How do you handle sweets in your house? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 50 Old 12-21-2011, 03:53 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Do you restrict sweets? Is it a free-for-all? Do you keep lots of sweets in the house to begin with, or avoid having them in your home completely? Are your kids allowed to have sweets any time of the day, or only certain times? How well do they self-regulate? Do they beg for sweets if they're restricted?

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#2 of 50 Old 12-21-2011, 05:58 PM
 
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I don't have sweets in the house often, and when I do, it is usually something like coconut milk ice cream, or a small batch of something I've made. DD (almost 7) has never self-regulated well at all and will make herself horribly ill if given free access, so I'm the one that serves for now. DS (almost 17 months) self-regulates great, but he doesn't have much of a sweet tooth anyways. He'll pick steamed broccoli over a cookie any day. However, he's never had sweets available until the last few months, whereas DD had people sneaking her stuff from the time she started solids. I don't have a certain time for sweets. It's usually a spontaneous just because thing, though I do usually keep it to earlier in the day to give DD time to come down before bed. Neither beg for sweets, or even ask really, if you don't count fruit. DD is thrilled when we have a special treat, but she understands that it is a special thing, not an everyday thing.

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#3 of 50 Old 12-21-2011, 11:25 PM
 
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dd couldnt self regulate till she was 5.

 

even today i dont keep any sweets in the house. meaning candy. specifically gummy bears (actually had some at home and guess who ate them for breakfast innocent.gif).

 

but before that if we were out i would never keep candy from her. i'd mostly get her some. and we'd both share a bag of skittles. 

 

she used to beg when she couldnt self regulate. if she begged i'd ask her had she eaten well enough to be able to eat some junk. and she'd actually think and mostly say no and be ok that means no more candy.

 

by 7 i removed all bars. candy was no longer my responsibility. BUT dont come to me if you have a tummy ache. 

 

we still sometimes have sugar first thing in the morning. but that's because i know in half hour she'd eat her regular bfast. 

 

by about 8 dd was good. i mean when you see a spread of many desserts at a party and your child chooses to munch on freshly picked super sweet cherry tomatoes, you know its time to let go of controlling her food. 

 

but seriously i had to evaluate my own sugar philosophy when dd was 3. she agreed that i could restrict her sugar intake since she could not regulate, and i agreed that she could have more if she really, really wanted more sugar. 'mom there are days when just one popsicle is not enough. you just got to have another." absolutely!!! you go girl. i can so understand that and relate to it. yup. that stopped her lying. 


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#4 of 50 Old 12-22-2011, 05:17 AM
 
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I don't have sweets in the house except at special occasions, like Halloween, Easter, and Christmas. That's probably it - my daughter calls those "candy holidays". If I have sweets in the house otherwise, nothing else exists as far as the kids are concerned. Oh, wait, the older one likes to cook but if we cook we try to make it at least not terribly junky. If it's in the house, I try not to be restrictive though. But there is no candy, for instance, in the morning before school and that kind of thing.

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#5 of 50 Old 12-22-2011, 07:00 AM
 
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We don't keep a lot in the house, but lately DS has decided that a cookie after EVERY meal is just fine. He doesn't ask for it at any other time, but even 3 cookies a day is too much for me. Now and then we go on a bender (like birthday parties) and then I say no junk food at all for a few days. IDK if it's working yet, but I'm hoping he's learning how to moderate -- it's okay to have Halloween or a crazy day at school when they are making gingerbread houses and more ends up in his stomach than on the house, but then he has to lay low for awhile and eat healthy foods to help his body stay strong.

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#6 of 50 Old 12-22-2011, 07:46 AM
 
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I buy a lot of Chocolate, I don't eat it but the whole family does.  A decent sized bag of chocolate will last maybe a month in the house.  Not too bad.  I will make cookies sometimes but those don't last long which means they're eaten by the littles.  DD1 is not good at regulating her sugar intake and she really reacts badly to too much.  DD2 doesn't have a problem with regulating herself.  So I don't usually have to worry about her.  

