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to not understand some of the logic involved in 'not treating food as treats'?

62 replies

MrsOtter · 28/03/2011 10:03

I don't understand some of the things I hear regarding children and food and would appreciate clarification.

If you say that you do not offer any food as a treat then how do you teach 'in moderation?'. If it's not a treat do you not buy a birthday cake, as surely the cake is a treat?

I completely understand not offering food as rewards and never do this myself. However, the idea of it not being a treat baffles me.

I have never made a big fuss of dd having a cake or chocolate, she is 3 and I am teaching her that some foods need to be eaten in moderation. So she can eat as much fruit and vegetables as she likes but sweets, biscuits, cakes and crisps are to be eaten in moderation. She understands that she should only eat a 'little bit' of sweets because they are not good for her teeth.

If I did as some people suggest and show her no difference between her having a piece of fruit or a cake, she would, of her own accord, choose cake everytime and then end up overweight with bad teeth and no education re. food.

So, I guess what I'm saying is AIBU to feel that food given in moderation will always been viewed as a treat by the child, and by not giving in moderation you are not looking after the physical wellbeing of your child or educating them?

OP posts:

MrsOtter · 28/03/2011 10:14

I guess I'm not BU Grin

OP posts:

FreudianSlippery · 28/03/2011 10:17

I agree with you. There is a big difference between TREAT and REWARD IMO.

DD knows that chocolate is yummy and we don't have it every day, but she also thinks fruit is yummy and eats tons of it. I guess that means chocolate is a treat.

But I do not use chocolate as a reward - ie if she does something brilliant I don't say "well done now you can have chocolate"

I also try not to use it as a comfort ie to cheer her up or to distract her from a scraped knee.


anastaisia · 28/03/2011 10:21

I do think that sometimes people build up the idea of it being a 'treat' too much. So that rather than the lesson about all things in moderation you teach some things are desirable and some are not. You can also build up something that isn't there; a bar of just chocolate isn't a treat to my dd, she doesn't like it much on it's own - so people telling her 'chocolate is a treat' would be wrong (to her) or would almost be convincing her it was.

So I agree, that in the way you've described there isn't anything bad - but that like anything it can be done badly?


bubbleymummy · 28/03/2011 10:22

I agree with you. Although I think we have used chocolate as a reward on occasion because that's what DS wants when he does whatever... Although we do just tend to call them treats though.


Chil1234 · 28/03/2011 10:25

YANBU. There's a problem surrounding emotion and food more generally. Food, as well as sustaining life, should evoke various emotions. A 'treat' can be anything. Whether it's the cottage pie that reminds you of your granny's cooking, the fresh asparagus that's only available for a few weeks of the year, or the chocolate digestive that makes your afternoon cup of tea a bit more special. I've seen people try to reduce food to being nothing more than fuel and take all the emotion & enjoyment out of it.... with disastrous consequences. And I've seen people who think that they can make themselves feel better solely with the happy feelings from eating and drinking..... with equally disastrous consequences.

"No bad food, only bad diets"


RAlover · 28/03/2011 10:27

My view is that nothing is banned rather than some thing are treats IYKWIM.
Chocolate and sweets in moderation, cake can be had as a pudding if all of tea is eaten etc etc etc...........I have witnessed friends of mine ban any sort of sweet item (including taking icing off a cupcake Hmm) and then those children going nuts when allowed to make their own choices at a party.

I have never used chocolate as a reward, and now that the DCs are earning pocket money, they buy their own!!


squeakytoy · 28/03/2011 10:29

I honestly dont remember food being any sort of treat or reward as a child and find it hard to understand why people are so obsessed with food and banning their children from things and making it into something that the child sees as good/bad etc.

I grew up eating what was put in front of me, which was a balanced diet, yet we still had puddings, we had chocolate sometimes, we had ice cream with fruit, and we just didnt question what was on the plate, it was simply a meal that had to be eaten because we were hungry and then we could go back to playing.


SardineQueen · 28/03/2011 10:30

I think that YANBU but also agree with anastasia.

In some cases the "treat" thing goes too far and develops into a very unhealthy relationship with food - using "treats" as an emotional crutch, looking for excuses to "treat yourself". And it very much ties into that sort of classic "person on a diet" thing that I see in the office when someone's brought a cake in. That "oooh should I? shouldn't I? It's very naughty" etc etc and then finally giving in and having some and then feeling guilty about it afterwards. That sort of thing seems very prevalent and I really want to try to avoid it for my children.


TondelayoSchwarzkopf · 28/03/2011 10:34

I think the idea behind it, is not to make certain foods especially interesting and desirable - broccoli tastes nice and so does egg fried rice and pumpkin soup and chocolate buttons and we eat them at different times depending on the mood.

