Help! My friend feeds my kid junk

Justine Davies
Justine Davies 

This is a strange dilemma, I’m not sure what to do about it. Earlier this year I went back to work two days a week, and instead of using daycare I pay one of my very good friends to look after my daughter. Her youngest is the same age as mine (they are both three) so it’s a win/win – she earns money and my daughter loves it.

The only problem is, as much as I love my friend, she has a terrible diet and as a result is overweight, maybe obese. That’s not the problem – the issue is that on the two days that she has my daughter she feeds her in the same way. It’s either Maccas or KFC or something like that for lunch (which my daughter thinks is FANTASTIC. I don’t!)

I sometimes take my daughter to McDonalds – but when I do it’s a treat. I don’t want her eating fast food for lunch twice a week. Short of putting her in childcare instead though, I’m not sure how to manage it. I’ve tried packing a lunch for my daughter but it comes home unopened. I don’t know how to tell my friend to stop feeding her fast food without highlighting her own unhealthy lifestyle.

Any suggestions?

Hi A,

I have to say, I don’t fully understand why you are so reluctant to talk to your friend about this. If she is truly a good friend then surely you can be open about it with her? This is your daughter’s health that we are talking about – if the fast food thing worries you then you really need to speak up.

To help you out I have asked Julie Gilbert, dietician and founder of Solutions Food Management for some advice.
“The biggest problem with what your friend is doing isn’t about whether or not your child will be fat by the end of the year, but that she is teaching your child that junk food – like McDonalds or KFC or wherever else – is an everyday food,” says Julie. “Your child doesn’t see food as being good or bad – to her at that age it’s just food. But ideally she should see fast food as a treat, not as an everyday food.”

So - what can you do about it?

“You need to let your friend know that you are trying to teach your child about healthy food options,” says Julie. And A, it’s not about whether your friend is fat or not – that’s not something that even needs to enter the conversation - it’s all about your daughter. There is a wealth of research online about healthy eating – try the Dieticians Association of Australia website as a starting point - so read up and let your friend know how important it is to you.

The ideal, of course, is for your daughter to eat healthily. So when you pack that lunch for your child, stress to your friend that you really, truly insist that that is what your daughter eats.

I’m sure that you can talk about this with your friend without letting it become about her or her own lifestyle. And after all there’s always the childcare option. Don’t let this ruin a friendship!

What do you think about fast food as convenience v's treat? Comment on Justine's blog.

ideally your daughter should see fast food as a treat, not as an everyday food.