Friday, October 14, 2011
How Do You Handle Treats For Your Kids?
I love a good sandwich for lunch. I especially love a sandwich with potato chips. Before I cleaned up my pantry I bought a 10 ounce bag of kettle chips about every other week. Today that seems excessive. I only buy them for special occassions now, a car trip or special picnic, a party, you know, something that feels out of the ordinary. After the inital shock to DH's system we no longer miss them. They are an awesome indulgence on occasion. Kettle Chips or Dirty Chips are the preffered brands because they fry in safflower, peanut or sunflower oil. These oils are not generally from genetically modified plants. Avoiding GMO's is our reason to avoid most fried foods. Most standard brands fry in soybean oil. Over 90% of the soybeans grown in the US are genetically modified.
The last time I bought potato chips I saw some troubling behavior from the Things. For lunch I gave them a meat, a cheese, a vegetable and some chips. It was an okay amount for a toddler, 4-5 chips. They ate the chips and clamoured for more!!
The conventional wisdom surrounding feeding young children is that they should be offered a variety of foods from a variety of food groups. When offered real foods they will choose among them and eat what they need. It is also believed that treats can be offered every now and again. Life should be enjoyed and banning foods can leading to hoarding behaviors. Furthermore many nutritionists suggest allowing a child to have as much as he or she wants of the food that is offered. If sweets and treats are offered less often, say 2-3 times per week, even a double serving of cake shouldn't be enough to wreck a good diet. I do all of these things. We limit sweets, I offer different simple meals with a variety of components, and we encourage the kids to eat until they want to stop, but that doesn't mean that the 'Feeding Sun' is always shining in our house.
There is nothing wrong with eating potato chips every now and then. I would go as far as to say that eating them even once a week will probably not make any noticible difference in your health or waistline. When I eat chips I like them along with other foods as part of a larger healthier meal. When my kids eat chips they sometimes go overboard. Or like the day in question, they refuse other food.
Upon the tantrums, that day, I told them that the chips were a treat and that they were part of a larger meal that they now needed to eat. I said that they could have more chips after they finished more of their meal. Thing 1 complied and earned more chips. Thing 2 did not and melted into a puddle on the floor.
Kids don't come with a developed standard operating system. They don't know that chips ought to be limited while salad should not. Heck some adults don't get that either. I have come to realize that treats of both the salty and sweet variety are probably best left to the end of a meal. Children younger than 5 don't always have the wherewithal to eat certain foods in moderation. You probably can't trust your toddler to eat a reasonable portion of anything that is super special and amazingly delicious like potato chips. If you don't want your kids eating too much, it is best just to not serve that treat. Or at least to do so less often and after a meal where you feel good about EVERY item that is served.
But that doesn't address the issue of portion control. I do not agree that we should offer foods and then just allow kids to just eat to their heart's content whenever given the opportunity. Sorry, I just don't buy it. This country has a massive cultural portion control problem. Suggesting that super young kids be allowed to make the call on how many pieces of cake they should eat is ludicrous. Yes, we do want them to each as much good healthy foods as they need while going through a growth spurt. And no, we do not want to encourage hoarding behaviors. BUT, I don't see anything wrong with telling your three year old 'You already had your piece of cake, if you are still hungry here are some carrots.' Your child might throw a fit. If you find the fit so unnerving or unacceptable then don't serve the cake. Or, you can choose this to be a teaching moment and allow him both the cake and the fit. Most kids will 'get it' after a while, cake is a special cherished item not a free-for-all.
I have grown to despise the term 'everything in moderation' because there are clearly foods that should not be eaten in moderation, like vegetables and fresh water. Vegetables are always a 'green light' food in my mind. Go to town. Stuff your face. Every diet I know of is in need of greens. No need to moderate there. Then again, animal protein is also a food that you need for health. (Sorry vegetarians and vegans, I really am....I am willing to listen if you are willing to school me!) But one does not need too much animal protein and again, going overboard doesn't support good health. And then there is junk food. A little won't hurt you, but you don't need it and too much can be detrimental. So this BS idea of everything in moderation doesn't really make much sense. Vegetables should not be eaten in moderation, they should be embraced. Cake and cookies should be eaten in moderation, it is okay to limit them.
Our kids NEED us to teach them which are green light foods, yellow light foods and red light foods. They need us to present a family culture in which everyone only eats one piece of cake. It will not warp your kid to tell them, 'you have had enough candy'. There are many cultures that do well in teaching their young 'how to eat', ours ain't one of 'em. As children get older they begin to adopt the behaviors that they have been repeatedly shown. Don't you want them to feel confident in heathy choices with few mixed messages? Of course there will be times when they go overboard and have too much sweet or rich food. At that point, their bodies negative reaction will only reinforce the lessons of moderation that you the parent will have already put in place.
How do you handle treats with your children?
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