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Everyone Loves Rewards - Fun Alternatives to Food: A Guide for Parents and Teachers

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Everyone loves getting rewards for a job well done or a special achievement. What do you like to give for rewards? Is it a ribbon at the science fair or a medal for the soccer tournament or an ice cream sundae after scoring high on a test? Many times we use food or beverage as a reward. Food used for rewards are often high in sugar and/or fat, low in nutrients and high in calories. While using food once in a while is fine, using it all the time can add unwanted pounds. Physical activity does burn calories, but usually we eat more calories than we use. For example, 1/2 cup of vanilla ice cream with 2 tablespoons of chocolate sauce has about 246 calories¹. A person would have to walk for 1 hour and 15 minutes at a moderate pace (3 miles per hour) to use up those calories². Another problem with sugary food or beverages is that sugar causes tooth decay unless you brush often. A healthier alternative is to use non-food rewards.
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Daryl Minch
Rutgers NJAES Cooperative Extension
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