Dads with a sweet tooth make easy targets. Discuss.

They know I’m a soft touch when it comes to all things sweet.  “Dad”, starts my three year old, “Can we have a chocolate from the special jar before we brush our teeth and go to bed?”  OK, OK, my 3 year old would not say all these words.  He just says “Daddy” and “one” pointing at the jar of chocolate and his face says the rest.

My wife generally says no and reminds them  this is not the time for treats, but they know there’s a good chance Dad will join them in this last minute chocolate indulgence.  So she refrains.  Not worth the battle.  Not tonight anyway.

I meet people every day who struggle with diet. It can be a very lonely road. These parents feel constantly guilty. Many people I know want help, they know the facts of healthy eating but have trouble putting it into practice. The destination just looks too far.

I’m a great believer in making one change at a time. You know, cut down a weekly takeaway to twice monthly, or enjoy one square of chocolate each evening, rather than a row (or two!) Make little changes and the better, bigger changes will follow. Involve your kids in discussions about what food the family eats, what is healthy and what is only for sometimes. And, importantly, if I fail, I start over again.

To me, there is so much information, debate and guilt around food that many parents are completely confused, if not overwhelmed.  Unless we are giving our kids lentil bake or wholegrain muesli for breakfast, lunch and dinner, we’re afraid we’re doing it wrong!

I’d love to see us lose the blame culture and look at healthy eating in a realistic way. In our household, my wife and I practise moderation, like cracking open a (small) bag of chips or enjoying an ice cream dessert together (though not every night!) We just make sure – as a family – we don’t overdo the sweet treats or junk food. And our boys understand what a treat is and means. I know for a fact that the boys don’t function well, either physically or emotionally, if they have missed out on their regular fruit and vegetables.

Don’t get me started on the golden arches phenomenon though! I smugly say my boys understand what a treat is but if I let them, they would have McDonald’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They tell me it’s because of the fun toys. With the amount of marketing directed at kids (and their parents) it’s an ongoing battle for us.

Now here is my confession. I’m actually a dietitian and probably know better than most what is required for a healthy diet. And I can say, hand on heart, none of us is perfect in walking the road of healthy eating.

I say this as I own up to possessing a particularly sweet tooth. My boys know they can exploit this to their advantage, but they also know my wife and I call the shots. They get the sweet stuff occasionally and only if the healthy, wholesome food is already in there. They have also learned about moderation. It’s what I teach my children and it’s what I try to get across to the people I see professionally.

Do I ever knock off being a dietitian?  Oh yes, I leave my nametag at work after 5pm and become a parent.  Going home to my loved ones is the best part of my day.

How do you handle treats in your house?

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