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#7 of 50 Old 12-22-2011, 08:14 AM
 
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We don't keep ready sweets in the house at all.

 

I grumble about sweets acquired outside of the home (candy holidays, lollipop-giving bank tellers, gummi-bear-buying park wardens, etc.) but don't restrict them.

 

I do, um, bake. I try to bake only occasionally but sometimes I find an interesting new recipe or something and the baking gets out of control. My baking is all from scratch, and I do feel that what I make constitutes as "food" as opposed to a "chemical product" (like gummi bears, which I do not consider food). I use 1/2 or even only 1/3 the sugar called for in a recipe, on average, and my family agrees with me that it's sweet enough. I also use whole wheat flour (sometimes alone, sometimes with some white flour to fluff it up).

 

Unfortunately, I react to wheat, so it's a problem. I've found a few homemade sweets that don't involve wheat. But even those get me addicted to sugar when I eat them more than once in a row.

 

I do have a few concoctions that involve neither wheat nor added sweetenings. One is to freeze berries or peach slices. I put them in the Vitamix with some whole milk and vanilla. Mmmm! Very sweet, no added sweetening needed. My family is a big fan of this ice cream.

 

Another is baked apples. I just add cinnamon and butter only - dee-lish! It really needs a high-quality apple to work really well though.

 

I admit that I've ended up being the gatekeeper for sugar, though. Unless DD gets sweets outside of the house, it's up to mama whether she wants to make something. However, it seems to work. Occasionally, DD will ask me to make something, and I usually comply if she's eaten a good amount of protein that day. Also, she counts baked apples and fruit "ice cream" as treats - not to mention cornbread (from scratch, the old fashioned way, no wheat flour at all, no sweetenings in the bread itself) with all-fruit jam on top.


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#8 of 50 Old 12-22-2011, 09:07 AM
 
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I try not to keep a lot of real sweets in the house, because my kids are just 5 and 3, and I really don't expect them to be able to make the decision that that chocolate cake that mommy left out on the counter just isn't a good choice for breakfast. I feel like I've done my best to lay a good foundation, I keep their diet well-balanced, and they both eat and enjoy a huge variety of healthy foods. I've also never totally deprived them of sweets; we keep fruit gummis and the like on hand for occasional treats, and during the rare times that we have junkier stuff in the  house, I don't feel like I'm a horrible mom if I give them a small portion after they've eaten a good supper. They wouldn't pass up ice cream in favor of cherry tomatoes if both were offered, but I am 100% sure that they would still happily eat their weight in the tomatoes after they had finished their ice cream. My goal is moderation, my goal is to teach them how to find a balance between healthy food and junk food, now, while they are young and impressionable, so that it's not such a struggle for them when they are grown and I'm not around around anymore to make their choices for them. 


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#9 of 50 Old 12-22-2011, 09:35 AM
 
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We don't really keep sweets in the house.  Candy is something that my kids get on special holidays (Halloween, Easter) and they occasionally get candy at school or something like that.  We have cake on birthdays, and DH will bake cookies or brownies maybe once a month.  I don't buy cereal or muffins or poptarts or anything like that, but they do sometimes make themselves cinnamon sugar toast for breakfast.  I do buy juice sometimes, and I do consider that a sweet.  And I do allow my kids to drink soda or other sweetened drinks if we go out to eat. 

 

To me, this seems like a moderate approach.  My kids do ask for sweets sometimes and when they were smaller they would sneak sweets, which is why we generally don't have them in the house these days.  As for self-regulation, it's something that my kids have gotten better at as they've gotten older (my kids are 8-12 now), although personality plays a role.  After Halloween, I let my kids self-regulate their candy consumption.  Two of my kids had finished all of their candy within a week or two.  The other two children saved their candy and it lasted for 2 months.


