Unschooling Food Freedom

It might shock some people that my children can choose whatever they want from the supermarket, just like I do. Our financial limits vary from month to month, but within our budget, they have the freedom to choose what they want for snacks and meals. They will very often take their own cart and just go off and shop themselves. I love this aspect of the Radical Unschooling life!

Honesty and balance are important values to me in the relationship with my children. During a recent interview about Unschooling, the interviewer told me that  her child once wanted some candy at the store. She suggested an apple and told her child that he would get sick if he ate the candy. Personally, I would never say something that was not true or exaggerate to my child as a means to control them with fear to sway them in their choices. It isn’t in alignment with Radical Unschooling philosophy.

For my kids, some candy would not make them sick. In fact, if I said that to them and they ate it and did not get sick, how would that affect the trust between us in the future? I know they wouldn’t take what I said as truth very much after that, knowing that the “information” that I was giving them was false and a means of control.

I believe that any foods in moderation are fine for our bodies. I know there are people with allergies and food intolerance’s and I am not talking about those people here. I know there are exceptions to everything. Right now, I am sharing about my children who are healthy, happy and thriving who have real freedom with the foods that they choose to put in their bodies.

What is interesting to me about how some parents process freedom surrounding foods is that they tend to think in extremes with fear as the backdrop. If children have had food restrictions and limits and have been controlled in the past, and then suddenly these restrictions are lifted, the natural response is overindulgence with the foods that were taboo.

The children do not know when and if the restrictions will be reinstated, so they get as much as they can struggling for their own autonomy. A grocery cart filled with candy, cakes, soda and chips would more than likely be what their choices would be. This image is what most in our culture think of when they think of Unschoolers with food freedom.  In our experience with four Radical Unschooling children with food freedom, this is not the case at all!

Children raised in the Radical Unschooling philosophy who have true food freedom make very different choices than the average child. Just like you and I have the freedom to choose what we eat and we do not fill our carts with candy, cakes, chips and soda, neither do children with true food freedom.

When Unschooled kids are allowed to tap into their own inner knowing and bodily cravings and they know about their bodies and what nourishes them, they can make choices in what they are just drawn to. I believe that this is the healthiest, most organic way to raise my children surrounding food. A healthy, balanced person with freedom to choose does not make unhealthy choices. It wouldn’t make sense to my kids to not eat a balanced, healthy diet. They love and respect their bodies and crave and desire fruits, veggies, nuts, grains, protein and also sugars.

Another important thing that I would like to share is that I  do not blame my children’s “behavior” on certain ingredients in foods like so many parents in our culture today do. So much is blamed on foods and I believe this attitude is so unhealthy for the parent/child relationship. I feel that the parents aren’t taking the responsibility for their role in their children’s behavior and are using foods as a catch-all blame bucket. Parents today are desperately trying to control what their kids eat in an attempt to control them. A more respectful way to parent, in my eyes, would be to focus on the needs under a child’s behavior, instead of trying to control behavior with food restrictions and limits.

Honesty and trust are paramount to a Radical Unschooling life and a child having a healthy, balanced relationship with foods. I personally do not have fears, or taboos with certain foods like many people in our culture today do. There is nothing off-limits to my family. The entire grocery store is our buffet and we choose from everything there, without limiting ourselves when we enter. We love farmers markets and we have a very large garden that the kids help with and enjoy also. We love food and trust our bodies.

I think coming to this place in life surrounding foods and how I respect my kids choices is a combination of things. It is my personal beliefs surrounding my body and the foods that I put in it. It is the trust I have of my children’s choices. I give information about foods and my children have the freedom to choose what they want based on their knowledge and what they are drawn to and craving.

I think when people envision Unschooling and children having food freedom they are basing their image on the distrusting, disrespectful ideas that most people have of children’s choices. Most people have never witnessedtruly free children. They are basing their beliefs on children with limits and controls which may have been temporarily lifted. Kids are often looked at as not capable, or experienced enough to know what is good for them and what isn’t. I believe that children are so much closer to balance then adults are because of the fearful mixed messages and conflicting ideas surrounding food in our society that we have been conditioned with.



  1. How do you address marketing, especially that targeted at young people? Why wouldn’t they believe the advertisement that says this tastes great, is the best food around and you should eat some now? Just wondering.

