Food Ninjas: How to Raise Kids to Be Lean, Mean, Eating Machines

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Ninja3DSquareThe ultimate affront to the barbaric practices of bribing kids to eat vegetables, restricting calories, forbidding certain foods, and otherwise interfering with a child’s instinctual eating cues is here.

Everyone has their own ideas about what is and isn’t healthy to eat, how much people should eat and exercise, and so forth. And these ideas are typically imposed upon young children by their parents. Under close scientific scrutiny, interfering with a child’s eating, making a child feel fear or shame for eating foods they enjoy, giving rewards for eating foods they don’t like, making them feel that exercise is a penance for dietary indulgence, or otherwise creating a hullabaloo over the act of eating and exercising yields inferior outcomes. This type of interference causes physical, social, psychological, and emotional damage. And the lifelong neurotic battle to try figure out what, when, and how much to eat commences, drowning out the instinctual energy-regulating system with a million year track record of success that all creatures come programmed with.

Food Ninjas is the roadmap for breaking free from these bad habits, and raising kids that are free of this unproductive inner struggle against their instincts. Everyone knows someone who eats and lives in a carefree way and is healthy and lean as a result. With the Food Ninjas approach, your children can also enjoy being able to eat what they want, when they want, and thrive for life. Best of all, food will no longer be a source of petty conflict between you and your child.

complete guide to restoring metabolismYou can download the book as part of the Platinum Collection, a collection of all materials that have been published at 180DegreeHealth since 2008, for  a reduced price of $39.95 through October 31, 2013. Regular price $59.95. The collection includes 11 books and over 7 hours of audio and video, as well as discounts on the release of many future books and informational products. Click the Add to Cart button to purchase. Add to Cart

To purchase Food Ninjas individually, you can get it for just $2.99 on Amazon. Click the Amazon Buy Now button to purchase.  

Available as an eBook also through Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo eReader or through Lulu.

Available as an audiobook through AudibleAmazon, or iTunes. And if you sign up for a trail Audible membership, you can get it for free. Details HERE.

Available as a paperback through Amazon or direct from Createspace.

Enjoy the book. If you are purchasing the book on Amazon, Audible, or elsewhere, please take the time to do a short review as a kind gesture to me as well as prospective readers.


  1. Ahhh, the thrill of being first!

  2. looks amazeballs. The truth is, at a younger age than most parental units like to admit, kids WILL eat whatever the hell they want, either with you or without you. They have their ways. And at teenager time, good luck with your ‘perfect diet’. HA.

  3. With 2 nephews in the family at just 3 months old, this ebook has come at a perfect time. Thanks Matt!

  4. Only $2.99?! I would you could sell it for at least $5.99 :)

    • I like to sell things for as little as possible, not as much as possible :)

  5. I had to get the audio version. I love hearing your voice because you are so hilarious and I always hate it when the audio book comes to an end. Thanks for the informative knowledge and making me laugh out loud while listening.

    • My Japanese Ninja accent is the stuff of legend in this one Alana.

  6. This is the best, best idea ever!

  7. Matt you need to release more audio lectures I LOVE your old ones but they are a bit out of sync with your thinking now. I love the sultry sound of your voice :-O

    • Bringing out the whole frequent podcast thing before year’s end if all the web stuff that needs to be done goes smoothly. I could do some audio downloads too though. Any requests?

      • 2 things: gaining strength (as in weight lifting, not vanity bodybuilding) and metabolism in relation to pregnancy (and consequently the seemingly out of control weight gain that goes along with it!). Not sure if they are both idea for audio, but those are subjects I’d love to pick your brain on.

        • You’ll get better results out of Matt’s brain by tickling it…

          • Maybe if I scratch behind his ear…

          • I will say that I love to read and hear about the whys of things. Between you and GoKaleo I get the hows and such, but the whys are so fascinating! And when I dare to mention something about metabolism and eating to my family or friends it’s nice to be able to give a good explanation of my thought processes.

  8. I grew up thin, healthy and eating a lot. My mom was pretty strict about food. No soda, only fruit juice or water, and milk was a must-have with dinner every night. No junk food except at special occasions. 3 balanced meals a day and one after-school snack, all at regular times. Pretty much all real food. Lots of fruits and veggies. She even baked bread and made yogurt. My sugar was fairly limited except for desserts after meals in moderation. Calories were not limited. I could go for seconds if I wanted, but I could not go outside of the meal that was on offer. No TV during meals.

    I had an awesome relationship with food until I decided to control it for emotional reasons later on and developed an eating disorder. My mom was involved in this, but for 100% emotional issues, not how she fed us.

    This is all to say, I really contest the idea that having some controls around food is a bad thing. I’m actually extremely grateful to my mom for providing balanced meals and structure that I have fallen back onto as a now-healthier adult. I plan to do the same for my kids. Yes, too much control is a bad thing, but I maintain that teaching your kids a proper structure, and stressing an overall healthy and balanced diet is a pretty necessary thing. I know some people who were raised on junk, and it showed.

    • My upbringing sounds like yours Amy. And I’ve never had weight problems or major issues with food.

      I try to be balanced. I don’t ban all “junk” food, but I do place boundaries around manners and politeness and eating at meals instead of all the time. Letting my kids “graze” a la Dr. Sears was the most horrible mistake, because it led to big tooth decay. Keeping eating at meal times and one daily snack has reduced the cavities, and the pickiness has almost disappeared (hungry kids eat more at mealtimes, and they don’t fuss as much either!).

      So… how many kids do you have Matt :-)

      Carrie mom of 7.

      • Mother of 3 grown children. All three cavity free when they left home.
        I cooked real food. We sat down for meals and, talked to each other.
        Dessert was served with every meal.

        Snacks, cereals, cheese, yogurt, milk, fruit was available any time within
        one hour of meals. The kids were allowed to help themselves and, I never
        counted how many treats they ate. I also allowed candy.

        All my kids were normal weight too.

        The only thing I did was make sure they were outside playing daily. If
        the weather didn’t cooperate, they took turns on our health rider as they
        watched their favorite cartoons. :) Fun times. :)

        I chose this path due to a strict eating schedule that I grew up on.
        I was hungry very often as a child. Meals were served but, I ate
        very little as I didn’t like what was served. Too, the things I did want
        were rationed. I was a very skinny underdeveloped
        kid. I will say that I did not grow up and, gorge on food. But, I did
        grow up wanting my kids to have free reign to food. :)

        They are now normal weight adults, with normal weight children of
        their own. :)

        • I should clarify, they never had any cavities.
          Two of them continue cavity free ages 27 and, 28.

          One has had a cavity. He is 31 and, chose a rough
          lifestyle. He smokes, drinks and, stays up all night.
          He eats fast food often. He looks puffy, tired and, much
          older than he should. :(

        • I like that, Betty! :) I think I would’ve done well under your system.

          My mom restricted my food choices a lot when I was a kid (no eggs, no dairy, and no sugar–there were even some Christmases we wasn’t allowed any sugared treats, so she made like, honey carob treats instead so we wouldn’t feel left out when other kids were having normal candy).

