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Rethinking Rewards: Healthy Tips for Meeting Goals

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Rethinking Rewards: Healthy Tips for Meeting Goals

To help create good nutrition habits for kids, reward good behavior with activities, not food! Here are some ideas to get started!

Rewards are a common tool parents use to motivate and encourage their children to perform certain activities such as cleaning the house or getting good grades in school. When children accomplish these goals, a reward is used to say “You did a great job.” Therefore, rewards are considered desirable and stimulating.

What is the first step toward a good nutrition habit?

Before a reward can be given, a goal needs to be set. Setting positive goals such as getting good grades in school or helping out around the house encourages our children to really participate and grow in both the school setting and in the family home. Other types of positive, personal growth goals could be to encourage healthy behavior. Healthy behavior includes activities such as taking a walk three times a week or healthy food goals such as eating a certain number of fruits and vegetables daily.

Once we set positive goals with our children, it is also important to set positive rewards:

  • Positive rewards should encourage the child to continue to grow and strive for success.
  • Positive rewards should focus on activities that the children like to do or items that they can use.
  • Using food or sweets as rewards can actually increase the desire to eat the sweets and result in an unhealthy lifestyle. When we turn sweets, candy, or food into a reward-system, we make these foods seem extra desirable.
  • On the contrary, when we start to treat food, candy, and sweets as just another way to fuel the body, we can encourage other healthy options as rewards. Sweets and food as rewards can only contribute to poor eating habits, poor health, and increased risk of obesity.

Some examples of healthy reward for children ages 3-9:

  • Activity with parent or family such as going to the park
  • Fun activities using pens, crayons, markers, or stickers
  • Playing an age-appropriate game with a family member

Some examples of healthy rewards for children ages 9-13:

  • Inviting a friend over to play
  • Activity with family or friends such as bowling or roller-blading
  • Watching a movie or playing a video game

Some examples of healthy rewards for children ages 13-18:

  • Choosing music, clothes, or accessories to buy
  • Going to a special place with friends such as a concert or sporting event
  • Getting materials to decorate their rooms

Remember: Anything can be used as a reward. Find out what your children really like to do and use that as their rewards. Children ultimately want their parent’s attention and praise, so when your child does something right or something that you really appreciate, give him/her verbal admiration. The most powerful reward we can give is our love and our praise.

Test Your Knowledge:

  1. An example of a healthy reward is:
    1. Candy
    2. Activity with family
    3. Soda

Answer: b



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About the Author

Picture of Sarah Koszyk, MA, RD

Sarah Koszyk, MA, RD

Sarah Koszyk is Registered Dietitian who owns a private practice in San Francisco. Her mission is to assist people with learning how to cook again and see how easy meal planning can be. I also want to change the mind-set people may have when it comes to food shopping from being a chore to being a fun adventure. She specializes in both pediatric and adult weight management by providing customized meal plans the entire family can live with. Additionally, Sarah is a writer, spokesperson, and speaker. In her free time, Sarah loves going to the farmers market and talking to the farmers, looking at all the amazing, colorful fruits and veggies, and learning about new ways to prepare or cook foods.

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