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#10 of 50 Old 12-22-2011, 12:46 PM
 
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I make cookies/treats usually once a week. If DS asks nicely without whining we give him some. I try not to use it as a reward for good behavior, but if he is polite and sweet when asking for some, we try to do it. If he whines/tantrums for more, I tell him he shouldn't do that, that he should be grateful for the treat, say thank you to whomever it is from, etc. We also don't do treats after dinner- our dinner are so late that if we did, he would be eating a cookie and then trying to go to bed. Usually treats are after lunch or with the mid-afternoon snack. I make our treats at home though- we don't buy store cookies: the ingredients list being so long scares me!

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#11 of 50 Old 12-22-2011, 02:51 PM
 
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I dont keep many sweets, but when they arrive (via grandma, or because of a bad desicion on my part) I let her go all out. When I bake something, I give her the bowl and spatula to lick. She spends about 3 minutes on it, gets bored, and then when the brownies are done she wont eat one. Its worked so far, but she's little.

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#12 of 50 Old 12-23-2011, 07:27 AM
 
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We do keep sweets in the house--plain chocolate, maybe some Dum Dums lollipops, and cookies (dd has lots of allergies, so it's generally stuff like Annie's gluten-free bunny cookies). Dd is allowed one "treat" a day--and she can pick what and when. In the summer, she usually likes to get a popsicle from the ice cream truck when we're out at the park. Otherwise, it might be a few Hershey's kisses, a serving of cookies, or a pouch of Annie's organic fruit snacks. We make special treats, like brownies or cupcakes, when she has a birthday party to go to (because of the allergies, she can never eat the treats that are served to the other kids.)

 

Like her parents, dd has a real sweet tooth, but because she has some control over what she gets, we don't get a lot of whining for extras. 

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#13 of 50 Old 12-23-2011, 08:41 PM
 
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I keep treats around and don't limit access unless it is close to dinner time. We mostly have them on movie nights once a week but DD is free to have them at other times also. My DD is good at regulating her own intake for the most part and always has been. She did go through a stage where she gorged a few times and got sick but she moved past that without me having to put limits in place.
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#14 of 50 Old 12-23-2011, 09:45 PM
 
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We rarely have any sweets in our house. I think it's mainly because I have no sweet tooth. Once in a while we have ice cream or fruit pops but besides that nothing. No candy, cookies or deserts. We steer towards chips and crackers instead. My son is highly affected by sugar so I minimize sweets as much as I can.

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#15 of 50 Old 12-27-2011, 08:06 AM
 
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We almost always have some treats in the house.  We keep them in a special snack drawer in the kitchen.  We keep fruit roll ups, nuts, dried fruit, lollipops, gum, chips (sometimes), maybe some cookies and usually some type of candy in there.  Leftover halloween, holiday and present candy also go in there.  It is one of the few cabinets and drawers that remained child safety locked...

 

DD and I adhere to a one treat a day rule.  She absolutely accepts that rule as legitimate.  We do sometimes have to negotiate over what type of treat it will be though (fruit roll-up vs. cookies).  

 

I was raised in a house where it was feast or famine regarding treats.  I really learned to gorge myself when something good came in because you never knew if when it would come again.  I'm striving to teach my daughter moderation. 

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#16 of 50 Old 12-31-2011, 11:15 PM
 
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I would prefer to control the environment but it feels completely impossible, so there are rules. The kids get one treat per day. During the week it's homemade junk food only. Weekends we allow one store bought treat.

They do ask/beg for junk but DD does so way less than when we had no rules. She is totally OK with the system.

