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2022 May

Sweet Treats

Teaching our kids healthy habits is the best gift we can give them.

I’m taking a candy break, sucking on a piece of anise-flavored hard candy. I often reach for a piece of candy when I’m under duress. At the moment, I’m trying to finish up deadline so Peter and I can enjoy a much-needed evening out. Candy won’t help me work harder or better, but it does take the edge off. Things always seem a little more pleasant with a sweet treat in my mouth.

I’m pretty sure I inherited this sweet tooth from my dad. He loved his Heath bars and always had a few lying around. Me? I’m addicted to Trader Joe’s Pound Plus 72% Belgian chocolate bars—but I love Heath bars, too! My dad was also a big ice cream fan, another habit I inherited from him. There’s nothing sweeter than digging into a cold bowl of creamy ice cream when you’re feeling a little down and out.

Like everyone, I have to watch my consumption of sweets. Luckily, I’m not a fan of soft drinks and decadent desserts, so I figure I can splurge and have a piece of candy now and then. Peter and I also eat well at home. Recently he decided to become a vegetarian, so we eat mostly vegetable-centric meals.

One of the most important things we can teach our children is to develop good eating habits from an early age. I introduced veggies to our kids when they were still in the high chair. Canned peas and mini-cooked carrots both have just the right amount of sweetness to make them palatable to toddlers. But I didn’t stop with canned or frozen veggies. Kids at a very young age can gnaw on an ear of corn or a piece of watermelon. The key is to get kids used to a variety of flavors before they develop the ability to be demanding. Think the Terrible Twos.

Peter and I were lucky. None of our boys was a finicky eater. They ate pretty much whatever we put in front of them and still do. I’m not sure if it’s because I introduced them to a lot of different kinds of foods at a young age, but I would venture to say that it probably helped.

We also tended to eat mostly whole foods and avoided a lot of processed foods in our house. Whole foods like fresh meat, produce, and grains tend to be cheaper than processed foods, so it was often a matter of staying within our budget as a young family. But processed food also contains a lot of not-so-healthy ingredients like salt, sugar, and fat that enhance—or in some cases mask—the true flavor of the food.

That’s why, as parents, we should limit how much processed food we feed our kids. Besides the fact that the ingredients mentioned above disguise a food’s flavor, they’re also unhealthy when we eat too much of them. Teaching our kids good food habits at a young age sets the stage for them to grow into healthy adults. What better gift can we give them?

Of course, kids like adults need treats now and then. If you’re regularly including tasty wholesome food in their diet, a few sweet treats won’t do any harm.

Don’t forget your mom on Mother’s Day. I bet she’d like something sweet. Happy Mom’s Day to all you hard-working moms out there. Enjoy your special day!

Peggy Sijswerda

Peggy Sijswerda is the editor and publisher of Tidewater Family Plus magazine. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Old Dominion University and is the author of Still Life with Sierra, a travel memoir. Peggy also freelances for a variety of regional, national, and international magazines.

Website: www.peggysijswerda.com

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