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There's got to be a better way! (dessert battles)

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

I'm wondering how others handle dessert. I've read a bit of Ellyn Satter, and would like to be able to follow her guidelines for DD to just eat as much (or as little) as she wants of the food we prepare and leave it at that. She's 3 1/2.


Generally it works that way, except when dessert is in the offering (once or twice a week). I just can't let her have dessert on an all but empty stomach. And yet I don't want to ban dessert for her altogether (all things in moderation...).


Is there a way to do both without having to bargain for every last bite she eats? Would love to do this differently from how I was raised (where I was often the last one at the table, alone with my plate of food).


Thanks in advance!

post #2 of 19
I hadn't heard of her before reading this post, but it sparked my interest so I looked around at her site and found this: http://www.ellynsatter.com/using-forbidden-food-i-51.html
post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 

Ah, hadn't seen that one - thanks! Also found this, which is pretty relevant right now: http://www.ellynsatter.com/october-22-2008-family-meals-focus-30-the-sticky-topic-of-halloween-candy-i-129.html


Seems like it will take a leap of faith to implement, but worth a try!

post #4 of 19
I'm not familiar with Ellyn Satter, but don't understand your concern about dessert on an nearly empty stomach. What kinds of desserts do you offer? Maybe you can make healthier desserts, then your concerns would be less.
post #5 of 19
Thanks for that article! I'm really intrigued by all of this. Wish my library carried her books. I have a horrible relationship with treats, so I'm all for ideas to get my girls to not be the same.
post #6 of 19
Thread Starter 

@pek64, Well, we do eat mostly healthy desserts - for DD, honey and tangerines are a big treat (presented with a basket of mixed wrapped candy and tangerines while trick or treating - she chose a tangerine!). That's not such a big issue, but there are times when we do have ice cream or (like now) some chocolate around the house that she's aware of. And we also talk a lot about the differences between treats and foods that nourish. 


I'm just trying to help her build a healthy relationship to it without being too permissive or restrictive. And letting her find that boundary herself by giving her (limited) access to it during meal and snack times is intriguing... 


@lactatinggirl, I know - I have such a sweet tooth! 

post #7 of 19
My mother grew up during the depression. One of her favorite stories is about the job she had at the corner store. Her favorite dessert food was ice cream, and the corner store sold ice cream, as well as candy and other 'junk' foods. The owner was wise. He asked my mother what her favorite was, out of all the items he sold, and she replied 'ice cream'. He then told her she could eat as much ice cream as she wanted, free of charge. Anythinh else, she'd have to buy, but ice cream was free, as long as she ate it in the store. She accepted the offer happily! The first day she ate a lot of ice cream. The second day she ate some. The third day she ate only a little. The fourth day he talked to her about the ice cream. He wanted to know if there was something wrong with it, since she wasn't eating any. She confessed she was sick of it! Then she saw the twinkle in his eye, and realized that had been his goal all along!

My son gets migraines from sugar. When he was a baby we noticed a connection between his 'colic' and how much sugar I ate. While we didn't fully understand the problem until he was older, we tried to keep him away from sugar, but my parents would sneak him sugary foods behind my back, then tell me I was a bad mother because I held while he cried his screaming cry, instead of punishing him by ignoring his 'tantrum'. When he was 3&1/2, I let him have mini powdered sugar donuts after swimming. When he started crying I asked if he could tell me what he was feeling. He said he just wasn't himself, then asked why he felt that way. I told him it was the sugar, and he said he would never have sugar again! After that, no one could give him sugary foods without my knowledge, because he would ask me what was in anything offered him before taking it. He didn't trust what anyone else said.

Tangerines are great, and I wouldn't have a problem with my child eating them, and would put the dessert out with the meal and let my child choose what all to eat. Ice cream and candy are out for us because of the sugar, so they wouldn't be in the house or offered for dessert. If they were options, I might put the candy out with the dinner and let my child choose. Ice cream is harder, because it must be kept cold.

