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Cupcakes & ice cream & pie...oh my!

Cupcakes I had one of those moments of parenting clarity the other night when my six year old asked, "Mama, what's for dessert tonight?".  An innocent question, but very telling of his mother's love of sweets and how often we eat them in our house.  While I make sure that my kids eat balanced meals and get plenty of healthy foods, I'm also pretty liberal with the daily baked goods and the ice cream treats (good thing that chocolate and candy don't do it for me or we'd really be in trouble). 

It's kind of incongruous given that I examine the hidden sugar content of all of our grocery purchases pretty carefully, but maybe I'm just subconsciously trying to make room for all the other sugar I'm giving them!  I love making (and eating!) muffins and cookies together, picking my son up from school and going to Saint Cupcake, or telling the kids we're going to Staccato Gelato after dinner. I rationalize all of this  a bit by making them share or giving them minuscule serving sizes.  So mamas, what is the sugar philosophy in your household? Just for special occasions or part of the daily diet? 

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We're Jewish, so we save most "treat" foods for shabbat (Friday night/Saturday), holidays, and birthdays (our family of 6 has a 2-month birthday season, and it's happening right now!). Works great, because they never really ask for treats during the week. Sometimes I'll surprise them and dole out a few chocolate chips (like 10), or pull out an otter pop, but just something small. And Friday night we take out a can of coke and serve it in shot glasses. They think it's a great treat! They can even have 2 or 3 shots! :)

We definitely keep sweets to a minimum. I try my best to make most of the treats we have-- my daughter has food allergies, so I make coconut milk icecream sweetened with agave nectar or honey. We have lots of fruit and talk about foods that are good for our bodies. Although I try to avoid sugar, that doesn't mean that she never eats it. I am just very aware of the messages I send-- I don't give her chocolate when she's upset or as a reward. It's about pure enjoyment. We thoroughly enjoy a cookie now and then, and have dessert (if it's not an allergen) when we are at other peoples' homes or parties. I have to say, though, that it makes me crazy how many kid's books and shows emphasize eating junk food! We don't watch TV, but even Kipper videos and other like them seem to revolve around eating cake and cookies. There are so many wonderful foods in the world that are also good for our bodies!

We are really fortunate that our 18 month old daughter loves to eat anything and everything. She gobbles up fruit like a maniac, loves her yogurt, and although she doesn't devour her veggies with the same enthusiasm she still cleans her plate every time. I have really been making an effort to keep unnecessary sugar out of her daily diet, which for us means little things like opting for the plain organic yogurt rather than the flavored and giving her lots of fresh fruits rather than juice. Of course, all of our little here-and-there efforts are wiped out completely the minute we splurge and share a New Season's chocolate chip cookie during our trip to the grocery store. I'm sure my sugar philosophy will change as my daughter grows, but for now I just try to make super healthy, nutrient-packed meals when I'm home to offset any splurging we do when we're out and have limited options (or with the grandparents... talk about sugar!).

My son, 18 months, doesn't eat sugar yet. He doesn't know the difference so I figure we might as well take advantage. My boyfriend and I try to stick to a dessert on the weekend policy and have fruit or yogurt for dessert during the week. This is only becuase we are both dessert addicts so we have to make conscious descisions.

Like alpidarkomama, we make Shabbat our dessert night. This totally takes "Is there anything for dessert?" out of the equation, because they know the answer: if it ain't Friday, no dice. (Birthdays excepted, of course.) And since I really like to bake, this gives me the excuse to do something extra-special that one day. (Which is not to say there haven't been more than a few Friday nights when the best I can do is ice cream from the freezer.

On the other hand, we do let our kids keep a certain portion of their Halloween candy, their Hanukkah gelt and assorted goodie bag loot. Each kid has his stash, and since they are hoarders, they manage to always have something on hand when they really want a mid-week treat.

I'm more like the OP-we have little treats quite few times a week. I try to keep them small and more of the 'quality' type--a really good cookie or small gelato or homemade cake, as opposed to pure corn syrup/water concoctions. I grew up in a house that severely limited sweets or used substitutions like carob for chocolate, and it didn't work for me. As I grew I would sneak sugar whenever I could and totally binge. It's taken me until now in my life to get a balance with this, and I'm hoping a more balanced approach will help my kiddos.

I don't keep treats in our house, mainly because *I* have little self-control if that kind of snack is available. Our daughter loves to eat and is sturdy (although not overweight according to her pediatrician). So while I am mindful about portions and offering her nutritious foods, I also try to relax about times when we're out and about and she has treats (grandparents or friends' houses, etc). She's 2 1/2 and doesn't ask for treats, except if she sees someone eating one. I don't want her to grow up thinking these foods are taboo or unavailable to her. But I guess I see regular treats as potentially tipping the scale towards a weight problem, since she's a hearty eater already.

I let the kids have one sweet a day. After school or as dessert. I love sweet things and and we don't see the harm if your daily diet is a good one.

