NEVER.  A cookie is always a cookie.  No matter what you do to it

Oh sure, I know you know this.  But parents often say, “well, it’s home made and I used apple juice instead of oil, a banana instead of sugar” as if this somehow changes the status of the cookie.

From a nutrition-perspective that makes sense. Cookies make from healthier ingredients, are indeed healthier.  But from a habits perspective? Don’t trick yourself.  Regularly giving kids cookies, even the healthiest kind, teaches them to eat cookies… regularly.

Now there’s nothing wrong with that.  The question is: what do you want your children to learn about how often to eat cookies?

Should cookie-eating be a daily event?  A few times a week?  Less often?

The answer has nothing to do with how healthy the cookie is.  Instead, it should reflect the lifelong habit you want your kids to establish.  Think about how often it is healthy for you to eat cookies and you’ll know the answer.

If you think your children can eat more cookies when they are young than when they are older, how will that change occur?  Will it happen naturally, just from growing up?  Or will your children have to make deliberate changes when they’re older?  (If so, are you setting your kids up for a later struggle?)

To our kids, a cookie is a cookie is a cookie.  Not only don’t they care how their cookies – or pizza or another items you can “health-ify” — are made, they’re simply not sophisticated enough to figure this out anyhow.  That’s why whenever there is a conflict between habits and nutrition, habits always have to win.

So give your kids “healthy” cookies if you want to, junky ones if you prefer, but dole them all out with discretion.

You can nutritionally perk up a cookie by making it non-fat, full of whole grains or even without any sugar but you can’t upgrade the way you classify a cookie – i.e. stop thinking of it as a treat — simply because you’ve “upped” the ingredients.

Remember, its not so much what you feed, as what you teach, that matters.