Children today are bombarded with so many unhealthy food choices. In many situations they are offered sugar or other junk food as a reward, whether it be in school or at home. This reward system increases children’s chances of becoming obese, and teaches them to eat even when they are not hungry.
Little nutrition – Cookies, candy, and cakes are the rewards often given to children for “good behavior” or doing a “good job.” These foods have very little nutritive value, and they are very high in sugar. This is a concern, especially for growing children, because sugar may lead to diabetes, weight gain, cavities and other health problems. These problems will follow likely follow children into adulthood.
Emotional eating – When you give junk food as a reward, the child learns to comfort themselves with that food. This leads to an unhealthy emotional connection between eating certain foods and feeling good. In other words, if the child is feeling bad, instead of dealing with their emotions, they may run to food to feel better.
Eating when they are not hungry – What child is going to pass up a cupcake and not eat it even if they aren’t hungry? So now they’ve eaten that cupcake, and it’s dinner time, chances are they aren’t going to eat the healthy food that’s set before them, because of that food reward. Now they’ve learn to value sweets more than healthy foods.
Food rewards continues into adulthood – Adults who were raised as children with the food reward often grow up with the same mentality. After a hard day of work, many adults run to food to deal with stress, reliving their childhood experience with food and comfort. The more parents use food as a reward for their children, the more likely the child will grow into an adult who eats for comfort.
Food is tied to a feeling of accomplishment – Children associate their accomplishments with food rewards. “I did a great job!” Here’s a cookie. “I did it!” Here’s a piece of candy. This teaches the child to love sugar. They do a good job at anything and they get rewarded with sugar. This also teaches them that the accomplishment was not enough of a reward, they need that sugar to top it off.
Rewarding children with junk food seems to be the norm now a days, but just because it’s the norm doesn’t mean it’s right. Seventeen percent of children ages 2 to 19 are overweight, and children ages 2 to 18 consume almost 40 percent of their calories from fats and added sugars. Now more than ever, it’s important to teach children how to eat healthy so they will grow into healthy adults.
If you feel you need to reward your child with something, try a trip to the park or the library.
-The Alternative Daily