In my recent post I talked about how to get your kiddo off the sugar habit. Sometimes, it may not
be enough because even though your child may stop seeing sweets as 'forbidden food', she may
still expect you to dish out dessert at every meal.
What can you do about that?
You can introduce a game! Kids love to play, and that’s when you come in with a brilliant new
guessing game: it is called “What does this food do for you?”
Here is how it goes.
Foods can be broken down in three major categories.
- Foods that help you GROW
- Foods that help you have FUN
- Foods that make a great TREAT
I don’t think I need to expand on Categories #1 (whole foods) or #3 (sweets).
Foods that fall under Category #2 are burgers, hot dogs, pizza, chips, crackers, bagels, muffins, flavored yogurt, and anything else you can think of that is sold at events, or comes in a package, or is heavily processed.
How to play:
First, you ask your child which category she thinks the food falls under.
Then, you ask her how much of this or that food you agreed to eat in your family.
This is a great way to introduce concepts of the ‘very little’ or ‘once in a while’, ‘sometimes’ or
‘some’, and the ‘most’. You can use quantities or frequencies.
“We eat foods that help us grow most often” OR “Most of the foods we eat are the foods that
help us grow”.
“We eat foods that help us have fun sometimes” OR “We love having fun and we can
sometimes eat some fun foods that go with it”
“We eat a little food that makes a great treat otherwise it wouldn’t be a treat” OR “It’s ok to have
a small treat every once in a while and enjoy it”.
A few suggestions for success:
- Introduce the game and the rules sometime between meals when your child is not hungry.
- Show her some examples of different foods and explain the categories.
- To explain different size or frequencies, use objects or draw big, medium and small circles to give her a point of reference.
- Make a VERY clear explanation of how often and how much you, as a family, eat foods from different categories.
- Demonstrate by example by eating those proportions yourself.
When you introduce this concept to your child it doesn’t mean she will immediately get it or
won’t bug you for sweets ever again. But these clear boundaries will allow you to stick to YOUR
part of responsibility, which is to provide the meal and the timing of the meal.
If, for example you are at a birthday party and what is being served is cake and hot dogs, then
you can be at peace in the evening when you serve chicken soup with some bread and fruit.
Your kiddo may try to push for some more fun food and treats, but you can stand your ground
by reminding her of the family rule: eat fun foods and treat foods a little and eat growing foods the most.
This may not be easy in the beginning, but the more consistently you start standing your ground
and drawing that boundary, the faster your kiddo will come around and learn that rule.
And one last note. When talking about foods, it is best not to talk about them from a nutritional
standpoint. Kids don’t fully understand this language and your goal is not to get them to eat
something because it makes their bones stronger but simply because it tastes good to them.
So focus on the growth, fun and treats, forget the nutrition at this point, be firm but loving, and
have fun with it. It’s your kiddo’s journey as much as it is yours.