          Whenever I was given the opportunity, I ate as much as possible (except rice milk or soya milk or those terrible vegan cheeses–eww). I remember spending my own money on cookies in the health food store (only place I would’ve been allowed to haha) whenever I could, and savoring them. Once, my mom ordered like, a 50 pound bag of carob chips through a food co-op thing. Because she stored it in the garage freezer out of sight, I would grab handfuls of those and eat them all. I probably needed the calories. :P

          I mean, we’d have things like, lettuce salad and fresh-ground-flour bread with soya lecithin for meals, often. Mom had read the whole food combining diet book, so there was a while there that our meals were really imbalanced.

          I was extremely skinny growing up, and had a few cavities. I was weak, and easily winded, despite exercising a lot.

          I’m sure Matt’s book is awesome, and I hope it will help a lot of people, because sometimes parents just don’t realize how harmful all these diets are to the development of their kids. It wasn’t good for me, but my mom thought she was doing things that would make me healthier. (Ended up developing mental illness and disordered eating by the time I was 16, however. I think the diet was a contributing factor, though not the only one, of course.)

          • That’s exactly the problem that this book addresses. But health fanatic parenting (HFP) slips in much more stealthily than most people realize. Even tiny things like making kids wait to eat dessert and forcing them to eat vegetables performs a major overhaul on their relationship with food and is best avoided completely if it’s not already too late.

            We don’t live in a perfectly healthy world and eating environment. But creating heroes and villains in the diet in the minds of children, like dieting, only makes things worse. Especially in a long-term cumulative sense.

          • I agree with you Matt. I only asked my kids to try one bite
            of each food on their plate. If they didn’t like it, they didn’t
            have to eat it. I told my husband, (who felt if they didn’t
            eat their meal, they couldn’t have dessert) people have
            two stomachs, one for food and, one for dessert! LOL
            My kids still repeat that phrase often. :)

          • Hahaha! I’m gonna use that one. :)

          • To clarify, I was definitely not deprived as a child. I never went hungry. I ate like a horse. All meals were balanced (starch, meat/cheese, veggies), my snack was usually 2 cookies and some fruit, or cheese and crackers, and dessert was served after dinner each night.

            I think there’s a wide gap between restriction and total freedom. I think how I was raised was to enjoy food, but everything in moderation and with some structure, and very balanced. I definitely don’t think kids should be made to go hungry, but I think being allowed to work up some hunger between meals is a good thing.

          • Again, you have to defer to the body on this kind of thing. If each day is exactly the same, then the exact same eating structure and schedule works pretty well. But each day is not the same. Each person is not the same. Some kids are grazers and need high meal frequency to do their best, especially if coming out of a food-restricted state. Others are fine with eating a lot less. Emily does great eating only two times a day with no snacks, although she often has a third meal as well. It also depends on what you eat.

            As far as structure is concerned, it may very well be an asset. Still, our lifestyle and eating is pretty unstructured and the little one really thrives. If anything, the lack of structure has given her much greater adaptability/flexibility. She can go many hours with no change in mood or energy levels. Or she can eat all day. The only thing she can’t tolerate without ill effects is sitting around indoors all day doing nothing. But she doesn’t choose to do that, she just has to at times depending on what’s going on/weather/etc.

          • We’ll have to agree to disagree on this. Most Europeans raise their kids how my parents did, food-wise, and it has worked pretty well for them.

          • I tend to agree with you Amy. I think structure is valuable and comforting, especially when it’s not overly rigid. I imagine when I have kids, we’ll have a regular meal time together, but probably an assortment of food that everyone can take from based on their fancy. I imagine that’s a useful way to both provide regularity and stability, while allowing for the flexibility needed to respond to daily fluctuations.

            I think there’s something to be said for adaptability and flexibility as character traits, but in excess these too can be liabilities. A dramatic example is the co-dependent chameleon who full adopts whatever persona those around expect, and doesn’t have an independent sense of self. I don’t want that anymore than I want to hardline rule-abider that doesn’t know how go off script and can’t recognize when it’s adaptive to let go.

          • Our doc says sweet food and savory food actually stimulate different areas of the brain (forgot which) – that’s why we *can* eat all that pie even on a belly full of turkey & mashed potatoes…

            I have a French cookbook from the 50’s, and it actually says that no meal is nutritionally balanced without the fat and sugar from a proper dessert! Flan! Crème caramel! Riz au lait!

            (On a side note, here is said cookbook’s recipe for roast duck:
            “Strangle the duck. Remove feathers and innards. Season. Cook at a proper temperature until done.” Thats it. :-D )

        • Betty, my childhood was similar to that you provided. We were all healthy, very normal weight (sister boney but naturally so) and we had no restrictions. My mom cooked a lot and always made treats. I never felt deprived. However, we were super active kids. That’s the weird thing I see today… No kids are playing outside! No tree climbing! ugh

          • However, my sister ended up being a picky eater, until she met her husband. I was the 5 year old begging my mom for onion casserole so it really isn’t 100% determined by parental tactics.

      • Probably should wait to read the book before commenting, BUT based upon what is written in the blog post, I have to agree with Amy and Carrie. What if we extended this sort of liberty to other areas of the child’s life? Why not let our 7-year-olds go completely unsupervised in every aspect of their lives and see what happens? Their instincts should guide them, right?

        They don’t want to go to school. Great. Literacy is over-rated.
        They want to walk the streets late at night. Great. Surely the amount of street crime has been exaggerated.
        They want to stay in and play XBOX and watch endless episodes of “The Regular Show”. Fantastic.

        Suppressing your instincts is not good. Giving them complete free rein is not a good idea either. One of the reasons that giving free rein to instincts is not a good idea is that we no longer live in a natural environment and I don’t know that our instincts are always well suited to the artificial one (with its benefits and downsides) we have created.

        This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that our instincts are not as pure as we would like. Our “instincts” are formed by thousands of societal forces. I think I need, want a given commodity, but I don’t. The insidious voice of some advertisement has fused with my instincts. Bad enough for adults. Kids are particularly vulnerable.

        Nope the instincts aren’t what they used to be. I am afraid we cannot always rely on them as a guide. Listen to them, yes. Abandon ourselves to them, NO. This goes for kids and adults.

        • Thomas, you’re making the tragic mistake that most people make about humans – that if they give themselves the permission to play X-box, eat cookies, or do something other than read that they won’t learn, will eat themselves to death, be repelled by fruits and vegetables, and be otherwise useless. They’ll just be complete drooling morons. That’s just not true. There is some discussion about this in the book as well – making sure to create a stimulating environment and a diversity of food options in a neutral eating environment.

          • Most children who are able to self-regulate their eating, end up with a well-balanced diet… am I correct?

          • That was my experience- I was incredibly picky as a kid. I remember packing my own lunch for school. A friend commented on the half dozen oatmeal cookies, 1/2lb of gummy bears and maybe crackers and juice I brought in seventh or eighth grade. I rarely ate meat or dairy, lots of white rice and margarine, almost no veggies, plenty of french fries, etc. I didn’t even really like pizza ’til about middle school.

            My family tried to make food I liked, and would occasionally ention my diet to the docs for check ups. But he said I seemed fine and healthy and not worry, and to their credit, they never gave me grief.

            By HS, I started desiring more ‘healthy’ foods, both because I thought they were healthier, but also because I think my palate was expanding. Over the years, it’s continued to expand, and I’d say I’m pretty omnivorous these days. I eat pretty simply, but get grains and beans and veggies and fruit and meat and dairy, sweet and salty and savory, and all that.

