Updated: Nov 18, 2020
Jellybeans, chocolate covered marshmallow eggs and Girl Scout ® cookies mark the spring season each year while the summer brings ice cream and other frozen treats. Then comes the fall with Halloween candy and apple pie, followed soon by the bounty of fudge, fancy cookies and holiday treats of every kind. There are also birthday parties during the year and maybe even a box of doughnuts in the pantry right now. This adds up to LOTS of sugary opportunities throughout the year!
Make Peace with Sweets
When it comes to health, sweets and added sugars are clearly not our friend. Eating too much of the sweet stuff over time can lead to a variety of serious health problems (mayoclinic.org).
Some families try to cut out sweets altogether. Others set such strict limits on sweets that kids go a little crazy when they DO have the opportunity to indulge. There IS a better way to approach the issue of sweet treats, which is to normalize them. Help your child learn to enjoy sweet treats in a controlled way AND eliminate their “need” to sneak them.
Tips that other Families have used to Manage Sweet Treats in the Home
Regularly include dessert.
When families enjoy a dish of ice cream or a couple of cookies following some meals, sweets lose that “rare” and “special” status. This helps kids learn to enjoy treats (guilt free) while not over-doing them.
Serve seasonal fruit most often as “dessert” but it is definitely OK to include an actual sweet treat as dessert with some meals.
Buy enough of the sweet treat to share after the meal then freeze what is leftover.
It is best to avoid snacking on sweets between meals. The blood sugar level spikes quickly because there is no protein or fiber to slow it down as there is following a meal.
When hungry and in need of a snack, go for protein and high quality carbohydrate such as fruit and cheese OR peanut butter and celery, instead of sweet treats.
Reward children but NOT with candy or other treats.
Children love candy and other sweets enough already. By offering them as rewards, they become even MORE desirable. Check out this website for some great non-food reward ideas.
Be a good role model and use the right words when it comes to sweets.
Avoid saying that you “cheated” or were “bad” because of your choice to eat a sweet treat. Instead, try to re-frame the message: You gave yourself permission to enjoy a treat that you really love. This helps children learn to self - regulate when it comes to sweets. IN ADDITION, it helps them to avoid feelings of guilt.
Written by Jenny Favret, MS, RD, LDN
Nutritionist, Duke Pediatrics Healthy Lifestyles Program