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Dessert Is a Habit (Not a Food Group)

How I turned my love for ice cream into a lesson for my kids.

Dessert Is a Habit (Not a Food Group)

I like ice cream. I like it a lot. Mint-chocolate chip, to be exact. Or maybe coffee flavored. I love it especially in a sugar cone on a hot day—though even in these bone-chilling months I have ice cream on the brain. I’ve always liked ice cream. My grandfather used to bring cartons of Baskin Robbins ice cream over for us kids when my parents went away. It was our own little special treat from him. And I was hooked. 

Flash forward to college. Ice cream was my go-to food to overindulge in. A girlfriend and I would perch on the brick wall outside of WaWa, the local convenience store closest to my dormitory, and together we would polish off a carton of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. Again and again that year, we would meet to catch up and eat ice cream.

Later, when I had kids, ice cream was a natural treat to give them, just as my grandfather used to give it to me. For years, when I would be hit with the nightly question, “Can I have a treat for dessert?” I used to just say yes. The ice cream and cookies flowed freely. I justified my laxity with the rationale that our kids eat really well most of the time. They like fruits and vegetables and a variety of different foods, so why not give them a pass after dinner?

These days, I can hear the dessert query before it’s even asked. (If they’re smart, my kids remember to say “please.”) The answer, though, is increasingly changing. I started to think that, even though they’re healthy and like healthy foods, I am not helping my kids in the long run by giving them a sugary dessert after every dinner, teaching them an unhealthy habit for life. Now, we are having more fruit for dessert, or perhaps not even having dessert at all some nights. It’s becoming less of a knee-jerk habit and more of a conscious choice to mindfully indulge every now and again.

Maybe soon, that automatic question will stop coming and my kids will not take dessert for granted. Maybe they’ll grow up thinking of ice cream not as that thing you get after dinner, but as a special treat they used to share with their mom. 

MORE: Healthy Desserts That Won't Derail Your Diet

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