Thursday, October 22, 2015

Food Rewards

A teacher uses lollipops as incentive for bringing in "box tops." An autistic child is given fruit chews for sitting quietly. A dad gives his toddler M&Ms for using the potty.

Food rewards are a tempting way to get compliance in children but food based reward systems, whether used at home or in school, contradict what children are being taught and negatively impact their health.

Sugar is known to contribute to a host of health problems including obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. When sweet treats are used as rewards it not only undermines overall health it teaches kids that rewarding themselves with unhealthy foods is a good, positive thing to do. This isn't to say never have treats. Treats as part of a holiday or celebration, like a birthday, serve to reinforce that treats should be for special occasions only. Keeping sugar to a minimum in the daily diet just makes good health sense.

The World Health Organization now recommends that adults have no more than 6 additional teaspoons of sugar a day. (This amount refers to sugars in processed foods and not sugars found in fresh fruits and milk.) One teaspoon of sugar equals 4 grams. To calculate the number of teaspoons in a snack take the grams of sugar listed on the package and divide by 4.

Let's calculate the sugar from the above, real life, reward examples.

Lollipop (1) = 10 grams of sugar = 2.5 teaspoons

Fruit chews (.9 oz bag) = 11 grams of sugar = 2.75 teaspoons

M&Ms (1.69 oz) = 30 grams of sugar = 7.5 teaspoons

Good job!
 photo: Y. Mikalopas
These types of snacks are particularly bad for teeth as they stick to the teeth and are eaten over an extended period of time. (For more on how sugar causes cavities, read my posts: "Sugar - just say 'no'" and "Less is More"

If a reward for good behavior or achievement is necessary there are other good alternatives. Stickers, art supplies, or small toys may be used instead of food treats, as well as activities like reading, music, or activities of the child's choosing.

What do you think about using food rewards for kids? I welcome your comments.

For more ideas on rewarding kids without using food visit:

This blog is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical or dental condition. If you need medical or dental treatment please see your doctor or dentist.

1 comment:

  1. What do you think about using sweets as a reward? Do you reward yourself that way? I welcome your comments.


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