Aa far as eating sugar on an empty stomach, isn't breastmilk sweeter at the beginning and has more fat at the end? Maybe humans prefer to eat sweet followed by other nutrition. Just a thought.
post #8 of 19

We make dinner and dessert two completely different meals. So the kids eat (or don't eat) dinner according to our house guidelines (come sit at the table, eat what has been prepared or make yourself something else equally healthy or ask to be excused if you truly aren't hungry).  An hour or so later, they may have dessert if they wish and what they eat is their choice.  That said, I don't have anything completely devoid of value in the house, but I probably do have some higher-sugar options around since I like to bake and I like ice cream too. :-)  But since it wasn't presented as part of dinner but more of a snack, I don't feel pressured to make sure they eat "real food" first.  I do coach my son on portion size and choices since he is concerned about his weight (he's 13).  DD almost always chooses fruit over anything else.  No stress, no fuss.  Maybe I'm a lazy mom but it works for us.

post #9 of 19
Originally Posted by pek64 View Post

Aa far as eating sugar on an empty stomach, isn't breastmilk sweeter at the beginning and has more fat at the end? Maybe humans prefer to eat sweet followed by other nutrition. Just a thought.


From a biological standpoint (I'm going to school to become a biology teacher), yes, we prefer sugar. And for good reason! Your brain runs on glucose only. Glucose doesn't mean sugar alone, as many people think, but also carbs, because they are often composed of long chains of glucose. For your brain to work on something like protein, your body has to convert it to glucose first, which produces acid. That's why you sometimes hear of people on the Atkins diet having major health issues. So a long way to get to a short answer: Yes! Your body is wired to prefer sugar! :-P

post #10 of 19

My DD goes to bed early, so I usually serve dessert-type foods for afternoon snack.  I will admit, though, that I will sometimes nonchalantly offer a nutritionally-dense dessert food at dinnertime if I know I'm offering a meal that DD is not inclined to eat.  Sometimes she surprises me and eats the meal instead :)

post #11 of 19

Newmamalizzy--vegan chocolate mousse (silken tofu, chocolate chips (melted and then blended with the tofu) and maple syrup to taste) is a filling nutrient dense treat that I've let DS have a couple of times now!  He loves it.  


Otherwise, we don't do many desserts (mostly b/c he goes to bed by 6:30pm) and so we tend to have occasional ice creams or other treats (every few weeks) in the afternoon.  When I do offer something sweeter at dinner (usually fruit, tonight we had a treat of some jello, the organic/no food dye kind) it's served as part of the meal and he can eat it whenever he wants during the meal.  So tonight, 3 compartment plate:  red lentil daal in one compartment, rice w/ veggies in another compartment, jello in the third.   Once he starts being able to be up later, "dessert" will be offered as a before our bed time routine snack.  

post #12 of 19

If I know we're going to have a "special" dessert for dinner that night (more than, say, allowing a bowl of ice cream out of the freezer) then I try and make dinner something that the kids pretty reliably will eat. I'm not fully comfortable with the "no dessert if you don't eat your dinner" when I made something SPECIAL that they would then miss out on. If I make a special dessert, I want our whole family to be able to enjoy it together. and I'm not fully comfortable just allowing them to eat dessert instead of dinner. So I try hard to set them up for success.

post #13 of 19
I don't really get the "no dessert on an empty stomach" thing. Honestly, as someone with hypoglycemia, often I *have* to eat sugar before I can stomach actual food. I don't really see the purpose in making treats only available after meals, if the kid is otherwise eating a well-balanced diet.

Here's what I think actually happens when dessert comes after a meal:

Kid fills up on the meal -- either because she is hungry or because she's told she needs to eat all of XYZ before she can have dessert.
Then, kid sees dessert. She's already full but dessert is sooo yummy... so she has some.
Now she's just learned to ignore her body's hungry/full signal.

If dessert comes before, or during, or separate from the meal, sure, she might end up eating two less bites of broccoli at dinner, but she can better tune in to her body's signals. She's probably not likely to push herself past "full" for just one more stalk of broccoli. She's more likely to stop when she's full.