    • Gleamer, thank you for your question. We simply talk about marketing and share information with our children about it. We have a business ourselves and our children are involved in our own advertising. We have tried products that are not what they claim and these experiences give our children so much insight! We do not fear advertising nor do we feel that our children are victims to it.
      Thank you again for visiting my website and for your question!

  2. I love the idea of food freedom! And we’ve come a long way in this regard. But I still think scientific facts are scientific facts, and if certain foods or ingredients have been researched and found to cause certain health problems over the long term, then I’d personally rather avoid them. I no longer force my children to avoid those additives, though, although I do give them information (not scare mongering). I’ve also seen video footage of an experiment done on a group of teenagers who’ve spent lots of time in juvenile detention for repeat crimes. Some of these kids were in trouble with police every week or two. After 3 weeks on a very strictly controlled elimination diet (all artificial ingredients as well as natural foods that some people seem to be intolerant of) the difference was so clear and obvious I’m sure no one could dispute it. They were loving and affectionate towards their parents, calm and settled in their demeanour. Unless you’ve seen or experienced something like that, it can be hard to believe, and those who’ve never experienced it with their children often assume that parents claiming “food intolerance” are using it as an excuse for not dealing with the underlying issues. And I think it sometimes can be a “catch all blame bucket” but I think that it can also be real and genuine for some people. And to assume it isn’t real, when these people are dealing with some very major realities can be hurtful.

    You know I love ya, Dayna, but I’m not 100% convinced that all foods are harmless just because they’re on the supermarket shelves. I’m not even convinced that some of the ingredients in foods can really be classed as “food” when they’re totally fabricated chemicals manufactured in a factory and approved of by government departments with at times less than ethical methods of approval.

    Just sayin’. I think the general idea of food freedom is wonderful.

  3. Thankyou, Dayna.
    I really needed to read this today.

  4. I’ve had this experience with food too.

    They don’t go crazy.

    When Maria was little at the store and wanted a container of gummy worms, I said, “Nooo, we already have some treats in the cart.”

    She put them back with a disgusted look and said, “We always get the treats YOU want and not the ones I want.”


    I thought how it would feel to be marched around a grocery store and not be able to choose anything, so after that everyone who is along on the trip can choose something, doesn’t matter what. (Well not a $20 birthday cake, but you get the idea.)

    We also have a list on the fridge where people are supposed to write down what they need from the store, so we have it next time we go. They write things on there like toothpaste, and ketchup, but also sometimes things like pop tarts or gum turn up on the list, and I just buy it.

    It’s funny to see who turns up to claim these items: “Someone write ice cream sandwiches. Here they are.”

    Interesting they rarely get sick. I don’t credit their diet though. It’s probably genetics, and that they can sleep when they want to. I’ve come to think we underestimate the power of kids having the freedom to sleep when they’re tired. love, Val

  5. You know, I’ve been thinking about this kind of thing a lot lately. Never mind the children, adults are crap at deciding what a healthy diet is! “Meat and three veg” is the classic meal but hunting wasn’t that successful back when we lived in caves – our bodies simply don’t expect meat as much as that. 90% of our diet would be berries back in hunter-gather times. Food for thought, if you’ll excuse the pun.

  6. Thank you Dayna,

    We’re vegan and need to be gluten free too due to either celiac or non celiac gluten sensitivity…our son is very sensitive in nature generally but also to processed foods. How would you approach this? I’d love to ‘unfood’ but some ingredients really do not work for us. This also seems to go for technology which really tires him out and leaves him grumpy to say the least. Tips welcome as if left to his own devices he’d be on the computer the entire day to the detriment of his mental state and his emotions.

  7. I’ve just seen this blog as done a search. I’ve always been fairly relaxed with food (never labelled myself an unschooler) – was wondering I could ask something! My 4 year old fussy eater currently will not eat anything other than sugar filled stuff (marshmallows, sweets, chocolate, cereal) and I’m starting to worry. I can hear myself restricting and it seems to be getting worse. Obviously I am going back to letting him eat what he wants but I’m scared. Will he keep on eating like this?! Is there a book or podcast about unschooling food you recommend? He is very healthy (never been ill and been BF until now) but it’s getting to the point where he is not eating any “healthy” foods and me and my husband don’t know what to do!
    Any advice appreciated! X

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