In my last post, Marshmallows Make You Smart! I discussed how giving kids choices can teach them impulse control.  But what if you give your child choices, and he chooses candy first thing in the morning?

If you are like most parents, you will probably say, “absolutely not.”  But why not?

Candy isn’t any worse for your child in the morning than in the afternoon.  In fact, most of it’s got less sugar than other things we regularly dish up.

For instance, if your kid eats 2 Hershey’s Kisses, he’ll consume around 5 grams of sugar.  In contrast…

  • One serving of Frosted Flakes contains 11g
  • One YoBaby Blueberry & Apple yogurt has 12g.
  • One Dunkin Donut has between 6 and 20 grams of sugar (depending upon the type).
  • One serving of French Toast sticks at Burger King sends 21g of sugar into your kid’s bloodstream.
  • Even two Eggo Blueberry pancakes without any syrup deliver about 7 grams of sugar.  Add the syrup and you’re up in Coke territory.  2 ounces of syrup– I know it sounds like a lot but that’s how much the typical fast food packet contains — has approximately 32g.

In fact, if your child eats a whole Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar in the morning – something I’m definitely not recommending – he’ll be consuming less sugar (24g) than if he eats a plate of pancakes or waffles covered in syrup.

At least when we give our kids candy we tell them it is candy.  We don’t sugarcoat the truth by telling them it’s food.  We teach our kids pancakes and syrup is breakfast.  We might even tell them it’s a healthy one too!

The key to administering (morning) candy successfully is managing the quantity, not the timing.

You decide how much candy your kid can have.  Once you’ve done that, it doesn’t really matter when he eats it.

A small serving of candy won’t ruin your child’s appetite for breakfast and it won’t send him on a sugar high, either.

Set some candy guidelines. Decide:

  • How often candy is allowed: Once a day? Three times per week?
  • How big each serving should be: One small chocolate bar? One lollypop? A handful of jelly beans?

Clearly communicate candy limits to your kids.

Small children usually need visual cues to remind them of how many candies they’re allowed and how many they’ve consumed.  Consider using a chart or refrigerator magnets (adding or subtracting magnets as candies get consumed) to help your child remember the choices he has made.

The benefit of giving your kid candy in the morning is that it gives him what he craves most: control.

Once your child knows how frequently and how much candy he can consume, and he controls when he eats it, the begging and whining should end.

If your child continues to beg for candy after he’s chosen and consumed his allotment, you’ve got a behavioral problem, not a food problem, and you need to correct the whining using whatever disciplinary techniques you ordinarily use.

Remember, you are not just coping with candy. Your goal is to help your child learn the skills it takes to eat right.  It may take a lot of practice, but it’s worth it. 

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~


Sources: Coke nutrition label; Burger King; Eggo Pancakes:;  Frosted Flakes:; Dunkin Donuts; YoBaby Yogurt; Hershey’s Kisses; Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar All websites accessed 2/15/10.