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Carolyn Hax: Hubby’s candy bar vs. the kids’ healthful food


Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

My husband and I fight about food, constantly. I grew up with fresh food. He grew up with chips and a candy bar as an integral part of every meal.

It wasn’t a big deal when we first got together, but I’ve since changed a lot (vegetarian, but I’ll cook meat for him), and he believes he’s the one making all of the compromises. That’s true, but since they’re for health reasons, I think he should do it and stick around another 50 to 70 years.

Oh, and our young kids are now VERY aware of what’s on Daddy’s plate vs. theirs.

I know I’m being a pain, too, but I’m sick and tired of Husband complaining about what I’m cooking, and the kids screaming for what’s on Daddy’s plate. I don’t have the energy to make two dinners every night. Any suggestions? Both of us are at healthy weights but have a lot of diseases in our families that are helped by healthy diets.

Food Fight

How about a deal: You back off on the crap he eats, and he doesn’t eat it around the kids.

That leaves the problem’s roots intact, but since your husband apparently doesn’t buy into healthy examples for children (!), you have to anticipate his being too far gone to accept reason. So, surface will have to do — and if you must settle for one goal, your kids’ relationship with food is the best one.

Re: Food fight:

Let me get this straight: Wife didn’t have an issue with Hubby’s diet before, he’s at a “healthy weight,” she’s (now) a vegetarian, and he’s the one who’s “too far gone”?

I applaud you for “allowing” hubby to eat what he wants, but Wife seems to have pulled a bait-and-switch. I would have thought you’d tell him to cook his own meals — and let her cook for herself and the kids.

Anonymous 1

Sure, if it were about meat. But chips and candy bars?

The arrival of kids trumps any bait-and-switch. Plenty of people grant an adult the right to [bad habit], and even marry that adult knowing [bad habit] comes in the package. But when kids arrive, so do new priorities. [Bad habit] is now a terrible, potentially harmful example for the kids — so adult has to either shape up or take [bad habit] outside.

If his bad habit were smoking, I doubt you’d be crying “bait-and-switch.”

Re: Food Fight:

A piece of chicken with some veggies can also be a pretty healthy meal. I’m surprised you did not call her out for being a domineering, sanctimonious bully.

Anonymous 2

When the kids clamor for what’s on Daddy’s plate, it’s safe to conclude it’s not chicken and veggies, ya?

Re: Food Fight:

Wow, this could have been me. We finally resolved it this way: Mom cooks one menu for everyone. Anyone may refuse food, but no complaints allowed. If you don’t like it, don’t eat it and wait till the next meal. Dad can eat what he wants, in private, if he buys it for himself, or he can cook a square meal of his choosing, any time. It was a fair deal, and eventually he came around.

Anonymous 3

Sanity! Welcome to the table.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Subscribe at

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