I was chatting with a client this week when the topic of downfalls came up. You know, our trigger treats that we reach for and can’t stop. It could be that bag of Kettle Chips, a pack of Hobnobs with a cup of tea, Deliveroo with a bottle of wine on a Friday night. My client explained that biscuits were just something she had in the house, and when it’s 4 o’clock, a cuppa in hand sees her with her hand in the tin. “They’re in the cupboard, I just can’t resist,” she said. I asked why she needed a stash of biscuits in the first place. “Well, it’s for the kids…and my husband likes them with a brew.” Do they actually ask for them? “Oh, not really,” she replied. “But, they’re just a quick treat.”
It got me thinking not only about the associations we make, the cookie with a coffee but the excuses too. Do your kids really need sweet things after school or a packet of crisps? Are the excuses you make for others actually saying more about you? By putting it on the rest of your household, you might be concealing the real person who wants a sweet treat, a salty snack. And the reason too. Why do you need a cake, just because you’ve done a day’s work or walked the dog?
Our children are growing up in a world where avocado on toast is the norm, halloumi is a barbecue staple, and sweet potato fries are an easy menu switch. McDonalds is certainly not the weekend treat it used to be in my day. Kids learn the 5-a-day script at school, so will know most of the healthy mantras already. Let’s try to reinforce their learning, getting nutritious foods in the house instead of the sugary, beige ones. Fill the fruit bowl. What’s the worst that can happen? They might ask for crisps and cake a few times, but if an alternative is there and they’re hungry enough, then they’ll eat it. Show them the ingredients for a sandwich and they’ll probably start making one.
We are in charge of the supermarket shop, so it’s up to us to make the best choices and encourage positive healthy living. No child wants to be overweight. And if you’re not buying fruit, veg, easily accessible healthy snacks, then you’re not helping. We should explain the reason why cookies aren’t available 24/7, why puddings aren’t on the menu every night. How crisps have zero nutritional value and don’t fill you up. Why water is fine on its own without teeth-furring squash. We often worry about upsetting children by even mentioning fat and demonising treats. Sure, fad diets and criticism don’t help with self-esteem and food issues. But actually we are harming them more with our constant supply of sugary foods, by normalising the treats. It was just the same when I was growing up. Sweet, greasy food was everywhere and no-one really talked about the health implications. And guess who ended up as the fat kid?
So let’s not shy away from talking about the risks of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and tooth decay. And then focus on the good stuff, the real energy-givers, the colours, tastes, textures and spices. Let’s create exciting food experiences, shop and cook together, instead of tapping an app or grazing on a family bag. I’m no drill sergeant and believe me, I love a treat. But if you can take conscious steps to control the shopping, to question your excuses, you’ll be on your way to a healthier life. And the 4 pm doughnut devil on your shoulder could soon be begging for a healthy snack!!