          • As a former chef, I do get Emily to try new foods regularly. Yesterday it was Jamaican curry, jerk sauce, and sweet potatoes with coconut. She has found many of her favorite foods this way, and that has expanded her sense of food exploration somewhat. She used to always say “I hate fish.” Then I gave her some without telling her what it was and she wolfed down a half pound of it in 3 minutes. Fish is her favorite now, along with French onion soup. She has many typical favorites, too. Chocolate cake, pizza, spaghetti and meatballs, Cinnamon toast crunch, etc.

          • Eventually yes. There are exceptions to everything of course, but most kids gravitate towards that eventually.


          Now this is kind of a separate subject, but as far as advertising goes, I knew as a skinny little girl that I wanted to be strong. I wanted to be able to run without sore feet and a stitch in my side. And so what if dumb people thought it was cool to be skinny? I had more trouble dancing and climbing trees this way!

          But by the time I was a teenager, I was conflicted. One one hand, there was the social status of thin, and yes, the advertising reinforcing this ideal. On the other hand, there was my instinct–I wanted to be strong and healthy.

          As a child, I was taught to disregard my natural appetite and instinct. I was told to follow rules, but I instinctively broke them. Eventually, in teenage-hood, the rules won, but that wasn’t a good thing.

          I guess what I’m saying is, I think it’s possible that kids sometimes have better instincts than adults do. And that if our parents teach us to trust them when we are little, maaaaybe we’ll have a better chance at resisting some of the unhelpful influences in our adulthood.


      • I have one kid. She’s not my own. I also was a kid and was raised by parents. In fact, everyone I’ve ever met was a kid at some point, and had parents. I don’t think there’s any correlation between how many kids a person has and how good they are as parents, or how knowledgeable they are about human behavior, psychology, etc. There are very strong correlations between higher education and higher socioeconomic status and lower birth rates though. Look, I can be condescending too!

    • I don’t think anyone is talking about the kind of white trash families who come home at night and open up a bag of Doritos for the family to enjoy for dinner. Yes, that would probably show after a while. But if you took them to a buffet they probably wouldn’t eat only Doritos there. So that’s not really what they want to eat, but they are eating it because that’s all that is there.

      It has nothing to do with control or lack thereof, and shouldn’t be equated with anything said in this book. People don’t need control to eat healthfully. In fact, I could easily demonstrate in any child how control leads to an increased desire for what is typically deemed “unhealthy” food.

      • One of my friends grew up with junk food instead of meals on a regular basis. If he had been given chicken and mashed potatoes and gravy and all that stuff, hell yeah he would’ve much preferred that. He didn’t want to eat junk food for supper. (Can’t speak for all kids, though.) Now that he’s grown up, he’s developed his cooking skills, and makes delicious meals. He doesn’t tend to eat junk food that much. He has worst teeth of anyone I know in their early twenties–but yeah, that’ll happen when your childhood diet is low in phosphorous.

        My friend who grew up with plenty of junk food and candy and yogurts and cheese alongside three hearty square meals a day, is the healthiest person I know. She never gets cavities.

        I remember this kid I knew growing up, whose parents fed her mostly processed food. We were at a potluck (erm, church gathering where everyone brings food to share) together, and she and her siblings went crazy over the vegetable tray. I was like 9 at the time, and I thought it was so odd (because I had raw vegetables with every single meal, and not enough macaroni, obviously).

        But they went for those veggies, because they didn’t get them at home. Same reason I went for the macaroni, I suppose.

      • I was just going to reply that my friend’s kids have had free reign with sweets and sugary foods from babyhood, and her 2 boys are still the ones at kids parties who will grab huge amounts of cakes and biscuits but little else that is on offer, and her 2 girls will eat a whole block of butter in one meal. They are all super fussy about eating real food. – Ha, then I remembered, they have been brought up vegetarian, so they have had restrictions imposed upon their eating. Not knowing what meat tastes like, they don’t crave it (and also, there is the guilt-factor of how upset their mum would be if they ate meat, or sweets containing gelatin, which prevents them wanting to try it).

    • Nice comment. This is similar to how I was raised too – and how we’re raising our boys. There is nothing wrong with a few boundaries, in moderation, and good choices knowing that what we eat does affect us in different ways.

      Growing up in a healthy family with good relationships has a lot to do with how we relate to food, IMHO.

  9. My 15 yo son was craving “box white cake with that awesome vanilla frosting” yesterday. That jar frosting is loaded with cottonseed oil and all sorts of unpronounceables. I tried to deter him speculating that the vanilla flavoring might come from “beaver anus glands,” (which more and more I’m thinking has got to be an urban/google legend). But, as a teenager he is now immune to my gross-out stories and was threatening to go to the store himself to buy that cake. Instead, we compromised. I brought him to the best bakery in Saint Paul and he got a slice of chocolate turtle cake. (A taoist variation of the Lesser-of-Evils Strategy). Hopefully that will satiate the craving for awhile.

    • Eating some boxed cake once in awhile isn’t going to hurt him. Funfetti cake is just so flippin good.

    • Haha! Funny story to tell. When I was growing up, my mom would occasionally get us a Pepperidge Farms (sp?) fudge layer cake for our birthdays. She would always cut it into nine pieces — as it’s a square cake — two slices horizontally, two slices vertically. 9 pieces. We could have ONE piece. Just one.

      Fast forward 20+ years later, after some emotional eating, disordered eating, health issues, and searching for balance and health as a whole. I had a “craving” for that stupid cake that wouldn’t go away. I knew what was in it — I’d passed by the freezer aisle and read the ingredients. Terrible stuff! Hydrogenated soy mixed with GMO flour and all that.

      I wanted it.

      And I wanted to eat as much of it as I wanted — no “9-piece” slices.

      I bought it, and I ate half of it. The next night, I ate the other half of it. It was wonderful. I haven’t wanted any since — and probably won’t, for the next 20 years. But it was so liberating, and I’m pretty sure it hasn’t taken any more than 6 months off of my life.

      It’s nice that you went to a nice restaurant and bought him a nice slice of gourmet cake. But in another couple of years, when he leaves home, he’s going to have the freedom to eat an entire white boxed cake with that awesome vanilla frosting, right?

      • AW man! That single slice of cake sounds torturous!

      • Touching…sweet comment from Jennae…I am certain several of your faithful flock of followers have at least one similar story to relate…I agree…while it was indeed very thoughtful of you CCM.. to take your teenage son out for a “lesser of two evils” quality slice of cake….BEING a normal teenager, he was simply asserting himself….testing the waters as it were…affirming his real true desire for crap boxed cake and frosting-in-a-can….

        Chances are your son will indeed buy the white boxed cake once he leaves home to affirm his “right” to choose..and I would see this as entirely normal, and not something he will necessarily “always” do as some sort of latent rebellion. We are all rebels!..Even today…at 53…living in a very everything top quality/gourmet environment (France)…I still allow myself an “evil” item…such as stove-top made buttered popcorn…or the occasional uber-expensive Butterfinger bar….because I simply WANT them….I know full well they are not a healthy “choice”…but perhaps they conjure up images of warm family moments back when I was a kid with my brother and sister in the U.S….and once I have allowed myself to take pleasure in these little “blasts from the past”…I go on making the normal, gastronomic and/or health friendly recipes I seriously do love to fabricate in our French kitchen…

        • I found some wonder-like-bread here in Argentina and I insist on buying just to have a package of pre-sliced, white bread, in a plastic bag with a tag. It’s almost like decor and now once or twice a week I make white bread and gravy for dinner. DELICIOUS!!

