Cutting Down on Treats

The foods that we eat today are vastly different than the foods our ancestors ate a century ago.  A century ago the packaged food industry was very small and most food was cooked at home from fresh ingredients.  Today the food industry is expanding rapidly. The number of packaged and prepared foods on the market today are a great temptation to everyone.  As a result, people eat significantly more food than their body needs.  Many of these foods come in the form of “snacks” or “sweet treats.”  These types of foods were once considered delicacies to be consumed only on rare occasions; today these types of foods are commonplace and eaten almost every day.  Foods that were once saved as special treats for children are now eaten all week long.  When such foods are so readily available and market advertising for these foods is directed expressly at our children, how can we teach our children to reserve enjoying these foods to only special occasions?

The first step is to teach our child the most important and basic principal of good health –  eat only when you are hungry and drink only when you are thirsty; anything more is overeating.  This is a very simple principal but we all know how hard it is to maintain.  Give your child a head start by actively teaching them this principal and thus teaching that food should be ignored unless you are hungry.  This way we teach them that the decision to eat should come from internal cues from the stomach, not external cues from the eyes or the mouth.

Secondly, great care should be taken to provide children with three filling meals a day, with snacks kept to a minimum.   This way we teach children that when they are hungry, they eat a meal.  To make things easier on you, develop a list of meals that they enjoy, that are healthy and that are easy for you to make.  Use this list to make a routine set of meals that your child likes.  It is extremely important that the meals are from natural ingredients and not pre-packaged foods.  When children become accustomed to eating prepackaged or fast food, their palates become accustomed to excessive amounts of sugar, salt and fat.  They may later crave these, creating a cycle that is tough to get out of.  In fact, the big food industry corporations seek to push us into these cycles and create addictions to these types of foods.  It may take considerable effort to cook at home and develop a list of acceptable meals, but it is invariably worth the effort, even if you need to take shortcuts.

Eating between meals should be limited to fruit and/or vegetables.  Don’t keep unhealthy snack foods around the house.  If you like to snack on chips, instead of chips buy unbuttered popcorn, pretzels, nut mixes or the occasional bag of Lentil Chips, Pop Chips or Pop Corners.  More importantly, model good behavior and offer fruit in tempting ways; sliced apples with honey, vanilla yogurt with blueberries or sliced strawberries, or sliced bananas topped with granola.

Finally, desserts should be limited to special treats when we all go out for ice cream or have cake at a birthday party.  A great way to limit desserts is to bake with your child once a week.  For example, make Sunday morning baking time with your child and bake a new treat each week and this would be their special treat for the week.  Always use some whole grains- experiment with using 50% whole wheat flour, oat flour or spelt flour, which have a lot of nutrients.  You can also sneak in some extra nutrients with some ground flax seeds, chia seeds or almonds.  Even if you’re not an expert baker, many very easy recipes can be found and truthfully, kids don’t care too much how it turns out as long as they get to decorate it with sprinkles!

At the Brook Academy, we make the effort to teach our children good nutrition.  We offer three meals a day that we believe are nutritious and that children will like.  We do not use any pre-packaged foods and cook all foods from natural ingredients.  We take care to limit all snacks to fruit and present them in a variety of appetizing ways.  Click here  to learn more about our food program.

We would love to hear your thoughts.  Contact us at with any comments.