Sweet treats are always available in our house, which includes my 7-year-old son.
When he was a toddler and a picky eater, I would offer ice cream to get some calories in him.
I want to teach him healthy eating habits without limiting any types of foods.
My 7-year-old son gleefully counted his Halloween candy at 104 pieces and was pleased with his loot. He's eaten maybe seven small pieces of candy from his collection since. He gave seven pieces to his aunt to take on her flight home, and the rest is in a gallon plastic bag in a cabinet he can access whenever he desires.
Sweets aren't a big deal in my home — nothing coveted. They're always available, just not right before bedtime. Because I don't make candy a big deal, my son doesn't want sugar all the time.
My parents had the same approach
When I was growing up, family friends we'd spend time with would make candy into a special treat, to be eaten only once a week. The kids would get so excited — they lived for that moment.
Meanwhile, my parents had a laissez-faire approach to sugar. I didn't understand how a person could be so exuberant over a piece of candy.
It taught me a lesson: Never make food a reward.
When my son was a toddler, he was a picky eater, and I was desperate to get him to eat. I started offering him ice cream often, reasoning that at least there was calcium in it. He would eat two bites, put down the spoon, and ask for a carrot.
I also offered cookies daily. Once, at the playground, he turned one down, and several 3-year-olds and their caretakers stared at me in surprise. One child even walked over to me and asked me for it.
I believe in healthy eating
The scarcity principle is at play here. Sometimes people want something simply because it's unavailable — not because they really want it, but because they can't have it.
"Food should never be used in a rigidly restrictive manner by parents," said Erica Komisar, a psychoanalyst and parent-guidance expert from New York City. "This can create a control issue over eating, which can lead to rebellion, overeating, and intense avoidance related to food."
I'm a huge believer in healthy eating. Every meal should have protein, a carb, vegetables, and fruit. I see food as fuel, and the better one eats, often the better one feels.
According to the American Heart Association, American adults consume an average of 77 grams of sugar daily, which adds up to about 60 pounds yearly. Meanwhile, it says, "American kids consume 81 grams per day, equaling over 65 pounds of added sugar per year."
Sugar is addictive, and it can raise the risk of a host of diseases, has been linked to premature aging, and can contribute to cavities and weight gain. It's also found naturally in fruits and vegetables, so there's no need to add extra to our food intake.
But realistically, we live in a world filled with junk food, so I opt for moderation.
Soon my son will become even more independent, and the only person monitoring his food intake will be him. I want to teach him healthy habits and how to self-regulate and make smart, responsible choices for himself. Therefore, I say let him eat cake — with the hope he'll follow it up with a carrot.
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