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Food Rewards Can Lead to Emotional Overeating

October 10, 2016 | Community News

by Meredith Masin Blount

Director of School Based Youth Services, New Brunswick Tomorrow

Project Director, NJPHK-New Brunswick


“If you’re good, we can get ice cream later”

“Stop fussing and you can have the chocolate”

“Finish picking up your room and we’ll get french fries”


Sound familiar? We’ve all heard these reasoning techniques by moms and dads who just want their kids to focus and do as they’re asked. As a mom of three boys myself, I know the challenges children sometimes have in following directions. I also want my kids to eat healthy foods and learn to make healthy choices. Unfortunately, using unhealthy foods or sweets as a reward for good behavior leads to negative effects on eating habits later on.

According to a report found on Science Daily, “parents who use very overly controlling feeding practices with their children, such as using food as a reward or a treat, could be unintentionally teaching their children to rely on food to deal with their emotions.” The study also said that using treats to reward kids can lead to poorer health later in life. Children learn to associate food with emotions and are more likely to start preferring the junk food.

Here are some ways to kick the junk food habit and reinforce the healthy choices:

  1. Don’t use food as a reward – go on a fun family outing instead. Maybe give them extra time at the playground for doing a great job!
  2. Remember you’re a role model – pick the healthy choices first, too!
  3. Continue to give your kids healthy foods – having healthy options in the house makes it easier for kids to pick a healthy snack. Avoid fast food places!
  4. Avoid the “clean your plate” view – kids should stop eating when they feel full.
  5. Include your kids in healthy meal planning and making – it’s a fun activity and they’ll learn how to make healthy choices.

For more information on the effects of emotional eating and its warning signs, read the following article from


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