  10. Thank you for writing this book! I am encouraged to see more and more people move towards freedom when it comes to children. I do extend freedoms to my 8-year-old son that most people would find extreme, including food. Children are the most discriminated group by far. More so than gender, race, sexual-orientation, and religion… combined. The irony is that every human being has at one time belonged to this group.

    Group think and group talk lead to societal norms that everyone believes to be true, when in fact they are not. Just because an idea has majority approval doesn’t make it a good idea. My son has had complete food freedom for four years. He eats all kinds of foods (dairy is his favorite). He is no different than any rational human. He likes sweets but knows not to gorge on them or he will not feel well. He actually prefers quick-fix foods, as prep-time gets in the way of play-time and learning. Sometimes he eats three large meals, sometimes he gets multiple small meals. We even allow him to spend money at the grocery store on whatever foods he wants for himself. And guess what. It wasn’t all processed foods and junk. He bought veggies, fruits, meat, dairy, and even flowers for his mom.

    How many 8-year-olds that are controlled in life and with food would do that? I bet not many. Is my kid special or better than others? No. He is just different. He is being raised differently and therefore has a different world view. As a parent I want to help break down barriers for him, not build them up. If I prevent him, punish him, control him, then I push him away. I am more interested in connecting with my son in an authentic unconditional loving relationship. He has his own path to live and I can give him guidance on which exit leads to which location. He is still driving. I am but a guide. If something was hidden from you or kept from you, wouldn’t you be curious to know what it is and why. The same holds true for food. By denying our children certain foods, we create a stronger desire in our kids to have it anyway. Once they get it, they overindulge. Similar to slot machines. Adults play and play and play, hoping to hit the jackpot. When they finally win a bit, most will continue to play because they think they have tapped into something special that will disappear if they don’t keep going.

    Take Halloween for example. Most children that have limited food choices are allowed this one day a year to have no restrictions. What do they do? They over eat. Who wouldn’t? I know I did as a kid. I loved halloween. I could eat candy all night and every day thereafter, for the next two weeks. My son does not do this. In fact, he gave most of his candy away because he didn’t want that much chocolate. It wasn’t a big deal to him. It’s just chocolate, which he can have at anytime if we have any in the house.

    It saddens me that we don’t trust our children more. How quickly we forget that we were once that age begging for some trust and respect.

    • Your child might grow up craving more structure and guidance. As you point out, it’s often what kids don’t get that they want.

      I am of the opinion that children actually want structure and reasonable control (despite what they may act out) because it makes them feel secure. Obviously there are some limits to this, but it’s scary for children to be give too much responsibility early on. I lived it, not in food but in some other areas of my childhood.

      • The Real Amy,

        I understand your perspective, but I just want to make a clarification. I’m afraid you might be confusing freedom with lack of guidance, or assuming that we give our son one without the other. Freedom of choice doesn’t mean we don’t discuss options with our son or give him guidance. The difference is giving freedom without “concern”, as described by Matt’s “Trailer trash” parenting example above. It isn’t “Lord of Flies” here. The key is connection. And as far as children actually wanting structure, that might be true for some kids, just as it’s true for some adults, but it’s not all inclusive. I have 3 sons, the oldest is almost 20. Of the 3, one of them desired a more structured environment and functioned better in that atmosphere. The other two, not at all. I am a very organized and structured person, my husband… not so much. Some adults prefer to be organized and structured, others don’t. In my opinion, It’s up to us as parents to know our child well enough to put that structure in place (if desired), but this doesn’t mean we have to force it on them with the assumption that because it’s best for some, (or more often best for us), that it will be best for the child. That is still giving the child freedom and respecting their choice. Hopefully this clarifies my husbands comment above regarding our youngest son. He has freedom, but he also has connection and guidance. We’re not sitting around watching “Honey Boo Boo” telling him to go do whatever he wants. That’s not freedom, that’s unparenting!

        • You two sound like excellent parents, and I commend you. Far too many parents treat their children like “little dummies” and fail to connect with, educate and guide them properly, choosing instead to drill a set of “rules” into their young minds.

          Are you “Home Educating” him? (I think kids get “schooled” at school, not educated…)

          • Thank you Cameron. We appreciate the kind comment, we don’t normally get those! ;) It’s usually more how we’re neglecting or ruing our child because we *gasp* give him equal rights! And yes, we are homeschoolers, we fall into the John Holt style natural learning and find it works best for our family. :) We love learning together and living life on our terms, not someone else’s. :)

        • Yes, as long as you tailor it to the kid’s needs, I would agree. Some kids can do well with little structure, but some really need it. I was thinking more of those kids who get no discipline or guidance and kind of run wild and are left to their own devices.

        • That’s good parenting IMHO. It sounds like a realistic, responsible approach. It sounds like Danny Silk, Kevin Leman, and the “Love and Logic” approach :) More folks would do well to get this concept, as you have done.

      • The Real Amy–I so agree with this statement. When my now 12 year-old was a baby I was completely sold on the whole unschooling lifestyle and gave him free reign on mostly everything. Some of it I think helped him develop his confidence, but in other respects he was lost. Now that he’s older, he’s quite vocal about his desire for structure and really thrives on it, even when he’d easily sit another two hours in front of the computer if left to his own devices. My six year-old also thrives on it, though he protested violently when I first implemented the 30 minutes a day rule for computer usage. It used to be a struggle to get him off before this, but now, when his half hour’s up, he’ll just happily get off and will easily transition into other activities. Turns out, they too felt restricted by a pull they couldn’t resist, and are relieved to have an adult work it out for them.
        I’m glad, and the kids are too, that we left some unschooling practices behind us and kept those that serve us.

        Yes, I too was given a lot of freedom in many things growing up and I felt lost. In some instances it was great, but I had no guidance. Which is understandable with a mother raising five kids on her own.

    • My 9 year old sister has plenty of structure and does not care about Halloween candy. She just doesn’t care much about sweets, period. I think it’s more due to her taste preferences, and of course it helps that my parents don’t restrict her eating in any way.

      The attachment parenting/not telling kids no/minimal structure sort of scares me. Kids need structure and most definitely need to know boundaries and to be told no (not implying this is how you parent, I’m just speaking generally).

      • As I mentioned above Stephanie, there is a difference between partnership parenting and UNparenting.

      • My 12 year old son is like that. Candy is really not interesting to him. He was our only kid until he was 7, and we were fairly anti-candy, but baked a lot of cakes, cookies and bread – THAT he will wolf down, and mostly we let him (except if it is to be saved for dinner…). He is calm and content and happy after indulging and his mood and energy remain stable.

        Little sister is 5 and was presented to candy a lot earlier. She’s a candy fiend and seriously obsessed with the stuff. She dislikes moist cakes and most cookies. I hate letting her go to town on all that HFCS, colorants etc. but – after reading about the girl with the M&M’s in her pillowcase on 180D – have allowed her a more liberal supply, just to try it out. She is agitated and hyperactive after indulging, followed by a big crash where she gets whiny and angry and tired.

