Whether it be around the holiday table, at a restaurant, during a birthday party or in the course of an every day dinner, parents everywhere struggle with their children about finishing their meal before having a treat or dessert.
Sure, who would not want to indulge in sugary, chocolate goodness instead of a hunk of meatloaf and green beans? Interestingly, these habits of “meals before treats” can also set children up for some unhealthy meal habits as the years go on. To mitigate that risk, I’ve made some interesting observations and implemented, with great success, a few alternatives to the ‘clean plate club.” This will certainly come in handy as we nibble and graze before the turkey graces the table this week.
- When a child forces himself to eat a meal “first,” by the time the dessert rolls around, while he may be full, he wants the dessert so much, that he will override his fullness signal only to have the treat. As children grow older, they can begin to lose touch with their hunger and fullness cues. Teaching children to regulate their hunger cues will have a lifelong impact.
- Making the dessert part of the main meal, almost how TV dinners used to be packaged, will allow a child to see and choose a variety of foods eaten at this or her own pace. Ensuring you have placed a smaller portion of the snack or treat is key. This also removes the “deprivation and reward” and “good food bad food” that is associated with certain types of foods.
- Praise the selections and point out the balance in food that your child ate rather than praising a clean plate. “Oh look, you at ALL your peas; I’m very proud of you,” focuses on the “have to eat” not the “want to eat.” Instead, say something like “You did a great job eating a little bit of everything! I’m so proud of your healthy eating!”
As you can see, it’s ok to let your kids eat the pumpkin pie before the turkey. And, more so, when the holidays can already be filled with stress and expectation, travel schedules, and pesky relatives, letting a cookie or pie slip on to the dinner plate will not matter one day from now or a year from now. Bon Appetite!
Related read: Six Ways Your Kids Are Making You Fat
Do you let your kids eat the pumpkin pie before the turkey? We would love to hear your story. Simply drop us a note; we may use your story in an upcoming blog.