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What do you suggest for encouraging a healthy attitude towards food?

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
My dd *loves* sweets. I don't keep any store-bought sweets in the house (well, besides ice cream for the rare treat at night once she's in bed ) I have a terrible sweet tooth too, and have always needed to watch my weight.

So, my question is, what behaviors/comments do you suggest for creating a healthy attitude towards eating? Here's a situation that happened to us today...

I told dd I would make some oatmeal cookies and she jumped up and down excited and wanting to add chocolate chips to them. This recipe is from Whole Foods for the Whole Family and is sweetened with maple syrup. I love these cookies because they really satisfy a craving if I'm having one. Anyway, later she asks if we could make Easter cupcakes. And she's always talking about, "Mommy, what if our house were made out of chocolate?"

How would you respond to her incessant talk about sweets?? Should I say anything about how it's not healthy to have too many? If I do that too much, will she freak out some day and either feel deprived or rebel and eat tons??? And at 3.5, does she even "get" that?? Should I whip out the veg*n food pyramid ?

I know the best thing I can probably do is model the appropriate eating habits, and for the most part I have been. What kinds of things do YOU say or do that encourage good, healthful eating habits?

THANK YOU in advance for your thoughts!
post #2 of 20
My kids, esp. my oldest has a major sweettooth. She didn't really know what candy or sweets were much until about 3, but once she discovered them, look out.

What we talk about is that it's important to eat foods that have vitamins and are nutritious and sweets are okay sometimes, but we need to make sure we are eating healthy foods as well as you are less likely to be sick, you'll have more energy and be stronger and healthier...

I've given up trying to limit them when they've been given them or have access to them, but we eat healthy meals and snacks and I keep healthy foods in the house. I was not allowed candy and sweets as a kid and I gorged when I could as a kid and now I struggle with my sweet tooth. I don't want that to happen to my kids, so I've been trying to be mellow about it, but supply and model healthy food and talk about what makes foods healthy or unhealthy and how it needs to be balanced.
post #3 of 20
Honestly, I walk the fence on this one. From the time she started solids until about 2.75 yrs I let her make her own choices about what and how much to eat. I just made sure we had plenty of healthy choices. Then she started preschool. . . : Pretty soon all of her choices involved sweets, so I made a new "rule" healthy food first, then sweet treats. Later, we added, no sweet treats for breakfast, not a good way to jumpstart a body that has been fasting 12-14 hours! It has worked pretty well. I've also let her have all she wants in a sitting and it didn't take long for her to figure out too much = a tummy ache. She is really pretty good about knowing when to quit. I've also mentioned that to others in her presence, that she knows when to stop. I have a terrible sweet tooth myself, and struggle with my weight. I was formula fed, forced to clean my plate, have a family history of diabetes and so on, so I hear you on wanting to protect your dd from all that. I'm hoping what I'm doing so far is working.

Thanks for this thread, I've been backsliding lately on the good role modeling. It was a good reminder!

edited to add: we also talk about preventing illness and recently have been discussing the food pyramid and why sweets are at the top.
post #4 of 20
Originally posted by mom at home
I was not allowed candy and sweets as a kid and I gorged when I could as a kid and now I struggle with my sweet tooth.
Same here. We were allowed sweets now and then, but not very often, and when we were, we BINGED. Even my parents did. Looking back, I wish my parents would have taught us that it is better to have, say, one cookie a day, than an entire box at once. Abstinence is NOT the key, at least in my case. Even now, if I don't give in a little bit now and then, I find myself binging.

But the other day I made a german chocolate cake for DH and I made a deal with myself. I could have half of the cake, as long as I only at ONE piece a day. I cut it up into small pieces ahead of time. And it honestly worked, it was amazing. :LOL

I guess that's the best kind of advice I can give. A little treat here and there is ok, I think. It's the binging that got me and my family.
post #5 of 20
I agree that totally eliminating (or restricting heavily) sweet treats can lead to problems. I'm not sure where exactly the balance is, though.

