I Usually Limit My Child's Sugar, but I Let Her Eat Ice Cream Every Day in Summer

Summer is the only time of year that I let my strict "no sugar" rule slide a little bit. Full disclosure, our family is not entirely sugar-free, but we have a well-thought-out plan of how much sugar we allow and how often. My husband and I learned early on that our daughter is extremely sensitive to sugar. She experiences the sugar rushes and subsequent crashes at a magnified intensity. Even eating the natural sugars in fruit before naptime or bedtime means sleep doesn't happen, resulting in a meltdown.

Once it became obvious how much sugar affected our daughter, we had no regrets about limiting it, even when friends and family were skeptical. Our standard plan: I serve oatmeal with fruit for breakfast most days, and once or twice a week I replace that with a more sugary breakfast treat. That's all the added sugar she usually gets. Getting the sugar in earlier in the day minimizes its effects on her behavior, and it's far enough from bedtime that it doesn't make much difference to her sleep. We almost never serve dessert or ice cream, but in the summer, our rules are a little different — we let our daughter have an ice cream cone or a milkshake almost every day.

When school is out, I bring my daughter to the swimming pool or the beach every day. She is outside and physically exerting herself to the max for several hours daily. I have noticed that the effects of getting more exercise than she normally does helps to tire her out and counteract the sugar high that would otherwise keep her up. Plus, although we are normally strict about bedtimes, I can't bring myself to put her to bed before the sun is actually down. She's up about half an hour later at night during the summer anyway, so she has a little longer to tire herself out.

Summer days are hot, and it's just fun to be able to enjoy an ice cream cone on the sidewalk or sip a milkshake while sitting in the sand. When I feel guilty about giving my daughter something that is not great for her health, I remind myself that these treats count toward her daily dairy intake — and that sometimes, it's worth it for the memories we make. I am grateful for these experiences that we share, and even though sugar isn't the best choice, having a special time of year where we do relax this rule makes it a novelty, not a bad habit.