We’re having a bit of a sweets problem around here. I’m pretty sure I emerged from the womb with an obsession for sugary treats (wonder how I got to weigh 260 pounds?) and even with Weight Watchers as a constant in my life, I have yet to conquer it. Instead I aim simply to manage it, to make sure that the sweets I eat are a) worth the calories, and b) made with top-quality ingredients.
When it comes to Harry, though, things are a little tougher. While the food environment at his school is a pretty good one—he isn’t given cookies or even chocolate milk routinely—there is a constant awareness of candy, Spiderman ice cream pops, and Oreos. Somebody always has some sort of brightly colored crap on the playground. I know from experience that forbidden food is infinitely more enticing (I’m a lifelong sneak eater), so I’ll let him taste what his friends are having. We have a longstanding rule: One treat per afternoon, and he gets to pick, within reason. No junky candy, no Hostess, and almost never a Spiderman pop. And if he eats a good dinner (read: tries everything, and eats a substantial amount of something) he’ll get a small dessert. That’s worked pretty well for us, for about two years.
Lately, though, we’ve noticed an uptick in his sugar-hounding. He’ll start talking about his treat in the morning, long before it’s time to choose it. He’ll try to trick us into a second treat (“But I didn’t finish my ice cream!”). And he’ll eat one bite of dinner and ask if he’s had enough to get dessert. That, in particular, drives me crazy. The last thing I want is to police his plate, to monitor precisely how much he eats of a given food. I want to be relaxed about his eating. I want him to eat when he’s hungry, and stop when he’s full. I want him to revel in the pure pleasure that comes the moment something extraordinary hits his tongue. These days he barely seems to be aware of what’s on his plate—all he worries about is if he’s eaten enough to qualify for something sweet.
I’ve tried serving dessert along with the meal, with no restrictions, which apparently works for many people. The idea is, if dessert is presented as just another thing on the table, not something special, the kid won’t focus on it so much. Um, not my kid. When we put the sweet stuff in front of him at the same time as everything else, his tunnel vision kicks in and the whole world falls away. All he sees is SWEET! SWEET! SWEET! Like in a movie, when the boy and girl first meet and the camera circles them, around and around, and everything else is just a blur. (I’ll admit, we may not have let this go on long enough for him to become used to the idea that sweets are just there, all the time. I’m pretty sure we called off the experiment in less than a week. It scared me, to see him so single-minded.)
So now we’re trying something new. No daytime treats, unless it’s something we’ve made from scratch or he’s with a friend who’s having one (I don’t want this to feel like punishment, kwim?). And dessert is fruit based. No more squares of Trader Joe’s white chocolate, or Kashi Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies. Instead, he’s had strawberries with a teeny bowl of chocolate syrup for dipping, some Briermere’s pie (the best pie in the entire world), and the recipe I’m about to share with you.
This is magic. It’s banana, just banana, nothing but banana, but when you freeze a banana and then whir the frozen bits in a food processor, some sort of miracle, alchemy perhaps, occurs, and it turns into ice cream. With no cream. No sugar. Nothing. Just banana. Harry loves this plain, but when I top it with a little quirt of chocolate syrup and a maraschino cherry, he’s in heaven.
The best part: He understands exactly what he’s eating. I’m not tricking him into thinking this is actually ice cream. All he knows is that it tastes just as good as the kind that’s not so good for him.
1-Ingredient Banana Ice Cream
Serves as many as you want
Weight Watchers: It’s ZERO PointsPlus, baby!
1 banana per person, peeled, frozen
- Quarter the banana lengthwise and cut it into small pieces. Transfer to a food processor (a mini-processor works best if you’re making a single serving).
- Pulse until the banana begins to break down, then process until it’s smooth and creamy.
MAKE BABY FOOD: My friends, this is baby food. Leave off the chocolate sauce and cherry on top, though.