And Why Keeping Sweets and Sugary Foods in the House is Actually REALLY Important for your Children

November 1, 2021

     This week, we ran out of milk at my house. I had poured myself a bowl of Cheerios with some fresh sliced banana, and was so sad to find that we had no milk in the fridge. I ended up having some yogurt with my cereal…but it just wasn’t the same. This weekend, I went into work at my per diem hospital job. One of the perks of being in RD in a hospital is unlimited access to anything you want in the kitchen. Know what I went for? You guessed it! Cheerios and milk! I had TWO bowls…I couldn’t get enough!

     How is this related to your kids and sugar intake? Well, when we restrict kids from the foods they really want (read: sugar) they are more likely to binge on it once they get their hands on it at holidays, birthday parties, and at friend’s houses. And it WILL happen. As much as we try to protect our kids from all the demons out in the world, we can’t protect them from everything. And we shouldn’t! They need to learn and figure things out on their own, including how to regulate their sugar intake.

     This isn’t to say that you should just let your kid eat whatever they want, whenever they want. The updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise restricting added sugar for kids under age 2. This is perfectly reasonable – the rate of growth happening under age 2 is so dramatic that their tiny bodies just don’t have room for added sugar. They need space for nutrients – essential fats, protein, calcium, zinc, iron, and on and on. But, once your child is old enough to handle some added sugar, it is OKAY. Should I say it again? It’s OKAY! You don’t need to keep a candy store in your house, but allowing that pack of Oreos to live in the cabinet is so important for your child. In fact, enjoying a dessert WITH your child is recommended. It spreads a few messages; 1) there are no “bad” foods, and even mommy or daddy enjoys cookies sometimes! and 2) it tells our children that we trust them around sweets and sugar.

     Good feeding relationships are built on trust. If you’ve worked with me, you probably know all about Satter’s Division of Responsibility. You provide the when and where, the child decides the if and how much. Once they know that they can have a sweet now and then, the temptation wears away. I know plenty of kids and adults who can live with sweets in the pantry and not even think about them. But the people who were restricted growing up? They can’t walk past a candy dish without digging in. The psychological impact of restriction is real!

      If you have questions about how to healthfully and safely work sugar into your child's diet, shoot me an email! Head over to my "contact" page and get in touch! I’m curious, how do you handle Halloween candy overload in your house?