I have a much harder time figuring out what to do about borderline junky foods like ketchup, vanilla soy milk, cereal, granola bars, or eating fuit 3x a day. It's usually my call whether the kids get that stuff and it can get annoying. I try to give my DD as much info as possible about picking a variety of foods, what foods have vitamins, what foods will keep you from being hungry again in an hour etc. I can't just get rid of all of it, DH just buys junkier versions of it and doesn't wait for sales.
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#17 of 50 Old 01-01-2012, 12:26 AM
 
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I am the only one who handles the sweets ;)

 

Honestly, we don't give them to the kids and my DH hates them.. In fact, I have my own secret sweet stash.  Just in case :)

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#18 of 50 Old 01-03-2012, 07:16 PM
 
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The issue in our house isn't the kids, it is my husband.  HE has poor control, and also has a hard time staying at the weight he wants, I keep sweets out of the house.  I also try to buy fair trade chocolate/sugar, since they are luxuries.  This means I can't afford them very often...

 

We tend to like savory/salty snacks more here (tortilla chips, pretzles, peanuts).   Kids can pick a small bowl of pretzle sticks or tortilla chips once or twice for snacks during the day (kids are 5, 3 and 2) and fruit for other snacks. 

 

I put together enough cookie dough to fill up an old tub with pre-formed cookie dough balls, and every few evenings we have a fresh-baked cookie after dinner.  (If they are frozen, DH can't eat them in one sitting.  Poor guy!)  I don't tie this to any thing in particular (like finishing dinner);  I don't really want the kids to associate sugar/treats as rewards, just as something fun.  (though, I did use MnM's to potty train the 2 year old.  The 3 year old didn't need any motivation, but I didn't have as strong a relationship with the 2 year old since he had just moved in with us.  I thought I might need a little extra persuasion.  He probably could have done without)

 

I regularly CRAVE Del Taco (I know, it is just the worst thing ever.  I am a pretty big local/organic food snob besides this dirty secret of mine).  Sometimes after bed, hubby runs out and gets me a burrito.  Before it was Del Taco I craved 7-11 jalepeno & cheese corn dogs.  Gross, I know.

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#19 of 50 Old 01-03-2012, 08:47 PM
 
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DH and I don't buy sweets a lot. DH has never had a sweet tooth and loves cooking good food like salads and healthy options. But we live with my parents and my dad is a diabetic. So there is always a box of nutty bars or honey buns in the drawer. DSS never bothers those. If he asks for ice cream that is usually in the freezer because of my mom, we tell him to have some applesauce or a fruit snack. He seems pretty content with that. Since he had a sore throat about three weeks ago, he has been loving some popsicles and we indulge him every other day. I'm pretty lucky that DSS is a good eater. I have issues with daycare though and what their idea of a "snack" is. A cookie is not a snack. Carrots and grapes are snacks...


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#20 of 50 Old 01-04-2012, 10:48 AM
 
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We don't keep much in the way of sugary treats in the house...I am just not that into candy or sweets, but do love chocolate.  I try to abide by the "if it goes in the shopping cart, it goes in your body" philosophy when shopping so I try not to buy junk as my self control is less than stellar.  That said, my personal weakness is tortilla chips and crackers.  I only occassionally buy crackers so tortilla chips/nachos are my real guilty pleasure.  That doesn't sound too bad until you add in my other guilty pleasure: sour cream. 

 

Because it generally isn't in the house (except around Christmas holidays I guess, when we are often gifted chocolate) DS doesn't get much in the way of sweets.  I DO bake muffins, which he loves, but these are actually "muffins" not cupcakes that get called muffins.  The 3 kinds I bake are bran muffins with molassas and some type of fruit or berry, bananna bread, and oatmeal.  All of the recipes do have some sugar in them, but I usually put in less than the recipe calls for and try to use at least half whole wheat flour.  The other sweet "treat" we will have is yogurt with honey, and sometimes DS gets jam on his toast and a couple of times I've made hot chocolate with milk, not water (DS loved that!).  Once in a while he will get some icecream (at a hockey game for example) and if we have dessert (usually if we have a family dinner at my parents) then DS gets some too.  He already seems to self-regulate reasonably well, so maybe he's inherited my lack of a sweet tooth.  We'll see how this progresses as he gets older though, as he's only 17 mos old.

