Agriculture cooking Farm to Table Health Healthy Eating Menu planning Professional Retail

Treat Yo’self

We can have the best intentions and want to do the right things. But if our daily choices don’t ladder up to what we believe, the tactics become the strategy.

“anything that affords particular pleasure or enjoyment”

“entertainment, food, drink, etc., given by way of compliment or as an expression of friendly regard”

“to deal with (a disease, patient, etc.) in order to relieve or cure”

I had a conversation with a friend the other day about “treats”. I mentioned honey crisp or Envy apples in the fall, Bing cherries in the summer, and reduced fat chocolate milk. She told me I use the word treat in a very different way than she thought of it.

Fresh fruits and veggies are a treat visually and for our tastebuds!

Her definition is basically that it is something you know isn’t good for you that you have every once in a while. She mentioned cupcakes. This got me thinking.

Why does a “treat” have to be naughty or nutritionally useless?

When you look at the definitions above, it’s somewhat ironic to me that we think of free food as a treat. Sure, it feels good when someone makes you a birthday cake or meal. Yes, we probably all get happy when there is lunch provided on occasion, or someone brings in donuts. But it’s typically loads of extra calories that we probably don’t need or maybe wouldn’t choose for ourself. And likely will eat in addition to our usual intake.

It’s also interesting that we “treat” disease. Often related to poor lifestyle choices. Ironic, isn’t it?

What if “treat food” happens every day?

Is it still a treat? Or does it become your norm without even thinking about it?

I once had a patient tell me he didn’t feel he ate out that often.  He had Chinese once a week. Italian once a week. Fried this or that once a week. You get the idea. He thought because he only did each of these things once, it wasn’t that often. But it was daily. Sometimes twice a day. He pretty much ate whatever was there. No plan. We talked about what was missing – not just in terms of nutrients, but in texture, variety, flavor, and so much more. It turned out to be a fun conversation for him (and for me).

I had another patient who said she loved fruit. I asked her to keep a food log (yes, I know, this may be super boring and annoying but try it for three days. It’s eye opening). She came in for her appointment and said she was shocked. When I asked why, she said as she was typing up her logs for me, she realized she had gone a whole week with NO fruits or vegetables. This was a pivotal moment for her.

We can have the best intentions and want to do the right things. But if our daily choices don’t ladder up to what we believe, the tactics become the strategy. And our reality. So to speak.

When people used to be responsible for growing and raising their own food, the menu pretty much looked very different than it does now. There weren’t party foods already made and available every day. All day. Everywhere. Can you imagine at one point in history, there wasn’t even a store! So, decadent, special occasion foods were just that.


Currants I picked myself in my yard. Treat.

As we became more removed from farms, access to “treats” changed. It became easier to access the foods that used to be something that we didn’t eat except at holidays and birthdays.

I agree with my friend that a cupcake is a treat. I could also explain that it is a portion-controlled item versus buying an entire sheet cake and being able to cut a HUGE piece and call it one serving, but that’s another story in and of itself. I also still agree that in season favorite fruits and veggies are a treat.

What if we all started thinking about treats differently?

Whether by definition or by how often we eat them?

Sometimes we need to change how we talk about things to change how we think about things to change what we do about things.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”

-William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

What will you say and do differently this week?


By Kim Kirchherr

I am a dietitian working in food and fiber (agriculture) through retail, addressing opportunities to make things better for people and planet.

5 replies on “Treat Yo’self”

I agree, it’s huge to redefine “treat.” I have a perfectly ripe banana (brown speckles is my idea of perfection) for my Grape Nuts tomorrow morning. It’s going to be a treat because somebody else usually eats all the bananas before they reach my idea of perfection.

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Hi Julie! Thanks for reading my blog and sharing your thoughts. Love it. When we think about what we really enjoy eating, it can be so many things. Isn’t it great when what we love is good for us, too?

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Very interesting view of the word. I grew up in a sugar-permissive environment (ice cream every day after school). As an adult, my daily staple is fruit and vegetables and my palate and thinking about health/food has changed. Now my biggest treat is a bowl of pears and apples with plain yogurt, chia & flax seeds and a handful of raisins on top. Makes my mouth water thinking about it.

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