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Many of us grew up having two distinct courses for our evening meal. The ‘main’ course was usually meat, fish, chicken or a vegetarian option served with vegetables. When I was a child, many years ago, pasta and rice were not included very often unless you were Italian or Asian. Potatoes were served as the starchy food as an accompaniment to the protein food and the other vegetables. In my family there was usually dessert such as home-preserved fruit and custard or ice cream or apple pie and custard. However, I don’t remember my mother ever making dessert conditional on how much we ate of the main course.

Many parents I speak to are afraid to make dessert part of the meal. They fear that if they put yogurt or fruit or custard or ice cream on the table or on the menu unconditionally, their child won’t eat the main course and will only eat dessert. It seems to me that this is because they, the parent, want to ‘decide’ what their child will eat rather than leaving that job to their child. After all yogurt, custard and fruit are actually core foods that children need every day and can fill up on at a meal where they are served. If you have decided that ‘extra’ foods such as ice cream, ice blocks, cake or a fruit pie is for dessert, limit to one serve for each person. If your child asks for more, remind them that there are other foods on the table if they are still hungry. This is the one time that we deviate from the Division of Responsibility and limit the amount of a particular food. ‘Extra’ foods are just that; extra to the core foods that provide us with nutrients. If given the option, your child may fill up on the ‘extra’ foods and ignore the other foods at a meal

My experience when feeding children has not been so. When dessert is offered as part of the meal, with no pressure to eat any particular food, young children see the dessert food with equal regard to the main course. I have seen young children at mealtime where the main meal and the ‘dessert’ are put on the table – they have eaten some yogurt or ice cream, then some meat, gone back to the dessert and not finished all the dessert that was on offer. They have no idea that the ‘dessert’ is more desirable than the rest of the food. It’s just dessert.

Give it a try – put the whole meal on the table and let your child decide what they are going to eat from what is on offer!

Happy feeding!