Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Unlimited sugar for my 3 year old

I knew the title would get you!
I'm proposing not limiting sugar for my 3 year old.
I eat a lot of sugar. Our sweet shelf is high, almost out of my reach.
I like dessert or a biscuit a couple of times a day. I eat a bar of chocolate a day too. I take sugar in my tea and jam on my toast. I'll even lick a sugary lipgloss for the little sugar kick. Ask whether I prefer fruit or vegetables, and I'll look at you like you are an idiot for not knowing. Fruit.

Yesterday we did a huge shop in the supermarket. Charlie spotted a cereal on the shelf that he had seen on tv, he sang the song, into the trolley it went, I rolled my eyes, already thinking of limits to put on it.
It's called Mini Max, like small shredded wheat covered in white icing sugar. We hardly eat cereal in this house, it's usually toast and eggs, or porridge, or toast and jam, or pancakes.
Cereal is a treat because
a) It's processed
b) It's got sugar and salt
c) it needs cow's milk
For the above 3 reasons it's never really been on the menu, except as a treat. I'd sit him down with a bowl of Cheerios (before the Nestle boycott) to watch tv, eating them dry like sweets (which they are in my mind) and he'd be delighted.

So here we were, giving in to advertising, a child's wishes, and going against all my "good work" of controlling what goes into my child's mouth. I do relax a bit since he turned 3, especially as he's still breastfeeding, so I reckon that's cancelling out the "bad" food he sometimes eats. For example we gave him a whole packet of crisps to himself at a picnic the other day, he kept asking "Are these all for me? Do I not have to share?" It was his first official bag of crisps.

Today he asked for Mini Max. He had a small bowlful for breakfast, with cow's milk. He only ate about half of it. Then later in the morning he went into the kitchen and got the box out, eating them straight from it. I'd let him do this on the way home from the shops yesterday, and I know he felt really grown-up doing it. I read a great blog post here all about stepping away from trying to control your children's Halloween candy haul. It really opened my eyes to how petty we are as parents, as if our children would eat nothing else only sweets given half the chance.

What reminded me of this was coming into the sitting room today, and Charlie smiled at me guiltily, while trying to hide a gold foil chocolate coin wrapper. I said "Oh, did you find a chocolate coin? Oh lovely" and changed the subject. Later when he'd finished it, I told him he didn't have to hide it from me, that I would never be mad if I see him eating something.

That was a bit of a lie to him, he has seen me get mad at him - if he tries to eat some sweet / lolly from under the sofa before lunch or without eating breakfast. So he is already aware that there are rules, times when it is and isn't appropriate to eat certain things. He usually asks before popping the sweet into his mouth, but if we are careless enough to drop an M&M here or there, it's fair game at the same time.

So today he snacked on the Mini Max's on and off for a while. He asked me once could he keep on eating them. I said "Absolutely, they belong to you. You are the boss of them, and I trust you to know when you have had enough". He put them down after a while (they are like cardboard twigs, really awful) and picked up a huge bunch of grapes, which he munched for another while. I'm leaving the fruit bowl in his sight and reach these days and he'll often take some and eat it off his own bat.

I see so many parents frustrated at what / when / how much their child eats, and for them mealtimes are a real battleground. We don't make Charlie finish his dinner, he doesn't have to try everything on his plate, sometimes if he doesn't want risotto I'll make him toast. I'm not fussed. He eats just about everything, has great table manners and enjoys cooking. Just tonight he chopped mushrooms and olives and topped his own pizza, put it in the oven, and enjoyed every bite. He has a life-time to learn about food, and it starts with positive experiences here and now.

So I'm going to try this new tack with the Mini Max cereal. I can't see myself agreeing to lollies before lunch, but I'll certainly give him more say in what he eats and when. As long as the basics are covered, I'll trust him to do the rest.


  1. I like your philosophy! I was much the same when the girls were that age. I loved the post you linked to as well. The bit about giving kids information is so true! My girls used to love McDonalds chicken nuggets until I showed them a YouTube video on how they're made. Now they won't go near McDonalds and lecture all their friends on the nastiness of processed food and not because I said they couldn't eat there!

  2. Yep I think we do the same. I never try to force my son to eat his dinner or any meal but usually find he's STAAAAARVING by the next one lol! Good idea with the fruit bowl. My problem is always snacking out & about. Would love to offer him better food out & about but sometimes I'm lazy...

  3. Thank you! You have made me feel so much less guilty about what my 2.5YO eats!

  4. We have no food restrictions with our daughter who is nearly 6 - like the blog post you linked to, she will often choose to eat a piece of fruit over chocolate. Don't get me wrong - she LOVES her chocolate and will eat it regularly, but she also eats other food and is not obsessed with it. When children who have restrictions in place come to our house and see our supply of chocolate they often go crazy eating as much as they can - this never really happens with our daughter. At Halloween she really enjoyed going around for all the sweets. She brought her haul home ate one or two bits and then left the rest!!! Even I was a bit shocked at that one!!!! (btw we do the same with TV with similar results!!!) Just something to note though - often at the start of something like this, children will binge/eat lots etc. Especially if there have been restrictions in place previous to this. It takes them a while to really trust that they are being trusted.


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