DH is very big on the 'treat' thing ie he does not want food referred to as treats or rewards. It's very hard with marketing and culture so built around certain foods heavy in fat and sugar being 'special'.

I also think that the treat thing worked in times of rationing, restricted retail opening times and a society not dominated by supermarket retailers & food brands but now we are bombarded with treats / chocolates / juice especially by fast food outlets, supermarkets and advertising - that it's hard to promote the idea that chocolate / cake should be an occasional thing so it's better to work on the idea that it's one food out of many options.


TattyDevine · 28/03/2011 10:40

Here's the way I do it.

Any food you particularly like is a treat, yes. That might be chocolate cake but it might be a particular fruit that we have only occasionally due to price, or it might be a certain dish for dinner that takes a long time to make.

So the concept and word treat is not off limits per se.

What we dont do in this house, however is use "treat" food as a bribe or a reward, or a punishment. So we dont say "clean your room and you can have some chocolate" or "if you yell at your sister you can't have any pudding". I also dont say you must eat all your dinner or you get no pudding, though its generally understood they have to try some of everything before they get anything else.

Moderation is easily enough taught without going too far into the treat concept - simply we have to eat a variety of foods to keep our bodies healthy, and we've had some of that today, but we haven't had any of this, so why dont we have this instead. Obviously the older they are the more detail you can go into about what role various foods play in the diet and how high energy processed foods give less by way of nutrition and therefore we need less of them (or none of them but easier to teach less)

You can still have a birthday cake, you dont have to call it a treat, its just a particular type of cake you have at a birthday. Its less of a "treat" if you sometimes have cake at non birthdays too - in moderation of course.

For me its more about not tying it up in bribes, punishments, or rewards, but it just being another type of food that we have sometimes, no big deal, nothing to get excited about. That kind of thing.


lesley33 · 28/03/2011 10:46

I think you are right OP.

But I think people get hung up on it because of mothers like mine. If we were really disappointed or hurt we would always have a bar of chocolate thrust at us to stop us crying. It does not make for a very healthy relationship with food.

I think lots of people, especially women, have an unhealthy attitude towards sweet food and so want to make sure that their children don't inherit this. But this desire doesn't mean they necessarily get it right either - just wrong in a different way.


TattyDevine · 28/03/2011 10:49

Another thing you often see when kids get to preschool or school type age is they ask for a particular type of food they want, say for instance chocolate buttons

So the answer is either yes or no but so often parents will say "only if you..." and then insert a requirement that the child must do before they can have it - perhaps their homework or tidying something up.

Whereas for me the answer is yes or no simply on whether it is snack time, whether I have any, and whether I want them to have it or not. I dont insert any other type of conditions onto it, because its simply food, whether it is chocolate buttons or ryvita and hummus.

Most parents wont insert a stiuplation into receiving a banana, but they often do for chocolate buttons, which puts the two foods in wildly different categories, and emphasises that one is illicit and worth more excitement than the other.

I think children will have a preference for certain things anyway, but you can boost the "value" of junk without meaning to when they get all tied up in bribes and conditions.

I used to witness my nephews and nieces holding their noses and swallowing bits of broccoli whole, with water, just so they could have some chocolate afterwards. For me that is totally defeating the purpose. Sure you want your kids to have some vitamins and fibre or whatever in the meantime, but the ultimate goal in the end is to have them self-motivated to eat these foods and genuinely like them and actually buy them themselves when they move out of home and enjoy cooking and eating them.

If you tie the eating of these foods up in pudding reward, they become something that must be endured so that something better can be had. If you are a bit more relaxed about it then they will probably come to enjoy them in their own right at some point. If pudding becomes some big issue it can just be yogurt and fruit, then there is less of a need to get the veggies or protein down them...


LittleOneMum · 28/03/2011 10:50

YANBU. I was not allowed sweets at all as a child, and now I have the sweetest tooth - whenever I am a bit low, I head straight out to buy chocolate, as I still sub consciously associate it with something I can buy myself at last!
My DS now has sweets in moderation, we treat sweets/chocolate like any other food, save that we don't have it often or all the time. I

PLEASE if you are the sort of person who doesn't give their child sugar/sweets have a think about the future - it's not doing them favours long term.


SardineQueen · 28/03/2011 10:55

It goes the other way too LittleOneMum - my DH was never stinted on sweets as a child and now he is too fat and has the whole "treat" mentality I was talking about earlier. Things like when we first went on holiday together and stopped for petrol he came back to the car with all these bags of toffees and things. I was Hmm what on earth are those for? His response was Confused "we're going on a long drive". Basically if his family were going anywhere in the car for more than about 1/2 an hour they always had loads of sweets. Bizarre to me.

