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DINA ROSE, PhD is a sociologist, parent educator and feeding expert empowering parents to raise kids who eat right.

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Topics
Links

Dinner Together Building Healthy Families One Meal at a Time.

Food Politics Marion Nestle's intelligent take on the politics of food and nutrition.

Fooducate Like Having a Dietician on Speed dial.

Hoboken Family Alliance A terrific resource for people living in the great city of Hoboken, NJ.

The Lunch Tray Everything you need to know about improving school lunches.

Parent Hacks Forehead-Smackingly Smart Tips

Raise Healthy Eaters One of the best blogs (other than my own) for learning to raise healthy eaters.

Real Mom Nutrition Tales from the Trenches. Advice for the Real World. From a mom-nutritionist who knows!

Stay and Play The best indoor playspace on the East Coast. Oh yeah, and it happens to be owned by my brother.

weelicious Great Recipes for Kids 

Tuesday
May102016

Teaching Toddlers to LIKE Veggies: The Most Important Public Health Challenge of Our Time

The New York Times has published two articles lately that that highlight the importance of preventing obesity before it takes hold.

The first article:

Contestants on "The Biggest Loser" ended up with slower metabolisms after losing weight than they had before losing weight. And, their metabolisms never rebounded. The result? participants regained 70% of their lost weight.

The second article:

The problem is not willpower. It's neuroscience. Your brain figures out your body set point, based on genes and life experience, and then works hard to keep you at that weight.  

Obese people who exercise, eat enough vegetables and don't smoke are no more likely to die young than normal-weight people with the same habits.

Source: kondratya /depositphotos.com

1) There may be no more important public health initative than teaching young children to enjoy vegetables.

Teaching kid to enjoy vegetables is a fundamentally different task then getting them to eat vegetables.

Enjoying vegetables=Habit. The rest=lecture.

Kids who enjoy eating vegetables do so without being reminded or bribed. And they do it when their parents aren't even around! They have the habitude!

2) Nutrition education will NEVER produce a nation of veggie-lovers.

Nutrition education is premised on the idea that when people know what they ought to eat, they eat what they ought to eat.  In other words, "when you know better, you do better." Research shows otherwise.

Read my Post: Even Nutrition Savvy Kids Choose Cookies.

Researchers were surprised that 3-5 year old children who were exposed to nutrition education could readily identify healthy snacks, but they still chose cookies when given the choice. (Yes, the researchers were surprised!)

Here's another study:

Children 7-12 years old could correctly identify healthy/unhealthy snacks using an online grocery store simulation, but they still chose more than twice as many unhealthy items as healthy items. Why? They perceived the unhealthy items as being tastier.

And, it's not that the children didn't think the healthy items were tasty. It's just that they thought the unhealthy items were tastier.

So what's the solution? 10 Steps:

  1. Recognize that people eat for hedonistic reasons and that taste preferences are shaped much more than many parents believe.  8 Steps to More Fruits and Vegetables.
  2. Make veggies taste good. Stop with all the steaming. Vegetable Anxiety.
  3. Stop talking about health. How to Help Your Kids Hate Spinach; Junk Food=Yum, Healthy Food=Yuk.
  4. Consciously vary the taste and texture of the food kids are served. The Variety Masquerade.
  5. Early variety matters. Forget the go-slow-weaning approach. How do I Introduce Baby Food? Think Variety.
  6. Describe new food. Don't just say, "Yum." Look into My Crystal Ball; Introducing New Foods: Growing a Good Taster.
  7. Forget juice. It kills the chances kids will eat their veggies. Water vs. Punch and Soda.
  8. Minimize salty snacks. It also kills the chances kids will eat their veggies. Are You Sweet or Are You Salty?
  9. Settle for a Happy Bite. The Happy BiteSalad Days.
  10. But serve veggies throughout the day...and do it every day. Fruits and Vegetables at Every Meal and Every Snack--Every Darned DayThe Snack as Mini-Meal Mistake

 ~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~ 

Monday
May022016

The Hunger-Induced Meltdown: Is It Real?

Few things strike as much fear into parents as the hunger-induced meltdown.

Many parents solve the problem by preempting meldowns by carting a boatload of snacks around. I should know. I used to do it too.

Teaching kids to snack on demand is a bad lifelong habit to have. Researchers have concluced that some kids eat up to 10 times per day and that snacking is frequently no longer associated with hunger.

What's more, there is no way to tell if your child's meltdown is really related to hunger. Doling out snacks in that scenario just rewards bad behavior.

