Parents often ask me what they should do about the inevitable overload of chocolate at Easter time. Is it a good idea to restrict the amount you allow your children to consume and ration it out slowly over a few weeks – or simply turn a blind eye, let them stuff their faces and get it over done with as quickly as possible?
With news items constantly reminding us of the childhood obesity problem and the introduction of a new ‘sugar tax’ designed to curb our consumption, most parents will be left feeling a tad guilty, whichever option they go for. I remember only too well the year that my own three children received 14 Easter eggs each, thanks to the well-intentioned generosity of family members. I’ll admit that a few of these eggs had to go ‘missing’.
Well here’s some good news: a recent study led by Professor Jane Ogden of the University of Surrey, suggests well-intentioned parents who strictly limit their children’s intake of chocolate, could be doing more harm than good. We’ve all long suspected that parents who place too many controls on their family’s consumption of chocolate and sweets might be encouraging a long term obsession with such foods and this latest research project seems to confirm this.
In her project, half the children had their chocolate eating restricted and the other half didn’t. Although those in the first group ended up, by definition, eating less, over the period of the study they became far more preoccupied with chocolate and sweet foods than those in the ‘no limits’ cohort.
“In terms of parenting practice, the results indicate that in the short term, restricting ‘bad’ foods is an effective means to promote healthier eating habits. But by restricting access you may encourage a preoccupation with unhealthy foods which in the long term could encourage the very behaviour you are trying to prevent,” explains Professor Ogden. So – good news for parents seeking a relaxing Easter weekend. In the long run, it will be better for your children if you don’t get too stressed about the abundance of chocolate in the house.
MY ADVICE IS: strike a balance – make sure your children are also eating lots of protein and foods that have a low GI (Glycaemic Index) – for example: brown rice, lean chicken, wholemeal bread, oat cakes, hummus, cottage cheese and avocados. If you let your kids eat lots of white carbs on top of all that chocolate – such as white bread, pasta, pizza – they’ll be bouncing off the walls. You’ll have tears and tantrums before bedtime. Plenty of fresh air and exercise will also help to keep those mood swings under control.
AND REMEMBER – all this extra chocolate has to be viewed as a special treat only. Get back to your normal routine as soon after the Easter weekend as possible. And if you have any leftover Easter eggs, you can donate them to a local food bank.
Alicia Eaton is a Behavioural & Emotional Wellbeing Specialist based in London’s Harley Street since 2004. Originally a Montessori Teacher who ran her own school, she’s become a well-known parenting expert and is the author of best-selling books: “Words that Work: How to Get Kids to Do Almost Anything”; “Stop Bedwetting in 7 Days” and “Fix Your Life with NLP”.
For further details: www.aliciaeaton.co.uk