Emotional eating isn't about what you eat, it's about when and why you're eating.

116: Emotional Eating Habits Start in Childhood (how to avoid that with your kids!)

Raise a thumb if you’ve caught yourself stress eating in the past year…

How about rewarding yourself for getting through the day with a little something to indulge in (sugary treats or alcohol)?

And have you seen anyone in your household engage in emotional eating?

Eating because you’re sad, stressed, anxious, worried, overwhelmed, etc?

We know it’s harder to break a bad habit than to build a good one in the first place, so how can we set our kids up to be protected from emotional eating habits?

We’ll talk about 3 simple strategies today:

  1. How to find the right words to talk about emotional eating at a kid’s level
  2. Why we need to care for big emotions with love and connection, not food
  3. The importance of avoiding food as rewards

And finally, we’ll chat about helping our kids be resilient to the “diet culture” out there which does not have their best interests at heart…

Can’t see the video? Learn how to avoid emotional eating here on YouTube!

No time to watch the whole video? Here are the notes!

Emotional Eating

  • 0:05: When I stress eat, I tend to go for the chocolate, ice cream, and other foods that are not great for me. Today we’re talking about emotional eating and how to help your kids avoid emotional eating patterns.

Why can't we stress eat broccoli!? -Katie Kimball

Where do Emotional Eating Habits Come From?

  • 1:06: I’m sure you all know from experience that it’s easier to form a new habit than break an old habit. Let’s set our kids up for success so they don’t have to break unhealthy emotional eating patterns as adults. 

Breaking a habit is so hard, and the longer you’ve had a habit, the more difficult it is to break it. Many of our food habits start in childhood. -Katie Kimball

  • 1:58: I personally developed a sweet after a meal habit in childhood. After finishing a meal, it doesn’t feel complete without a little piece of dark chocolate or something sweet. Let me tell you, it’s a hard habit to break!

Paleovalley Meat Sticks

It can be hard to find healthy snacks that you can take with you on the go. When I want the convenience of a jerky stick, but want a healthy, protein-packed snack option, I grab Paleovalley meat sticks. Paleovalley ingredients have these high standards that you can feel good about:

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  • Non-GMO
  • Naturally fermented and contain gut-friendly probiotics!

*With the exception of Teriyaki, which contains 2 grams of sugar from Organic Honey.

These beef sticks and turkey sticks taste delicious! My favorite is the Jalapeño but my kids love Summer Sausage.

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  • 2:59: Some people sometimes do the opposite of stress eating and they are unable to eat when under high stress and don’t get enough food or proper nutrition. That’s dangerous in a different way. 
  • 3:19: Today on the Healthy Parenting Connector we’re going to talk about 3 ways to avoid emotional eating habits developing in your kids

3 Ways to Avoid Emotional Eating Habits

  • 4:00: First let’s talk about some language regarding eating. Even with very little kids we can talk about different kinds of hunger. Are they bored hungry or sad hungry or is their tummy actually hungry? We don’t want to feed a bored hungry even with healthy food.

We only want to feed a hungry tummy. We don’t want to feed the bored or sad hungry. -Katie Kimball 

  • 5:36: We want to treat big emotions with something other than food. We don’t want our kids to link food with strong emotions or distract them with food when they need to be supported working through those emotions. Here’s the interview I mentioned with Dr. Dina Rose.

When a kid has big emotions, they need to be helped on an emotional level. -Katie Kimball

  • 7:15: I give some examples of helping kids through big emotions without resorting to food.
  • 8:19: This includes big positive emotions as well! If every time something happens to celebrate we pull out food, our kids will link foods (usually sweets!) with celebrating and accomplishment. We don’t want to think “fun things=fun foods.”

“Mooooom, I’m hungry!!”

How many times do your kids ask for snacks each day? Wouldn’t it be a relief if they were empowered to prepared their own snacks, instead of coming to you and whining about how hungry they are?

Download and print:


It's so easy to use sweets to bribe kids for good behavior, but it's setting them up for failure. -Katie Kimball

  • 10:52: COVID has been a big interruption in many people’s habits. I’ve seen it going either positive or negative. For many people, it’s been a good interruption by reducing over-scheduling and breaking bad habits.

Insulating Against Diet Culture

  • 12:06: When we talk about emotional eating, especially moms of teens and tween girls, we worry about diet culture and body image. Let’s talk a bit about how we combat that. My strategy is to eat dinner together as a family as often as possible. This has been shown to help teens eat more healthily and have a better body image. Benefits start with just 2 family dinners a week! 
  • 13:43: Watching our own language around diets and body image is vitally important. Many people in the natural health sphere are trying different diets for health reasons other than weight loss. You can use the word protocol instead of diet, explain to your kids that you’re doing it to heal your gut, feel better or eliminate allergens, and separate it from diet culture. 

Be sure to separate elimination diets from diet culture. -Katie Kimball

  • 15:33: We can do this! Parenting is hard, but these 3 strategies will help you set your kids up for success at avoiding emotional eating patterns. Watch my talk on the power of teaching kids to cook to hear more statistics about connecting with your kids through food in positive ways.

Resources we Mention For Avoiding Emotional Eating

Avoid emotional eating with kids

What You Should Do Next:

1. Subscribe to The Healthy Parenting Connector

Katie Kimball

I interview experts about kids’ health every week – stay in the loop with a quick Saturday morning email:



2. Try a Free Preview of my Cooking Class for Kids

Our members’ favorite lesson is always our 10-minute knife skills and safety class, teaching techniques with unique & memorable phrases from butter knives to chef’s knives (ages 2-teen). Take a peek here and try it out with your kids.

3. Enroll in the Online Cooking Course for Kids:

Enroll now in the Wall Street Journal’s #1 recommended online cooking class for kids (also rated 5 stars on Facebook). See what fits your family best HERE.

About Katie Kimball

Katie Kimball, CSME, creator of Kids Cook Real Food and CEO of Kitchen Stewardship, LLC, is passionate about connecting families around healthy food. As a trusted educator and author of 8 real food cookbooks, she’s been featured on media outlets like ABC, NBC and First for Women magazine and contributes periodically on the FOX Network.

Since 2009, busy moms have looked to Katie as a trusted authority and advocate for children’s health, and she often partners with health experts and medical practitioners to stay on the cutting edge. In 2016 she created the Wall Street Journal recommended best online kids cooking course, Kids Cook Real Food, helping thousands of families around the world learn to cook. She is actively masterminding the Kids’ Meal Revolution, with a goal of every child learning to cook.

A mom of 4 kids from Michigan, she is also a Certified Stress Mastery Educator, member of the American Institute of Stress and trained speaker through Bo Eason’s Personal Story Power.

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