Mother: “How should I deal with the amount of candy my children get from others? I am a sugar conscious mom. My children do not get sweet toppings on bread, and are allowed one piece of candy a day. I was able to hold it in my own hands until they went to school, but now that they are 5 and 7 it is much harder. Sometimes they get three sweets a day at school, followed by something sweet at after school. Or they get pancakes for lunch at a play date, and then another donut and a lollipop. Even at hockey practice, the teammates hand out candy. Same story at parties: instead of just a sandwich, they get cupcakes, cake, candy and lemonade. I don’t want to be negative about this to my kids and I don’t want to give them any instructions about this, but I don’t like it. So I feel there is little left for us as parents to spoil them now and then. If they’ve just had pancakes somewhere, I don’t say, ‘Shall we get an ice cream?’
To set a good example
Minke Eilander: “We live in an ‘obesity environment’ where we are tempted to eat a lot of unhealthy food and exercise a little. Children must learn to find their way in that world. They will find unhealthy temptations in their path anytime and anywhere. Now it’s playdates and parties, later it’s the supermarket, where they go during the break.
“It would already help if we as a society indulge, associate reward and fun less with unhealthy food. You can also treat yourself to a fun activity, such as playing a game. And kids like a banana too.
“It is important that you continue to lead by example. You are already teaching your children common sense with food and that is enough. They will enjoy this for a lifetime.
“Continue to show flexibility for what is offered outside the home. If you ban it, you make the relationship with sweets too strained. As long as you continue your healthy policy at home, the children will notice how others feel.”
Keep the balance
Wear Renders: “You have good rules and routines, and if you stick to them at home, you will get far with your food education. In terms of lifestyle, the parents’ example is very important for children, both what they do and what they say. It helps to explain to the children why you choose something, for example that you want to limit sugar, because too much sugar is bad for the body and teeth. In this way, you transfer knowledge and skills and ultimately stimulate their autonomy to make a healthier choice in tempting situations.
“Try to keep the right balance. Too little control over what your children eat is not good, but neither is too much. If healthy eating becomes too compulsive, it can disrupt their relationship with food.
“It is not so bad that your children see different examples outside the home and encounter unhealthy temptations. By coming into contact with other rules and routines in a dosed way, they gradually learn to find their own size. You can fill your pampering time at home differently, for example by making something that you all enjoy.
“If things get out of hand, you can bring up the treatment policy with the participation council at the school or hockey team.”
Minke Eilander is a teaching assistant and post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Youth and Lifestyle at VU University Amsterdam. Wear Renders is an epidemiologist and associate professor at the Department of Health Sciences VU Amsterdam. She does research into promoting a healthy lifestyle in children and young people.