That's just my theory, I don't know if there is anything to back it up but it's what makes sense to me. We don't keep a lot of sweets in the house, but I don't generally restrict DS's access to what we do have, nor restrict sweets at parties/holidays/etc. There are exceptions. We have a strict "no chocolate in the late afternoon/evening" rule -- more because of the caffeine than the sugar, I want him to sleep! And sometimes I will say no to his requests for sweets, but more because he is supposed to be doing something else right then (i.e. getting dressed etc.) I also keep any treats in the very top cabinets, just to minimize temptation. He's much more likely to grab a banana or apple, they are right out on the counter.

I also like to make healthy "treats" -- things that look & feel like treats but have no added sugar and are made up of things I'd be happy to have him eat even in place of a meal. So sometimes for breakfast he has popsicles made with just plain (no sugar) yogurt and a banana. Snack is occasionally something like a pumpkin pie (made with no crust, minimal sugar, and blended with tofu) or avocado pudding or apple nachos. I think it helps to make it seem like treats are not forbidden, without ACTUALLY having him eat sugar constantly.

Anyway, seems to work for us. He is 3 1/2 and eats just about everything under the sun. And he will stop licking a lollipop (special Halloween treat!) to have some bites of veggies -- completely of his own accord! smile.gif
post #14 of 19
So I tried the idea of dessert for snack and let her have as many cookies as she wanted. She ate 3 and then went about her merry way. Then I offered one with dinner and she didn't even finish it! This is a FAR cry from what it's normally like when I make cookies. She usually begs and begs and begs and probably ends up eating a half dozen in one day. I think it helped that not only did I not limit, but I told her we're not snacking between snacks/meals and I told her she could eat as much as she wanted, but had to stay at the table.
post #15 of 19

This is an interesting thread. We never offer dessert with dinner. Occasionally (and more often than I realize), we have treats around or offered (e.g., trip to ice cream store in the afternoon, or treat from school, etc.). My DS1 reacts almost violently to sugar almost every time. If he drinks a store-bought chocolate milk, he invariably has a horrible tantrum an hour or so after. So, our rule is that he has to have protein in his tummy before he can have a sugar treat. I try my best to get him to eat protein at each meal, as protein is supposed to take longer to breakdown and temper the response to sugar.


Of course, sometimes the protein is yogurt and has sugar in it anyway. Still wondering why Kefir helps him regulate and chocolate milk doesn't!

post #16 of 19
Originally Posted by porcelina View Post

Of course, sometimes the protein is yogurt and has sugar in it anyway. Still wondering why Kefir helps him regulate and chocolate milk doesn't!

The chocolate? (Unless you get chocolate Kefir too!) Maybe it's more of a reaction to the caffeine than the sugar? And caffeine does affect blood sugar levels too so it's hard to sort out!
post #17 of 19
Originally Posted by crunchy_mommy View Post

The chocolate? (Unless you get chocolate Kefir too!) Maybe it's more of a reaction to the caffeine than the sugar? And caffeine does affect blood sugar levels too so it's hard to sort out!

Hmm, you're right about the caffeine being unique to chocolate. I admit that I have looked up possible allergies to chocolate and from what I found it looked like there was absolutely nothing unique to it except for the caffeine, so I just assumed it had to be the sugar! But, that may very well be part of it, I hadn't even thought about the caffeine being something he'd react to. He has also reacted like that to chocolate chip banana bread (given by the babysitter) and other chocolatey treats. Thanks for the thought!

post #18 of 19
I feel like I just have to post here that I have finally figured out the chocolate milk (and other certain sugary foods) and tantrum link. It turns out that vanillin is an artificial food additive often put in chocolate milk and chocolate chips (along with other junk sometimes). DS has had many a tantrum after consuming this flavoring. We put him on an artificial food additive free diet and have seen a huge difference in his behavior! I wish I had figured it out earlier, but glad I finally did!
post #19 of 19
My son gets migraines from sugar, artificial flavors, artificial colors and artificial sweeteners. I tell people all the time that there can be a connection between behavior and food, especially artificial ingredients. An oncoming migraine can cause mood issues, which cause behavior issues. I encourage parents struggling with behavior issues with either themselves or their child(ren) to explore the possibility that something being consumed is causing the problem.
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