2 Child-Size Concepts About Treats

Two Simple Guiding Concepts to Consider

When my son was heading into adolescence, and so starting to have more food out of the home and more opportunities to buy food (and food-like substances), I realised there could be real health trouble ahead.  I suggested to him a couple of concepts to use for guidance.  It was a very brief conversation, and was only referred to again a couple of times over the years, but I know he found these concepts useful as he has incorporated them matter-of-factly into how he lives now as an adult.

Two child-size concepts about treats:

  • treat foods are fine to enjoy occasionally, but not when you are hungry.  If you are hungry, eat real food.
  • treat drinks, such as pop (soda), are alright to enjoy occasionally, but not when you are thirsty.  If you are thirsty, drink water.

For example, you deal with your hunger by eating dinner.  If dessert is served, this is eaten and enjoyed after people have had as much dinner as they want to serve themselves.

Of course, the key to this is also providing a general experience for the child that communicates what is meant by “occasionally”.  For example, my son was never exposed to the concept that pop is something you simply buy as part of your normal groceries.  It is for special events or special outings, never a routine part of daily life.  Also, something is not special if it happens every week.

I think the word “enjoy” also is key to how this worked out for him.  If it is a special occasion or special outing and you are having a treat, that is something fun – it is to be enjoyed, and then you go back to your normal life.

There was no policing or stringent application.

There is far more to healthy eating than is covered by this, but I think these two concepts are something that even small children can understand and might be useful.

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