No matter what good habits we try to teach our kids, they have a natural fondness for sweet foods. That doesn’t mean they’re destined to spend their lives eating cupcakes and junk cereal but teaching them about healthy choices doesn’t automatically override their preference for sweets.
Most moms weren’t surprised when the world’s largest member-based food & drink research center, CCFRA, studied children age 8-10 to see if knowing about healthy food made them more inclined to eat it. When told to pick healthy foods from a lineup, they did just fine. But when told to pick whatever they liked and that no one was watching them, their choices changed dramatically.
So knowing that it’s hard for kids to make good choices no matter how well they’ve been taught, how can we keep them on the right track? Here are seven ways:
1. Keep sweet treats healthy.
To satisfy their instinct for choosing sweet foods, serve fresh fruits and berries, dried fruits and vegetables like sweet potato chips.
2. Don’t use sugar as a prize.
Instead of rewarding an achievement like a perfect spelling paper with a trip to the ice cream parlour or good behaviour with a handful of chocolate kisses, make the reward something that involves fun physical activity. A trip to the park or skating rink, a game of catch or play-wrestling can be equally good incentives.
3. Make sweets last longer by chilling them.
The advantage to cold desserts is that they have to be eaten slowly to avoid “brain freeze.” Put a paper cup of yogurt or fruit juice in the freezer to enjoy anytime.
4. Always have healthy food around.
A child who wants something sweet will happily crunch into an apple — as long as there isn’t also a jar of candy within reach. Nuts and crisp veggies are great snacks as well, but keeping plenty of raisins, oranges or bananas on the counter makes it easy to indulge a sweet tooth while avoiding a sugar-rush.
5. Enjoy sweets in other ways.
Have fun introducing your kids to chapstick that tastes like strawberry, candles with a chocolate aroma, body wash that smells like vanilla, or sunscreen with the fragrance of coconut.
6. Limit temptation.
If you’ve developed a craving for something unhealthy, go ahead and enjoy a small amount – but don’t bring home a whole package. Since the children will take their cues from you, limit occasional indulgences to something that won’t stay in the cupboard offering continued temptation.
7. Applaud healthy choices.
Tell your kids how proud you are when they’re smart about choosing the best foods. There’s nothing quite so sweet as appreciation!
Using even one of these tips each day of the week will help your kids develop a healthy attitude about sweets…and that will help them maintain a healthier lifestyle for years to come.
This post was contributed by Laurie Schnebly, who writes for Vitabath Skin Care, a worldwide leader in soothing, refreshing and cleansing skin care products for women that make great bath and body gift sets.