Kids?
Check out my other helpful articles and resources: