Catherine Jeans, our Nutrition Expert has been asked by many people in the lead up to Easter if she buys her own kids Easter eggs? As a Mum of two and a professional Nutritional Therapist, who talks a lot about the dangers of sugar, she tries to strike a balance.
So here are Catherine’s thoughts on how to manage “chocolate holidays”… from Easter to birthdays, Christmas to kids’ parties.
For Catherine, it’s all about balance. She uses this word a lot in her work and when she talks about food because she truly believes that no foods should be “banned” or “demonised.”
“You must never eat gluten”…
“you must never eat sugar”…
“you must never eat dairy”…
“you shouldn’t drink alcohol…”
These are concepts she generally doesn’t adhere to, unless there’s a medical reason.
Everything is fine in moderation.
This might explain why research has shown us that those who drink a little alcohol or eat a little chocolate may have a better life expectancy? Is it something in those foods and drinks which help us to live longer, or is it actually the fact that we do better when we have a little bit of what we enjoy?
As humans, our brains don’t like to be overly restricted and told no. So it’s perhaps a combination of both things.
So what is Catherine’s balance to buy her kids Easter Eggs?
“Is it okay for my kids to come home and have chocolate or sweets as a snack after school? No.
Is it okay for my kids to have sweet cereals for breakfast or nothing but white toast and jam before school? Absolutely no.
Is it okay for my kids to receive piles of chocolate for Easter and Christmas and be given open access to them? Again no.”
But is it right as a parent to police them constantly? To prevent them having what their friends are having at a kids’ party… or to stop them eating their Easter eggs that family have bought them? Or to allow a bit of their favourite sweet treat on a Friday or Saturday evening? Catherine would say no… and every parent has to find the balance that works for them.
However in her professional view, if children feel overly restricted and foods become continually blacklisted this too can set up an unhealthy relationship with food in the future.
The fact is, like it or not, at most schools from primary to high school, your child is going to come across sweets and desserts. There will be temptation at every corner, and it’s how you manage this exposure that helps them learn how to eat a healthy diet in the future.
Here’s how Catherine copes as a parent…
- Explain to your kids that sweets and chocolate are not food. We don’t eat them when we’re hungry… when we are hungry we eat sustaining, satisfying food which keeps us feeling fuller for longer, and provides good things for our body, rather than empty calories.
- If your child is going to have sweets or a treat, look for things which might be a little bit healthier. Dark chocolate for example, is actually really rich in iron, magnesium and manganese, so a couple of squares is not such a bad thing.
- If you know your child will be having sweets and treats at a party, make sure they’ve had something to eat before they go, that contains some protein. That way they’re less likely to binge on the sweet stuff. Perhaps a couple of oatcakes and nut butter or a protein rich sandwich before any party.
- Talk to your children about sugar, its dangers and how it may affect their health. Use phrases and a level of understanding that speaks to them… if we eat too much sugar or have sugary cereals for breakfast, this might mean you can’t concentrate at school, you might find your spellings more difficult and you might get more grumpy with your friends. Or you might be a better football player if you eat your vegetables, or how about your favourite superhero, does he eat all his vegetables, or does he live on sweets? Find anything you know might work for them.
- At special events, allow them to have a little bit of what they fancy, but work within the boundaries that suit you. For example, if your doing a kids party, avoid buying gummy sweets, you know the ones we mean! Opt for something like chocolate buttons, a few biscuits, plenty of protein, wholegrain bread and lots of chopped veg.
- If your child is given sweet treats on the way out of school, perhaps encourage them to eat them after a meal or snack. I tell my kids they can have them later, put them in my pocket and they often forget about them! We also have a big bucket for sweets that go on top of the fridge, which they can occasionally choose from at the weekend as a treat. (But first consider picking out the really artificial and unhealthy ones and chucking them away without them knowing!)
- Children don’t need treats and sweets every day. Keep it to a weekend or special occasion. Or just don’t keep sweet stuff in the house. Possibly spend an afternoon making a lower sugar cake or some muffins, or if you do buy some chocolate make it a special occasion and get good quality where possible. Try to get chocolates they enjoy from quality chocolate makers such as Montezumas, Hotel Chocolate, Booja Booja. Then you know you’re getting top quality raw cocoa and not a lot of artificial ingredients. Plus some good stuff too!
“Just to put the record straight here, I’m not saying that they have this top quality stuff 100% of the time… and there’s times where the usual choccie buttons or a small bar of chocolate will do…. and that’s fine with me, as the majority of their diet is so good,” says Catherine.
So in answer to the question about whether Catherine will be buying her kids Easter eggs?
Catherine says: “The answer is a resounding yes, but they’ll get a small, top quality egg with higher levels of cocoa solids (they don’t always want 70%, but many places do 50% which is a happy compromise). I’ll also ask family and friends not to buy them ones with sugary sweets in, but they’ll usually get one or two. As for the rest of the family or friends who want to give them an Easter present, we’ll talk about giving them a few pennies instead.
Also I’ll do an Easter egg hunt with the kids, so at least the process of finding chocolate helps them get outside, into the fresh air and doing some exercise which might help to burn off any sugar high.
One last tip… if you do find your children ending up with a “sugar high” this Easter and feeling a bit hangry… give them a glass of water, encourage them to eat some protein and fibre. An oatcake and nut butter, some pieces of cheese and good quality ham or chicken are ideal, this usually helps to balance out the blood sugar again.”
Happy Easter everyone! For more advice on surviving the Easter chocolate onslaught, check out Catherine’s Facebook video this week.