 

I don't have a problem with sugar so much as "fake food".  I'm ok with DS having the occasional homemade treat (like the muffins, or my mom's blueberry pie) but I am not ok with store-bought stuff.  I want him to know that it is ok to "treat" yourself, but that these types of foods are a treat, and I try to teach by example.

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#21 of 50 Old 01-04-2012, 04:17 PM
 
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We almost always have some sort of sweet in the house: ice cream, M&Ms, or homemade cookies, usually. We don't really restrict access, but the kids don't ask for it more than I would allow, so it hasn't been an issue. I give them like 10 M&Ms with lunch, or a cookie or scoop of ice cream after dinner, and they seem content with that, and I'm perfectly fine with them consuming that quantity of sweets. 

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#22 of 50 Old 01-04-2012, 05:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all the responses so far, it's really interesting to see how everyone handles this!!

DS has a major sweet tooth... plus he just loves food in general. His favorite thing in the world is... CHOCOLATE. ("DS, what kind of party do you want to have for your birthday party?" Him: "Hmm... a chocolate party! With chocolate cupcakes and chocolate frosting and chocolate cookies!!")

I started out letting him have 'treats' whenever he asked. So if he asked for chocolate, I'd give him one chocolate chip, and he'd be happy. But then he started wanting more & more so we made a one-treat-a-day rule (and they were usually very very small servings). BUT, then I felt uncomfortable controlling his diet like this, so I thought I'd go back to letting him self-regulate... but he still has the sweet tooth so I'm just not sure what I want to do. The only rule right now is no chocolate once it's dark out (the ~5 hours before bed) and he's probably eating 1-3 tiny treats a day but some days it seems like a lot more!

We don't keep a lot of junk around really... dark chocolate (75%+ cocoa), cocoa & carob powders, that's pretty much it, we don't do "candy" and don't bake often. We are gluten-free & vegan so I keep a stash of packaged cookies in case we're at a party where the cake isn't GF/veg. And DH loves tortilla chips so there is usually a bag or two hanging around, but DS isn't obsessed with them. I can't imagine not having chocolate in the house... when I need chocolate, I need it NOW!! Where do you hide it? How do you keep your kids from seeing you indulge??? DS can hear from three rooms away if I open the chocolate cabinet...

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#23 of 50 Old 01-05-2012, 06:59 AM
 
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we have problems.  i am still trying to figure it out.  dd has discovered begging.  ("just one chocolate chip?  just ONE?")

and the other day she told dh that she "felt like mama was going to bring her a lollipop after work." 

i have no idea how to say no to that.

i like to bake, and it's kind of fulfilling for us to bake together on the weekends, so it's hard to control that too.  plus i love sweets and am huge preggo. 

i am thinking instituting one treat per day is the way we'll go too.  the holidays were really difficult as far as all that goes, too.


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#24 of 50 Old 01-05-2012, 07:09 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Yeah maybe we'll go back to the one-a-day rule too. Holidays definitely made it tough because people were giving us treats constantly!!

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#25 of 50 Old 01-07-2012, 03:42 PM
 
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It's unrestricted and it's always been. She can eat what she wants, when she wants, and how much she wants. She doesn't "self regulate," I guess. There's no need to. She doesn't have that consuming desire for sweets like a lot of kids do, I think because it's just a part of her everyday. It's not doled out on special occasions or used as a bargaining chip, there's no "forbidden fruit" aspect to sweets, so she just doesn't care about it that much.

 

Her diet, when looked at on a single-meal or one-day basis, is usually unbalanced, and not necessarily in the junky way (today, thus far, she's eaten 2 bananas, half a bowl of raw broccoli, a few green beans, and some chocolate milk, nothing else, though we haven't had dinner yet -- highly unbalanced according to the almighty food pyramid, LOL). But patch it together and look at it over a week, a month, a year, and it's very much balanced. She has days where she eats nothing but sweets and just as many or more where she bypasses them altogether.

