It’s Memorial Day weekend and that means summer.  And summer means Ice Cream!!!

Hurray.  I love ice cream.  Most kids I know love it too.

And most parents I know go back and forth between trying to regulate their kids’ consumption of ice cream over the summer and, well, just letting it go.

I’m going to suggest something radical: This summer use ice cream to teach your kids to eat right.

Half the battle of eating right is knowing how to fit sweets and treats into your diet in a way that works.

That’s why I was disappointed when I picked up the current issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter, published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and read their tips for choosing the best ice cream.

I love this newsletter. I really do.  But, come on!

This article advocates eating a rational amount of ice cream—as opposed to digging into a bowl that’s bigger than your body— a proposition I support.

But it also advocates…

1) Substituting the dessert of your dreams with a lower fat (and sometimes totally fake) version of the real deal. Artic Zero? Really?

I say, let your kids eat the ice cream they love.

2) Trying to reduce (or eliminate) the sugar rush you receive by choosing ice creams with the least amount of added sugar.

I say, let your kids eat the ice cream they love.

3) Maximizing the protein and calcium content of your cone.  Most premium ice creams contain 4-5 grams of protein per half cup, but Ciao Bella Adonia Greek Frozen Yogurt packs a 9 gram protein punch.

I say, let your kids eat the ice cream they love.  Ice cream shouldn’t be your good nutrition “go-to.”

Lesson 1: It’s better to fit REAL ice cream into your diet in a way that works than to look for the “healthiest” ice cream out there.

Yes, I know that the folks at the Center for Science in the Public Interest would advocate both—moderating your intake of the most nutritious ice cream out there—but that’s not the way most people work.  Especially people who are kids.

Lesson 2: Let treats be treats.

The idea that we can expect things to be what they are not—ice cream that’s packed with protein, cookies with as much fiber as a bowl of oatmeal—is a byproduct of the nutrition mentality (mixed with a healthy dose of manufacturing magic).

But here’s the irony: It’s harder to teach kids to treat ice cream as a treat if you “health-ify” it.

When you blur the boundaries between healthy food and treats, it’s hard to:

  • Convince your kids to limit their intake of treats.
  • Teach your kids the importance of eating healthy foods.

Lesson 3: Eat foods in proportion to their healthful benefits.

That means eating green beans more frequently than gelato and spinach more often than sorbet.

And then, teach your kids to indulge in ice cream as an occasional indulgence.

These are the lessons they will need for a lifetime of healthy (ice cream) eating.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Source: Hurley, J. & B. Liebman. 2012. “Ice Cream: What’s Hot in the Deep Freeze?” Nutrition Action Healthletter Center for Science in the Public Interest. June. pp. 13-15.