        So we’re going back to Saturday-only candy for her.

    • I absolutely love this comment. Our 16mo has total food freedom and always will. I am glad to know we’re doing the right thing. It feels right so far. Thank you for sharing your story!

  11. Hey Matt,

    One quick question. My 5 year old has an addiction to fluids, has been since 2 years old. He can chug down a glass of juice pretty quickly. Even when it comes to water, he can down it pretty fast. He does love his protein and I’m thinking maybe that’s why he drinks alot. I wouldn’t say he is always thirsty because he can go hours without it if he is busy and active. So needless to say, he pees a lot during the day and in the middle of the night where it leaks out of his pull-ups. Any ideas or suggestions on limiting his intake of fluids? Or am I going against Food Ninja’s principles by limiting it? Thanks Matt.

    • I found with Emily, my girlfriend’s daughter who had a severe bedwetting problem and night terrors at age 5 when I first met her, that she was pretty starved of calories and salt, and food she really liked in general. She also was thirsty a lot, always wanting something to drink. We basically fed her as much yummy food (to her) as we could. We also had her eat food before she drank. If you’re hungry and fluids with calories are put in front of you, you are likely to chug it. Bring food and drink at the same time and food intake is increased, fluid intake decreased. We also kept her away from fluids at night, and switched her from drinking juice and lemonade mostly to Coke, root beer, and other low-potassium soft drinks.

      Kid is awesome now. Those problems are long gone. In fact, I’ve never seen a kid be able to go so long without peeing. Her urine is always yellow and she drinks moderately and continues to eat quite a bit. Like I say in the book, what matters, at the end of it all, is results. And no one knows a young kid better than a parent. If a kid is peeing like crazy, restrict fluids. Or at least give food before fluids and cut out the more cooling fluids like juice and water. Salty, dry snacks like pretzels can also be very helpful.

      • P.S. – She now drinks a lot more water and juice and very few soft drinks.

        • Good thing you added that one, as I felt a herd of comments stampeding as I read about the Coke.

  12. Need this book in Canada as an Ebook. won’t let me buy and .ca doesn’t have it listed.

  13. Matt, my young daughter has food freedom, however I do worry because she wants to eat potato chips, ice cream and lollipops for most of the day, with the odd piece of bread, 2-3 grapes, and maybe a sliver of bell pepper. I provide a platter of all sorts for her each day – fruit, veg, bread, rice, pasta, fries, chicken nuggets, sausage etc (she doesn’t like dairy except milk), but it’s always the chips she’s after. Do you know why this might be the case? My own diet isn’t the best (I love chips myself), and I’m wondering if her seeing me eating on occasion (I try not to eat these too much in front of her) is influencing her habits, rather than tuning into her own body and choosing the healthier stuff? I am worried that giving her food freedom will mean that she will always choose the junk options?

    • Sounds fine to me. If she is really going to eat a lot of chips it would be worth your while to homefry them in coconut oil. Other dry, salty snacks should go over well if you don’t feel comfortable with her eating a lot of vegetable oil. Potatoes, salt, and fat make for excellent dense, anti-stress calories though. I wouldn’t try to push her too far from her favorites and her natural inclinations.

      • Thanks Matt for replying personally. I feel much more assured now. It was the dry salty part I was worried about, especially as I see the other “trained” kids eating their fruit, veg and meat meals with no fuss. We are told over and over how bad chips are for us and how kids should be eating fruit, veg and “healthy” carbs. Mine will eat a little, but over all it’s the dry salty snacks she’s after. Is it ok for her to eat minimal fruit & veg in a day though as I worry about lack of fiber?

        • I’ve noticed some chips now that are fried in palm olein oil. Is that a better option in terms of PUFA’s?

          • I’m not sure about palm olein specifically, but regular palm oil is about 49% saturated, 37% monounsaturated, and around 9% Omega 6 polyunsaturated according to here:

            Certainly better than corn oil, but not not quite as low as coconut oil (~1.8%), beef fat (~2%) or butter (~3%).

        • I don’t think there’s much of a need for dietary fiber. Don’t overthink it too much. Just let go a little and observe their physical/emotional reaction to the change. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, make some slight changes.

          • Yes I’m overthinking it too much. Thanks Matt for the personal responses. I ordered your book plus a couple of other ones – they’re absolutely awesome. I’m delighted to have come across you.

      • Mmmm, potatoes cubed small and fried up in butter……… onion salt, parsley, pepper……. Yes I am hungry at the moment

        • maybe it’s not the chips she’s craving but the salt. wonder if salting other foods would recondition her body to realize that there are other sources of salt.

  14. How old are your kids?

  15. My sister and I grew up in Southern California and were given complete freedom to eat whatever we wanted as children. Not once were we ever forced to eat, or even taste something that we didn’t want. As a result, I was extremely picky and ate mostly chicken fingers, fries, orange juice, chips, boxed macaroni, Cactus Cooler, buttered pasta, buttered toast, butter, corn/hotdogs, whole milk, McDonalds, grapes, apples, pizza, american cheese, GoGurt (sp?), crackers, boxed mashed potatoes, and frozen soft pretzels. That is really a nearly definitive and complete list. My sister was about the same but also liked plain bean and cheese burritos. Neither of us really cared about sweets but they were always in the house and we’d have them occasionally if we wanted. My mom never made dessert unless it was a special occasion.

    But, basically we ate junk in unlimited quantities. But the quantities never got out of hand. Candy would go bad in our house from us forgetting about it. As Matt says, your relationship to food is much more instinctual and normal when not controlled.

    Our behavior was also not regulated. We could watch TV and use the computer as much as we wanted, and go to bed whenever we wanted.

    The first time I even tried grilled meat (I was willing), was at age 12. The first time I tried fish I was 15. Vegetables were somewhere in between there. My parents didn’t try to expose us to new foods; they made a dinner for themselves and let us eat what we wanted. I was in daycare a lot and as as result I didn’t get exposed to food at other kids’ houses. But when this did happen, and when I went to places like summer camps, my pickiness decreased since I was too embarrassed to not eat.

    Around the time I was 15, and tried fish, which prompted my dad to not congratulate me, but rather to say that I give in easily to peer pressure and would next try drugs (WTF haha), I started trying new things and being less crazy. Within a year I was eating very normally.

    Now I am 22 and will eat ANYTHING (sushi, goat eyes, cow brains, liver, whatever) except for canned tuna, durian, plain hard boiled eggs, or squishy pickles. My sister is only slightly more picky and doesn’t like those things as well as seaweed, mustard, buffalo sauce, horseradish, wasabi, and some other random condiments.

    Both of us are a healthy weight (5’5″ 125ish lbs, 5’6″ 125ish lbs) and around the height you’d expect looking at our parents. Neither of us ever played a sport. We have straight teeth naturally, I’ve never had cavities (she has since she never brushes/flosses her teeth, ew.), and both have never had any health problems or allergies, or a need for glasses or contacts. My sister is the laziest human alive and lives in bed but is still thin. I’m a bit more active and am naturally very strong. I don’t remember going to the doctor much as a child other than for trauma or checkups. We’ve never had behavioral or attention issues.

