Some of us call them treats, others call them dessert, and sometimes they are called ‘sometimes foods’. Whatever your lingo, there are a group of foods that provide ‘Great Pleasure’ for many people who consume them, but not the best nutrition for our bodies.
Which foods count as treats?
As a general rule, the foods we classify as ‘treats’ are those that are not essential to achieve optimal health. They are usually high in energy, saturated fats, added sugar or salt. While treats are often purchased food items, they do not have to be. All of the items below can be homemade with fresh ingredients, and while this will make them ‘better’choices, they are still treats and should not be consumed too frequently. Treat foods include, but not limited to:
- Sweet biscuits, cakes and desserts
- Processed meats and sausages
- Ice cream, confectionary and chocolate
- Meat pies and other pastries
- Commercial burgers, hot chips and fried foods
- Crisps and other high fat or high salt snacks
- Cream and butter
- Sugar sweetened cordials, soft drinks and sports drinks
How often should we offer treats (or in most cases, how often should we agree to treats)?
This will depend on each family and the various events that happen within each family with respect to food. Some families have weekly gatherings where there are commonly a range of different sweet, high fat, high salt options available within the meal. Other families will consume most foods at home and rarely eat out or order in.
Most families will agree though that having 1-2 set and planned ‘treat days’ is a great way to maintain a healthy balance for the family unit, while not leaving any family member feeling deprived of sweet or salty treats which might provide them with ‘great pleasure’ (as per the definition above).
Is it OK to change the treat days each week?
It is recommended to make an agreement as a family with regard to which days of the week will be treat days and to stick with them week in and week out. Most kids prefer to have one treat day over the weekend and then a weekday too to keep things fun. Trying to steer the treat days to active days too is a good idea as on these days your kids will be burning up more energy.
I don’t want my children to have sweet, fatty or salty foods, do we have to have treat days?
It is certainly not compulsory to start treat days where a family are all happy and content with the foods they are provided.
As children get older and the influence of their peers starts to play a role in their choices and desires, it can become a challenge to manage regular requests for treat foods and this is where set treat days are so valuable.
It is also important to acknowledge that while we all want to raise our children in the healthiest way we can, when they are out of our care, they will do what they want and eat what they want. In some cases, alienating ‘treat foods’ in your household can lead to extreme overconsumption of these foods when your children are out of your care, whether that be at birthday parties, grandparents houses or just being out and about with their friends.