As parents, we are all conscious of the number of treats our kids are eating. There is no getting away from them, we are bombarded everywhere we go, when you are doing the shopping, getting petrol, at parties, from grandparents, at playdates, at the swimming pool, even teachers, there are treats coming from every angle. Of course, sometimes it can’t be helped and we wouldn’t want to deny them completely, but we only have to look at the obesity crisis in this country to see that kids today are eating too many treats. And we can’t blame kids for wanting them, biscuits, sweets, ice-creams all laden with sugar are literally addictive. If we take a look at a week in the average household, Mum gives a treat for good behaviour one day, ‘that’s ok it’s just the one’ she thinks, another day Dad gives a treat, then Nanny arrives with treats and there’s a friend’s birthday party, teachers give a little treat for the class, an ice-cream for a sunny day, so without even thinking there are treats every day of the week. So what can we do about it? Here are some simple tips for breaking bad habits.
Make a treat a treat
The definition of the word treat is an event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure. A treat isn’t a treat if it’s happening every day or a few times a day. There will, of course, be times we want to ‘treat’ our kids, but there are other ways, a nice family outing, a new toy or book, we don’t have to damage their health in order to treat them, the phrase ‘killing them with kindness’ comes to mind.
Start at home
You as a parent are a sure place you can cut down on treats. You could make yours a ‘treat-free’ house, if it’s not in the cupboard they won’t be asking for it. Make home a haven of healthy eating and go out once a week for a treat or bring something into the home especially as a treat. Cut out giving treats yourself, and don’t feel guilty about it, you can be sure they will get plenty elsewhere. Feel happy in the knowledge you are treating them to good health instead!
80/20 % rule (or even better 90/10%)
Of course, we don’t want to deny our kids completely, so adopting an 80/20 rule can be helpful, where the aim is to have them eating really healthy 80% of the time but allowing for some treats the odd time. Making their diet up of lots of fresh fruit and veg, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and whole grains are going to give them all the nutrition they need to thrive, unlike the empty calories of sweets, biscuits and other sugary treats. Making yours a ‘healthy eating’ home will make this rule easy to implement.
We can easily fall into a habit of confusing treats and snacks. Sweets, biscuits and other sugary treats should be eaten occasionally while snacks defined as ‘a portion of food, smaller than a regular meal, generally eaten between meals’, are a thing to be eaten every day to tide us over between meals and to stabilize blood sugar. A treat in this situation is going to do exactly what you don’t want, it will send your blood sugar soaring, only to come crashing back down, sending you off looking for another sugary treat next time, so it’s a vicious circle. A nutritious snack is going to taste good, boost their nutrients and avoid cravings for sugar later on.
There are lots of great ideas for making both snacks and treats from good healthy whole food ingredients. The likes of fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, nut butters, coconut oil, dates are fantastic for making healthy sweet bites that are going to be far more nutritious and lower sugar having a beneficial effect on your health. For savoury snacks, any combination of whole foods is perfect. Its all about making your food not only tasty but tasty and nutrient dense. So it not only feels good while you are eating it but also after it also leaves you feeling great, unlike sugary treats which can taste nice at the time but leave us feeling a bit rubbish after.
Changing from juice to water is a great way to reduce kids sugar intake. Even sugar-free juice is not a great alternative as the artificial sweeteners used in them can be harmful to health and also are going to give kids a sweeter tooth. It might not be as hard as you think to make the change to a ‘water only’ drinks policy. If you can persevere through the first few tough days you will be surprised how kids come around and just go with it after a while. Kids are naturally adaptable, but they are persistent too and strong willed! so you’ll need to be tough for a few days and stick to your guns. Simply saying ‘we’re out of juice’ and showing the empty bottle can be enough to appease them. Adding fruit to water can be a fun way to get them interested, or sometimes they are taken with the little kid’s water bottles, or a fancy drinks bottle might work too. When they are thirsty they will drink!!
Kara Reilly – Current Student @ IINH