    Sorry if this was long or boring, but it’s a different look at the “omg don’t let your kid do whatever they want, they’ll eat junk and watch TV ten hours per day and be obese and have the beetus and DIE” deal.

    • Thanks Alyssa,

      Good to hear after seeing several comments littered with uneducated, inexperienced speculation about how kids eat and behave in a very free environment.

      • As a Mum who home educates in an “unschooliing” (hate that word, though) kind of way, I get so frustrated by the misconception that giving children freedom and autonomy means they are given no structure or direction. My children are raised with a strong emphasis on manners, behaviour, respect and consideration for others, but they are given choices about how they care for themselves. We have a structure to our day with choices woven in and a good deal of very healthy compromise to make it all work. It’s interesting that when one puts the words “children” and “freedom” in the same sentence people freak out and imagine children running amok. I think that says a lot about our culture and why so many of us have such harsh and unrealistic approaches to managing ourselves – we can’t be trusted. I think children need good modelling, guidelines for behaviour and the right to make choices about a whole range of things pertaining to their management/care of themselves to nurture a true ninja-style self discipline. A person who takes good care of themselves has a lot to give others. Kids are a work in progress and I don’t think every aspect of their personalities or behaviour should be scrutinised and used to assess the effectiveness of their parents’ ability to parent, but generally speaking my kids are pretty happy, well-adjusted, well-liked, considerate and certainly not out of control.

        • It reminds me of the excuse that dictators use for being so oppressive. The people cant’ be trusted. Its nonsense of course but it provides an excuse for being controlling.

      • There were quite a few comments from people with experience as well. We gave our kids complete freedom for many years and at some point experimented with some rules and structure, and it seems to work better. It really does matter what personality and needs your kids have, and life situation.

        I’ve personally seen kids with complete freedom acting out strange and uncontrolled/violent behaviors, and have come across other people’s stories online as we have homeschooled for many years. It doesn’t work for everyone. To many people, our home life probably seems way too unstructured with too much free reign for the kids, while to a radical unschooler we may appear far too authoritarian. It all depends on how it’s done. Writing a few lines on an online forum about what we do, doesn’t really offer much information on the complexities of family life.

        • Radical unschooling is extreme. Middle grounds are usually best. But it depends on many factors, the child’s personality as well as the parents, and finding what works best. Each family and person in a family is different and needs customization, just like figuring out what to eat. For example, if the parent(s) are busy all day doing things, some structure around electronic use might be good. As all humans will gravitate towards them when they are bored and there is nothing else going on.

  16. Hi Matt, Amazon is still saying this item isn’t for sale. Is it not released yet?

    • It’s definitely available. Links seem fine on our end. Might be an Amazon glitch? Try again and let me know if it’s still not working.

  17. As a mother who does not want to end up a kitchen slave I can tell you life doesn´t work out without some structure. My four year old daughter has the habit of only eating a tiny breakfast and then becoming ravenous about an hour after “official” breakfast. That is fine. I do not force her to eat when she isn´t hungry nor do I deprive her of food when she wants to eat. It DOES, however, mean her choices are limited outside of meal times. She can get something that is quickly fixed like an apple, a sandwich, a yoghurt or the like but I do not cook eggs or porridge whenever she is in the mood…because I have a lot of things that need to be done apart from feeding my family. Less structure means less options.

    • I remember being pretty horrified when my friends child switched from a non-picky eater age 2-4 to becoming not only a picky eater, but not wanting to eating at all.
      She is 5 now and her parents still have to cater to her fixing meals of whatever she thinks she wants anytime she asks, because they are so worried that she has barely eaten anything all day. I can’t think of anything more frustrating than that! It’s hard to imagine how that’s gonna turn out. She is pretty proportional weight to height (a bit on the thin and tall side) and seems healthy.
      I think if I was a parent I would worry only that I was setting the kid up for future health problems with this kind of non-eating/picky eating situation. Any intell in the book regarding issues of kids simply not eating and rarely being hungry when asked?

      PS they are very much real food cooks who eat everything so the selection they offer is outstanding, she just doesn’t want any of it.

      • There is a little in there about stimulating appetite and making the eating experience more recreational. Being a “real food” cook doesn’t mean the food is more pleasing to a young kid. If the food has very little flavor and is extremely soft and calorie-dense, the kid will probably like it. If not, it will probably come off as tasting too strong and being too difficult to chew, quickly becoming boring.

        • Most Europeans believe in “training the palate.” As a young child (raised by European parents with that approach to food) I ate everything, including, on a trip to France at age 4, things like escargot. As a baby, my mom blended up what the family ate for dinner (granted with a bit less seasoning). As a toddler, I ate what the family ate. It’s only in America that people think bland things like pasta and chicken nuggets are “kids food,” and likely because they are raised to expect it. I can’t speak for everywhere in the world, but in most of Europe, kids eat what the adults eat. I think it’s conditioning more than anything.

          • “Very little flavor” was too strong of a description. I just mean kids usually don’t like very strong-tasting foods. Olives, pickles, spicy foods, bleu cheese, raw vegetables. They lean towards milder tastes and softer textures, which is appropriate.

            I too believe in “training the palate” as well and am an extreme food snob in some ways. Emily doesn’t get special meals made for her most of the time. But if the food drops too severely in calorie density, her food intake declines and so does her function. If she does eat mostly “kid food,” she sleeps better, is happier, is warmer, has better digestion, and is more energetic. Same for her mom and I.

          • Real Amy–that might not be a fact. I grew up in Europe too and know that kids there mostly eat what the adults eat, but I have come across information on other parts of the world where adults acknowledge kids having different tastes and will cater to that (to some degree, say by making sure to include a kid-friendly dish in their multi-dish repertoire). Of course, what’s going on in America is totally over the top.

  18. Non-parent’s guide to good parenting? Thank you but no, thank you! Haha!

    • Well I spend 24 hours a day with an 8-year old, feeding her, helping to homeschool her, and raising her. This is not even mentioning the long list of health and behavioral problems that cleared up immediately upon my arrival. But I guess that’s not parenting because it didn’t involve me blowing a load in anyone. You’re right. I should’ve written a book about birds.

      • We have three Children, With the second one we did the intuitive thing. She was late to start walking, she had delayed speech development and on top of that she has rotten teeth. The first and third ones are the complete opposite.

        If you allow kids to decide they go for only one type of food – junk – as the temptations are everywhere! Your idea might work in an old traditional environment where there were not so much processed foods and the sweet food was considered a real treat.

        • You must have missed the part about helping to initiate all these changes even in the context of a modern food system. It is patently untrue that *all* kids go for *only* junk food.

          How and why some kids do and don’t, and what factors are at play is precisely what Matt addresses in the book.

  19. Well, I don’t know about kids because I do not have any, but eating intuitively has restored my own health one hundred percent. I had some really major health problems that I can now attribute to low metabolism. I used to agonize over every vitamin, mineral, and macronutrient that each food item would contain. I would actually lie awake at night berating myself over being 10g over my carb “limit.” Some nights I would agonize over the can of Pepsi I had had 3 days before. Now, I sleep 8-10 hours per night (dead sleep). I wake up warm, really warm.