 

In my opinion, treating sweets like a treat, doling them out on a restricted basis, or using them for rewards/special occasions, elevates their importance in a person's life and makes it likely that they will eat as much as they can of them, whenever they can get them, because they don't know when the next opportunity will come around. Anyone who has ever taken basic econ understands the idea. The less there is of something attractive, the more valuable and coveted it becomes. It's the oldest advertising strategy in the book: get one now, only 10 left, they're almost gone! When there's no limited supply, demand goes down and consumption levels out. That's what our experience with sweets and DD has been. She'll jump on the opportunity to eat fresh blackberries, because we only get them when they're in season and when we're in a place they grow. They're rare and special and she'll eat herself sick just to have her fill of them, because the next opportunity is uncertain. Meanwhile, the pan of brownies on the counter only gets picked at. Not because she doesn't like it, but because it's always available and there's no urgency.

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#26 of 50 Old 01-07-2012, 04:39 PM
 
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In my opinion, treating sweets like a treat, doling them out on a restricted basis, or using them for rewards/special occasions, elevates their importance in a person's life and makes it likely that they will eat as much as they can of them, whenever they can get them, because they don't know when the next opportunity will come around. Anyone who has ever taken basic econ understands the idea. The less there is of something attractive, the more valuable and coveted it becomes. It's the oldest advertising strategy in the book: get one now, only 10 left, they're almost gone! When there's no limited supply, demand goes down and consumption levels out. That's what our experience with sweets and DD has been. She'll jump on the opportunity to eat fresh blackberries, because we only get them when they're in season and when we're in a place they grow. They're rare and special and she'll eat herself sick just to have her fill of them, because the next opportunity is uncertain. Meanwhile, the pan of brownies on the counter only gets picked at. Not because she doesn't like it, but because it's always available and there's no urgency.

I agree about treating "treats" as currency, or using them as a bribe.  I also think however, that some children (and adults for that matter) have poor self-control from a genetic/biological perspective and need help to learn (like being helped to learn impulse control, some kids are just better than others naturally).  Free, unrestricted access just doesn't work for some kids (or adults!).  I also think this is a different thing than "restricting" or "dolling out" treats though, and that at some point children need to be given some control as well.  It's about balance IMO, and knowing your child and what they can handle, and helping them learn to make good choices.
 

 


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#27 of 50 Old 01-07-2012, 05:22 PM
 
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I suppose it's possible that there's a genetic basis for some people. But humans are programmed and evolved to eat a balanced diet when it's available. Being programmed to eat only or primarily unhealthy food when a variety is available makes no sense biologically and doesn't appear in any non-primate beings. It has to either have a social basis, or be a genetic dysfunction, as it places the beings it affects at a significant disadvantage for life and successful reproduction.

 

Culture dictates what peoples' habits are, not biology, for the most part (disorders notwithstanding). I don't believe that given a blank slate, a normal human brain and body is programmed to do what's bad for it in the long term. Culture and environment mess with it by elevating certain things beyond their place. By forcing "healthy" food and both demonizing and deifying "unhealthy" food, it seems like our western culture creates its own problems. Force develops a negative association, scarcity and intermittent reward develop positive associations. Healthy food is forced, sweets are in most homes at the very least scare (thus valuable). Of course people are going to make poor choices if faced with a choice between something that brings up happy memories and a feeling of euphoria at achieving the "forbidden," and something that brings up unhappy ones. I'm willing to bet that a child force-fed sweets who had vegetables, grains and protein restricted and given the same scarce/valuable status sweets attain in most homes, the child would beg and whine and throw tantrums in the produce aisle, and gorge on them whenever available.

 

If human beings were naturally helpless to their whims and only programmed to eat sugar and to need to learn "self-control" to deal with it appropriately, we'd have gone extinct right out of the gate. The body cannot survive on sugar alone, and the unprocessed mind knows it. If that weren't the case, we'd see epidemic obesity and little reproductive function (for lack of nutrition) in tribes surrounded by tasty, easily available and plentiful fruit, but where other forms of food are scarce or required increased effort to get, because all they'd eat is fruit. But we don't see that. We see people who go to great lengths to have diversity in their diet, even eating things that are disgusting to the human palate. If self-control factored into it, we'd expect to see a large sector of every one of these populations suffering disease and malnourishment from poor diet rather than for lack of availability. But we don't. We only see that in a few societies with a few very specific cultural elements.

