What's for dessert?
If I were the betting type, I would put a lot of money down on the fact that your child has - on more than one occasion - asked "How much do I have to eat in order to get dessert?" If I'm wrong then I'd venture to say that you've been asked - on more than one occasion, after setting a lovingly prepared dinner on the table and before a single bite has been tasted - "What's for dessert?"
Questions like this may break you, just a little, or they may annoy you, a lot. (Or, if you're like me, questions like this may do both of those things.) But, I have a proposal for you. A potential solution: serve dessert with dinner.
No, that is not a typo. It's not a mistake. I'm serious: serving dessert with dinner is a winning strategy for stopping these questions. And, it can also be a strategy to help your family create healthier, happier mealtime habits for a number of reasons.
I give you five below. I'm not suggesting that you have to do this every meal or even every day. And you might find that this actually doesn't work for your family. But I dare you to occasionally give it a try and see how it works for you and your family. And if you do, let us know how it goes!
So, here we go.
5 reasons to serve dessert with dinner
Your kids will stop asking for it. When you put dessert on the table with dinner, your kids no longer have to ask for it, because it's right there. They no longer have to ask when they will can have it, or how much they have to eat before they can have dessert. They not longer have to ask. You've decided what to serve, and you're trusting them to make the choice about what and how much to eat.
You will take away dessert's power over your kids. Research shows that restricting desserts may reduce intake in the short term, but increase obsession with desserts in the long term (Ogden et al., 2013). This obsession is powerful and it leads your kids to think about little else. Let’s focus on the long term.
You can focus on each other, instead of dessert. Rather than fielding endless questions about dessert - "what is it?" "can I have it?" "when can I have it?" "do I have to eat this vegetable before I can have dessert?" - you can focus on focus on other, more interesting conversations. You can ask your kids what great questions they asked in school that day, or how many times they finished the monkey bars, or what story they'd like you to read at bedtime. They can tell you bad knock-knock jokes and you can laugh and actually enjoy family mealtimes.
You give your kids practice making choices. When all the food is presented at once, you are giving your kids practice making choices about how much they eat and when. They can practice choosing dessert first. Or last. And you can talk to them about this choice, about how it tastes, and how it makes them feel.
Dessert is delicious. This is really the only reason you need. Dessert is delicious, and your kids (and you!) can have it as part of a healthy lifestyle and healthy eating habits. Model healthy eating habits for your kids: eat dessert.