My son’s soccer team lost the championship game. It was hard fought – a close match.
As the team picked up its spirits and gathered coats and schoolbags, one of the moms circulated with a platter of frosting-topped cupcakes.
“No thank you,” my son politely declined. She offered them to my daughter and husband as well. Only to get the same response.
She paused and looked over at my husband, a question poised on her lips. Suffice it to say we have a reputation in our various school circles. And this mom was eager to find out what trick we’d pulled to add cupcake forbearance to our list of healthy family traits.
So my husband explained . . .
Years ago at our children’s insistence we stopped at a Dunkin Donuts. These two little guys were eager to feed their sweet teeth.
Of course, after taking their time to carefully survey the offerings, they chose the gooiest, stickiest donuts on display:
An icing covered monstrosity with strawberry cream oozing out from the sides.
Barely able to contain their drool, our two miscreants settled into the back of the car with baited breath.
We handed them each a donut and off they went.
Before long the backseat was a grisly mess of pink cream in the hair and sticky fingers. But that wasn’t the worst part.
The worst part was the expressions on my two little one’s faces . . .
They looked miserable.
“Mom,” the plaintive call went out. “I feel horrible.”
“Mom, I feel sick.”
These two guys were so unaccustomed to so much sweetness that their bodies rebelled. Within a few bites, the donuts brought not delight – but dismay.
It took years before we could even mention the word “donut” without eliciting groans.
After that one overwhelming afternoon of sugary richness, my kids now instinctively turn down sweet cakes.
Now, don’t get me wrong. They’re not completely sugar-free. Apple pie moves fast in our household. Pancakes with maple syrup are slurped up and they love to chew on a wad of bubble gum on occasion.
But they don’t like too much too often. Instinctively, they don’t want too much sweet.
With Halloween approaching and most of you quivering as you anticipate endless negotiations about candy and wired kids, here’s some insights to help you based on our experience:
1. Kids can learn to instinctively NOT crave sweets.
2. Make sweet indulgences an occasional thing and their taste buds will react dramatically to anything sweet. One recent study found that obese kids tended to describe foods as less sweet than their slimmer counterparts. You don’t need to invest a million dollars in research to figure out why: When you eat a lot of sugary things you change the way the nerves in your taste buds react to sweetness. It takes a lot more stimulus to trigger a reaction.
When you eat less sugary stuff, it doesn’t take as much to set your taste buds off.
3. When you eat something sweet, take some time to notice how you feel afterwards. My children were so used to feeling good after eating that they really noticed how bad they felt after indulging. Often enough we get used to the low energy, the sour mouth, the achy head that comes with eating too much sugar. If you coach your children to pay attention to how they feel, they may be less interested in eating something that makes them feel so bad.
4. Finally, be a model. And talk about how you feel as you eat sweet stuff. In our household, we talk a lot about changes we’ve made, how we feel when we eat healthy or exercise and the science behind all of this. And despite what you may think, this sinks in. Especially when you’re walking the talk too. In fact doing it together as a team can make it an even more positive experience.
If your kids are already off the sweet stuff, you’re on the right track. Keep it up.
But if you’re trying to make a shift from earlier eating patterns, it can take a little more strategizing. In my earlier article on kicking the soda habit, I describe how to ease off an addiction to sweet. My husband is proof that you can shift your taste buds entirely.
Giving your children a healthy sense of taste is a wonderful gift. It makes eating well no longer an act of will but instinctive behavior. Their cravings can turn from unhealthy to healthy.
Not to mention, it makes it easier on you as a parents. Instead of having to say “no” when someone offers your child cupcakes, they’ll say on their own, “No cupcakes, thank you”.
About Sarah Clachar And Fit Family Together
Since expecting their first child, Sarah and her husband Cassius have made fitness a core part of their family life. From biking to hiking . . . from the heart of New York City to a farm in New England, they have found a way to stay active together. And through all this exercising as a family they discovered that family fitness builds not only strong bodies – but stronger families.
A professional health writer with a BA in biology, gardener and foodie Sarah brings a wealth of expertise in nutrition and health. A personal trainer and inveterate tinkerer, Cassius brings innovation to making family fitness work.
Ready to make family fitness part of your family life? Take the Fit Family Together 7 Day Family Fitness Challenge and put your own family fitness plan together.