It’s getting kids to eat what parents serve that causes so many problems.

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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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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
Sep232014

The Curse of the Broken Pretzel

Broken pretzels are cursed.

How else can we explain why some kids absolutely refuse to eat them?

Source: Mommy Shorts.com

Last week, Mommy Shorts.com published a hilarious sequence of photos depicting picky eaters and their food hangups.  

Check it out here.

One of my readers asked if I could suggest what parents can do to combat these problem (other than give in). Here you go, a plan to exorcise the curse!

1) Recognize that what looks like a food issue is really a behavior issue.

Behavior issues are impacted by the interactions you have with your child. That's good news. The way to change your child's behavior is to change how you react.

2) You can't care whether or not your child eats the broken pretzel or granola bar.

Things to say: 

  • "A broken pretzel tastes exactly like an unbroken one."
  • "You don't have to eat it if you don't want it."
  • "I'll try to give you unbroken pretzels when I can, because I know you prefer them, but when I grab a handful of pretzels to give you, there are usually going to be some broken ones."
  • "I'm happy to hear how you feel about the pretzels, but not when you're having a fit (tantrum)."
  • "We can talk about how you feel about the pretzels for 1 (or 5) minutes, but I will not talk to you about this any longer (because that's a fit...especially if there's whining).

The only reason for parents to give in to their children's demands to eat only unbroken pretzels, or toast that has not been perfectly toasted, or sandwiches that are not cut exactly the right way is to avoid a fight.

But establishing firm boundaries is the other way to avoid the fight. 

The key, then, is to make sure you distinguish between food problems and behavioral problems. Behavioral problems (tantruming in response to being given a broken pretzel, for instance) has to be solved with a behavioral solution. Do whatever you do (like use a time out?) to correct your child's behavior.

If you need your child to eat the pretzels, your child holds all the power.

But you might want to ask yourself why you care whether or not your child eats the pretzels. And if your child's food refusal comes at meals, then remember that your child has to have the freedom NOT to eat before she'll be able to willingly choose to eat.

End a meal rather than give in to this kind of irrational demand. (Then, remind yourself that the next snack or meal is not that far away. Read The Upside of Hunger.)

Here's how giving in to broken pretzels curses YOU:

Curse 1: When children express their need for control by restricting (or even eliminating) the food they'll eat, there's only one direction this can go: downhill.

The terrific feeling of control your child gets from successfully controlling the shape and size of the pretzel or the granola bars he'll eat lasts about 10 seconds. Then, the next time he wants to feel control, the only thing he can do is restrict something else.

This is how children who eat a large variety of foods end up eating a smaller and smaller range of items.

Curse 2: Giving in to your children's quirky demands disempowers them.

Kids learn that they really can't cope with food in different forms. That they need to eat only unbroken pretzels.

Source: Mommy Shorts.com

Teaching children that they can cope with broken pretzels does the opposite: it empowers them. And if your child is refusing to eat a banana that has a bit of string or a sandwich that has crusts, teach your child to solve the problem herself. That's real power.

For more on this read The Power of the Imperfect Pretzel

Curse 3: Giving in to your children's quirky demands disempowers you...

...and turns the entire parenting relationship on its head.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~
Tuesday
Sep162014

I Hit My Dog: A Confession to Help Change How Your Kids Eat!

Yesterday I hit my dog.

I'm mortified. I'm not a hitter. But yesterday? My dog, who is a big jumper—I'm not exaggerating, this little guy can springboard to hip-height without a running start—was , shall we say, enthusiastically greeting everyone who came to the door. And a lot of people stopped by yesterday.

Don't worry. This is NOT a post about hitting kids. But it is a post about feeding them. Stay with me.

My dog is pretty well trained, except in the jumping-department.

Yesterday that meant I spent a lot of time using my best "alpha" voice, and when that didn't work, using my best yelling voice. "Down!" "No jumping!" "Off!"

Nothing worked. The dog kept jumping.

And so, in a final fit of desperation, I struck out.

In my defense, my hit wasn't really a hit.

Rather, it was a loud snap of the single, piece of paper I was holding in my hand. But it was a snap that connected with my dog's small snout. (Yes, I know that makes it a hit, but I'm trying to feel better about myself!) 

