We live in a society in which sweets and snacks are an inseparable part of our eating culture. To ignore them would be wrong, especially when we all know that we enjoy treats and don’t want to give them up — adults and kids alike. So, treats can and should be included in your meal plan…in the proper amount.
It is important to teach a child from an early age that there is room in their meal plan and an appropriate time to enjoy a treat. It’s okay as long as it is the right size. It could be challenging, but it is important to set up an appropriate time and place for a treat. For example, you could create time that is called “the treat time” or “something sweet for me.” Define a specific time in your child’s daily schedule during which he can choose to eat a treat.
Five Rules for Creating “Treat Time” the Right Way
- Once a day: It is necessary to define in advance for your child that “treat time” will be only once a day. There may still be arguments, but if you decide it’s the right frequency for your child, stick to it!
- When? I recommended setting a specific time for “treat time,” so the child knows what to expect. Usually, the best time is in the afternoon when the child has already had lunch, and he is returning from school/preschool. I know some parents prefer to give a treat as dessert at the end of lunch or dinner. That is fine if that’s what you think works best for you and your family. I prefer not to give the snack as a dessert, because I don’t want the treat to be a “prize” for eating all his This may also create fights over the dessert if the child refuses to eat his meal.
- Define the selection: It is the parents’ responsibility to define in advance from what snack items the child can choose. Parents provide a variety of snacks or/and sweets, and the child chooses from those options. The snack/treat options could vary for children in the same household based on the age and size of the children.
- Portion Control and Calorie Limit: It is important to set the appropriate amount for each child according to his age and weight. Food packages come in a large variety of sizes, so it is very important to ensure each child eats the right serving size. The treat should contain 50-150 calories each, depending on the age and size of the child. For example, young children (ages 3-4) should choose snacks containing 50-60 calories. Children at ages 5-12 may have up to 100-120 calories. Teenagers may have a snack in the upper limit of 150 calories.
- Choose a Variety of Items: Variety is very important. Define the rule of “not choosing the same item two days in a row” with your child in advance to avoid conflicts. The child should choose from the existing variety that the parent provides, but he should not to choose the same treat every day. For example, your child should not choose chocolate to eat every day. Diversify his snacks/treats by offering a variety of items.
|Yael Dror is a Pediatric Nutritionist. She holds a Master’s degree in Physiology from Tel Aviv University and a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and most importantly, Yael is a mother of 3 active children. Yael is a former professional athlete and is a co-founder of Habitz.|