I love to bake. Enough said!

I love to bake, I really love to bake with the kids, and I really, really love to explore new food venues (new cupcake place? new bakery? swoon....), so it's hard to avoid sweets. That said, I was raised with little to no restriction on sweets (Sunday night ice cream fests that resulted in me being asbsent many a Monday with horrible stomach aches) and I'm not the healthier because of it. I am now trying to restrict the sweets a bit just because I don't want my kids to be raised struggling with weight or with their cravings the way I have....

I personally have developed a low tolerance to sugar. I can't eat most kinds of yogurt anymore without getting the jitters.

But, my family (mostly my partner & older daughter) has sweet teeth. Every few weeks or so, we will stock Trader Joe's joe-joes. YUM. The kids have their Halloween or goodie bag stash that goes the whole year (yuck! talk about stale!). They are allowed to dig in every once in a while - say every few weeks. We don't do treats very often mostly because we don't buy stock them or don't spend money often on snacks. We are an ice cream loving family, and we have been making regular batches of ice cream for the past year or two. And, ice cream is something we may eat every day.

So, yes, a sweet treat of some kind is an almost-daily occurrence. The treat is usually ice cream or some cereal (that stuff is sweet too!). The treat is less commonly cake, baked good, or candy, which are more rare offerings.

My kids (or at least the 4 yr old; the 21 mo doesn't care about sweets and we are holding him off as long as possible) eat a small treat maybe once a week, maybe sometimes 3 times a week. Could be a cupcake, a slice of pumpkin bread, a small scoop of ice cream. Really depends on what's going on in our lives (birthdays, guests, vacation, etc). I do try to avoid pure sugar + food coloring, ie most candy. I am rather horrified by how often she consumes junk food at school, provided by her teacher or other parents. This is our first year in PPS; it seems like there are frequent parties or events at which the school provides food, often involving grocery store cupcakes and juice drinks. What I consider junk food is also pretty regularly brought by parents for snacktime. I don't mind my kid eating some sugar, I just wish it weren't the commercial, high-fructose corn syrup and chemical colorings sort, and I wish that I got to choose when/what sort of sweets she eats. Ah, the things over which we loose control as they grow...

I really like to bake, and milkshakes. Luckily, LO (18 Months) seems to think fresh fruit smoothie and milkshakes are the same thing because you use a straw for both.
If I baked some cookies, I will try to make some with Oatmeal, also I make oatmeal muffins, then I know there is some goodness in there. There is no HFCS in our home, which is the best you can do really. We are trying a new organic PB with no Transfat that will also be going into as many cookies and sweets as possible.
If there are sweets we let her have one or two throughout the day. I read that putting the sweets on the plate w/meal prevents over eating and promotes listening to your hunger sense. So we try to do that instead of waiting until after dinner. We also hope modeling waiting to eat ours last she will follow suite, so far if she has something in her mouth she will spit it out if she see's a cookie coming. LOL

I like the idea of putting the sweets on the plate with the other food. I will try that with my 2 1/2 year old and see how it goes. I have noticed that she has pretty good eating habits on her own, and I just worry about corrupting them as she gets older.
We have sweet treats most days, and this includes treats for me too. One thing I do sometimes if she asks for something sweet is give her her gummy bear vitamins (sold at New Seasons). These are candy-like but are still vitamins.

I love cookies/pie etc... But I've tried so *hard* to keep my baking under control with a little 2 year old around. I only bake sweets occasionally (once every few weeks). But I do bake savories: cornmeal muffins, biscuits, waffles, pancakes. This works great.

My 2 year old goes nuts (sugar high!) if he has sugary ice cream so that is definatly only a treat when we are with friends or out of town visitors. I do not keep it in the house!

I do, however, NOT hold back on the juice. He handles the sugar in juice well (much better that candy, cookies, or ice cream!) so I've started making that into homemade popsicles. He loves the orange juice ones!

My daughter is almost 3, and I am just now starting to loosen up about sugar. She didn't taste sugary desserts until at least age 2, but now I feel like I need to strike a balance and create a healthy relationship to food of all kinds. She sees her cousins and other kids eating treats, and I'd rather she not feel desperately deprived. I was raised strictly vegetarian and had NO "junk" food in the house, which led to me really binging on chips and sugar at friends' houses, and then going crazy (and gaining tons of weight) in college. I really believe that the strict limitations developed my scarcity-binge response to snack food!

So now, my daughter can generally have one sweet per day (sometimes just half a Tofutti Cutie, sometimes a tiny cup of chocolate chips ... and sometimes a solid piece of birthday cake). We do monitor sugar throughout the day, in part because she has never been a big eater and is smallish for her age -- so very little juice, none of those "cereal bars" that are basically candy in disguise. If she has sweets, they're real sweets, and we enjoy every bite!

