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Health Issues

The Hazards of Sneaking Food

Plenty of children sneak food, often believing (or hoping) that they’ll never get caught. In most families, sneaking food doesn’t go undetected for long.

If your child sneaks food, the following tips may help.

Why Kids Sneak Food

It’s important to understand why a child might feel the need to sneak food. Sometimes children find emotions simply too hard to handle, and they find food soothing and comforting. Other times, children might be feeling anxious, stressed, bored, or sad.

What You Can Do

  • Explain that you know your child is sneaking food. Encourage your child to talk to you about why. Let your child do most of the talking and really listen to what he or she has to say.
  • Reassure your child that you love him or her and that you will do anything you can to help with the problem.

Ask; Don’t Sneak

Rather than simply telling your child, “Don’t sneak!” encourage your child to ask for food when wanted. Set up a reward system to encourage your child to stop sneaking.

What You Should Do

  • For a young child, provide a sticker or star as a reward each time he or she asks you for something to eat. Other ideas are to read an extra bedtime story or give points the child can put toward a low-cost toy or school supplies.
  • For an older child, set up a point system and let the child build up points for a ticket to the movies, a day at the skating rink or zoo, or a DVD or video game rental.
  • Suggest other things to do instead of eating, such as going for a bike ride, going for a walk, playing with friends, or exercising to a workout video.


It is very important to help your child adopt healthy eating and activity habits that can last a lifetime. By taking steps like serving your child appropriate foods and encouraging physical activity every day, any weight concerns that exist now will become less of a problem as your child gets older.

Sandra G. Hassink, MD, FAAP
Last Updated
Pediatric Obesity: Prevention, Intervention, and Treatment Strategies for Primary Care (Copyright © 2014 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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