FED-UP: Why I’m an anti-goldfish mama!

You need to watch the new documentary, Fed-Up. It’s available on Netflix and is perfect for the next night when you and your partner are too tired to be productive post-bedtime. This documentary will give you plenty of food for thought (pun intended) and could actually end up making your night very productive if you end by setting new food goals for your family.


My husband and I pride ourselves on being very health-conscious. We are well aware that to many we seem quite rigid with our food rules, especially when it comes to our children. We try to only give fruit or nuts for snacks, we buy very little processed food, and we visit our farmer’s market weekly. We’ve never given our children Fruit Loops, soft drinks, or a hotdog (but don’t worry, the world made sure they got a hot dog). Some might say we are extreme, but after watching this documentary, I realize we need to go even further.

You see, as parents, we have a captive audience. Think about how hard it is to make better food choices yourself. Now think how much easier it would be if you had a loving being shopping for you, preparing your food, and only giving you healthy choices! Oh wait, that’s us. We are the parents and we do control (for the most part) what food comes in front of our children.

Why I’m anti goldfish

Why do I single out goldfish? Well, goldfish are the ubiquitous children’s snack. They serve them at the church nursery, at every daycare, at parties, etc. But I ask you, what about a goldfish makes it an appropriate snack for a child? It’s not a fish, and it is simple carbohydrates at best.


I try to avoid goldfish and all similar processed snack foods. I’m the mother who sends my kids with their own snack (usually fresh or dried fruit) to school or daycare settings. And I’ve always felt a little embarrassed. I’m not someone who pushes my views on others (this blog post excepted!). I have felt nervous saying, “Don’t feed my child goldfish, or any other processed food,” because inevitably I worry that I’ll indirectly be criticizing a choice they’ve made for their own children or children in their care.

That’s why I love this movie and other media like it. (Book rec: Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual) We all need to be pushed to think more critically about what we feed our children. Calories are not all the same. 100 calories of almonds goes into your body and the fiber in them ensures they are digested slowly with only a modest rise in blood sugar levels. 100 calories of a processed snack goes into your body, and the high sugar/low fiber combination mean that they are digested quickly with a high spike in blood sugar which causes the body to turn those calories straight into fat. We have an epidemic of childhood obesity in our country, and it’s because we are feeding our kids things that aren’t healthy.

Every parent could watch this documentary and leave with at least one thing they want to change for their family. I left feeling validated on my choice to not give my children juice (without the fiber of the real fruit, it’s just sugar), but ready to push myself on my own large morning glass of orange juice. At 5 and nearly 3, my older two are quickly nearing the age where they will call me out if I don’t practice what I preach.

I felt validated that most mornings we eat steel cut oats and that my children don’t have any form of sugar in their oatmeal. They’ve never had it there, and thus, they don’t notice its absence. But I felt challenged by how often I bake and offer my kids a dessert. I don’t want them to grow up expecting a dessert after every meal, which is a sugar addiction I myself am currently trying to break. (Interesting factoid from the documentary: sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine.)IMG_1302

As parents, we oftentimes want to cut ourselves some slack because parenting is SO hard. But I don’t think what we eat should be the shortcut. We all love our children, but those of us without a medical degree, myself included, can’t fully appreciate what happens inside our child’s body after we let them eat that snoball, goldfish crackers, or Girl Scout cookies.

Now, I’m sure all these things are fine in moderation, but take a look back over the last week and think how many times, either in your care or out in the world, your kids have had an unhealthy snack. A good number right? Society today is not on the side of healthy eating. These snacks add up inside our children and could be putting them on the path toward the many health complications that come from too much sugar and unhealthy fats.

We could all – government, schools, the medical industry, fellow parents – be doing more to better nourish our children. Watch the documentary and consider taking part in the 10-day Fed Up challenge! Our family is currently in the midst of this ten day sugar-free challenge. My hope is that it shows us how much sugar is in our daily diet and helps us break some bad habits (namely mine and my husband’s!) and replace them with healthier ones.

When it comes to eating, what do you do well? What do you want to change for your family?


  1. After joining the Crossfit community & participating in a couple of paleo challenges I finally realized what we were doing to our bodies & our kids bodies. We have cut out 80% of processed food, drinking more water, eating fresh foods & the kids love it. I am guilty of the goldfish, but when the kids have a choice they choose the fresh fruit & raw veggies over the fish – so I’m winning! At least 80% of the time, lol

    • I think 80% is awesome! That’s what I’m taking away from our 10-day sugar free challenge – I have no desire to give up sugar completely but I did see how much better I felt without any. So 80/20 sounds like a good plan.

  2. Amen to all of this! It is NOT easy and none of us are perfect but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aim higher when it comes to our kids.

