The Unhappy Plate: Dieting With Kids in the House


Memphis Moms Blog unhappy plate diet

Every year, around this time, I’m visited by Ghosts of Diets Past. I assume I’m in plentiful company when I spend the entire month of December trying to decide what kind of new eating and exercise plans I’m going to tackle come Jan. 1. I have quite the arsenal to choose from—a million unused keto recipes, a sampling of Atkins-approved protein powders, and pretty much every Weight Watchers points calculator the company has issued in the past two decades.

But this year is different because…kids.

Obviously, my lack of willpower and my never-ending weight loss journey go hand in hand. Therefore, in my world, diets usually start with a thorough cleaning out of the pantry and the fridge. This “de-calorization,” if you will, is one of the key aspects to changing the way I eat. I simply cannot have it in the house. But how do you remove all the temptation when there are others in said house with you?

My husband usually joins me in trying to eat healthier, but I’m starting to wonder what dieting looks like with kids. My children are young—two under two—so the only real temptation so far are fun little snacks like puffs and goldfish. It’s not like I get a hankering for sweet potato puree or formula.

But, please tell me, dearest moms of older children, how do you do it? When your kids are still allowed to have treats from time to time, how do you ignore the oatmeal cream pies staring at you every time you open the pantry? Or even when you have to prepare dinner for your family, how do you hover over a pot of spaghetti or assemble a simple taco bar without completely succumbing to the carb-fest that’s calling your name?

I’ll be honest. I’m a little nervous about being able to educate my children about proper nutrition.

How can we reconcile teaching children how to eat proper portions with the “happy plate” philosophy so many of us were accustomed to growing up? How can we constantly insist on fresh, unprocessed meals when the convenience of the drive-through is such a huge part of our lives? And how can we resist the temptation to use food as a reward or a bribe when the promise of ice cream does wonders in warding off demonic possession whilst at church or grocery shopping?

I know the best teaching tool is to live by example … hence the need to clean up my act when it comes to healthier eating. Just wish me luck as my kids get older and my grocery lists become more extensive. I’m going to need it.

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Cara is a freelance journalist and strategic communications consultant living in Germantown. Born in Illinois, she moved to Memphis at a young age; and, having moved away a few times for college, graduate school, and other adventures, she likes to joke that she’s moved TO Memphis more times than anyone she knows. Mom to the cutest little boys, Everett (March 2017) and Gavin (October 2018), and wife to Rob, who works as a financial planner, Cara is adjusting to her new gig as a stay-at-home mom after almost 20 years as a magazine editor and corporate communications practitioner. When not “momming” or consulting, Cara spends her time volunteering with the Junior League of Memphis, where she served on the Board of Directors for several years. Admittedly, Cara has an unreal obsession with escape rooms, an unhealthy addiction to Frappuccinos, and an uncontrollable desire to correct every grammar and punctuation mistake she sees. Learn more about Cara at