Offering your child a food reward for good behavior or achievements can end up complicating your child’s relationship with food.  The mindset becomes that food treats (sweet and high in calories) are valued over other kinds of rewards.

Another trap is to give a child a treat to cheer them up.  Had a bad day?  Let’s go get ice cream!

Cookies to finish a meal, lollipops for good behavior, or ice cream to help us get over disappointment turn food into something it is not meant to be.  Sweets and calorie laden desserts when given as rewards, turn those sweet foods into pleasure associated foods.  And feeds the desire for these types of treats.

Many who fall into the trap of “food rewards” end up fighting weight issues their whole lives.

Food needs to be seen necessary for nutrition.  Food should not be seen as “good or bad”.  To many of us as adults emotionally eat and have an unhealthy relationship with food.

Tasty sugary treats are OK as long as they are in moderation and not given as rewards for cleaning their plate or acting appropriately in a store.

Teaching the importance of good nutrition and to take excellent care of our bodies will set your children up for the best healthy future they can have.

According to the Yale Medical Group using food as a reward or as a punishment can undermine healthy eating habits.

Let’s look at some alternative rewards for achievements and good behavior!

  • New Books, Stickers, Or Coloring Books
  • Verbal Praise
  • Play Date
  • Sleepover
  • Getting to ride in the front seat (as long as they are old enough).
  • A special event. Going to the movies, bowling alley, park or pool.
  • Additional screen time.


Base your choice of rewards on the personality of your specific child.  All children are different and are motivated by different things.  Have fun with this and see what works.

In our society where food is easily attainable and usually very tasty (fast food, ice cream stores, bakeries) food can easily get out of balance.  Helping your child have a healthy view of food and nutrition will set them up for a future that won’t be focused on their weight and eating.


Check out HealthSurgeon’s Ideal Weight Calculator for Children!