- Sweet treats are always available in our house, which includes my 7 year old son.
- When he was very small and difficult to eat, I offered him ice cream to provide him with calories.
- I want to teach him healthy eating habits without limiting any type of food.
My 7 year old happily counted his Halloween candy to 104 pieces and was thrilled with his loot. He’s eaten maybe seven little candies from his collection since then. He gave seven pieces to his aunt for her flight home, and the rest are in a one-gallon plastic bag in a cupboard he can access whenever he wants.
Sweets aren’t a big deal in my house – nothing coveted. They are always available, but not right before bedtime. Because I don’t do a lot of candy, my son doesn’t want sugar all the time.
My parents had the same approach
When I was growing up, the family friends we spent time with would turn candy into special treats, to be eaten only once a week. The kids were getting so excited – they were living for this moment.
Meanwhile, my parents had a laissez-faire approach to sugar. I couldn’t understand how someone could be so exuberant over 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, thinking that at least it had calcium in it. He ate two bites, put the spoon down and asked for a carrot.
I also offered cookies daily. Once in the playground he refused one, and several 3-year-olds and their guardians looked at me in surprise. A child even approached me and asked me.
I believe in healthy eating
The principle of scarcity is in play here. Sometimes people want something just because it’s not available — not because they really want it, but because they can’t have it.
“Food should never be used in a rigorously restrictive way by parents,” says Erica Komisar, a psychoanalyst and parenting guidance expert from New York City. “This can create a problem with eating control, which can lead to rebellion, overeating, and intense food-related avoidance.”
I am a big believer in healthy eating. Each meal should contain protein, carbohydrate, vegetables and fruit. I see food as fuel, and the better you eat, often the better you feel.
According to the American Heart Association, American adults consume an average of 77 grams of sugar per day, which is about 60 pounds per year. Meanwhile, it is said that “American children consume 81 grams per day, which equates to more than 65 pounds of added sugar per year.”
Sugar is addictive and can increase the risk of many diseases, has been linked to premature aging and can contribute to cavities and weight gain. It is also found naturally in fruits and vegetables, so there is no need to add it to our dietary intake.
But realistically, we live in a world full of junk food, so I opt for moderation.
Soon my son will become even more independent and the only person watching 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 he eats cake – with the hope that he will follow with a carrot.