A few weeks ago I was talking to a group of moms about healthy eating for families. We got on the topic was that of treats, and even though most of the moms were interested in healthy living, there were some differing opinions on the issues of treats in our diets.
The topic is timely with Halloween just around the corner and some major holidays looming ahead.
Some moms felt like holidays are just one day and to just have a treat, others felt that using the word treat implies that there are good and bad foods, and still other moms seemed to not encourage eating treats at all. And then there were some other people who had ideas for improving the healthfulness of traditional treats by using healthy substitutions in recipes or giving out stickers or pretzels in place of candy.
In our house, we try not to use the word “treat” in relation to food unless we are feeding it to our little doggie. She gets a treat, we get food.
When it comes to holidays and special occasions that seem to invariably revolve around food, I tend to not say “Here is a treat for Christmas,” but rather say, “I’ve made a special dessert of cherry cheesecake for our Christmas dinner dessert.” Even the candy in our children’s stockings (and yes they get some) is referred to as candy and not treats.
Does it matter? I’m honestly not sure.
The dictionary defines treat as “An item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure.” With that definition, candy and other desserts definitely can fall into the treat category, although I still tend to avoid the word treat in regards to food.
When I googled food treats, I mostly came up with dog treat websites, so I added in food treats for humans and then I got even more dog food treats. Finally, I used treats in dieting and got the results I was looking for. There were a lot of ideas on treats, such as this article from WebMD which gives some good strategies for handing treats, from limiting their availability to substituting healthier foods for traditionally unhealthy foods.
Typical treats seem to include: candy, cakes, sodas, pies, cookies, brownies, frozen desserts, and chocolate. Some people said that fruit was a treat, but I’d venture that in most American families, fruit is fruit and not a treat.
The Psychology of a Word
When I was obese, I used to say things like this: “I’ve had a busy day so I need a treat.” I’d then make a pan of brownies as my treat. That was not healthy behavior. Using the word treat in relation to food almost seemed to give me permission to indulge because I thought I deserved it.
Somewhere along my weight loss journey I shifted into saying, “I will have a small piece of that cake.” I did not qualify my choice with the word “treat” nor justify my choice because I had had a busy day. Instead, I made the choice to have a piece of cake that day.
Do you see the difference that made for me? I think it also makes a difference to children, because when we tell them that certain foods are “treats” for holidays or rewards for good behaviors it may set them up to use food to “treat” themselves later in life when they experience stressful job situations, challenging days with their kids, or find themselves struggling emotionally.
Where do you fall on using the word “treat” to refer to foods? Does it matter to you? Am I being silly? Diane