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How many sweets should my child eat each day?

How many sweets should my child eat each day?

You might think the answer is none, but to take away all sweets may lead your child to become overly focused on sweet foods and perhaps even overeat them when the opportunity arises.

Including sweets (and not elevating them to special status) can help temper this response. A prudent amount is none to one serving (small portion) per day. Instead of freedom to run through the house with a lollipop, encourage your child to sit at the table while eating sweets. This sets up an expectation that desserts are treated similarly to meals and snacks, and it prevents mindless eating.

Another approach is to offer dessert at the same time as the meal or snack, making the sweet status on par with fruit, veggies, and other foods. Offer sweets in the manner that works for your family, but try to keep the overall average (over a week, for example) to less than or equal to one per day.

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  1. What exactly constitutes a sweet? I would range sweets from juice and candy all the way to ice cream and cookies. But I also buy the applesauce pouches which have a high amount of sugar so I consider that a sweet as well and try not to give them on a daily basis. We do usually try to hold off on giving sweets after the girls eat a good meal though and I tend to use them as bribery to eat some items they may not be too excited about.

    1. Terrific question! I will write a post in more detail, but in short, I don’t consider naturally occurring sugars like fructose and lactose, found in fruit and milk, a sweet, with the exception of watching the portion size of 100% fruit juices (4-6 ounces for kids under age 8). Foods with high amounts of added sugar (more than a 2 teaspoons or 8 grams of added sugar per serving) fall into the category of a sweet food for me, and this could be a sugary cereal or a dish of ice cream.

  2. My 3 year old definitely has a sweet tooth and would eat cookies all day long if I’d let her. Lately, I’ve been trying to monitor this more carefully by limiting her desserts. It’s good to know that one sweet a day isn’t so bad. I sometimes even substitute the cookies for strawberries or yogurt. I also bought Almond Dream ice cream bites that she loves. They are made with almond milk and are somewhat healthier than regular ice cream. 🙂

    1. It’s a good idea to even try days with no sweets (I don’t count fruit as a sweet), because once your child goes out into the world, the sweets seem to crop up everywhere! Having a dialogue about sweets is also helpful–ie, “we can have that tomorrow because we already had a sweet today.”