Most parents are worried about how to manage their toddler’s chocolate consumption at Easter. Parents often know that their toddlers LOVE chocolate and they just don’t know what to say about how much they can have. How much is enough? Or too much?
Why are we worried?
Often parents are worried that their child will want to eat TOO MUCH chocolate (or sugar). This is the case for many adults these days. We assume that everyone will eat too much chocolate if they’re allowed to have as much as they want, but in fact, the opposite is true. People actually binge on chocolate as a result of losing touch with what their body is telling them.
Instead, we want our kids to be able to listen to what their tummy says. This is controversial, but I actually want them to eat as much chocolate as they like! Why? Because we can help them much more in the long term by teaching them to listen to their bodies, than we can by restricting how much they eat at Easter. We want them to learn that chocolate is just food, and they can eat chocolate without becoming obsessed with it. This way they eat enough to be satisfied and move onto playing once they’re done.
Tell me how!
The key is to have these foods as part of a child’s normal diet, but within the structure of regular meals. Kids who have regular access to all foods (but not constant access) can choose to eat as much as they feel like and stop when they’ve had enough. THIS is the holy grail of intuitive eating. We’re practising this as part of Toddler Mealtimes.
What age does this apply?
To be clear, I wouldn’t offer chocolate to little kids who don’t know what it is. There is absolutely no need to give a baby under 12 months any chocolate. You could give them a blueberry and they’d be just as happy.
So, when is this magic cut off? For first born kiddos it can be somewhere around 2 years of age, but for those with older siblings, they’re often aware much earlier that they’re ‘missing out’. We don’t want chocolate to be seen as a highly magical food (it’s just food) so this is the point to introduce it without fanfare.
Here’s my top three tips for managing this sticky (literally) issue over the Easter weekend. These are inspired by the wonderful work done by the Ellyn Satter Institute.
DR KYLA’S TOP THREE TIPS
1. On the day- relax! Easter Sunday comes once a year. If you have an Easter Egg hunt in your garden then make sure everyone enjoys it! Leave a carrot out for the Easter Bunny (there’s a chance for your kids to interact with a vegetable!).
Let them eat as much chocolate as they like (seriously). You don’t need to stress about the sugar consumption and you can even enjoy eating your own Easter Eggs. Easter Monday can also be relaxed. And the best part- you can let yourself be secretly surprised when your child voluntarily tells you that they’ve had enough.
2. On Easter Tuesday, pack up the chocolate and put it in a box each in the fridge. Chocolate consumption now becomes part of snack time. You can offer it along with another food (maybe fruit, veggies, milk, pikelets) and your child can choose how much to have at that snack time. This doesn’t mean they can eat the chocolate all day long! They do get to choose as much as they would like but only you can decide if it’s included at that snack.
3. Finally, make sure your child doesn’t feel watched or judged while they’re eating. Do your best NOT to comment on what they’ve had, how much they’ve had, or if they feel sick after eating lots of chocolate. You want your child to know that chocolate is just a food, and you’re not fixated on what they do with it. This is how they learn to stop when they feel satisfied, rather than stuffing it in until we yell STOP!
These three tips should help you to enjoy Easter time, and help your kids learn to listen to their tummy voice. If you’ve always controlled how much your child eats, then it can be difficult for them to work this out for themselves at first. Don’t panic though- because they can!
If you do feel worried about how much your child eats, please get in touch with a paediatric dietitian experienced in intuitive eating and the Division of Responsibility. It will make such a difference for your child in the long run.
If you’ve got a young child aged 1-4 years then please come and join us for more support at www.toddlermealtimes.com.au We problem solve all of the issues associated with feeding young kids, and I answer all of your questions in our private Facebook Group. Join the membership now!
Dr Kyla x