 

Biology aside, I question whether someone can learn impulse control by being controlled. Doesn't external control completely defeat the purpose of self-control? I'm not trying to start an argument or put you down, but I'm genuinely curious what the basis of these ideas are. I hear them repeated so often, but outside of the modern western world, there doesn't really seem to be any basis for them.

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I agree about treating "treats" as currency, or using them as a bribe.  I also think however, that some children (and adults for that matter) have poor self-control from a genetic/biological perspective and need help to learn (like being helped to learn impulse control, some kids are just better than others naturally).  Free, unrestricted access just doesn't work for some kids (or adults!).  I also think this is a different thing than "restricting" or "dolling out" treats though, and that at some point children need to be given some control as well.  It's about balance IMO, and knowing your child and what they can handle, and helping them learn to make good choices.
 

 



 

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#28 of 50 Old 01-07-2012, 07:01 PM
 
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DD is 4 and a half and can NOT self regulate at all. We have tried to keep it around and let her decide on her own and she just can't do it.  So we restrict it a lot. I try to loosen up once in a while to see if she is ready but so far no success. Given the choice she will have fig newtons and M&Ms three meals a day. We do keep one treat in the house to have after dinner AFTER she eats good food all day.

 

My second (only 17 months) doesn't seem to have much of a sweet tooth. She will push a cookie away in favor of a slice of orange, so it may be a different story for her. My unlikely hope is that by the time DD1 learns to self regulate, DD2 will still rather have an orange and I won't have to regulate for them much!


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#29 of 50 Old 01-07-2012, 09:10 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Vrai View Post

I suppose it's possible that there's a genetic basis for some people. But humans are programmed and evolved to eat a balanced diet when it's available. Being programmed to eat only or primarily unhealthy food when a variety is available makes no sense biologically and doesn't appear in any non-primate beings. It has to either have a social basis, or be a genetic dysfunction, as it places the beings it affects at a significant disadvantage for life and successful reproduction.

OK so at first I totally agreed with this... but DS never had treats restricted for his first 2+ years or so, and we only started regulating them after he started going crazy over them & wanting to eat them all the time. I do think you are right that we a biologically programmed to eat balanced diet, but I think what you aren't factoring in is that sweets, candy, etc. didn't even exist for most of our evolutionary years. I don't know that our bodies can react in a biological way to something that shouldn't even exist in our environment.

My DS will happily eat his chocolate simultaneously with broccoli or brussels sprouts (I've actually seen him stop eating sweets to eat veggies and then resume the sweets and then go back to the veggies). He eats incredibly well and has never met a food he doesn't like. He just has a really strong sweet tooth, too, for some reason, and the amount of sweets he eats when given free access makes me really uncomfortable.

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#30 of 50 Old 01-07-2012, 09:34 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vrai View Post

I suppose it's possible that there's a genetic basis for some people. But humans are programmed and evolved to eat a balanced diet when it's available. Being programmed to eat only or primarily unhealthy food when a variety is available makes no sense biologically and doesn't appear in any non-primate beings. It has to either have a social basis, or be a genetic dysfunction, as it places the beings it affects at a significant disadvantage for life and successful reproduction.

