When kids have access to sweets, they can enjoy them in moderation. However, the rules parents set around desserts can play a big role in whether kids obsess over them or learn to appreciate them as a normal part of balanced eating. When sweets are saved for after meals or special occasions, they can feel like a big deal to children and increase obsession. When offered regularly and without stipulations, kids can build trust that all foods — including sweets — will be part of their future.
Way to Introduce New Foods
Many parents use treats to encourage kids to try new foods. However, if these foods are only available with stipulations or kids have to ask for them, they can be less willing to eat new things. When kids learn to enjoy sweets mindfully (they eat them slowly and stop when they have had enough), it helps them to accept more healthy foods. Children can only learn this if they are given regular access to desserts.
By keeping a variety of sweet snacks, such as wholesale candy bars or cookies, in your home and offering them alongside other foods, you can help kids see that all foods have a place in their diets and not feel obsessive about certain foods, like desserts. This approach can also take the power out of these foods, which can be emotionally charged for many kids. Instead of using food as a reward or a way to soothe emotions, focus on positive reinforcements like hugs and time together.
Way to Build Trust
One of the most powerful things parents can do to help children develop a healthy relationship with all foods, including sweets, is to make them a regular part of the diet. When food is limited and off-limits, kids often feel a sense of scarcity and shut down from eating it. They may stop listening to their bodies’ hunger and appetite cues and turn to FOMO or overeat out of fear that they won’t get another chance later. It also creates a hierarchy in their minds of which foods are good and bad, making it hard for them to self-regulate their intake. It is why it’s so important to talk openly and honestly with your children about all foods, even if they still need to be on track with their nutrition goals.
Way to Break The FOMO Cycle
Whether or not you’ve heard of FOMO, chances are you have experienced its negative effects. Feeling socially excluded and disconnected can have a profound impact on our well-being. FOMO can cause people to eat more and worsen their dental health. FOMO can also lead kids to obsess over treats and create unhealthy behaviors like continuously checking their phone at a movie, broadcasting every snack on social media or even texting while driving. Engaging in such behaviors can result in severe consequences and, in some cases, even prove fatal.
FOMO can be broken by providing regular access to all foods, including sweets, and serving them alongside other healthy meals and snacks. When children feel that all foods are equal, they can self-regulate and develop a healthy relationship with food. It is called the mantra of “parents provide, the child decides.”
Way to Have a Healthy Relationship With Food
Kids are exposed to many sugary foods from their friends, siblings, other children’s parents and the food industry, making them feel like they need sweets to be healthy. Suppose they see their caregivers only offering them sparingly or with stipulations. In that case, it can cause kids to feel deprived and move away from listening to their body’s hunger and appetite cues.
Instead, if you have your kids’ favorite treats on hand and offer them as part of a meal, it teaches them that these foods are regular and not “good or bad” food. It helps them learn to enjoy these foods mindfully, savoring each bite and stopping when satisfied so they don’t get belly aches. Try incorporating desserts into meals by sprinkling granola on low-fat plain yogurt or topping berries with a half scoop of ice cream. It’s a great way to teach moderation and the idea that treated foods can be part of a healthy diet.