Though my daughter is ten, I remember her first pediatrician appointment like it was yesterday. At that appointment, I was told that the number one vegetable eaten by American children are french fries, and I was stunned! Don't get me wrong, I like french fries and enjoy them on occasion but consider them a treat. But what makes a treat a treat? In my mind, it is something special that you enjoy once in a while. Most of the definitions I found regarding food describe pleasure but don't really mention frequency. People will often say, "all things in moderation" but applying moderation would not make french fries the number one vegetable consumed would it? So what do you consider a treat? Is it always a food or a beverage? Can you think of non-food treats?
When I was a kid, soda was a treat. We rarely ate out but if we did we might be allowed to have a soda. We didn't usually have soda at home and if we did it was diet because that is what my Mom would buy. Many years later I worked at a restaurant and one of the perks was as much soda as you could drink. I drank quite a bit at first, but between caffeine jitters and not feeling that it quenched my thirst, my consumption leveled off. Over the years I gradually stopped drinking soda on a regular basis as science revealed just how unhealthy regular consumption can be. The only time I have soda now is when my family goes to see a movie, about 4-6 times a year. My husband, daughter and I will share a root beer and a popcorn between the three of us. We always have water too and sometimes candy because it is part of the treat of going to the theater.
Candy is another non-nutritious, pleasure food that has infiltrated daily life, thus becoming less of a treat. As a kid, I remember scrounging up money from beneath the sofa cushions or the bottom of my Mom's purse to make a pilgrimage to the drug store. A friend and I would walk or ride our bikes and spend an inordinate amount of time carefully selecting the candy we would buy. Like most of my friends, I didn't earn an allowance and there were limits to what could be found from either of my sources. The great candy pilgrimage not only involved planning, execution and exercise but the whole experience was a treat. All of the aforementioned effort culminated in sitting at the park, eating the chosen candy and followed by copious amounts of play. Now kids just get candy with no reason for it or effort put into it.
Candy is used as incentive at school and with events like ice cream socials, doughnut day and birthday celebrations, treats have become practically their own food group! So what can we do about it? Here are a few suggestions-First, model good food choices including fruits and vegetables (not french fries) at every meal. Second, avoid using descriptors like good and bad; food is nutritious or non-nutritious. I like how Cookie Monster from Sesame Street calls cookies a "sometimes" food. Finally, make foods that are treats about the experience. A soda at the movies, a hot dog at a baseball game, a cake at a birthday party (stop with the goody bags already). These are not everyday events and the foods shouldn't be either. Sometimes you will be out numbered and overwhelmed by what other people think and do, but being consistent as often as possible will help you move in the right direction for the health of both children and adults. Let's make treats an actual treat again!
WOW (website of the week):http://www.alpinevalleybread.com/
This delicious bread is sold at local grocery stores for $3.50/loaf but can be purchased at the bakery outlet on Southern (between Country Club & Mesa Dr) for just a buck. While it could be higher in fiber it is organic and delicious. Our favorites are the Sprouted Honey Wheat with Flaxseed and the Honey Chia.