Mental Health

Kids and Sweets: 4 ways to Help Your Child Form a Healthy Relationship with Sweets

There tends to be a lot of fear around some foods, a lot of times those are the sweeter foods: ice cream, cookies, candy. Many parents feel like their kids are OBSESSED with sweets. You know what? That’s normal. The preference for sweets in innately within us. So… what’s a parent to do? Give our child sweets all day long? Or never serve them? Not-at-all. In fact, there is a very happy medium. Let’s talk about 4 ways to help your child form a healthy relationship with sweets.

Where we begin

Let’s go back to the division of responsibility. Here is the just if you are new to this concept: parents are responsible for the what, when and where of feeding, and children are responsible for the how much and whether of eating. What that means is that we get to decide when we serve these foods – and our kids decide how much.

When we completely limit sweets, shame them or create a bad vibe around them, kids notice. In fact, they might want these foods even more.

Here are my 4 best tips for getting sweets off of a pedestal – meaning, treating them like all other foods and teaching your kids to do the same.

4 Tips for helping your kids develop a healthy relationship with sweets

1. Serve them. And sometimes don’t limit them.

Sometimes when I talk about this I am met with a look of shock. “You mean, sometimes I just let my daughter eat all the cookies? But then she is never going to stop.” But I want you to take a good, hard look at this, is she really never going to stop, or is that your preconceived notion. What you find may surprise you: when we let kids eat as much of they want of a particular food it doesn’t become so special. It helps them learn to self-regulate, which is exactly what you want. We want them to know that these will always be available – that they don’t need to overindulge when served because you will serve them again.

2. Don’t talk about these foods as good or bad

Stop making sweets into something they are not: something that makes us feel shame or judgement when we eat them. When we start labeling food as good or bad, we start putting judgement into those foods. Does it make us a bad person for eating a cookie? Absolutely not, but this message or good and bad can be internalized for a little one. Food is food – and we have to remember that if we want to instill that healthy relationship with food in our children. In fact, just call the foods what they are: ” we are having cookies.” “Today ice cream is on the menu.”

3. Don’t use them as a reward for other food

I don’t like using sweets as a reward for eating other food, or for anything for that matter. When we offer foods as a reward, I want you to think about the message you are sending: “I have to eat my broccoli (yuck) to get my candy (yum).” We are once again making the sweet seem special.

4. Sometimes, serve them (gasp!) with a meal

Here’s another time I get a lot of stares and looks like I am crazy. But in order to put sweets on a level playing field, give it to your child with a meal. Think about this: when a child knows they are having a cookie (ice cream, etc.) at the end of the meal as dessert what are they thinking about the entire meal: getting that cookie. But, if we give them that cookie with the rest of the meal they aren’t going to be talking about it and asking for the during the entire meal. You don’t have to give them all the cookies they want here, but decide how much. Here are more of my tips on portion size and what that might look like.

There you have it, 4 ways to help your child form a healthy relationship with sweets.

Are you ready to make some of the changes above but aren’t sure where to start? Let’s schedule a free 15 minute call. We can talk about ways to make mealtimes and feeding happier for everyone.

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