“NOT NOW” DOESN’T MEAN “NOT EVER”

Sweet treats.

One of the many different responses I get when I decline offers of non-Paleo foods on Oliver’s behalf is “You know you’re not going to be able to keep him away from this stuff forever, right? Just wait until he goes to a ________ (birthday party, friend’s house, school, summer camp, etcetera). What are you going to do then, when you don’t have control?”

Allow me to explain: When I decline something that I don’t want Oliver to eat, I’m not saying that he will never be allowed to eat it; I’m saying that he doesn’t eat it. Right now, that is.

I know that junk food is ubiquitous. I understand that Oliver won’t get through his pre-school years — let alone elementary and secondary school — without tasting cookies, candies, ice cream, cake and soda. I’ll might even (gasp!) allow him to have this stuff, from time to time, on my watch ;).

However, when it comes to indulgences like junk food (and also screen time, electronics and expensive toys), I simply do not feel it necessary to introduce these things before Oliver has himself discovered their appeal. To put it more concisely, why give the baby a cookie when he is thrilled to have a banana? He’s not “missing out.” He doesn’t know what’s missing, because he hasn’t yet experienced it.

Babies and toddlers are not susceptible to peer pressure. Oliver’s not going to be ostracized if all of the other babies at play group get toddler sugar fruity puffs after class and he gets plain old steamed carrots. He loves steamed carrots! But when he’s old enough to go to birthday parties by himself, I’m not going to be the parent who sends him with a baggie of Paleo banana bread to eat while the other kids indulge in sickly, sticky confections. From a social standpoint, that could cause its own set of issues.

When indulgences do become a part of Oliver’s life, we will have boundaries, just as we do now, for ourselves. Treats will be permitted on occasion, in appropriate contexts. And they’ll be so much more special because of this.

Do do you feel that children should be introduced to treats — food or otherwise? At what age? What boundaries do or will you have in place to prevent indulgences from getting out of hand?

8 responses to ““NOT NOW” DOESN’T MEAN “NOT EVER”

  1. Huzzah! Love this post. I get asked/told the same thing exactly all the time. We made it until about 3.5 with our first before feeling inclined to add anything trendy to her diet. I don’t know how it will be with the second, but my first daughter really understands that babies/young children don’t need any kind of junk food. I do stay within my acceptable parameters of “junk.” We do not, for instance indulge in chemistry lab created Halloween candy, ever. Fancy colored-packaging implies a level below “junk” here. I let her play with it and sort it by color and then we feed it to the garbage monster. We roar with laughter as we read the ingredients.

    I went to a beach BBQ with a group of families and the Marshmallow was present. I give my daughter information when I think Marshmallows might be present at an event and let her choose something else to bring that might satisfy the sweet tooth when friends whip those out. Oddly, before it even became an issue with us, I overheard another boy asking (with the sad lilt of a plea) his mom for marshmallows and she said, “I am sorry honey, but no, those aren’t food.” I ran over with my beach blanket and parked it with them! I told her son that D. isn’t allowed to eat those fluffy white things either and that she’d be happy to play. The mom and I talked about how hard it is to toe that line, while at the same time being important. My 5-year-old does not have the knowledge to make an informed choice about what goes in her body–I do. I am not going to flap in the wind and either ignore the high fructose corn syrup or say, “It’s okay sometimes…” If a “food” has artificial colors, corn from questionable sources, corn syrup of any kind, or otherwise looks like it was made in a lab, I am not going to turn a blind eye and feed it to my offspring. I don’t care what the peers are consuming.

    At 5, she’s never had artificial colors or corn syrup. Has she had food that is plain junk in our house, outside of our house, yes. “Organic-must-be-healthier” boxed cereal is often served for snack at her preschool sometimes. Given how many bowls of “truly-junk” cereal that I ate as a child, I suspect she’ll be fine with a handful of the stuff here and there. We make gluten free cupcakes for birthdays and the almond flour chocolate chip cookies at Elana’s Pantry are a well-loved treat. Our diets aren’t perfect, but there are limits. Contrary to what others might think, children do need some boundaries!

    • I really love how precocious your daughter is when it comes to knowing about food. Your stories always make me smile.

      Your idea of having an advance discussion about potential “forbidden” treats that might be present at an event, and then allowing your daughter to select something different to bring with her… is brilliant! Allowing her to choose the alternative is such a respectful way to gain her cooperation in adhering to the boundaries you set.

  2. This is such a tough topic and honestly I’m not at all looking forward to those days. I am already getting the “why don’t you give him rice cereal” question and my son isn’t even 6 months old. Everyone says you have to have a balance and at least let them sometimes so they don’t overindulge as adults. I somewhat agree but also somewhat disagree. If he’s too young to even know what he’s missing I have no intention of feeding it to him for fun. When he’s old enough to ask I plan to educate him about unhealthy foods and teach him to pay attention to how they make his body feel. We can’t stop everything but we can educate.

    • Growing up in a largely “no junk food” house, I was always the kid who overindulged when given the opportunity (e.g. at parties or other peoples’ homes). So I understand that an outright ban on sweets may not be the best approach. But like you, I just don’t see the point of introducing junk food prematurely. Giving treats to a baby isn’t about the baby wanting it; it’s about the parent wanting to see the baby’s reaction to sweet food.

  3. Pingback: “NOT NOW” DOESN’T MEAN “NOT EVER” | glutenfreebunintheoven·

  4. Grandma offered her, and more importantly, taught her the word for, COOKIE a couple months back. Now, once in a while (usually after she’s finished dinner), she asks for “one cookie?” And once in a while I give her one. It’s funny though. As fascinated as she is by the thought of a “cookie”, oftentimes, she takes one bite, then loses interest and I eat the rest of it! Maybe it’s just the positive association with Grandma she likes? I dunno.

  5. Glad to see others don’t feel the need to introduce ‘treats’ to a little one. Our daughter has made it to 18 months without a grain of refined sugar passing her little lips. Favourite foods include steamed broccoli and carrots, grilled fish, blueberries and eggs. We always get comments from well-meaning family and friends that we can’t shield her from all the ‘good stuff’ forever. As long as she continues to devour her carrots and broccoli….we’ll keep all the ‘good stuff’ away from her!

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