When my daughter was three, I found her in the closet of her bedroom eating toothpaste. I was perplexed, what was she doing and why? When I asked her, she looked ashamed and said: “I wanted something sweet.”
I felt so guilty, how could I have failed her, I am a dietitian after all. I decided things needed to change. When foods are off-limits or “forbidden,” they hold such power over our lives. Now I’m not saying to just feed your kids candy all day. But what I am saying is to offer dessert and treats more regularly than you think.
Dessert Eating Family
Serve dessert with meals. Yes with meals. Or just after meals but not contingent on how much they eat. It sounds strange. No coercing, “three more bites and you get dessert” or forcing a taste of each food before they get it. Just serve it with the meal or immediately after regardless of how much they eat. Dessert just is. No catch. You’re giving them equal value as the broccoli. What will you notice? Sweets are very palatable to the taste buds, so kids will eat them first and ask for more. Especially if you are a family that has previously restricted sweets. No seconds on desserts though.
Over time you will see that your kids may eat dessert after or during the meal. Or have a few bites and be done. This is the magic! You take the power away from desserts and sweets and they are no longer so desirable. Same goes for adults too, we call this giving yourself “permission to eat” and enjoying and savoring these foods.
Dessert Rarely Families
I would still suggest you serve desserts 2-3 times a week as above. Choose something you all would enjoy.
What To Serve
This is up to you. Sometimes it will be fresh pineapple or fruit salad. But also include ice cream, a fresh-baked cookie, or puddings. When we think of the components of these foods, are they really so “bad”? Milk, flour, eggs, sugar. Eating sweets together also helps children learn good eating behaviors from adults. Slowly savoring and enjoying sweets. Mindfully eating them with pleasure.
Jenn Messina is a Registered Dietitian and mom of 2. She works with women looking to ditch dieting and find sustainable, lifelong strategies to live their most vibrant life. She knows that meals need to be delicious, healthy & quick and streamlines the process through customized meal plans. She also works with picky kids to help them learn to love all foods and teaches parents strategies to support body positivity. She works 1:1 with individuals, parents, and families in-person or virtually.