There is a middle ground here isn't there. I just hope we all manage to hit it! (We don't have sweets on "long" journeys now Wink)


bubbleymummy · 28/03/2011 10:56

I suppose see a treat as something we don't have very often. So chocolate would fall into that category.I suppose other people may think of treats as only on special occasions or for rewards or whatever - tbh i dont really think about it too much or grt hung up on definitions! We dont eat sweet things everyday - thats pretty much it :) I don't see how you can encourage a healthy diet without teaching that certain foods are ok in moderation tbh.


Makingaminime · 28/03/2011 11:02

YANBU. This is something I have seen on many threads and wondered about. I thought it was normal to regard some foods as occasional treats or rewards, but many seem not to and I've often wondered why not. Interesting thread.


Prunnhilda · 28/03/2011 11:11

I think it's the word 'treat' that causes the problem, more than the actual food.

Once you've set sweets up as a reward and gone on about treats, it's harder to explain that good food in moderation is best, with a few bits of something sweet or a McDonald's Happy Meal thrown in occasionally if that's what you want.

We have become a culture where people feel they 'deserve' things for really the most minimal input. I painted some shelves yesterday and strongly felt I 'deserved' a glass of wine afterwards. Where does that come from?

We try not to use the words 'treat' and 'deserve' (and a few others) because food is pretty neutral really (birthday cake excepted of course, there are definitely 'special' items) and I don't like the idea that commonplace work is rewarded since we all have to do the basics and if we are rewarded it should be for being exceptional.


Prunnhilda · 28/03/2011 11:13

Good grief, reading that back, you can tell my parents grew up in a Calvinist culture Grin


Chil1234 · 28/03/2011 11:23

It's not the language that's the problem, it's the interpretation. We can justify any self-indulgent treat based on what we think we deserve. Clothes, night out, glass of wine, new car. Doesn't have to be food.


Prunnhilda · 28/03/2011 11:29

Language is the route to interpretation.
'I deserve a treat' has become a pervasive idea and phrase lately (mostly via selling things to women I think Sad) and if you don't get on that bandwagon from the start in your family, there's not a lot to interpret.


EdgarAleNPie · 28/03/2011 11:36

well - i think the thought that offering pudding after (and only after) dinner is a quick route to obesity is very specious (especially as pudding after dinner is a fairly old school way of doing things, an obesity is a recent problem)

using sweets as rewards/treats i don't see a problem with either - it's a useful training tool. carrot and stick is a fairly tried and tested motivation for animals of all kinds - humanity no exception.

the psychology/biology behind eating problems and obesity is really too complex to reduce it to something as simple as 'don't use food as treats'


SanctiMoanyArse · 28/03/2011 11:42

True, CHil

I think it's hard to get right; Dad is vry big and that's becuase as a child he was 15 / 16 kids in a ridiculously poor household and if you didn;t get to table and fight for your food you didn;t get any; he has never been able to shed that starvation mentality.

But I grew up with bullemia in my teens, and my 11 year old son has been treated for it too, so I have always been very aware (it's an ASD related thing here). They're very food aware; they understand that some foods are only to be eaten in small amounts occasionally and that others are regular items; but whilst they've got the whole treat thing for sweets from school they're not overly obsessed about it- they get as excited unpacking the fruit box as choosing a sweet. And whilst it seems off, within the context we live in, I suppose it's a good sign that ds1 is as likely to nick smoothies to binge on as he is biscuits!


SanctiMoanyArse · 28/03/2011 11:45

'the psychology/biology behind eating problems and obesity is really too complex to reduce it to something as simple as 'don't use food as treats'

So very true

! In our hosuehold it's about control; dad's was about his childhood, and MIL has lived with anorexia all her life and that's about teh fact she was left in a children's home for a long time by her dad and she ahs huge inferiority issues and has somehow equated thin with good.

We do pud after dinner; I find by sticking to old school food values (little waste, fresh as possible, home cooked) then theya re ehalthy (barring ds1 of course but that's different- I have 4). OTOH I grew up in a no pud, no salt household and am bigger than dh or the boys (not huge but bigger) as are my sisters.


MrsOtter · 28/03/2011 14:51

I'm not talking about the extremes of a 'no pud' household.

I'm talking about moderation (eg pudding is fine as long as its not chocolate cake everyday) and how that can be taught alongside the method of not treating foods as different to each other. A banana is different to a piece of cake, nutritionally wise and energy release wise to how can people educate their children if they are not pointing these differences out?

I'm reassured I'm not the only one struggling to understand this, and think I prety much raise dd as most of the posters on this thread.

I agree with the idea of different types of food being excitable, not just the 'junk' food. I remember being over the moon when strawberries came into season as a child, and think I do try and encourage this with dd.

Seems like squeakytoy's parents found the holy grail of the middle ground! Wonder what their secret was?

OP posts:

Prunnhilda · 28/03/2011 21:17

Is a 'no pud' household extreme? Confused

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