Nutritionally speaking, it’s a no brainer! We have all either said or heard some version of, “No candy in the morning”. It makes sense from an eating for energy perspective. Sugar depletes us. Sugar provides an immediate sense of energy and then a rapid decrease, leaving one feeling tired and sluggish. There has been much research done on breakfast and its benefits for children with regard to academic success and attention. Sugar undermines these benefits.
So why when my son approached me the other morning after breakfast with an egg-shaped, popular, chocolate candy did I agree that he could eat it? It had nothing to do with his plea, “I’ve always wanted to try this and have been waiting since last Easter. I don’t want it to go bad. Pleeeease!” It had to do with the intersection of my parenting goals with my health-counselor-mom goals. From a parenting perspective I want my children to learn, among other lessons, balance, self-regulation, limits and the ability to exercise impulse control. My son knows candy is a “sometimes food” and not a “morning food”, and because I am his mom he also can articulate why. Absolute “NOs” concern me with regard to food, because the forbidden item becomes that much more attractive. I also think it breeds rebellion and sneaking. In her book, How To Get Your Kid To Eat…But Not Too Much (1987), Ellyn Satter mentions the importance of helping children learn to make their own decisions. She states that if parents are too controlling it will interfere with our children’s ability to develop their own judgment. “…he’ll get contrary and do the opposite of what you want and he STILL won’t develop his own judgment.”
This is why I said yes to the candy. Nurturing self-awareness and regulation can be as important as learning the lack of nutrition in sugar and its energetic effects on the body. If we lived isolated from the rest of society perhaps I could protect my children from sugar and other undesirable ingredients, however we don’t. Instead I choose to educate my children and hope they grow up with enough self-awareness to make decisions that honor their bodies and souls. If that means eating candy for dessert after breakfast once in a while, so be it.