Growing up, we always had dessert after dinner–and sometimes lunch too. I never thought much about it until I had kids and realized that if dessert is on the horizon, they couldn’t care less about the healthy dinner I just spent 45 minutes preparing. And oh, do they put on Oscar-worthy performances: Clutching their overstuffed bellies, they will beg in pained, sickly voices to be excused from the table–only to run back five minutes later asking for ice cream.
This is irritating. And unhealthy. So over the past couple of years, I’ve tried to figure out ways to put less emphasis on dessert, while still giving my kids the treats they love (and in many cases, that I love too).
I wrote here about a seemingly insane strategy: serving dessert with dinner (scary but surprisingly effective!). And in my next few posts, I’ll be including more tips for tackling the dreaded dessert dilemma that I know many of you struggle with also.
Hopefully they’ll help tame any dessert demons (and divas) you may have at your table as well.
Up first, two tactics that sometimes work around here:
Designated Dessert Nights
One evening at dinner, when one of my kids inquired about dessert before his fork even pierced the first bite of food, I calmly explained that we would be having dessert only on the weekends. Do I always stick to this? No. Birthdays happen. Surprise plates of delicious cookies from neighbors happen. But this policy is there when I need it. My toddler still protests a bit, but my seven-year-old accepts it as fact. And when they find out there really is no sweet treat afterward, they miraculously find more room in their tummies for dinner.
Retooled Sweet Treats
One of the accidentally brilliant moves I’ve made this summer is freezing all of the kids’ yogurt. Because in their minds, this has magically transformed it from a regular snack food to dessert. I wrestle with the place sweetened yogurt has in their diets because it is, after all, a sweet treat. So putting a stick in it and calling it a popsicle feels right. I’ve been doing the same with leftover morning smoothies. I freeze them in popsicle molds and they become goodies. They love it, and I love that they’re getting yogurt and fruit (and yep, even some flaxseed) for dessert.
Stay tuned for Parts 2, 3 & 4 of “The Dessert Dilemma”, which will feature ideas from some of my favorite dietitians and feeding experts.