Children are not likely to crave candy and other sweets unless a taste for such articles has been developed by indulgence in them; and their use, since they are seldom taken at mealtime, helps greatly to foster that most pernicious habit of childhood—eating between meals. No food, except at their regular mealtimes, should be the universal rule for children from babyhood up; and although during their earliest years they require food at somewhat shorter intervals than adults, their meal hours should be arranged for the same time each day, and no piecing permitted. Parents who follow the too common practice of giving their little ones a cracker or fruit between meals are simply placing them under training for dyspepsia, sooner or later. Uninterrupted digestion proceeds smoothly and harmoniously in a healthy stomach; but interruptions in the shape of food sent down at all times and when the stomach is already at work, are justly resented, and such disturbances, if long continued, are punished by suffering.
The appetite of a child is quite as susceptible of education, in both a right and wrong direction, as are its mental or moral faculties; and parents in whose hands this education mainly rests should give the subject careful consideration, since upon it the future health and usefulness of their children not a little devolve. We should all be rulers of our appetites instead of subject to them; but whether this be so or not, depends greatly upon early dietetic training. Many a loving mother, by thoughtless indulgence of her child, in season and out of season, in dainties and tidbits that simply serve to gratify the palate, is fostering a “love of appetite” which may ruin her child in years to come. There are inherited appetites and tendencies, it is true; but even these may be largely overcome by careful early training in right ways of eating and drinking. It is possible to teach very young children to use such food as is best for them, and to refrain from the eating of things harmful; and it should be one of the first concerns of every mother to start her children on the road to manhood and womanhood, well trained in correct dietetic habits.
“The wanton taste
no flesh nor fowl can choose,
For which the grape or melon it would lose,
Though all th’ inhabitants of earth and air
Be listed in the glutton’s bill of fare.”
Jean Jacques Rousseau holds that intemperate habits are mostly acquired in early boyhood, when blind deference to social precedents is apt to overcome our natural antipathies, and that those who have passed that period in safety, have generally escaped the danger of temptation. The same holds good of other dietetic abuses. If a child’s natural aversion to vice has never been wilfully perverted, the time will come when his welfare may be intrusted