The word “dessert” can conjure up groans from many parents and cheers from kids. Parents may, at times, cheer about dessert too. On the other hand, dessert may cause more issues than benefits in several families. This is due to the fact that desserts tend to be high in sugar that are devoid of quality nutrients.
Here are some tips on how to handle desserts in your family:
- Avoid making dessert a daily habit in the family. This also means that you should avoid buying dessert foods at the market as well as avoid keeping dessert foods in the house. Keep in mind that you are responsible as to what foods you provide to your family. If you do not have dessert available daily, then they will not likely eat it on a daily basis. Examine your own mealtime habits. Make sure that you are setting the example for how you want them to eat.
- Avoid using dessert as a reward or not serving dessert as a punishment. It is common to use dessert in these ways in many families. “No dessert unless you eat your vegetables.” “If you take three bites of chicken, you can have dessert.” “If you behave, I will buy you ice cream after dinner.” It is important to avoid using unhealthy foods as bribes for children. It develops a bargaining tool for the child. They will then start seeking this reward more and may act out until they can get this reward again and again. It also sends a message to children that healthy foods you would like them to eat are not enjoyable or are part of a normal meal. Instead, they are a hurdle to get over so that they can have something unhealthy.
- Help your child enjoy and appreciate all types of foods. As I discussed above, dessert is not the ultimate prize for finishing a meal. Encourage your child to eat a variety of foods by modeling good eating habits yourself. Offer 3-4 healthy foods at meals, including one or two foods that you know your kids enjoy.
- Dessert foods DO have their place. Of course, these foods are enjoyable and can be a fun part of special occasions as well as family traditions. Allowing your kids to have dessert foods once in awhile is a normal part of life. This teaches them that these foods are perfectly fine to eat in moderation and they are intended to be consumed in that manner.
Remember, your child is capable of demonstrating good behavior as well as eating a meal without having to eat something sweet after doing so. When you do have dessert, try a healthy treat such as fruit puree popsicles, cinnamon almonds or homemade fruit and yogurt smoothies. For additional information on how to make mealtimes successful for your family, contact a registered dietitian at North Shore Pediatric Therapy.