Free Resource Sheets to Teach Healthy Eating Habits


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Candy with Breakfast?

In my last post, Marshmallows Make You Smart! I discussed how giving kids choices can teach them impulse control.  But what if you give your child choices, and he chooses candy first thing in the morning?

If you are like most parents, you will probably say, “absolutely not.”  But why not?

Candy isn’t any worse for your child in the morning than in the afternoon.  In fact, most of it’s got less sugar than other things we regularly dish up.

For instance, if your kid eats 2 Hershey’s Kisses, he’ll consume around 5 grams of sugar.  In contrast…

  • One serving of Frosted Flakes contains 11g
  • One YoBaby Blueberry & Apple yogurt has 12g.
  • One Dunkin Donut has between 6 and 20 grams of sugar (depending upon the type).
  • One serving of French Toast sticks at Burger King sends 21g of sugar into your kid's bloodstream.
  • Even two Eggo Blueberry pancakes without any syrup deliver about 7 grams of sugar.  Add the syrup and you’re up in Coke territory.  2 ounces of syrup– I know it sounds like a lot but that’s how much the typical fast food packet contains -- has approximately 32g 39g.

In fact, if your child eats a whole Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar in the morning – something I’m definitely not recommending – he’ll be consuming less sugar (24g) than if he eats a plate of pancakes or waffles covered in syrup.

At least when we give our kids candy we tell them it is candy.  We don’t sugarcoat the truth by telling them it’s food.  We teach our kids pancakes and syrup is breakfast.  We might even tell them it’s a healthy one too!

The key to administering (morning) candy successfully is managing the quantity, not the timing.

You decide how much candy your kid can have.  Once you’ve done that, it doesn’t really matter when he eats it.

A small serving of candy won’t ruin your child’s appetite for breakfast and it won’t send him on a sugar high, either.

Set some candy guidelines. Decide:

  • How often candy is allowed: Once a day? Three times per week?
  • How big each serving should be: One small chocolate bar? One lollypop? A handful of jelly beans?

Clearly communicate candy limits to your kids.

Small children usually need visual cues to remind them of how many candies they’re allowed and how many they’ve consumed.  Consider using a chart or refrigerator magnets (adding or subtracting magnets as candies get consumed) to help your child remember the choices he has made.

The benefit of giving your kid candy in the morning is that it gives him what he craves most: control.

Once your child knows how frequently and how much candy he can consume, and he controls when he eats it, the begging and whining should end.

If your child continues to beg for candy after he’s chosen and consumed his allotment, you’ve got a behavioral problem, not a food problem, and you need to correct the whining using whatever disciplinary techniques you ordinarily use.

Remember, you are not just coping with candy. Your goal is to help your child learn the skills it takes to eat right.  It may take a lot of practice, but it's worth it. 

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~


Sources: Coke nutrition label; Burger King; Eggo Pancakes:;  Frosted Flakes:; Dunkin Donuts; YoBaby Yogurt; Hershey’s Kisses; Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar All websites accessed 2/15/10.

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Reader Comments (6)

I understand your point here -- breakfast food is crap and let's limit the candy -- but how about feeding them eggs and bacon for breakfast? Or homemade zucchini bread (made with honey, no white sugar)? I hope most parents don't rely on fast food for breakfast, although I know many do rely on packaged foods. Sad.

Interesting story, though. Once (before my kids were born), my niece was asking for a piece of zucchini bread at brunch. And her mom said, "No, not until you finish your pancake!" as she was covering it in (fake) syrup. My husband and I thought that was stupid, and we still do!

February 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKate

Great post. I like what the previous commenter said, but I think you made that point in your article with your statement about sugarcoating unhealthy food just because it's traditionally eaten for breakfast. I can definitely see pairing up that strategy (offering healthy, filling choices) with giving kids an element of control ("you get 2 Hershey kisses per day, and you get to choose when you eat them")

February 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCat

Kate: Of course, serving healthy food for breakfast is the best thing,so I'm glad to hear your comments. But there's also the point of teaching children to accurately think about food - calling junk junk, cake cake and bread bread (even if it's made with healthy stuff). And finally, my main point, as Cat points out -- thank you for stating it so eloquently! -- is that we need to feed our kids healthy stuff, set reasonable limits on junk and then give our kids control over when they eat the junk. It's the only way to teach them to eat right.


February 21, 2010 | Registered CommenterDina Rose

I absolutely love this post! Kids need to "learn" the differences between good wholesome nutrition and junk. What you are saying fits right in with a lot of what I have been telling my clients for years. While it is a little more complicated than this... It's all about the calories (and nutrients) and how your intake relates to how much you move.

Thanks for what you do.

Coach Scott

PS. We need to figure out a time when you have about 20-30 minutes for an interview so I can promote your book AND let the fans over at hear from an expert.

March 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCoach Scott

Hi! Love your site and so far giving our almost 4 year old more control over when she eats junk food has been really working for our family. However, I am wondering what your take is on the following situation: She's allowed one treat per day. She chose to have her treat in the morning at the farmers market, even though she knew we were going to her cousin's house and there might be treats there as well. She said, "That's okay, I just won't have any treats there." Well, her uncle offered her some ice cream as incentive to finish her meal, which she had been picking at. When we reminded her that she'd already had her treat, she became very upset. This is actually the first time this has happened, because she actually saves her treat for later if she knows there might be something yummier on the horizon (e.g., birthday parties, baking cookies, etc). We held the boundary but I wasn't sure if that gives her a negative perception about food -- that she's being "punished" because her uncle offered her a free treat out of nowhere? :)

August 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErika


You were in a tricky situation because your daughter's uncle offered the treat bribe. Here are 4 steps I would have taken:

1) I would have intervened at the point of the bribe to say to the uncle, "She doesn't have to finish her meal if she's not hungry" (or whatever you would say).

2) Then I would have turned to my daughter and said something like, "We'll talk about dessert later. Right now, let's concentrate on dinner."

3) After dinner I would have had a private conversation with my daughter that went something like this, "Remember we have an agreement about only having one treat per day and you choose to have your treat earlier in the day." This is to make sure my daughter remembered the agreement and her decision. Then I would say, "But it's hard to be here when everyone else is having dessert, right?" This would be to validate her feelings. Then I would say, "I bet you would like some ice cream. You can have some, but it'll be a small serving because it's your second treat today. OK?"

4) I might consider telling my daughter in the morning that we were going to skip treats today because she had 2 yesterday (but I also might not do that). The next time my daughter wanted a treat in the morning I would remind her, not just about going to her cousin's house later in the day, but also about what happened this time and how she regretted having the treat in the morning when there was ice cream being offered.

The bigger lesson here is how to deal with a situation when you've already had a treat, and another delicious treat is offered. And by being compassionate and understanding you teach that lesson. There's no point in sticking to a rule just because it's a rule. Sometimes people have two treats in a day.


August 8, 2011 | Registered CommenterDina Rose

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