Is Your Kid Addicted to Sweets?

Here's how to make peace with junk food and still eat healthy.

A Realistic Approach to Sweets

My daughter Molly was 18 months old the first time she tasted a piece of candy. We were at the hair salon watching her older sister get a trim when the stylist offered Molly a yellow lollipop. As she took her first lick, her eyes opened wide as saucers, and she looked at me as if to say, "Mommy, where have these yummy treats been all my life?"

That was just the start. Her sister soon introduced her to gummy bears and M&Ms, and now, whenever I offer apples or grapes as an afternoon snack, Molly pouts and says, "Nooo, chocolate!" It's a struggle, but I'm trying to teach her that treats are only a small part of an otherwise balanced diet.

Sure, it would be great if we could eliminate all sugary, fatty foods from our kids' lives and have them happily munch on carrot sticks all day. But unless you plan to lock them in the house until they leave for college, that's not practical. "As soon as you tell a child a certain food is forbidden, it becomes very desirable," says Laurie Higgins, RD, a pediatric dietitian at the Joslin Diabetes Center, in Boston. The first time he encounters a stack of Oreos at school or a Snickers bar at his friend's house, it could trigger an obsession as serious as the one you had for that bad boy your mother warned you not to date.

A more realistic approach is to accept the fact that children love sweets, and that there is a healthy way to integrate them into your family meal plan. Here, some simple rules for taming your child's sweet tooth.

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