Scientific studies have shown that people are born with a natural liking for sweet flavours. This is very clever of nature because the sweet taste means sugar and, therefore, energy. Generally, there is no problem with eating a few sweet treats; it's just about eating the right amount. It makes no sense for parents to impose strict bans because this generally has the reverse effect on children. It is a well known fact that anything banned becomes instantly more appealing. A much more sensible approach is to take a responsible attitude to sweet foods and to teach children to enjoy them as a special treat. This will stop children from snacking on sweet foods in secret or feeling guilty when they have them at a friend's house.
Sweet treats in moderation
One small sweet treat per day is allowed. According to the German Society for Nutrition: "Banning sweet foods only makes them more appealing; therefore, sweet treats should be allowed, within defined limits. However, there are rules: a maximum of 10% of energy should come from sugary and high-fat sweet products, including granulated sugar; portions should be as small as possible; and sweet foods should not be eaten before meals and should never replace meals." Of course you can make an exception for birthdays or Christmas, but otherwise clear rules should be maintained, so that children continue to enjoy sweet foods as a treat.
Sweet treat tips:
- Set weekly limits: allow children a certain amount of sweet foods during a week and let them decide how they wish to spread this out over the given time period;
- Store sweet treats in a fixed place — a sort of mini tuck-shop where children can help themselves;
- It is sensible to combine sweet foods with a diet of fruit, vegetables, fish and meat, as well as plenty of exercise; sweet foods in moderation are also recommended as part of a child's well balanced diet;
- Set a good example as adults;
- Do not use sweet foods as educational tools: do not use treats as a reward or withdraw them as a punishment, otherwise they will become overvalued;
- Restrict the number of sweet, caffeinated drinks consumed — these also count as sweet treats;
- Shopping tip: before you go shopping, agree on one small treat which your child is allowed. They will then know that he/she will get this treat without having to whinge about it;
- Never use sweet foods as a replacement for meals;
- Make sure they don't forget to brush their teeth.
In short: children love sweet foods and should be allowed to enjoy gluten free sweet treats and snacks responsibly and in moderation. After all, if they're not allowed to enjoy a few sweet treats, then they'll soon become sour!