We also have mostly healthy stuff around the house, but I do give my girls treats now and again. We often buy 'treats for Daddy' (who has a major sweet tooth) when we are out - the girls love that, as they know that Daddy will share!

In some ways, I try to encourage my dds to have sweet treats from other people, or when we are out and about. That way, they don't expect to have candy around the house all of the time (and they don't expect me to constantly be doling it out).

I'm not a candy person myself (and neither is dh - his downfall is chocolate), but I love pastries - so when we have a treat, it tends to be a donut or something like that (or else chocolate). So far, the girls seem to have fairly healthy attitudes to sweet stuff.

I also try, when possible, to combine the sweet treat with something healthy (i.e., we have ice cream occasionally after dinner, but always with some kind of fruit cut up into it - that kind fo thing).

I use my 'What to Expect' books : for their recipes in the back - but I go ahead and use sugar, instead of apple juice concentrate. It makes for better cookies/muffins/etc. and you aren't missing out on any nutrients (apple juice doens't have much) - yet the girls still get lots of good nutrition from the other things in the baked goods.

I have a book about getting kids to eat 'proper food'. And one of the things that they said was - go ahead and have sweet things around the house - but make those things yourselves and use good quality ingredients. It isn't the sugar so much that you want to completely avoid (then you just create bingers) - it's all the processed crap that you don't want to get sucked into using/giving out.

Sorry - this has turned into a ramble. Hope some of this is useful.
post #6 of 20
As others have said, staying well away from processed, pre-prepared and pre-packaged crap is probably the best thing you can do. Homemade sweets, on the other hand, I think are fine in moderation . We often have dessert at our house, but we don't binge. Dd knows, as well, that she can have some, but can't gorge herself on sweets.

It also helps, IMO, that she has plenty of well-prepared, homemade, tasty healthy savory things to eat. What do you serve your child for meals?
post #7 of 20
We are trying to allow only one "sweet day" a week. A friend of mine does this too, but makes it definitely for Saturday. Her children are accepting of it (youngest 3yo)
post #8 of 20
I like Tina's idea.
post #9 of 20
Originally posted by t-elaine
We are trying to allow only one "sweet day" a week. A friend of mine does this too, but makes it definitely for Saturday. Her children are accepting of it (youngest 3yo)
This is how I was raised and I am one of those who started gorging on sweets as soon as I had the resources to get them. This is not to say that it can't work, but for me it was obviously too restrictive....

We're at sort of a loss here, too, though as ds (2.5) will eat nothing but sweets if given the choice (he seemed to innately know what they were, even before we had ever given him any : ). I wish I knew the answer... right now we're "bargaining" with him - doing the "healthy food first" thing. It seems to be working, and he isn't refusing to eat healthy stuff... he just drives us nuts with his incessant pleas for "candy" (his generic term for anything sweet).
post #10 of 20
I think the more you focus on it, the worse it gets.
My mom has had weight/food issues her whole life. I remember being quite young and watching her eat a whole bag of oreos and then the next day complain of feeling fat.
I try and stay away from pre-packaged crap and make my own cookies and cake. I do indulge in chocolate bars. I try very hard not to focus on how much of the "bad" foods I have eaten. When I start feeling guilty I take that as a message to eat healthier.
I believe that kids want what they can't have and if you make too big a deal of not having "junk" food, they may want it even more.
As long as they are little, you can control the portions and when they eat sweets.
I did remember hearing that a craving for chocolate was an indication that the body needed more protein, of course I don't know if that's true.
post #11 of 20
We're very relaxed about the whole thing, in fact ds had chocolates tonight BEFORE dinner, and he still ate a good dinner. In fact he didn't eat all the chocolate - he gave some to dh (M&M's)

Just the other day - he wanted a snack, I asked him if he wanted a cookie, cherio's or crispy (raw) carrots, he chose the carrots.

We never make a big fuss of anything, some nights he'll want to eat ONLY broccoli, or ONLY carrots (his favorite) not once has he ONLY wanted chocolate.....

I generally don't leave anything in view, because then he thinks he wants or needs it.

