The Scoop on Food

4 Things to Do When Your Kid Sneaks Food

If you frequently notice your child's sneaky, unhealthy eating habits, your family’s approach to indulging and serving food may need to change.

Child Sneaking Cookies From Kitchen Counter wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

Watch what you say.

Don’t yell at your child; it will only add to the shame he likely already feels. Instead, calmly address the habit by saying something like: “You don’t need to sneak around to eat this. But you do have to be honest and stick to our house rules about eating in the kitchen” or “I found the candy wrappers under your bed. Let’s talk about it.”

Plan treat times together.

Explain that there’s nothing wrong with having a snack or a sweet—as long as she also eats the nutritious meals you serve her. Let your school-age child choose two days each week when you’ll pack an extra favorite food for lunch, suggests Justine Roth, a certified eating disorders registered dietitian in New York City.

Ease up on portion control.

You already decide when and what your child eats. Some kids sneak food as a way to assert independence, so give your older child the freedom to choose how much he puts on his plate during mealtime.

Be spontaneous.

Share a bowl of ice cream just because, or munch on pears together at a farmers’ market. This will help your child think of eating as an enjoyable activity people do together and out in the open.