As a Mum it seems to be a constant stream of ‘Can I have a treat?’ from the kids and who could blame them, surrounding by all those inviting chocolate bars and treats on display in every shop they go in to and with sugar being so addictive, it’s as if once they see it, that’s all they can think about and you’re the worst in the world for not allowing them to have it. It can be a struggle to try to keep them eating healthy!
Of course it’s difficult to leave treats out altogether, especially when you factor in external sources like grandparents, parties, play-dates etc, but applying an 80/20 rule can work really well to reduce the amount of treats they are getting, 80% of the time eating healthy and 20% of the time allowing treats. Mum might be buying ‘the odd treat’ during the week and Dad might be doing the same unbeknowns to each other, it can easily add up over the week, simply making a pact as parents that you will let their quota of junk come from uncontrollable external sources and when they are at home it’s healthier options, that alone can make all the difference. Sometimes it is unavoidable, but in the situation for example where Granny is bringing a weekly packet of sweets, it may be possible to suggest a pack of stickers or match attacks or something instead.
Now all this doesn’t mean no treats at all, everyone needs a treat now and again even us grown ups, it’s just trying to incorporate healthier options. Some delicious treats can be created with the likes of nuts, dates, cacao, nut butter, dark chocolate, coconut products, dried fruit, seeds, berries, fruit, maple syrup/agave. It may take a little while to win them over but you can start slow making things they enjoy a little healthier over time, substituting in alternative better ingredients. As time goes on their taste-buds change and you might find down the road when they do have some ‘junk’ they are not as interested in it as they used to be or that it makes them feel a bit icky.
Here’s some simple tips to make it easier when it comes to treating kids at home:
1. Don’t keep junk in the house and then they can’t ask for it
2. Keep a stock of healthy treats available, see recipes below or buy some in from your local health food store e.g. Nakd bars, Meridian bars, fruit winders. Even a simple fruit salad can be a nice treat!
3. Make water their only drink option, this will reduce their sugar/sweetner intake which will lessen their sweet tooth
4. Add a bowl/plate of fruit to the breakfast table every morning, a great way to get them into the habit of tasting natural sweetness.
5. Have raw veg at lunch and dinner times, this will fill them up and adjust their taste-buds
6. Treats are better eaten at the end of a meal, better on their teeth
7. Sit down to eat together, slow down the whole process, they will stay full for longer
8. Have set meal and snack times
9. If they do get treats from Granny, that’s ok, maybe suggest having half now and half later or tomorrow
10. Boost their nutrients and combat sugar with a healthy juice or smoothie, especially on a day of party etc where you know there will be junk
11. Informing them and educating them is a great way to help them make their own decisions when they are out without you
12. Teaching them how to make simple snacks/treats/meals is a great fun activity to do together and as they get older it can really empower them to make better food choices
For some healthy treat recipes check out the treats page: http://fooducation.ie/category/fooducationrecipes/treatrecipes/