My girl, now at almost 12, has always been a tall, skinny thing with a hearty appetite. I've never kept a ton of sweets (or salty/savory snacks) around the house because of my own lack of will power. I've got to admit, I've never really policed her sweets intake (much). She eats well at meals (which always include fresh fruit--so there is a 'sweet' with every meal) and loves desserts but usually doesn't have room for much. Plus, if she/we want dessert, we have to take the time to make something, or leave the house to seek it out. Often just the lag time between "wanting" and the dessert materializing gives our stomachs enough time to send the "I'm full" message to our brains.

The few times she'd OD'ed on sweet stuff or other junk, she's felt crummy and recognized why. She monitors herself far better than I monitor myself. Even when we're out and I let her have a soda, she rarely comes close to finishing it.

I've not wanted to make sweets some coveted or taboo thing for my girl. They are just another food type, albeit one we don't have around much. The families we know who have put strict food restrictions on their kids (and I'm not talking about those necessary due to food sensitivies or allergies) seem to have the kids who binge when offered sweets or sneak sweets.

Now throw a ribeye and a baked potato with sour cream down in front of my girl, or some fresh-picked Oregon strawberries, you better not expect any leftovers.

My almost-3-year-old has been looking forward to summer (when it's hot out!) all year because that's when she gets to sit on the porch after dinner & have an ice cream sandwich (actually Tofutti Cutie - right size & pareve so we can have after any kind of dinner).

Most of the time, "dessert" is fruit after dinner - whatever is in season. Now her eyes get really big when I say that we can pick raspberries from the garden for dessert.

Occasional cookie for after nap snack on the weekend afternoons. Last weekend she ate half a fig newton, then handed the rest back to me.

She must have her father's lack of sweet tooth, because I'm the ice cream, cookie, chocolate freak in the house.

We treat all food the same, it is food, simply that. There is no limiting/blaming/threatening/bribing/cajoling/trading/rewarding/punishing with food. We eat very healthful meals, organic and local, usually quality protein and vegetable based. Our child eats all foods with joy and vigor, he is active, healthy, happy, very rarely sick. I offer a few choices which I am happy with, and he eats until he is full/finished. Mealtimes are a pleasure in our home. we have a fairly open and liberal treat policy. We indulge in sweets as we want to, provided there is a 'base' of healthful food first. We go for Saint Cupcake or ice cream or drinking chocolate, candy from PIX. Often times I will enjoy a cupcake, and my son says 'no thank you' this trick absolutely amazes people. I think we have taken the taboo, and the obsession out of it.

We don't do a "dessert", but we do a sweet.. once a day. We practice moderation on thi subject and most things. However, when we go camping (our usual is a two night stay ... 5 year old and 3 year.. it's all we can handle) all bets are off. We buy Lucky Charms cereal, we eat potato chips, we have smores. There's healthy stuff as well, but it's fun to have let loose with food... to not make it such a big deal and teach the kids that if 85% of the time we eat healthy, we can afford to have Lucky Charms 3 times a year. During that 85% of the time, we do a "healthy food first" strategy as well.

I'm glad to see this thread, because I am just starting to tackle this in my family. My son is 2 years, so we are just starting to allow him to have sugary treats once in a while.

My husband is an excellent baker, and we love trying new bakeries, as well. In fact, we just love food and cooking, in general.

So, I guess we're just trying to model the same kind of attitudes toward eating that we have (and my husband and I are active, healthy people). That is: treats are delicious and fun to have in moderation. If we had them every day, they wouldn't be called treats!

I do struggle with good language to use with my son in teaching him this. For example, last night we had my doula over to dinner, and she brought dessert. Dessert was brownies, ice cream, and fresh raspberries. We each had very modest portions, and fixed an even more modest portion for my son. But, of course, he finished his and wanted more! more! more! I tried to explain that we eat dessert in small amounts, because otherwise our tummies can hurt afterwards.

What do people think? Is this a good way to explain moderation to a 2 yo?

SJ- I wonder how much he would have if you gave him all he wanted? Maybe he would moderate himself. This must be individual because some kids (and adults) will stuff themselves, (like me) and some will stop before that point, like my daughter.
Maybe you could have just given him more raspberries without the brownie and ice cream?
But I think however you explain moderation will work eventually, it may just take years to sink in. :)

Just wanted to add, I explain moderation to the kids as sort of matter of fact. You know... "hey guys, gotta keep our bodies healthy, so we eat mostly healthy stuff." Try not to over do the explanation, then it sort of sticks out like sugar stuff is a super big deal which may make them feel like they want it more. My boy has a sweet tooth, so while my "hey guys.." routine works, he totally protests sometimes and I just tell him this is the way it is.. to stay healthy. If he protests further he gets a few minutes in his bedroom to chill out.

jdey -- You have a really good point, and it's something worth trying. I've had to learn to listen to by bodies' signals to stop eating junk when I've had too much, whereas my husband (who, incidentally, grew up in a house stocked full of sugary, artificial everything!) never overdoes it, nor even has to think twice about it. Thanks for the idea!

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