I have once or twice said to him "Oh you can only have carrots if you tidy up your toys" or something like that - so he actually thinks Carrots are the SIN food........ LOL (I'm mean) He always gets to "help" doing the shopping, he just LOVES to be the one to "find" the good stuff - the broccoli, carrots and banana's.

Good Luck.
post #12 of 20
I think we can definitely help our kids have healthy attitudes, and ITA that having homemade goodies is much better than processed crap, but I think that a sweet tooth is as much born as made and I hope that I can teach my DD the concepts of moderation. I would love to eat chocolate and deserts every day, but I know that isn't good for me, and my desire to be healthy keeps me in check. So if I can give my daughter that desire to be healthy, then hopefully even if she does have a sweet tooth (like me!), she'll be able to control herself.
post #13 of 20
Everything in moderation.

No fanaticism.

Set a good example, and truly enjoy it.
post #14 of 20
I think that setting a reasonable limit on sweets (in my house, it's once a day, except on special occasions) and explaning the difference between nutritious foods and non-nutritious foods is fine, but I'm always careful not to label foods as "good" or "bad." So I happily acknowledge how yummy the cookies taste and let dd enjoy them. Sweets really are not a problem in my house, and that might be partly because we have almost none anyway!

One thing, though - I do try to keep our sweet treats limited to those that are more wholesome, like cookies or pudding rather than candy and stuff full of artificial colors and flavors. Without making a huge deal of it, or prohibiting things offered at other's homes or parties, I have taught dd a bit about "unnatural" foods and how they have things in them that our bodies have a hard time getting rid of.
post #15 of 20
We have a BIG treat jar full of tiny treats (little hershie's kisses, sweetarts, minature reese's etc..) Girls are allowed one every night, Does not matter if they ate dinner or not. Just knowing they get a treat every night takes the pressure off. On special occassions they can have bigger treats (maybe 2 times a month). This works well and though dD has major sweet tooth, she is not obsessed.
post #16 of 20
A poster said above "I have once or twice said to him "Oh you can only have carrots if you tidy up your toys" or something like that - so he actually thinks Carrots are the SIN food........ LOL (I'm mean)"

Ha ha, but I totally have this plan to to treat veggies as desert. Increase thier cultural value, you know.
post #17 of 20
I agree with Piglet68, it can be inborn. Dd1 recognized Dunkin Donuts logo at the age of 9 months! This was not my doing!!
post #18 of 20
I'm struggling with this too.

I agree with all things in moderation and be a good role model.

I like the idea of one "treat" per evening, not to be used as a bribe or taken away as a punishment.

I really struggle with preschool and park programs - WAY too many crappy "treats". Yuck.
post #19 of 20
Originally posted by yogamama
I really struggle with preschool and park programs - WAY too many crappy "treats". Yuck.
Wow, I'm surprised, although I guess I shouldn't be. I guess I'm lucky that dd's school only allows healthy snacks (provided by a parent each day who participates in the classroom - it's a co-op) and even encourages eating organic! They serve organic juice at snacktime and frequently send home articles on choosing healthy foods, many of which focus on buying organic produce and things of that nature.
post #20 of 20
Penelope Leach's advice about this strikes me as sound, which is to mix up sweets and healthy foods as snacks and parts of meals, so as not to emphasize the specialness and the 'treat' aspect of sweet foods. And the other thing I think is to get as much nutrition as you can in with treats. For example at least ice cream has cream in it and those cookies had oatmeal. I try to only forbid what is absolutely worthless nutritionally, like soda. I have an ongoing struggle with ds's part-time babysitter who has fed him some real junk so we are in the position of policing her and what she gives him--not pleasant. She's been heard to mutter "God forbid I should give him a hot dog." Anyway I agree that some kids have more of a sweet tooth than others and in today's world it's hard. But you can still model healthy eating and an attitude toward healthy food that will help her deal with it throughout her life. I adamantly believe that a great gift you can give to your kids is a good attitude toward food and a palate that likes healthier food and this will be with them for life, regardless if they have more craving for sweet than usual.
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