  20. This morning my 3 year old son is on his fourth bowl of chocolate ice-cream, after he ate a bowl of oats for breakfast. In the past few weeks he recovered from a dairy allergy and fructose malabsorption that gave him autistic like symptoms when he was affected by it. I think he is making up for lost time now after having to restrict his food intake for the past two years. I am completely freaking out inside, but trying so hard to trust him right now as his teeth are chattering away from the cold of so much ice-cream, but I am so sick of restricting his food.

    • Make that his 5th bowl of chocolate ice-cream.

      • I bet he’ll get sick of it after a while. Two weeks at most, probably sooner.

  21. I think your mere presence makes all children happier and healthier.
    My two cents.
    Oh and that extends to adults.
    and hags.

  22. got it on audible. tucking myself in with dat voice of Stone tonight.
    Life is Good.

  23. Is this still relevant to late teen girls after all they “know”?

  24. My girls are 10th and 12th, and are becoming cardio obsessed, and “healthy eating” obsessed (their friends do everything from fat free to paleo, and everything in between). When I walked in from work the other night my 12th grader said she had to go work out or she’d get fat – she was torn between working out and homework. I feel like I’m watching them enter that downward spiral so many girls, especially, enter. The years ahead of diet and restriction, and the emotional garbage that brings to a girls mind. Can anyone offer any advice? I’m going to bake a chocolate cake for them, but I know it won’t be eaten by them. Maybe their guy friends will eat it, but I’ve noticed a lot of their guy friends are into paleo, not crushing a homemade chocolate cake followed by a 1/2 gallon of milk … like my guy friends when I was a teen. So sad.

    • It is sad and horrifying how much teens are into dieting these days. When I was in highschool (late 90s) there was dieting and eating disorders, but nothing mainstream like it is now, and yes, guys ate epic amounts of food. Paleo and low-carb wasn’t even on the radar, thank goodness. I would think the best approach would be to provide articles on how dieting will lead to long-term weight gain, not to mention nutritional deficiencies and health problems. If they restrict and go hungry now, they are looking at weight gain down the line (not so far away), and that’s an argument that appeals to teenage vanity. Meanwhile, a moderate balanced diet to appetite will serve them well for life. I would advise buying them “French Women Don’t Get Fat” if the articles don’t work – it pretty much teaches the art of moderation, and if they want to look at a photo of the author these days, she is still a woman in her 60s of very healthy weight despite eating cheese, chocolate cake and more.

    • I found one study which documented that higher sex hormones translated to greater facial attractiveness. After that I did some research on the effect of certain sports on facial development (such as gymnastics for females). It is well documented that the leaders in different sports have different facial characteristics, the question is whether the differences in development are tied to extraneous factors that are unrelated to the sports. Anyway, my conclusion after sorting through the information was that significant variations in sex hormones during puberty would change facial development. So no matter what the ‘genetic’ makeup, sex hormones in puberty still make your bone structure either more masculine or feminine. This is to say that dieting as a teenager may interfere with sex hormones and thus facial development. The female bone structure is usually done developing by age 16, boys can go until 19. Not sure if this will help scare your kids straight, just thought the teenagers should know what they are messing with.

  25. Your Genann Roth impersonation is spot on.

  26. I do think my 12th grader messed up her sex hormones, not bc of her face, but bc she’s dealt w female issues … A missing period and a pregnant looking belly, we went to a holistic dr to get her back on track and of course she did food testing among others. She gave us a long list of food to avoid and a bottle of herbs for her cycle. Plus iodine tabs. After two weeks of eliminating her fave foods, then going to the beach with flat stomached friends, including her sister, and watching them eat normal foods you would eat on a beach vacation when your 17…..she couldn’t take it anymore. And went off the deep end with foods. I told her that it was okay, to follow her instincts, the craving will pass once you get your fill, etc, we talked about how dieting and restriction did this to her and she got it. But eating after restriction doesn’t a slim person make … At least for a long time. She did get her period back, has stopped asking the stuff from the dr bc I think intuitively she stopped when she needed to, but she’s still overweight in the wrong places. I do see a difference from the summer, her stomach has gotten smaller but it’s still noticeable and it’s torture for a 12th grade girl. There are girls with flat stomachs everywhere, and although I don’t think they did anything to get that way, but bc they have “the perfect body” they are the experts. They tell my daughter all kinds of things to do and then she gets home and I’ve made lasagna and chocolate cake! So I feel like she’s tried my way, but it hasn’t worked in a very noticeable way so I think she’s being persuaded over to the dark side.

    • I would keep emphasizing (gently and nicely), when she complains about her weight, that dieting/restriction is the reason that she has the weight gain in the wrong places. Continuing the restriction will just perpetuate the problem. If she gets back on track now, she has a much better chance of her weight balancing out over time. I know there is a lot of short-term thinking as a teen, but the sooner she gets balance back, the better. Maybe emphasizing that not restricting now will mean a better figure in college?

  27. Matt, I sure wish this book had been around when my kid was little. I would like to think that someone who has entered into a disordered mentality can be brought to reason through reason, but sadly (or maybe not so sadly), The Real Amy’s comment about gently and nicely reassuring that not restricting will get the results the child wants is about as much as you can do–but doubtful that it will result in real healing for that child. But, best foot forward! Can’t change the past but can choose in the present to build the future.

  28. So what did I hear about High Oleic sunflower oil? Could that be good for a food ninja kid? I looked at the fatty acid profile and I noticed it was high in Monounsaturated fat, lowest in polyunsaturated fat, but still low in saturated fat. I’m asking because here in Argentina they tend to make yummy cookies and things with that ingredient and I wouldn’t ming buying some of those things to keep in the house for my little one.

    • That sounds fine to me, especially for convenience sake outside the house. I’d still probably prioritize butter and coconut oil at home, but I don’t see any reason not to enjoy those cookies when the mood strikes.

    • High oleic sunflower oil is good. Very low in pufa.

      • Great! That’s convenient for me since I’m super busy trying to finish my degree! BTW, the book was AWESOME. My 1.5 year old can’t tell me what he wants very well, but I’m still cultivating a food ninja. What’s a big plus is that after just one day being a really active food provider for my kiddo, he slept better and nursed less at night. I think I slept almost 5 hours straight without him waking me up! Yesterday, he ate grilled cheese mini-sandwiches, chocolate milk, orange juice, cheesy rice, hamburger, yogurt, milk, and white chocolate (all of this in baby-bite sizes but it was still a surprising quantity of food!)

      • seems like that’s the one nutritional thing that you’ve stuck with emphasizing – Low PUFA. I agree. That’s the one with the most agreement in the alternatve health world. The presentation by Dr Lands on Omega 6 TISSUE CONCENTRATION (as opposed to dietary percentage) really convinced me.

        • There’s not that much agreement actually, and the mainstream thinks that PUFA is excellent with protective effects. Walter Willett is all about PUFA, for example. He talks about it like it’s a family pet or something.

  29. Okay, so I just finished the book and it all sounds good. One question though: How can I let my kid eat as much of everything he wants and deny nothing in order to keep his “food psyche” healthy, but deny him things that are high in LA like store bough mayo, cookies, cakes, pastries, crackers, chips, fries, doughnuts, and other packaged food, in order to prevent the LA from slowing his metabolism? Won’t those things suddenly become more desirable because they are forbidden? Need clarification on this one, please. Other than that, keep up the good work, Matt and Rob!!!

