How to Tame Your Kid’s Sweet Tooth

Before your little one's sweet tooth gets out of hand, give your young eater the tools for healthy eating with these tips.
Sweet Tooth


Boy And Candy

"Fine! Just have the CUPCAKE!" I yelled (in my head) as I practically threw the sugar-infested, oversize cupcake (that I was planning to bring to a party) at my 3-year-old son. The meltdown he was having in the pouring rain on Second Avenue was reaching gargantuan proportions. My continuous noes were clearly not working. Three-year-olds can be relentless. I raised my white flag, tore open the box and let him indulge.

If you're a parent, you know this story all too well. If you're a parent and have never been in a similar situation, well, then, please hand over your Cliff Notes on parenting, stat! When it comes to desserts and sweets, most of us struggle, whether we are 3 years old, 25 years old or 50 years old. It doesn’t help that treats pop up near daily at birthday parties, family events, school activities and holidays. Like all of you, I don’t like being the parent police and always saying “no.” But we are smart enough to know that we can’t let sugary indulgences be a free-for-all either.

How do we take on this battle? Do we restrict, rid our houses entirely of sugar and require our kids to snack solely on kale, or do we indulge full on because they are only kids once and stock a pantry full of sweet snacks? Do we never utter the d-word or do we do dessert nightly? What’s most important isn’t if you are a fruit-for-dessert family or a never-do-dessert-at-home clan. What is important is that you make conscious decisions and keep things consistent for your kids. Food battles stop when kids know what to expect and can’t plead their case until they get a “yes.” Every family should have its very own, what I call, Food Culture. This is a general set of values that will make your home a healthy haven and help your little ones thrive. Sweets are just one part of your Food Culture. Eating is a huge part of our lives, and it is never too late to establish ground rules and your Food Culture, so don’t worry if you don’t have this down yet.

Here are some tips to get your home on track:
Mindful Meeting

Set your DVR to record Scandal and have a sit-down with your partner. Before starting a home and a family, we usually have chats about everything from finances to education to religion. But we don’t usually decide what food and eating style we are going to have. All organic? Home-cooked meals? Takeout two times a week? Sweets nightly? Talk about what food values are important to you and listen to your partner's values as well. Come up with a philosophy you can agree on so everyone is on the same page and nobody is feeling sabotaged.

Family Time

Bring in the troops and open up the conversation. If your children are old enough to contribute, let them! Talk about preferences and let them voice their opinions. Work together to develop principles for a workable Food Culture.

Definitions and Decisions

Decide what sweets are important to you and how and when they should be incorporated for your family. We’re usually a fruit-for-dessert family (sometimes with a drizzle of chocolate), but we occasionally indulge in homemade (sometimes by the bakery!) chocolate chip cookies and real ice cream for dessert. We don’t have a set night for it, but that may work for your fam. Try to choose desserts that are homemade with real ingredients. How about a baked apple with cinnamon instead of brownies? Make treats fun and prepare them with your children as a tasty activity! You may decide that out of your home you have a different set of beliefs. For example, maybe it is OK to have the team snack after soccer, even Cheetos, but you don’t allow that in your home.

Pantry Party

Now is the time to put your ground rules into practice. If cinnamon buns and jelly beans are not part of your Food Culture, then ditch ‘em from the kitchen. Keep ingredients for the treats you have chosen on hand so you can whip them up when needed. If make-your-own smoothies or Popsicles are your pick, keep extra fruits and vegetables in the fridge and freezer. I always keep high-quality graham crackers, coconut flakes, walnuts and 70 percent cacao on hand to whip up a quick magic bar that I make without even looking at the recipe. Get creative! Another fave of mine are individual Pear Almond Crisp Shots. See below and give it a try for you family tonight.

Pear Almond Crisp Shots
Time: 15 min
Makes: 4 servings
Bottom Layer:
4 tablespoons cashew or almond butter
Middle Layer:
1 pear, chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup almonds and cashews, chopped
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon honey
Bottom Layer

Place 1 tablespoon of cashew or almond butter in the bottom of a glass shot glass or ramekin and freeze.

Middle Layer and Topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Wash, core and chop pear. Mix with cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and lemon juice.

Evenly, add to shot glass or ramekin.

Combine oats, chopped nuts, coconut, cinnamon and honey, and layer evenly on pear mixture. Place in oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Keri Glassman is the founder and president of Keri Glassman, Nutritious Life and The Nutrition School. She is a contributing editor and advisory board member for Women’s Health Magazine, the Health and Wellness partner for JW Marriott, was Lead Nutritionist for Turner’s health and wellness entertainment brand, upwave and the Nutritionist and Judge on the healthy cooking competition show, “Cook Your Ass Off”. She has authored four books and is regularly featured on The Today Show, Good Morning America, and Access Hollywood Live.

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