Sunday, 25 February 2018

Finding Balance in Healthy Eating // Dessert Night

Something tells me this teddy-bear jar is going to feature heavily in my kid's childhood memories, haha!

Friday night around here is 'dessert night'.

It kinda speaks for itself, I guess, and needless to say, is a pretty popular night on my kids' weekly calendar!

A couple of years ago we instituted the tradition of 'Friday Night Dessert Night'.  We try to eat pretty healthfully around here - I try to avoid refined sugar and processed food in my family's daily diet. However, as the kids (currently 5, 7 and 9) were getting older and more aware of all the food out there that their peers enjoy, bringing home lolly bags from parties and all of that, they started clamouring for  treats and desserts! What to do, what to do!? While I make a lot of healthy food treats (just ask my kids' school friends, apparently I am very well known for my healthy brownies and muffins, lollllll) the kids soon became familiar with the more sugary and processed alternatives. Whose idea was it to let them out of the house?! ;)

While we certainly talk a lot about good food and healthy eating habits and all of that (see this post on our general family food approach and tips for creating healthy eaters) I felt like total restrictions and putting a blanket ban on all junk food wasn't ultimately going to help with building a lifelong healthy relationship with food. Extreme restrictions might be more likely to lead to the kids going overboard on junk food either as teens or just whenever given opportunity out of my sight! Plus, I just didn't want to be so uptight ALL the time, it's not fun being the food police!! Even though I do what I gotta do for my kid's health, sometimes it's just fun to have a treat without over thinking it and while I want them to be conscious eaters, I also don't want them to get paranoid, know what I mean? Ha! It's a fine balance, huh? It's been really wonderful to see them learning to self-regulate and often stop eating a slice of sugary cake half way through, announcing 'My tummy says that's enough'. I wish my own tummy had always been so self-aware!!!

So, I try to follow a general 80/20 rule for our family. 80% whole and nourishing foods, 20% just eat whatever you want, no stress or guilt. Because life and food are also just for enjoying and celebrating and being in community too, you know? I don't want to be too uptight. Sometimes I feel we swing too far one way or the other but that's life, huh?! When we do, I just try to steer the family back on course without beating myself (or them, lol) up.

Anyway, back to Dessert Night!!

It works well for us because the kids know not to ask for junk food at any other time, but they also know they have a treat outlet once a week! It's a healthy (ha!) boundary for our family. So I am not a total killjoy who always says 'no' haha (last week when I served up ice-cream I did declare - 'see, I can be fun!!'). But also so that the treats don't become too pervasive in daily life. Yes, we still do party food, treats with friends at social events, ice creams etc when we are out occasionally too. But 'dessert night' helps us keep in a healthy routine at home and with our daily eating.

The kids know they aren't totally 'missing out' but they also appreciate and generally want to eat healthfully too. I hope it's the kind of pragmatic balanced approach and habit they might choose to keep up throughout their lives. I love that they are getting to know their own bodies and often times won't even eat all of their dessert before recognising they are full!

As for what we have? Sometimes I make something more elaborate, a proper dessert or even ice cream with sprinkles (or a healthy version of a 'treat' too which they usually love just as much!), but more often than not, the kids just want to select two items from the fabled 'lolly jar' where all the random sweets and chocolates from party bags etc get dumped. I sometimes try to do it Friday afternoon  rather than after dinner, gives the sugar more time to burn off ;)

So, that's 'our family way'. Certainly not the only or 'right' way to handle healthy eating in the home, but just sharing it as a strategy that is working well for us! It gives us balance. Not total restriction but not a free-for-all either!!! It sure does save a lot of negotiations too, the kids know not to debate it, if they want a treat they know when they can have it!

These family 'policies' work differently for every family or even in different seasons but this seems to be the 'sweet spot' (pun intended!) for us in finding a balanced approach to our family's healthy eating.

Now, I better go check the 'lolly jar' stocks!!! ;)

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