 

Culture dictates what peoples' habits are, not biology, for the most part (disorders notwithstanding). I don't believe that given a blank slate, a normal human brain and body is programmed to do what's bad for it in the long term. Culture and environment mess with it by elevating certain things beyond their place. By forcing "healthy" food and both demonizing and deifying "unhealthy" food, it seems like our western culture creates its own problems. Force develops a negative association, scarcity and intermittent reward develop positive associations. Healthy food is forced, sweets are in most homes at the very least scare (thus valuable). Of course people are going to make poor choices if faced with a choice between something that brings up happy memories and a feeling of euphoria at achieving the "forbidden," and something that brings up unhappy ones. I'm willing to bet that a child force-fed sweets who had vegetables, grains and protein restricted and given the same scarce/valuable status sweets attain in most homes, the child would beg and whine and throw tantrums in the produce aisle, and gorge on them whenever available.

 

If human beings were naturally helpless to their whims and only programmed to eat sugar and to need to learn "self-control" to deal with it appropriately, we'd have gone extinct right out of the gate. The body cannot survive on sugar alone, and the unprocessed mind knows it. If that weren't the case, we'd see epidemic obesity and little reproductive function (for lack of nutrition) in tribes surrounded by tasty, easily available and plentiful fruit, but where other forms of food are scarce or required increased effort to get, because all they'd eat is fruit. But we don't see that. We see people who go to great lengths to have diversity in their diet, even eating things that are disgusting to the human palate. If self-control factored into it, we'd expect to see a large sector of every one of these populations suffering disease and malnourishment from poor diet rather than for lack of availability. But we don't. We only see that in a few societies with a few very specific cultural elements.

 

Biology aside, I question whether someone can learn impulse control by being controlled. Doesn't external control completely defeat the purpose of self-control? I'm not trying to start an argument or put you down, but I'm genuinely curious what the basis of these ideas are. I hear them repeated so often, but outside of the modern western world, there doesn't really seem to be any basis for them.



 


No worries, I don't feel put down at all.  I actually agree with a lot of what you have said in terms of control and scarcity.  I also agree that cultural influence cannot be denied.  What I believe is needed is guidance, not control.

 

I think that what I am saying is that parents need to teach children about balance in general, not just when it comes to food.  I also think that sweets and junk are designed by companies to take advantage of evolutionary/genetic traits.  We are no longer dealing with "real" food.  We crave fat and sugar because until very very recently both were very scarce for most peoples and so it made sense to binge on them when they were available.  Also, these "cravings" and what the body can handle are affected by genetics.  There is new research suggesting, for example, that aboriginals in northern Canada would benefit from a high fat, low carb/sugar died because this is what their traditional diet was like and what they, as a people, are genetically best suited to rather than following the Canada Food Guide.  And you mentioned that if we didn't have impulse control we'd be extinct out of the gate.  Again, we aren't dealing with "real" food and look at what we are doing to ourselves as a society.  Look at obesity, heart disease, and diabeties.

 

I suppose this is also personal experience speaking.  My DH grew up in a family where junk food and sweets were unrestricted, nor were other types of food.  Everyone in his family has or had a weight problem, and he had NO self control as a kid and still struggles with it (but yet was let to eat whatever he wanted).  He once ate so many homemade buns that he vomitted them all up.  He would vomit every time he drank orange soda, but drank it anyway...I think that in many, many families it has a lot to do with not even knowing what types of food are healthy.  When we were first married and DH was trying to watch his weight he once took a GIANT plate of potato salad at a function, and I gave him a look and he replied, in total honesty and seriousness "What, it's salad."  He'd never been taught and so he had no idea.

 

As for other species, some breeds of dog have very very poor ability to self regulate.  Golden Retrievers and Labs are notorious for this.  We had a retriever who once ate an entire bag of cat food that was left out.  Another time he went to a friends where they just left dry dog food out in a big pail.  He ate non-stop for 20 minutes until we stopped him.  He would eat almost anything, and wouldn't stop until you took it away.  This wasn't just a problem in this particular dog, and it didn't come from being starved or denied food, it has a genetic basis in the breed as a whole.

 

It's an interesting subject certainly with lots of valid perspectives.

 


N, wife to my goofball K partners.gif and mamma to my EC grad D (July 2010) and my new little love S (May 2013).  Exploring the uncharted territory of tandem nursing with my two boys.

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