Here's a post from the archives that explains why you can never know if your child's meltdown really is due to hunger and one way you could respond.

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 Consider the following scenarios: 

  • You want to serve more fruits and vegetables for snack but the time you tried, your child refused and then had a hunger-induced meltdown. So now you stick to crackers because it's the safer bet.
  • You think the Rotation Rule is a good idea, but when you gave your child a choice between a turkey sandwich and a ham sandwich, she said she wanted peanut butter. You tried to stick to your guns (following my advice/script)—"You can have peanut butter tomorrow but today your choice is turkey or ham."—but then your daughter refused to eat lunch and all afternoon she was a mess.
  • You're not fond of the before-bed snack, but when you don't give your son a little something, he cries and then wakes up throughout the night. It's not worth the fight.

I could go on, but you get my point. The hunger-induced meltdown gets in the way of your best plans...all the time!

You can connect the dots (hunger-->no eating-->meltdown) but there's no way to know whether the meltdown is actually caused by your child's hunger since you can't get inside your child's tummy.

Possibilitiy A: Your child is so hungry he can't think straight. Hence the meltdown.

Possibility B: Your child is hungry, but wants something different to eat, and she knows from past experiences that behaving badly gets her what she wants.

Possibility C: Your child is not hungry but wants to eat and he knows that behaving badly gets you to produce snacks.

Possibility D: Your child is not hungry but is just behaving badly. When you produce the snacks you distract her from the tantrum and calm is restored.

This is just one of the things that makes parenting kids around food soooo difficult.

Since you can't know whether you're dealing with Possibility A, B, C, or D, the only solution is structure. And a couple of lessons.

Structure, i.e. rules that lay the foundation for what and when food is eating, is necessary because it makes food and eating predictable for your kids. 

And here's one last radical thought: One important lesson even small children can (and need to learn) is how to soothe themselves in the face of the hunger meltdown. 

After all, most young children can't really eat when they're upset anyway. 

There's no reason not to feed the child who has the one-off hunger-induced meltdown, but doing it on a regular basis sets up the wrong habits, both for now and for a lifetime of healthy eating.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~ 

Thursday
Apr072016

Healthy Snacks for Kids: Bars vs Cookies

In the spirit of Eat This, Not That!, I've done a series of posts over the years pitting foods against each other.

But rather than assess the nutrition, I compare how different foods influence habits. Here I discuss bars and cookies.

source: yacobchuk1 /depositphotos.comFrom a Habits Perspective, if a bar seems like a cookie, then it is a cookie. And so...

  • If you wouldn't give your kids cookies every day, then don't give them bars every day. 
  • And if you give your kids a bar one day, don't give them cookies that same day.

Think of this as the if-it-quacks-like-a-duck argument. This is especially true when toddlers are just learning to eat right. 

From a habits perspective, bars and cookies are equivalents.

The only key difference between a bar and a cookie is that people don't generally polish off a box of bars, but a box of cookies? So, from this angle, and pretty much only this angle, bars beat cookies. (Though I do admit, this is a pretty big advantage!)

From a nutrition perspective, many cookies and bars are also equivalents.

Yes, some bars are healthier than others. And I'm sure you're home made bars certain are. But in general, cookies and bars are essentially equivalent.

For instance, compared to a Kashi Soft-Baked Ripe Strawberry cereal bar, a Kashi Soft-Baked Oatmeal Raisin Flax cookie has fewer calories, less sugar and the same amount of protein. The cookie even has one extra gram of whole grains.

Yes, I cherry-picked, but only to get two products that are kind of middle-of-the-road. But the nutrition argument is essentially splitting hairs. I guarantee that for every super-healthy bar out there we could find a cookie equivalent.

In the January/February issue of their Nutrition Action Healthletter, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, rated bars: nut, protein, granola...

"Let's be clear. Even the best bars don't hold a candle to fresh fruit, vegetables, plain Greek yogurt, or a handful of unadorned nuts. (That's why we awarded no Best Bites, just Better Bites.) If none of those will do, a bar could work in a pinch. But are you getting a decent snack or a glorified cookie?"

If you want to read CSPI's nutrition comparisons of all the major bars, consider subscribing to their healthletter. It's a wonderful resource.

In the meantime, make sure you "use" baked goods as if they're cookies.

Sweet beverages as if they're soda. Muffins as if they're donuts. Pretzels as if they're chips. I think you get my point.

And for fruits and vegetables, plain yogurt, etc. for most snacks!

And now, check out these other posts. 

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~