Not Unless You Finish Your Dinner!!
Guidelines for Dessert
By Abigail Natenshon
It sounds so familiar. No dessert unless you finish your dinner! Parents are typically found with these words on their lips as they respond to children who bargain for dessert before or during dinner, or who have not eaten enough dinner to warrant being done eating and therefore ready for dessert.
Dessert is a sensitive issue in many homes. There is nothing wrong with desserts, with eating processed sugar or fats in foods, or with enjoying sweets of any kind
.unless of course, the desserts in question are eaten.
- without moderation
- in the place of more nutritious foods,
- have become a bargaining chip or reward for having eaten a less valued foods
- make a child act rambunctious, particularly before bedtime
- have become a ritualized ending to every meal.
- or are the cause of tooth decay.
Children must not be allowed to be arbiters about how regularly desserts appear at your dinner table. You are the person who shops and who buys. You are the person who will determine your menus, when to serve dessert, how often, and what form they will take.
Kids do need to understand, however, that your decisions about dessert eating are not arbitrary nor meant to be punitive. The topic of dessert eating needs to be discussed and understood, and eventually, your child needs to be able to integrate what you have taught so that he or she learns to regulate him or herself responsibly.
Here are some common misconceptions about dessert. Consider whether you, your spouse, or your child has fallen into any of these pitfalls yourself.
*Dessert is the punctuation point at the end of each meal.
*Dessert is a reward for having eaten the meal.
*It is okay to have several desserts in a single day.
*If a person eats a sweet snack not during a meal, then it doesnt count as a dessert.
* Desserts need to be sweet and processed in order to qualify as dessert.
* Desserts are extra. It is what a person eats after having been fully nourished and satiated by nutritious foods eaten during a meal.
* Sweet and processed desserts have no nutritional or food value. In addition, they can be costly and are unusable by the body.
* Dessert eating should never become ritualized or compulsory.
* Its okay to eat something sweet because it is delicious and because you love it. It is never okay to eat beloved foods immoderately.
* Strawberries in season couldnt be a more colorful or delicious after-dinner treat.
* Fruity Sorbet (See Recipes on www.empoweredkidZ.com) is not only delicious, but nutritious, refreshing and cool.
Your child needs to understand that processed sugar gives the body a jolt of energy and then leaves the body feeling flat and fatigued, not something your child wants to feel while in school or on the play ground. Does your child understand this? If not, why not have a discussion about it?
Food and the Bodys Needs
Children need to understand that dinnertime is a time for fueling ones body with nutritious foods so that it can grow strong and the brain can stay alert and ready to learn. It is also a time when families come together to share and talk and get to know about each others lives. Presumably, if your child has participated in dinner and eaten enough nutritionally-dense foods, he or she should not feel hungry enough to be longing for an additional (dessert) course. Dessert is something that sits atop an already full tummy
.another reason why we eat desserts in small amounts.
A child is better off eating an extra half of a tuna fish sandwich than having a Twinkie as a chaser to the first sandwich. The first is real food, the other performs no beneficial function whatsoever for the body.
In packing your childs lunch, be aware, and help your child to become aware, that your purpose is to satisfy his or her hunger as well as feed his or her brain. Only nutritious foods fulfill those requirements.
There should be no place for chips as a staple, in a lunch bag. Nor should there be a place consistently for a can of soda pop. Kids need to understand that these foods contain chemicals that are stored by the body, or that leech calcium from their bones. Talk to your child about these facts so that he or she can learn to want the same for him or herself as you do. There is nothing wrong with including fruit salad, fruit roll ups, nuts, peanut butter on crackers or celery, pretzels or a couple of small cookies. More significantly, there is nothing wrong with including chips or soda, if not on a regular basis.
Never restrict desserts unless medical needs require it. In quite another vein, eating a dessert could almost be considered obligatory when you are dining out and are presented with chef-prepared sumptuous gourmet treats. It seems somehow blasphemous to leave a birthday party without having downed at least a piece of birthday cake topped with ice cream. When your friend is taking a freshly baked batch of brownies out of the oven, not indulging in a couple could surely qualify as one of lifes lost opportunities. In London, high tea is hardly high if not accompanied by a scone with clotted cream.
Maintain your capacity to exercise choice, change your mind, and be flexible
With desserts, as with all foods
and in fact, with every aspect of life itself
..the goal is to maintain flexibility and to feel free to exercise discretion and choice, while exhibiting moderation and balance. No compulsion is ever healthy. If your child seems to be feeling anxious or deprived, be it about dessert or anything else, the real issue for you and your child needs to be, What might that be about? Does it happen elsewhere as well? rather than Dont eat sweets because they will make you fat.
When you shop for desserts, you neednt even walk down the supermarket aisles that contain chips and cookies. Be more creative than that! Think color! Cherry tomatoes or berries are every bit as delicious as a cookie or piece of pastry and far more beautiful, satisfying, sumptuous and nutritious. Take your child shopping with you. Is there a type of yogurt that he or she particularly loves? Stock up on these to use with ice cream and/or fruit to make a smoothie dessert or snack.
When was the last time your child had the opportunity to choose his or her favorite fruit juice as a way to top off a meal with something sweet? Fruit juices are full of anti-oxidants.
Fresh fruits contain natural sugars that can satisfy a sweet tooth and that are healthier for the body. Fresh or cooked, cut up or whole, dried or in combination with nuts, fruits are yummy and DIVERSE!
Wander around your produce department, preferably with your child, and you will find unusual, exotic fruits in and out of season, which you probably have never seen or tasted before. Be adventurous. Try everything. Your child will be watching you and learning how to approach food in an open minded and adventurous way.
Understand that eating processed sugar and food dyes can trigger a need to eat more of them. Do you keep candy in your cupboard as a staple food? Do you know why?
Think about your own needs for sweets and junk foods as you make decisions about which foods to bring home from the supermarket. Know that what you buy for yourself is what your child will learn to choose for her or himself.
Are you prepared to change any of your own eating habits in the interest of teaching your child a healthier eating lifestyle? If not, why not?
Remember that your child needs to learn how to eat healthfully, but more important, how to care for his or her body in a responsible and conscientious way, now and forevermore. Food choices should not be arbitrary. We eat as we do for good reasons, and we choose not to eat certain foods at certain times in certain quantities for good reasons as well. Kids need to become familiar with the process of how to decide, more than they need to know that certain foods are bad or good.
Psychotherapist Abigail H. Natenshon has specialized in the treatment of eating disorders with individuals, families, and groups for the past 31years. She is the author of When Your Child Has An Eating Disorder, A Step-by-Step Workbook For Parents And Other Caregivers, Jossey-Bass, 1999. Based on hundreds of successful outcomes, this book shepherds concerned parents step-by-step through the processes of eating disorder recognition, confronting the child, finding the most effective treatment for patient and family, and evaluating and insuring a timely recovery. A guide to eating disorder prevention, this book is useful to parents, health professionals and school personnel alike in countering the pervasive epidemic of unhealthy eating and body image concerns, and destructive media and peer influences. Her work can be reviewed further at www.empoweredparents.com, www.empoweredkidZ.com,