It seems like kids have sweets thrown at them from everywhere these days. Get a haircut? Have a lollypop! Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, a birthday at school….come home with a loot bag full of candy!
So how do you manage treats and desserts for your kids at home? There seem to be two options, without something in between:
But I’m not advocating for the free-for all approach either. Somewhere there must be a balance between total free access and 100% restriction. But where do you find that balance? It’s tricky, and also depends on your child’s personality and family dynamics. Here are a few tips that should help you decide on your family’s rules for sweet-management:
1. Regularly include dessert or sweet foods. It doesn’t have to be daily, but it’s ok to have sweets a few times per week. This way, they don’t become the highly coveted “forbidden food.”
2. Does your child still get dessert if they don’t eat dinner? Yes! If you serve dessert after a meal, it should never be a bribe. If your child has to finish their veggies to get dessert for example, this is just telling them the veggies are gross. And puts the dessert up on a pedestal. Likely creating a sweet tooth, possibly for life!
3. When you offer dessert, serve it with the meal! Your child can choose to eat the dessert when they like, along with their dinner. For a while, your child will likely eat all of the dessert first. But when this becomes normal, they will go back and forth between the sweet and savory foods. Dessert is no big deal to them anymore, now that it’s no longer the bribe at the of the meal! Caveat: Unlike the rest of the foods at the meal (the child chooses how much to eat, and can have more if they want), dessert is limited to one portion per person.
4. Offer cookies (or other baking) and milk for snack. And let your child choose how many to eat! Sometimes it’s ok to learn lessons the hard way. Like the sick feeling after eating too much. But once this becomes normal and the child doesn’t feel restricted, they will naturally choose to eat less.
5. Desserts and sweets can have nutritional value! Such as fruit, yogurt, ice cream, or this Chocolate Peanut butter & Banana Frozen Yogurt Bark from the Alberta Milk website.
You can’t control your child forever, but it is good to have some boundaries in place. The goal of managing sweets and treats is to set your child up to have a healthy relationship with food. So they can forever enjoy a reasonable amount of sweets, without feeling guilty.
Want to know more about how to disempower dessert? Check out my Global interview here.