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Sweets for children: How much is too much?

How much is too much when it comes to sweets for children? I can remember drinking Pepsi by the time I was 4 or 5 (which makes me cringe), and as a mother today, I am hesitant to even so much as let Evan have juice more than once or twice a week. He is so happy eating fresh fruit, that the juice is really more just a treat. Now that he can use a straw, I occasionally give him a little Mott’s for Tot’s, which has less sugar.

Up until recently, I was the sweets police, and wouldn’t really let anyone give him unhealthy snacks. I am finally loosening up a little, and Evan gets a cookie here and there. As you can see, he agrees that sweets for children are a good thing, now and again.

With all of the news about rampant childhood obesity, I think a lot of parents, myself included, are really afraid of creating bad eating habits in our children. That said, I don’t want to NEVER give my kid a cookie, you know? Are you uptight about providing sweets for children in your home?

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24 comments

  1. I shuddered when I read an article about a family that puts three spoons of sugar into the kids’ morning cereal, and then gave out a daily treat bag full of candy – which was gone by noon! Then with all the soda and juice they drank, it was enough to curl your teeth!

    Until the age of three and a half, my kids didn’t even know what candy was! Those well-meaning acquaintances who offered them lollipops were met with blank looks. Just didn’t register on my twins’ radar. Then parents at their nurseryschool started in with the holiday treats. Glazed donuts and cupcakes with towering piles of frosting should be outlawed in schools!

    I had to train their teachers to only offer a bite-sized morsel if it looked like my girls were stressing because their classmated had what they didn’t. Frosting Removal 101 was another mini-lesson I had to give. Now the teachers are pretty good and will remove all but a sheer film of frosting from the treats.

    We dilute their juice 50/50 with water, and no juice after 1pm, unless it’s a sick day.
    And I don’t even let them put syrup on their pancakes – I mix a little into the batter. “Ice Cream” is home-pureed fruit with green powder that we freeze. The twins are pretty good with eating fresh fruits, which I’m thankful for.

    I’d like to keep them altogether from the sweets, but the truth is that their peers are going to be eating the stuff right in front of them, and rather then them going underground and hiding it from me, I prefer teaching them to eat treats responsibly. Just a little now and then along with a balanced diet is fine, but a steady diet will make them pretty sick.

    So far they don’t have a weight problem, and their dental checkups have been cavity-free. But I know that the real battle is just ahead when they start going to public schools and seeing what their classmates eat at lunch and at playdates.

  2. He is so so cute, I would snuggle him forever Crissy !~

  3. I agree! I was the same way with my two until they turn 1 1/2 or so…then it’s a little healthy sweets in moderation :)

    Love your blog! Looking forward to more, I’ve joined via google & twitter! Thanks!

    Leandra
    The Whimsical Sweet
    http://thewhimsicalsweet.com

  4. Personally, in this house we don’t really limit sweets too much. We do not keep them around the house all the time though so there is no temptation anyways to over indulge. We are not very worried about childhood obesity, but that is mainly because we do not let the tv raise our kids. My wife will back whole grain cookies home made, and I think that home made sweets versus processed bagged snacks makes a difference.

  5. oh yum!! I only like to give my daughter sweets when it’s like a special occasion or if she’s been good with eating all of her food which she’s usually not so when she does good, she gets some dessert! I also don’t give her juice because I just don’t see the need but I’m sure I eventually will!

  6. It’s funny because as I’ve had more kids I’ve become more lax about sugar. I was (and am) addicted to sugar. If it’s in the house I will devour it, I’ve always been that way even though my parents never kept me from eating sweets.

    My kids are used to moderation and well versed in the effects of sugar and processed food on their bodies. We sometimes find with back to back to back birthdays and other things that their sugar consumption gets out of hand, so we spend a week or more without eating sugary treats to make up for it a bit.

    That said we have never given my kids soda, and they won’t drink it. It’s just not a good treat, and it is full of caffeine which kids absolutely don’t need. If they grow up and want to try it, fine, but I’m doubtful they will. My daughters convinced my husband to give up his once a day soda habit, and are now working on my dad.