  • The dog flinched. My friend looked a little shocked.
  • And then the dog resumed jumping all over my friend.

So why am I telling you about this? Aside from the fact that confession is good for the soul?

As parents, we often try to teach the right lesson using the wrong technique.

The only change that occured in my dog's behavior is that he kept a better eye on me. When he saw me coming he flinched. When he thought I wasn't watching, he jumped.

If you've been trying—unsuccesfully—to change how your children eat, you need to change your strategy.

For instance, many parents want their children to learn that it's important to eat fruits and vegetables. And so we bribe, beg, cajole and then, finally barter. "Ok, just take two more bites."

Or, we want our children to try new foods so we pressure them to, "just take a taste."

These techniques teach the wrong lessons.

The gap between what you think you're teaching and what your kids are actually learning is where food problems thrive.

Read Conscious Parenting.

When techniques work, you can stop using them.

If you have to "remind" your kids every single night to eat their veggies, then they have learned some (or all) of the following (wrong) lessons:

  • I don't have to eat vegetables until Mom asks me.
  • If I wait until Mom asks me then I won't have to eat that huge pile of peas. Just a few bites.
  • No matter how many peas I eat, Mom will ask me to eat more. So waiting until Mom asks is the best way to minimize the number of peas I have to eat.
  • If I don't eat my peas now then I'm sure to get dessert because that will be my "price."
  • Dinner is a time for fighting.

The list goes on...

What your kids haven't learned is to eat their veggies.

For a different solution read: 

As for my dog?

Yelling was teaching him to ignore me. Hitting him was teaching him to avoid me.

Yesterday I worked hard to get him to stop flinching. Read: lots of petting and playing.

And now I'm searching for an anti-jumping technique that might actually work.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Monday
Sep082014

The Bad News About Bread

Have you ever noticed that we're raising a generation of bread addicts?

  • Americans consume more than twice the amount of refined grains than we should. That's old news.
  • Did you you know that to meet the dietary guidelines, we would have to decrease our total grain intake by about 27%?

A 27% surplus in grain consumption is significant!

If you're having trouble expanding the range of foods your children will eat, think about getting rid of bread.

It's a scary thought, I know. But consider this...

From a nutrition perspective, most bread is a wasteland. From a habits perspective, bread is even worse. 

Over-using bread means that the taste and texture of bread (in all it's various forms) shapes the other foods kids will accept.

Remember, for the most part, taste preferences are formed—not found.

Eating is a matter of math: what your kids eat the most, influences the kinds of foods they want to eat the most.

Do your children start the day with toast, cereal, bagels, waffles, scones or other kinds of bread?

And then move onto a...

  • Mid-morning snack of Goldfish crackers?
  • Grilled cheese sandwich for lunch?
  • Cookies or a granola bar in the afternoon?
  • Pizza for dinner?

One bagel is the equivalent of 4 slices of Wonder Bread.

What would happen if you removed all the bread from your children's diet? 

If you can't imagine how your child would survive, you're definitely raising a bread addict.

But don't worry, you don't have to get rid of all the bread....Think Proportion. (It's one of the three habits of healthy eating. Variety and Moderation are the other two.)

There's a place in your children's diet for bread. Just don't let bread dominate your children's diet.

I know...grains/bread made up the bottom rung of the Food Pyramid, but that was BAD ADVICE. In the new My Plate icon, grains make up only a quarter of the plate. But that's from a nutrition perspective.

From a habits perspective, it would be good to start thinking about all grains as bread-equivalents...and minimize their appearance -- as a category -- in your children's overall diets.

Bread masquerades in lots of different forms.

Toast, bagels, muffins, pancakes, cereal, waffles, English muffins, sandwiches, pizza, tortillas, croissants, crescent rolls, quesadillas, scones, pretzel rolls, corn bread, banana bread, and then there are crackers, crackers crackers.

Add up all the bread and other grain-stuff your kids load up on. Then compare this group to everything else your kids eat. See what I mean?

For more on BREAD, read: 

For other BREAKFAST options, read:

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~