Developing Healthy Dessert Habits
Everyone loves dessert, especially kids. While parents may be reluctant to offer dessert, afraid that it may encourage an already rampant sweet tooth, desserts are a part of our culture – and they don’t have to be entirely bad for your kids. With moderation and a few imaginative dishes, desserts can be fun, delicious, and occasionally good for your kids.
Everything in Moderation
The first tip for making sure your child has healthy dessert habits is to keep everything in moderation. That can mean having small desserts each evening or only having dessert every few nights. It can also mean rotating between healthy desserts and those which are not quite so healthy. You choose how you want to approach dessert, but just stick to your plan.
Dessert doesn’t have to be chocolate or ice cream; there are many things that can satisfy a child’s sweet tooth that aren’t 100% sugar. Consider some healthier dessert items, like fruit with cream cheese dip, fruit crisp, or low-fat pudding. Even substituting a bowl of Fruit Loops or Corn Pops can provide a healthier option than some regular dessert items, as it ensures your child is at least getting some vitamins and minerals.
Don’t Banish Sweets
It’s not a good idea to banish sweets altogether, as your child will simply want them more and later on in life may become prone to over-indulging. One piece of candy, one cookie, or one scoop of ice cream on occasion is not going to hurt them, and it will teach them to be responsible with their portions.
Tell Them Why
If dessert tastes better than dinner, why can’t I have it instead? Now is a great time to start teaching your child about food groups and what types of foods they need to eat to build healthy bodies. You can start out with “Your body needs healthy food to grow strong, so we eat the healthy food first and then we can have a treat.” The explanation doesn’t have to be a big issue, just something for your child to consider. As they get older, you tell them what each food group contains and how these components work together to help them grow and develop. Too often parents resort to the “because I said so” line, which only creates a power struggle over eating. Instead, try to use this as a learning opportunity for your child.
Don’t Force Dinner
Sometimes kids just aren’t that hungry, and if we force them to finish dinner we only teach them to ignore the fact that they are full and keep eating – something that can lead to weight problems later on in life. Encourage your child to have one or two bites of everything on his plate before dessert, and if she is under eating she’ll be hungry before bedtime, at which point you can introduce a healthy snack and remind her next time to have a few more bites of dinner if she is still hungry.