  3. YES. Our girls snack on raw peppers, carrots, and tomatoes along with ham or turkey rollups. They eat fresh fruit instead of dried or juice. They love to help me make salads or grab handfuls of roasted broccoli and cauliflower as soon as it cools from the oven. We aren’t dictators; they get cookies while grocery shopping, they trick or treat, etc. But most of what they eat is unprocessed, fresh meat and produce, and we eat the same thing to set the example. Our influence is especially important when they’re served packaged foods at daycare or the grandparents get them hot dog lunchables (cringe). I feel like everyone thinks I’m so uptight but we’re setting their lifelong habits now! No parent is intentionally feeding their kids harmful food, but everyone can take some small steps to make it better.

    • I agree and that’s why I appreciated the Fed Up documentary because it put good information out there and gave me a tangible way to make a small step. I think the Fed Up 10 day no sugar challenge was a realistic one to take on for many families.

  4. Thank you for this post! I read it yesterday morning, and last night my husband and I watched FED UP. I’m making plans to start our first 10 Day Challenge on Monday and am looking forward to becoming more disciplined in this area of my life.

    I know the article got a lot of flack on the Facebook group after it was posted. I hope that didn’t get you down. Nowadays, you can’t make any suggestions to people without them getting all bent out of shape and accusing you of “judging”. Well, I’m sorry, but some things are just across the board good/bad for people. And if we stop pointing that out to spare each others’ feelings, we’ll all stay fat and sick. So, kudos to you, for getting this information out there. Some of us really want to do better, despite our pride.

    • This comment + the fact that several acquaintances have watched the documentary/started the challenge makes this post feel worthwhile! I appreciate the kind comment.

  5. I could not agree more with everything on this post!!! I always feel bad when saying I don’t want my child to eat something because I know the other parents automatically feel as though I’m judging them.

  6. Since becoming serious about my fitness journey in 2013, the idea that I will one day have kids and try to instill in them the same healthy habits I now have is one of the things that has caused me major anxiety (despite the fact that I do not see children in my future for at least another 5 years!) I do not know if this has been something you have experienced, agree with and/or seen but I imagine that to the family, husband and wife need to be in sync in terms of what food they’re bringing into the house. It can be a big sacrifice, and I worry that while I will not reach for soda my significant other may and then that in turn is instilled in my kids. I’m sure I am worrying about this much too far in advance but reading about and seeing movies such as Fed Up about the food industry in the US really drives home how alarming the rising child obesity rates are!

  7. I just want to congratulate you on a well stated and thought out blog. I too feel embarrassment when I do not allow my 3 and 6 year olds processed foods at school, church, the bank, kid sport activities, play dates, relatives’ homes, friends’, the grocery store and more.
    Hopefully soon, the education system will get on board and stop rewarding children with junk food! It is a constant battle. I told myself I would relinquish control when my son started kindergarten but when I saw how much crap they were giving him, I changed my mind. Keep reading those labels, Sara.

  8. I’m jealous. Because everything you said, I’m with. I have also been preaching everything in that film over the last 3 years – and when I saw the documentary, I was like “hey, totally agree – great to see a documentary that summarizes it well and gets to the details – hopefully it’ll be influential.” But I’m jealous here because unlike you guys, I have a lot less control being the divorced father to my kids. Because I only have control during the weekends when I have my kids, and (I feel like) they hate me because I try to give them healthy food and make them shower/bathe and brush their teeth and control their TV watching habits – I feel like the evil parent, because that is not what they get at all during the week and obviously that is all against what all children want and makes them happy. I remember initially, my little girls used to complain that they wanted to go to a restaurant – because that is what they are used to almost every day. They now know my routine, and I feel like when they whine and don’t want to come to my place, it’s because I don’t have a drawer full of junk food; I don’t have any crackers, doritos, chips, soda, juice, ice cream, muffins, cake, and order-in pizza at my house – nor do I take them to fast food. I also don’t give them microwave-only food – like frozen chicken nuggets, or give them hot dogs as “dinner.” At least you guys agree on that and can control it for 80% of the time – because you’re right – out there, at school and with friends – they are getting all the terrible stuff for their bodies. I wish I had that much control (for the sake of my kids health) but I don’t – and it is really emotionally rough and saddens me. But all i can do is try to teach them and be a positive example – at least for the weekends. I know that is all I can do, and that’s what I do.
    One thing though – people keep on mentioning obesity, but that’s just one thing. You can still be skinny, or at least not obese, and be incredibly unhealthy on the inside. I feel like too many people concentrate on obesity being bad because of “looks” but there’s so much more than just that.

  9. You should read the book Good Calories Bad Calories by Gary Taubes who was in the film and Wheat Belly Total Health by cardiologist Dr William Davis.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here