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Is it OK for kids have dessert every day?

Michelle Maffei is a freelance copywriter covering a variety of topics both online and in print, from parenting to beauty and more. Combining her two favorite loves, writing and motherhood, she has found joy in even the most challenging ...

sugar intake for children

You only let your kids have dessert if they eat all their veggies, but is it OK for kids to have dessert every day?
Girl eating cake

From the ideal sugar intake for children to how often other parents are serving up desserts for their kids, find out whether or not you're an overindulgent mom when it comes to the sweet treat debate.

Recommended sugar intake for children

Every family has its own set of rules when it comes to the sweet stuff, most often determined by frequency rather than recommended sugar intake limits for children. But, what may surprise you is that it is the amount of sugar your child consumes that's key. "According to the American Heart Association's guidelines, no more than half of your child's extra discretionary calories should be filled with added sugars," explains Dr. Muriel DeSimone, pediatrician with HealthCare Partners Nevada.

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Let them eat cake?

While you probably give a lot of thought before letting kids eat candy all day, you may still be left wondering about dessert for kids. Here is some food for thought from real moms about letting their kids dig into dessert:

Just a treat

Aside from special occasions or an occasional evening, many moms opt to keep dessert as a special treat more than a daily occurrence. "In our home, dessert is a 'treat' maybe a few times a week, rather than an integral part of each dinner," explains Leslie Buttonow, mother of a 7-year-old, in New York. "In my estimation, having dessert becomes something that's expected by children on a regular basis or more important than the meal likely fuels junk food habits later on."

Meal reward

For many parents, desserts for kids are an easy incentive for eating all of your growing foods first. "I give my daughter dessert after she eats all her dinner. That is a requirement for her to get it," says Natasha Carmon, of Louisville, Kentucky. "My daughter likes sweets and I limit the amount she can have so I usually will give it to her after dinner or lunch four to six times a week."

Sweets after every meal

The most common view on dessert seems to be in line with Kerrie Ogren of The Luscious Living Coach that serving desserts for kids is part of the daily meal routine. "I have two boys, 4-1/2 years old and 10 years old. I let them eat dessert every evening after dinner. They have fruit or our own homemade 'ice cream' or cookies. I don't see any reason to say no to dessert as long as it is a small portion."

Freedom of choice

While sugar intake for kids is a hot topic, parents like Michelle Monroe Morton, mom to three boys ages 17, 14 and 10, feel that limits on desserts for kids isn't necessary. "We don't have a regular dessert... but that does not mean that my boys don't have a dessert or snack... and we have never really set a limit or anything. I find that if you let them choose for themselves it usually isn't much of a problem. I think it becomes more of an issue when there are restrictions put on; then all of a sudden your kid will eat the whole package or they will sneak it."

How to encourage kids to eat healthy

You know you love a little treat after dinner, but, how do you curb your kiddo's sweet-loving ways? "Leading by example is the best way parents can persuade kids to avoid too much added sugars," offers Dr. DeSimone. "Make fruits and vegetables readily available and allow them to eat as many as they want. And, be sure to talk to them about natural foods versus processed foods and how to choose foods that have less added sugars."

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So long as you aren't loading your kiddo's plate with lots of added sugar, does that mean it is OK for kids to have dessert every day? In moderation, explains Jill West, registered dietitian and author of 400moms.com. When choosing desserts for kids, West recommends offering up best-pick sweets, such as Fig Newtons, animal crackers, ginger snaps, vanilla wafers, fudge popsicles, lower-fat ice creams and frozen yogurt. "But, regardless of the 'extra,' try to keep sweets to no more than 150 calories per day so you can portion size. By doing so, it takes away from the 'bad' of dessert," West recommends. That way, digging into dessert with your kids is a win-win for everyone!

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