Ice Cream, Brownies and Sweets, Oh MY!!

Photo Credit: kern.justin via Compfight cc

Like I’ve said before, I’m kind of sensitive to the idea of categorizing foods as either “good” or “bad,” not just because I specialize in eating disorders as a professional RD, but also because—on a personal level—I too once restricted myself from sweets and seemingly evil foods. (Really, who hasn’t at some point in their lives?)

My approach may not be black or white, but it’s simple. Rather than distinguishing food as good or bad, I prefer to consider their nutritional value. Some foods, like fruits, vegetables and oatmeal, are wholesome. Others, like brownies and ice cream, are less wholesome (lower in nutritional density). At the end of the day, however, none of these foods should be designated as good or bad.

My goal for my own kids and, for that matter, my clients as well, is to cultivate this neutral mentality. And while my kids may not eat enough vegetables, they at least seem to have mastered this concept.

Here’s a perfect example. On the last weekend of summer, my hubby and I decided to trade in our usual Hamptons weekend for a trip to the Jersey Shore. The kids were thrilled. They love the beach, the ocean and, of course, the ice cream stands lining the two-mile stretch of Wildwood’s boardwalk. They were especially excited to ride the kiddie coaster and eat cups of delicious and refreshing ice cream all weekend. And they did.

On Saturday afternoon, Hubby and Grandpa took Billy and Bobby to the boardwalk to ride the motorcycles, roller coasters and carousel. They topped off the day with ice cream.

Then on Monday, we went back to the boardwalk. Mommy wanted ice cream, so of course the boys asked for ice cream too. Without thinking twice, I said sure. What’s the harm in ice cream, after all?

But what happened next is shocking—even unheard of! (Though in my household, it happens all the time.) Billy took two bites of his vanilla chocolate swirl with rainbow sprinkles before getting distracted by a water gun game and tossing his treat into the nearest garbage bin. Apparently, his desire to win a sword just like Bobby’s was stronger than his need for a sugary snack.

My husband and I stood ogling Billy, who was now ice cream-less. He just threw away a perfectly delicious $4.00 ice cream! It’s not that I wanted him to eat it, especially if he wasn’t hungry, but my hubby and I would have been happy to take it off his hands!

What it comes down to is this: because Billy was never taught to think of ice cream as some taboo form of food, he didn’t feel the need to chomp it down to the last bite. Apparently, he views ice cream as a neutral food. Check!

Recently, I mentioned another example of this while discussing the “one lick rule.” In case you don’t remember, Bobby and Billy had wanted pizza and a brownie, and I allowed the boys to have both. During that instance, the boys were able to use satiation cues as they ate their pizza to save room for their brownie. Even then, they only ate a small portion of the brownie and gave the remainders up. They both did this on their own intuition—so go boys!

Do you discuss different foods in terms of “good” and “bad” in your household? Are your kids able to stop themselves from consuming an entire brownie, or do they prefer the entire treat at once? 

Food Lessons

What Moms Learn From Their Kid’s Food

Scenario one:

Just recently, my two sons and I walked into Starbucks for a morning snack. I told the boys they could get one “sometimes” food but not two. Bobby, my oldest, chose banana chocolate chip cake; Billy, my youngest, ordered vanilla milk. And he had already eaten a lolly—and a granola bar. It was only 9:30 am! So, we went outside to sit on a bench while eating our morning snacks and waiting for an appointment I had scheduled. In short order, Billy proceeded to beg and plead for a piece of chocolate chip cake—and I had to deny his request. But please keep in mind that I’m trying to get him to understand his body’s needs for him to eat more nutrient dense foods and his need to understand the difference between “everyday” foods and “sometimes” foods.

Yes, of course, Billy can surely have “sometimes” foods, but I knew he’d have many more “sometimes” foods during this particular day since we were headed to NJ to visit with family. So after I said NO, I offered to get him a bagel with peanut butter. He stood firm—and again said NO; he wanted only the cake. Not even considering whether this was true hunger (which it wasn’t), I just knew we needed to put some focus on more nutrient dense foods since returning from our beach getaway trip. Well, after five minutes, he changed his tune and started saying he wanted me to pick him up. Soon after that, we ended up at home where I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on sprouted grain bread for both boys. By this point, Billy had totally forgotten about the food, the cake and the desire to eat—for whatever reason. He actually didn’t ask for food until about two hours later when I gave him his sandwich, a pumpkin cranberry Squeezer and water. He was happy and content. Then later, my oldest son Bobby asked for cookies for his snack; of course, we gave both boys cookies. I didn’t limit how many they took. They probably ate four or five cookies each during an hour period in-between playing.

 

Lesson One:

One child can learn from another as I noted (with a giant smile, I might add!) when listening to my oldest son explain to my youngest: “You can’t always have both. You can have either the cake or the flavored milk but not both all of the time.”

I think Bobby clearly gets it. But it seems he has from a very young age while little Billy just isn’t there yet. All of our kids, yours and mine, each have their own personalities; what works for one child may not work quite as easily or well for the other. We need to remember that each child is an individual especially in regard to food and eating as well as psychological points of view.

 

Lesson Two:

Sometimes, when our kids are asking us for food, they are really asking for something else entirely. Maybe a hug, maybe more “Mom” time, maybe…you fill in the blank! Flexible boundaries around food can actually help your child. Avoid extremes but stay within a structure that is both flexible and reasonable.