    • Well you can’t be perfectionistic about the LA and AA. I suggest moms do the best they can during pregnancy and breastfeeding and the first few years of life before exposure to industrial food. Then things have to be more relaxed and congruent with the rest of society. Still, it’s nice to choose lower PUFA items to have around the house and make homemade versions of some things like French fries and cookies when feasible. But again, you can’t be perfectionistic about it. Reducing LA/AA by 75% is still a huge reduction. It need not be perfect, especially for kids who get off to a good start in life with Ninja-caliber milk and what not.

  30. I was born depressed, never wanting to be born. The parenting I received didn’t make me that way, though didn’t help. Some kids grow up with the shittiest parents and are still happy and can adapt to whatever. Some can’t in the best of circumstances – to lump all kids into to some “this is what you do to have a healthy kid” is full of crap.

  31. This probably goes without saying but I think with or without structure, if there’s emotional abuse there’s usually going to be disordered eating. That’s not to say that disordered eating in kids always stems from emotional abuse, of course, but it’s been my observations (anecdotal evidence, of course) among friends and family that those who have hangups about eating were abused by their parents.

    With my partner, it was his stepdad who forced him to eat everything on his plate when he didn’t want to, and now he has trouble controlling his serving sizes. With my mother, it was constantly obsessing over her weight and then telling me I would get fat from eating so much cheese & bread (I was extremely skinny as a kid and am still lean today. I was just hungry and loved cheese, dammit.) So I flirted with orthorexia for awhile (ate an extremely low fat diet) but eventually got over it and added fat back to my diet and I feel much healthier now. My best friend feels guilty whenever she eats something “bad”- surprise, her mother was anorexic.

    When managing a household compromises inevitably have to be made, so maybe the structured route works better in one household and free reign is better in another. But regardless of how one’s household functions, one should be conscious of the attitude that food and diet is approached with- forcing kids to eat what they don’t want, or using food as stress relief, or never, ever allowing some junk food, or having ONLY junk food available in the house… will probably result in issues.

    That’s my $0.02.

  32. Hey Matt,
    Would you be up for me doing a review of your Food Ninjas book on my blog? I haven’t read it yet, but I’m guessing it would be very interesting to read your take on kids and food. I admit that I am a little skeptical, just because my two kids each have such dramatically differing food personalities.

    I think my son (age 3&1/2) would do totally fine with a free-to-eat-whatever-you-want environment, as he seems to have been born with a preference for healthy, balanced eating. He loves meat, pickles and all things sour, fruit, some veggies, bread, salmon, dessert, and pretty much anything we put in front of him. He loves dessert, but he also self-limits the amount of dessert he eats (often leaving some behind if there is too much in front of him).

    My daughter (age 6&1/2) is totally different. Although she has always been raised in a “real food” household with lots of homemade foods (including dessert), my daughter has always had a poor appetite and poor weight gain (although her weight gain/appetite has improved dramatically in the last year through constitutional homeopathic treatment). I had placenta issues while pregnant with her, which resulted in her being only 4 pounds at full term. Because we’ve always had a “no dessert until you eat dinner” policy, she does eat her dinner most of the time now, but what she really wants to eat (and would eat more of) is ice cream, chips, roasted/fried potatoes, raw milk, and anything sweet (fruit, candy, chocolate).

    Last year, when I had such success in kick-starting my own adrenal health through your Diet Recovery program (hooray for ice cream!), I decided to let my daughter have free reign on her diet. For about 3 months, I let her eat as much ice cream as she wanted, and pretty much eat as much or little of our meals as she wanted. She did eat lots of chips and ice cream during that time. I was really hoping this would help her start to finally gain weight (at the time she was only 29.5 pounds and 5 years old). And I hoped that by letting her have as much sweets as she wanted, she would get to the point where her body was no longer craving sweets so strongly and move onto more expanded food horizons. But, at the end of the three months, her desire for sweets had not diminished at all, and I decided to stop this experiment upon realizing that she was actually losing weight. She had lost 1.5 pounds over that 3 months of being allowed to eat whatever she wanted, and given how small she was to begin with, I was not comfortable with her losing weight.

    As I mentioned earlier, over the last year she has had great weight gain through her constitutional homeopathic treatment, and her appetite is much better now (and she wants to eat a wider variety of foods now). She’s gained 7 pounds in the last year (previously she averaged 3-4 pounds a year, and had lost weight for the six months previous to starting the homeopathic treatment), along with lots of other signs of improved health (such as far fewer illnesses). But, at least for her, being allowed a free-to-eat-what-you-want philosophy was not helpful. Is there something glaringly obvious to you that I did wrong when trying to allow her to eat whatever she wanted for those 3 months?

    Anyhow, I am interested to read your book on the topic, as I really would like to get my kids to a point where they are not overly concerned with nutrients or weight. I think my blog readers would be interested in the topic of your book too…

  33. In Food Ninjas, you mention adding powdered lactose to goat’s / cow’s milk to increase the ratio of sugar : protein to the 6-7:1 range for the children of nursing mothers. I’m assuming this holds true for adults, as well, but what are the specific benefits of using powdered lactose instead of just white sugar?

    The book was very enjoyable – you are making an awesome and meaningful contribution to society.

    • I’m not sure, but powdered lactose may not be preferable for adults. It is a different sugar and may be metabolized and utilized differently, especially in infancy versus during adulthood.

  34. I am a devoted Matt Stone student, since moved on to better things, minus my orthorexia.

    I wondered if ou might offer you opinion on kid’s blood fats being tested. During my 9 and 12 year old sons’ yearly physicals, the doctor suggested checking their cholesterol since we were doing lyme tests anyway (we live in the lyme capital of the world). I agreed to have it done, not that I really cared. The 9 year old’s triglycerides were 192 and the 12 year old’s triglycerides were 175. Does this mean anything? do kids normally have higher triglycerides? They are both carb plowers and we don’t skimp on butter. I’ve done nothing about this but thought you might have some info on kids and triglycerides.

    • I don’t specifically, but I wouldn’t put too much stock in the triglyceride levels of young kids, especially if all the other signs of a healthy metabolism and overall health and vitality are abundant.

      • Thanks. They’re pretty healthy and strong. The one with higher triglycerides is “overweight” but strong and big boned. This reminds me to check their temps. I haven’t for a while. Thanks again. :-)

  35. Hm, that’s the exact opposite of our experience. Kiddo loves strong flavors (14 mo now, always has)- he can handle at least as much spice as my partner and I can, sometimes more, and we do not avoid spice. We don’t like pickles, but he’ll take a bite or two when we’re given one with a sandwich. He was never big on purees and preferred what we were eating in the form we were eating it, which has gotten easier since he’s gotten molars. He also won’t eat particularly salty or sweet foods.
    I was the same when I was a baby, not sure about my partner.

    I’ve never been a big fan of “one size fits all” philosophies. That may work for some kids, but it doesn’t work for all. If I tried to only feed our baby blander, mushier food- he probably still wouldn’t be having any solids. There are some bland, mushy foods he likes, but they’re never the first food he goes for.


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