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How can dessert be a bribe when it has fresh fruit?

Conventional wisdom says parents should never offer dessert as a reward. Promising a piece of cake or pie in return for a clean plate can lead to alarming consequences: obesity, a craving for sweets, eating disorders among them.

Bribery, health professionals say, is no way to resolve dinnertime battles.

It's hard to argue with the logic, and they're the experts. But here's what I know.

When I was growing up, almost every dinner ended with dessert.

I don't remember any kitchen table battles except over fried eggs (it was the crispy stuff around the edges I couldn't stomach).

Buy a link hereAs an adult I eat and appreciate almost any food; there are only a handful I patently dislike and even fewer that I refuse to eat. I have a sweet tooth but am not overweight.

For me, just knowing that dessert was coming (it was never overtly billed as a "reward") not only led me to finish foods on my plate that I was not excited about, but I believe it also made them actually taste better.

To my parents' credit, mealtime in my home was a healthy endeavor, balanced, low in fat and with at least two vegetables. We were encouraged to take only what we could eat and eat just until we were full, and between-meal snacking was not part of our family culture.

We came to the table hungry. And by the time dessert rolled around, we had just enough room for an average-size serving.

Sometimes it was only a dish of home-canned peaches or a scoop of ice cream, but just as often it was a home-baked from-scratch dessert: cream puffs, perhaps, apple crisp or one of my mom's signature pies.

Maybe that's why whenever I bake something sweet, I feel that dinner is half-made. (Could be, too, that dessert can be as time-consuming to fix as many meals.)

Whatever role sweets play in your house, summer brings to the fore some of the best desserts around: those based on fresh fruits. Because the fruits are so good themselves, it takes little embellishment and not even that much sweetener to turn them into something special.

Rhubarb and apricots give way to strawberries and peaches, raspberries and cherries . . . an endless stream of naturally sweet ingredients. It's just not the same to eat these foods out of season.

For the health-minded, dessert-mania can be controlled by reducing the amount of sugar in recipes, using lower-fat versions of ingredients or recipes and keeping portions sensible. And it doesn't have to be offered every night to work some motivational magic with picky diners.

A good fruit dessert can also ensure that you and the kids get at least an extra serving of fruit for the day. And as I see it, there's nothing alarming about that.

I would have eaten two servings of brussels sprouts as a kid for a small serving of one of these desserts, both of which are based on favorite flavor pairings of mine: peaches and blueberries, and chocolate and strawberries.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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