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How I'm Using Junk Food to Make My Kids Better People

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Why do parents allow their children to eat any junk food at all? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Chris Lynam, father of three, on Quora:

My wife and I went from steaming our own organic baby food to giving our kids candy apples and cotton candy. No regrets. Sure, it may seem like we went from healthy eating Puritans to straight up junk food gangstas, but there is a method to the sugar rush madness.

Here's how we set up the sugar fixes in our neck of the woods:

Halloween Rules

You know that movie where for one whole day anything is legal? Well, in terms of sugar, that day for us is Halloween. They can eat whatever they can handle on Halloween, and then we return to a law abiding, protein consuming household afterwards.

CC & CA Rides

The two greatest sugar victories at Disneyland, according to our own independent research, are Cotton Candy (CC) and Candy Apples (CA). So we have certain rides that they are still developing the courage to ride designated as "CC rides" or "CA rides". Throughout the year, we label the rides so they can devise a comfort-zone-expanding, sugar-rewarding strategy. The result is that they either ride the ride, and get the reward, or they don't, and don't. What's really great is that if they say, "I want some cotton candy", we can come back with "Ok, so does that mean that you're ready to ride the Matterhorn?" This reduces the candy nagging by 90%.

NOTE: We pick rides that are age- and height-appropriate.

Movie Rules

Every couple of weeks we go to the movies. My kids can pick an ice cream that they can have once they've eaten their hot dog. Hot dogs are not a difficult sell for my kids, but this reduces the complaining and negotiation tactics kids can use to eat their dessert items first.

Nervous Candy

Every parent should pack some nervous candy in case of emergency. In our case, it started with a single Starburst I handed to my daughter when she was worried on a flight we were taking. She was upset and I asked her, "Do you need some nervous candy?" That got her attention ... and her brother's. My son pipes in, "I need some nervous candy." Before long, both kids were grinning with blocks of Starburst in their mouths, flying like seasoned professionals, and my wife and I were chomping down the remaining nervous candy in celebration.

Final Thought

Sugar will never lose its appeal, but it can lose its value as a commodity. Use it wisely, and it can be much more than a dietary sin.

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