“Finish your dinner, and then you can have dessert.”
“Two more bites, and then you can eat a cookie.”
“No, I noticed you didn’t clean your plate, so you can’t have dessert.”
Do you remember hearing any of these phrases growing up? As a child of the 80s, these phrases were commonplace. When I was a kid, dessert only came once you finished your dinner, and we didn’t have dessert every night.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, how we would do dessert with her was the last thing on my mind. As she grew, though, and began to experience all the different tastes that sugar has to offer, I realized I did not want to bribe her/reward her/goad her into eating her dinner through the use of dessert. I also didn’t want her to obsess over surgery foods. After all, everyone I know LOVES sugar (I mean, don’t we all?)
The solution that has worked for us? Serving “dessert” with dinner. We don’t wait until the end of the meal; she has it with the rest of her food. We don’t do dessert at our house: something sweet is just a part of dinner.
My husband was not completely on board with this idea. Like me, growing up in the 80s and 90s, dessert was a big deal and something you looked forward to as a kid. His family believed in cleaning their plates and eating everything given to them. He was concerned she would fill up on only the “bad” and not eat enough of her dinner.
Funnily enough, she doesn’t always eat the sweet treat first. We also make sure it’s nothing too large. And when we serve it alongside her other food, it lets her know that the cookie/brownie/piece of chocolate is just food; it takes away its power to be “good” or “bad.”
Disordered eating has become commonplace in our culture, and I really want to give my daughter a strong foundation of seeking food for nutrition and energy and not becoming obsessive about any food group. Does this sound unrealistic? Maybe, but I’m determined to keep trying.
If getting rid of dessert and serving something sweet alongside dinner sounds like something you’d like to try, I would recommend giving these accounts a follow:
All three accounts believe in food exposure, discuss picky eating, and also endorse the idea of not putting “dessert” on a pedestal. While not doing dessert isn’t for everyone, and everyone’s children are different, it’s something that has worked for our house. If you’re sick of saying, “Finish your dinner, and then you can have dessert,” or your kids are obsessed with the end of the meal, I would encourage you to try serving “dessert” with dinner.