  7. I agree with you, obviously fruits are way better for them but denying them sweets completely is also not a good idea in my opinion. They need to learn that sweets are ok every now and then – so they know how to deal with all foods later. I ahve seen kids who never eat sweets go to a birthday party & literally cry about the cake & goodies, or get sick from eating them. It’s hard to find that balance but I think we are so much aware today than moms were in the past that we can help our children grow up to make better food choices.

    Bernadette

  8. I used to be super strict with giving my kids candy and sweets. When we left the grandparents with extra treats in tow, I would take them away from the kids (and usually eat them at work- terrible I know).
    As our kids have gotten older, they get more sugar.

  9. I allow sweets in my home. I try to teach my children about healthy choices but I don’t usually have to provide limits as they seem to have created their own. Most of the time if given a choice, my kids would choose fruit or vegetables over ice cream or candy. A dietitian I work with has said we shouldn’t make things “treats” or we are sending the message that it is more special and therefore more desirable than other foods we are giving our kids.

  10. I thought I was going to murder my mom when I found out she gave a piece of chocolate to my 18 month old. Now I have a 20 month old chocoholic!! I knew that she would find out about chocolate and cookies one day, I just didn’t think it was going to be this soon. Thanks, mom! Now I pray that she will never ever find out what those golden arches are…. wishful thinking, right?

  11. I still water down any juice that I give my 3 yr old. Occasionally I will give him fruit snacks. And his real treat is when he picks up all his toys without us having to tell him 18 times at night he get 2 M&M’s. He thinks its a big treat. If we have ice cream or cake, he usually gets like 2-3 tablespoons, and then he’s done.
    We were kinda strict before he was 1, he had juice like 1-2 a week, unless he was constipated and the pear juice was the only solution. No cakes, cookies, ice cream. He didn’t need it. But to this day, he will chose a tangerine over Oreos, and grapes over chips. I’ll keep it that way as long as possible.

  12. When my kids want a sweet, and it’s an appropriate time, I let them. Everyone I know who always tells their children NO have children that sneak sweets and it’s a problem. If any of my children had weight issues I’d probably be more strict……this is SUCH a hard one.

  13. We eat a lot of sweets, but the good kind in the form of fruit (like this http://www.eco-babyz.com/2010/10/glimpse-into-eco-babyz-9-dessert-snacks.html). I make my own cookies and they aren’t nearly as sweet as store bought and I know all the ingredients, so I don’t mind giving them to her if it isn’t too late in the day. Otherwise it is dry or fresh fruit. :)

  14. I’m super uptight about it, but I think it’s okay. My husband and his parents are waaaay on the other end, so we balance each other out. I wouldn’t worry so much about “childhood obesity”. If you are the type of parent that’s even thinking about it, then you’re probably making the right choices and laying the right groundwork for your kids.

    What I worry about is their adulthood. Most of us started out as slender, active kids. But somehow, between work, poor food choices, and parenthood, adults start to go downhill. I want to instill good choices and rational food thinking into my kids so that when they hit the teen years, college, first job, marriage, parenthood – all the major life events/stresses, they act appropriately.

    Not because it’s “bad” to be fat. But because it’s usually sad to be fat. And it takes a lot away from your life. Let them have cookies. But make sure 90% of the time they are eating healthy, have access to healthy food options, and learn to make the right choices for themselves. It sounds like you’re doing a good job. :)

  15. I am not uptight at all about it. But, the kids only drink soda when we are out and only have a cookie (one) or a piece of candy that’s left over from whatever the last holiday was after dinner. I give them juice and since they don’t drink more than 2 ounces at a time, I just don’t worry about it. I give Dum-Dums for treats too. More than a sweets, which are so easy to control portion-wise, I worry about overly-processed foods with no nutritional value, labels that have 5+ lines of ingredients that I can’t pronounce, modified and fake sugars, and additives, preservatives and food colorings that the body doesn’t know what to do with. *sigh* Always something, huh?

