EAT DESSERT FIRST: a change in routine makes mealtime fun!

Turn Dinner on Its Head: Eat Dessert First!“Life is short, eat dessert first” might have some basis in reality, but so do parenting guidelines, an obesity epidemic and the department of social services. Alas, where does one find the balance between responsible mealtimes and mealtime fun?

You’ve probably heard enough about healthy, balanced meals and mealtime rituals that nurture good eating habits: preparing healthy dinners, eating them as a family at the table, and ensuring that they please everyone while filling the necessary nutrient categories. Oftentimes dessert becomes the bargaining chip for five more bites of chicken or three more green beans.

Eat-dessert-first night is a fresh (and easy) remedy for under-spiced, even stale dinnertime rituals. There are several ways to go about implementing this backward custom. For one, simply pick a special night of the week or month when the whole family will be around for dinner, and announce that this will be eat-dessert-first night. The days leading up to eat-dessert-first night will generate excitement, either for kids eager to guess the menu or for family members invested in planning the first course together. Or, show your spontaneous side by surprising everyone with a dessert “appetizer” course without warning.

An exciting way to mix it up, best suited for families with older kids, is to head out for a reverse progressive dinner. Eat at one location for appetizers, another for the main course, and another for dessert. But switch the order up and go out for ice cream first. Choose your favorite restaurants or partner with friends for homemade meals.

Of course, eat-dessert-first night runs the risk of ruining everyone’s appetite for the more nutritious end of the meal. And you’ve lost your bargaining chip, too. To avoid backfire, measure out small dessert portions, like two-bite cupcakes (and if you need to, promise to bookend the meal with another sweet). Alternatively, work with a theme for which the main course is just as good, or better, as the finale. Start with apple pie, then move to hot dogs and hamburgers; start with ice cream, then move on to pizza.

Yet another way to handle eat-dessert-first night is to incorporate healthy ingredients into seemingly decadent desserts — without letting on, of course. Prepare chocolate cake with applesauce or avocado in place of eggs and oil; buy or make sorbet with a coconut milk or fruit juice base; douse chicken in a chocolate mole sauce.

Eating dessert first is arguably more than an occasional dietary shift; it’s also an attitude.

By starting with what you really want to eat instead of what you’re supposed to eat,  you acknowledge the uncertainty of the future and take control of the moment, all while creating a fun way to bring the family together.

After all, who cares if once in a while an appetite is ruined on a slab of cheesecake before the meatloaf hits the table? We won’t tell. …

Promise.

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