How to manage Easter chocolate

Parents and caregivers often worry about their children’s chocolate consumption over Easter. These concerns typically stem from the fear of kids eating too much sugar or chocolate and the potential negative impacts on their health and wellbeing.

In this blog, we present a four-step approach to managing Easter chocolate consumption, drawing inspiration from the brilliant work of the Ellyn Satter Institute.

This approach can be extended to other Easter foods like hot cross buns and confectionery, as well as to other food-centric holidays and special occasions such as Halloween, Christmas, and kids’ birthday parties.

A short note about babies and toddlers

Chocolate is not recommended for children under two years of age due to the added sugar and caffeine. Parents and caregivers often find it easier to refrain from giving or offering chocolate to babies and toddlers (especially for firstborns and those without siblings), as they are unlike to know much about chocolate or its association with Easter.

In families with multiple children, younger siblings often become aware of things much earlier. If you offer Easter chocolate to your older child (or children), we suggest giving a small amount to your toddler without making a big deal about it. This approach prevents your toddler from feeling like they are missing out and helps them see chocolate as just another food rather than something special.

Manage Easter chocolate using these four steps

Keep things in perspective

Easter occurs only once a year, making it a special occasion. There’s no need to micromanage your child’s chocolate intake, and it is perfectly okay if your kids consume more chocolate than usual (perhaps even a lot!) during the Easter long weekend. The quality of your child’s diet is determined by their eating habits over weeks and months, not just a few days.

Talk about food in a neutral way

When discussing food, be mindful of the language you use, and try your best to talk about food neutrally. Whilst some foods offer more nutritional value than others, no single food is inherently “good” or “bad”. All foods can contribute to a healthy diet.

Avoid labelling Easter chocolate (or any other foods) as “bad,” “unhealthy,” “sometimes food,” “treat,” “junk,” “rubbish,” etc. Using such terms can diminish the enjoyment of eating and impede children’s development of positive relationships with food, eating, and their bodies. Instead, refer to chocolate by its name: chocolate.

Grant unlimited access on Easter Sunday

Surprising as it may sound, we recommend allowing your kids to eat as much chocolate as they want on Easter Sunday. Providing unlimited access may feel challenging, but we encourage you to trust the process and refrain from interference. Try your best to avoid making comments or judgments about your child’s chocolate consumption, such as “You’ve eaten a lot of chocolate today!”, “I think that’s enough”, or “Stop! You’ll get a tummy ache”.  

While your child may overeat and feel sick, this situation, though not ideal, can help them that eating too much chocolate (or any food) can make them feel unwell.

Providing kids with opportunities to have unlimited access to foods helps them to learn to listen to their body’s hunger and fullness cues, a critical aspect of a child’s ‘self-regulation’ skills. The ultimate goal for our kids is to eat intuitively, meaning they eat as much as they like and stop when they are full.

Incorporate leftover chocolate into structured meals and snacks

Starting from Easter Monday, incorporate leftover Easter chocolates into your family’s regular meal and snack routine. Offering chocolate alongside other foods during structured mealtimes diminishes its perceived “specialness.” Research indicates that when certain foods are restricted, children may fixate on them or consume excessive amounts when they’re made available. Conversely, children with regular (though not constant) access to ‘restricted foods” tend to develop a balanced approach to eating, consuming these foods in moderation.

Following the Division of Responsibility in Feeding, you decide when, where, and what Easter chocolate to offer, while letting your child decide whether and how much they want to eat. For instance, you can incorporate some leftover Easter chocolate into a snack, with lunch, or as dessert. Following step 3, refrain from interference and allow your child to choose from the foods you’ve provided in any order they prefer.

By following this four-step approach, your child will have the chance to develop their self-regulation skills and cultivate positive relationships with food, eating, and their body.

Happy Easter!

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