  16. I had a post in regards to bribing with sweets: http://www.ourlittlebubble.com/2011/02/to-bribe-or-not-to-bribe.html

    My husband introduced bribing at dinner time I had a hard time with it, we only do it occasionally tho… small things like m&m or nerds, nothing large. (I’m the strict one when it comes to sweets too). To my kids, it’s like a drug, once they get a little they want MORE, MORE… We’ve cut back even more than before. It’s helped a lot and I know it’s better for them. Now I just have to keep tabs on what family members bring over and want to treat the kids with. Especially grandma’s, they don’t understand sometimes :)

  17. I am sure I will get my head chopped of for this but I will let my kids have sweets as a reward. For example, My daughter is about to test for her green belt with brown stripe. If she succeeds she will get to go to dinner where ever she chooses and we will let her have her choice of drink. Sometimes it’s a sprite sometimes a coke sometimes one of those slushie things. The bottom line comes down to my child knows that a treat is a treat. She is not drinking soda at home, she is not eating cookies for every snack, maybe one or twice a week assuming she did her chores. I see nothing wrong with sweets if you can teach your kid that in moderation it’s not going to completely harm them. Now if your kid is not active than i think maybe you should shy away from sweets completely. She is only 5 but i reward my 4 yrs old the same way. Now my 20 month old doesn’t get to have sweets as often as the older ones but she does get to have a cookie or maybe a scoop of ice cream here and there. I understand the need to teach your kids healthy habits and I have no doubt that my kids will maintain a healthy diet but that doesn’t mean they can’t have the good things in life once in awhile.

  18. Cindy, obviously, fruit is better LOL. No one disputing that for sure. Luckily my kid loves fruit.

  19. I’m like you, I had been watering down his juice (which was pretty rare for him to have anyway) until recently. I’m OK with the Mot’s for Tot’s once or twice a week.

    Evan loves fruit too, in fact, he eats a banana every single morning for breakfast. I’m really looking forward to summer and getting some fresh local fruit, it’s so much better in the summer!

    • Yeah, I really don’t do too much juice, and NO soda. I guess I’d rather go with a bit of a solid snack (since the body recognizes those calories) unlike a calorie laden liquid.

  20. I have 2 very active young boys. While one of them absolutely LOVES fruit, the other one does not. They both eat very healthy, I cook home made meals every night for them. I sneak in their veggies into food, sauce, etc. For my oldest to get in fruit I make him smoothies everynight with blueberries, raspeberries and bananas. I don’t feel that the occasional “snack” or “sweet” is going to make them obese, they are children and its ok for them to have these things every once in a while. I do not give them these on a daily basis, but they now make snacks healthier – I choose those options.

  21. Ok, here’s the thing. You have to teach them to have a HEALTHY relationship with food. If you are uptight about sweets, when they get to their first birthday party without you around they are going to eat until they get sick.

    My kids get a small sweet treat every day. Some good, high quality dark chocolate (a tiny portion, just a taste), homemade, whole grain chocolate chip cookies, something like that. Nothing crazy, or sugar high-ish, but I want them to understand a portion and not be tempted to overeat because sweets are so rare.

    My kids all hover just above UNDERWEIGHT. We don’t do HFCS or processed foods, and I think your shortcake is a brilliant idea for a treat. Sweets aren’t the enemy, it’s the inflated portion sizes, the processed foods, the inactivity, and people begging their kids to eat when they just aren’t hungry.

    • Totally agree with Heather. My little guy is just about a week older than Evan. He eats almost all homemade food, which is better than just about anything that comes out of box, no matter what you put in it :) He loves fruit, goes through phases with veggies, but all in all eats healthy. For a few months I’ve been giving him some sweets in the form of homemade graham crackers, whole grain muffins, or a tiny bite of cake (no icing). Of course he loves it, he’s my kid. But I don’t go overboard. He just knows that sometimes we get a little extra sweet, sometimes we don’t. I urge everyone to check out http://www.weelicious.com. She has great recipes for babies and toddlers that the whole fam will love.

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