Children are being raised in a society filled with sugar bombardment. Teaching children to navigate this world may help raise healthy eaters. Parents have a couple choices: they can try to hide from candy; they can police candy consumption; or they can teach their children how to eat sweet foods in a healthier manner.
I realize the abundance of sweet treats at parties can be a nightmare for many parents, including myself. I also know parties are especially tough when parents go to great lengths shielding their children from sugar and artificial colorings. To make matters worse, children often leave the party with a favor bag full of additional treats to eat at home.
It is not fun policing a child’s every move at parties. And it is certainly unfair to the child if the party is avoided to prevent sugar consumption. We cannot protect our children from sugar forever because it is everywhere. Eventually, children will be given lollipops, popsicles, gum, jellybeans, chocolate, and everything else without parental consent. As a mother and dietitian, I want to raise competent and confident eaters who are not fazed by candy. I want my children to enjoy treats in moderation without overeating. This is how we manage candy episodes in my home.
8 Tips to Help Parents Navigate Candy Drama
- Relax. Instead of dreading parties, use them as teaching moments preparing children for a lifetime of sugar bombardment. Parties with candy can be attended and done in a healthy manner. After all, it is how we feed our children that is important.
- Always serve food on a schedule allowing the child to self-regulate calorie intake. When a child has a schedule for feeding, they can listen to their body internal signals on fullness and hungry.
- Never make a big deal about the candy. The bigger the candy drama, the more interesting it becomes to the child. Suddenly, candy has power and is surrounded by temptation and invitation. Instead, give children the power to eat fun foods in moderation.
- Do not forbid foods unless medically necessary. If a child is forbidden a sweet treat, the child will not only overeat it when available but seek it out. However, this does not translate to candy all of the time. Candy should be for special occasions.
- If a child wants a treat at a party, teach them how to eat it in moderation and because they enjoy it, not because it is available. Encourage children to explore all options at a party but only pick one or two treats they absolutely love.
- If candy is brought home from the party, let the child taste test it. Have the child categorize the candy they like or dislike the most. Explain that a taste test is a small bite and they do not have to eat the entire candy. They can also explore the candy by looking, smelling, feeling, and finally tasting it mindfully.
- When you have a fun food in your home, talk about saving some for the next day. Explain that the food will not disappear, if they do not eat it all. In fact, it will be on the counter waiting for them to enjoy it the next day. Wouldn’t two days of a fun treat be better than one? This teaches the child to eat in moderation and not to overeat.
- Let your child pick the time of day when they get to eat their sweet treat. Read Lollypops Whenever They Want? by Dina Rose from It’s Not About Nutrition to learn why this is such an important lesson.
- Fisher JO, Birch LL.”Restricting Access to Foods and Children’s.” Appetite (1999) 32, 405–419. Accessed here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666399902313
- Fisher JO, Birch LL. “Restricting access to palatable foods affects children’s behavioral response, food selection, and intake 1,2,3.” American Society for Clinical Nutrition(1999) 69, 1264-1272. Accessed here: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/69/6/1264.short
- Benton, D. “Role of parents in the determination of the food preferences of children and the development of obesity.” International Journal of Obesity (2004) 28, 858–869.
- Danowski L, Gargiula L. “Attitudes and practices regarding the introduction of solid foods to infants.” Family Practice. Available at http://fampra.oxfordjournals.org/content/19/6/698.full#sec-11. Accessed on January 28, 2015.
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