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How to Handle a Child Overeating at Parties

Parties are a big part of the social scene in children’s lives. But a child overeating at a party can throw off a healthy week and leave parents feeling disappointed. Learn how to handle it when your kid overeats.

Picture of sprinkled donut holes - How to Handle a Child Overeating at Parties

Allison left her neighbor’s party with a pit in her stomach. Her somewhat impulsive 7 year-old managed to scarf down 8 Oreos and 3 popsicles on the way out the door, while Allison was engaged in conversation with another mom.

Her plan to keep an eye on her daughter and what she ate went out the window.

Allison was frustrated that these “exit” food items were placed right at the door for kids to help themselves as they departed.

“How do I manage my child’s eating in this situation?,” she asked.

Just when you think you can make it out of the party in time for dinner…someone or something sabotages your effort to keep your child healthy and balanced with eating.

3 Ways to Handle Overeating at a Party

While parties are fun, the truth is, some kids get around on the party gig frequently. So, how do you handle your child’s eating at parties, church, or other activities?

Sometimes all that unhealthy food is enough to ruin the fun. 

Like Allison, many parents aren’t quite sure how to manage their child’s social eating.

Should you ignore your child when he’s pigging out? Or should you distract him? Or reprimand or control him somehow?

[Related: Why is my Child Overeating and Vomiting?]

Knowing how to handle social eating can help parents keep calm and carry on with the job of good nutrition and feeding.

Here are 3 things to do when your child is overeating at food-centric events.

1. Use Your Home as a Defense Mechanism

First, your best defense against the party palooza is your own home.  Keep the food in your home mostly nutritious, and serve treats using my 90/10 rule for managing them.

For instance, if you know you’ll be at a party, or there’s one at school or church, nix the sweets that day.

That’s one of the best ways to manage your child’s overall consumption.

This way you can relax about what your child eats at the party, and get back to the usual food routine the next day.

2. Don’t be a Food Cop at the Party

I don’t recommend controlling your child’s eating at a party.

In my experience as a mom and pediatric nutritionist, it almost never goes well for you or your child.

I’ve seen tantrums, parental embarrassment, and apologies all around when kids and parents get embroiled in a fight for control over food.

You can certainly use positive encouragement. Try directing your child to notice all of the food offerings available and put a balance of food on his plate. But don’t be surprised if he chooses to eat the sweets and treats!

If he chooses a lot of party food, don’t sweat it.

Believe me, I too, have had the experience of watching my own kids eat at parties. They drink soda, have several desserts and load up on chips and dips.

I remind myself that it is, in fact, a party.

I’m usually eating and drinking outside of my norm, too. I recover. I get back to normal, usually the next day. And I make a point to get my kids back on track.

It’s okay to ask your child before the party to make nutritious choices.

It’s okay to prepare him for the types of food that are likely to be served. And, it’s okay to set food rules if you feel you need to.

After all, you are the parent and the only one who will set these for your child.

3. Talk About Healthy Food Balance…After the Party

After the party, talk about the celebration in general. Reinforce those messages of nutritious food balanced with a little bit of Fun Food for health and enjoyment.  

Outline what a healthy meal plan can look like, even with sweets woven in. And, make sure your child knows that eating at parties is different than everyday eating.

Parties are an Enjoyable Part of Life

Parties are the exception to the eating rule. Remember, what is served at home and how your child is eating at school makes up the majority of his eating experiences. Parties are the exception – they aren’t the norm.

I view parties as little blips on the screen: a time for enjoyment, but also an opportunity to openly discuss how to manage sweets and treats.

Tell me, how do you manage those social eating events with kids?

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