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 

Saturday
Nov012014

The 52 New Foods Challenge: Change the Way Your Kids Eat Forever!

If I were ever going to write a cookbook, it would be a lot like this one, The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by Jennifer Tyler Lee.

It's like Jennifer has been living inside my head for the past decade! I'm not joking.

You know how I'm always talking about the importance of reducing pressure? About using variety to lay the foundation for new foods? About how teaching kids about the sensory properties of foods eliminates fear and resistence?

Well, it's all in there. Concrete, practical steps. (Use it as the handy compendium to my book!)

The 52 New Foods Challenge is not so much a cookbook as it is a how-to guide:

  • How to get kids used to the idea of trying familiar foods in new ways.
  • How to create an engaging game that makes children eager to try new foods.
  • How to help your children explore food with all their senses: sight, smell, touch, sound and taste.
  • How to get your kids into the kitchen.
  • How to reduce tension around the table so you can stop being a dictator and start being a teammate.
  • How to help your kids feel safe around unfamiliar foods.
  • How to leverage your children's intrinsic motivation to be healthy eaters.
  • How to use rewards effectively.
  • How to stage meals to encourage veggie consumption.
  • How to shop, cook and plan meals efficiently and effectively.

And then, as if that weren't enough, The 52 New Foods Challenge, actually provides recipes!

Not hard, complicated recipes. Easy and tasty ones.

Here's the plan:

Every week your family picks one new food to taste test. One new food. That's not so hard. And then there are a handful of recipes for each new food so your family can sample it multiple ways.

The book is organized seasonally so you'll be trying foods that are fresh, easily available, and which you're probably already in the mood for. 

  • Fall calls for families to try foods like sweet potatoes, pumpkin and brussels sprouts.
  • Winter is all about kale, leeks, Asian pears, quinoa.
  • Spring will move you onto asparagus, zucchini, strawberries and cherries.
  • Summer introduces corn, peaches, lavender and chickpeas

Get your copy of The 52 New Foods Challenge here.

My family has a pretty diverse diet already, but I have to say that this book put a little more spring into our step.

Reading this book reminded me about foods we like but which I rarely buy—foods like leeks. And while I had a quibble or two about the guidelines for families, this book has already helped us break out of the go-to recipe rut.

Last week my family made Brussels Sprouts Chips. They're like Kale Chips...only a teensy bit better.

We all dove into this dish with gusto—and huge smiles. 

You should definitely try making this. Here are Jennifer's directions (page 77).

 

Brussels Sprouts Chips

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.

2. Using your fingers, peel away the leaves from the sprouts.

3. Place the leaves on a rimmed baking sheet. Add 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Toss to combine.

4. Bake for 10 minutes, then toss the leaves in the pan. Reduce the heat to 250° F and bake the sprouts for 15 minutes more, or until the leaves are crispy and almost burnt. Let your kids watch closely to figure out the best timing for your oven.

Jennifer's tip for peeling the leaves: Cut off the ends, turn the sprouts over and gently pry the leaves away starting at the stem. Keep trimming off the ends as you go to make it easier to peel off the layers. This takes patience (and time), but it's a fun activity for your kids. As you get closer to the center, the leaves will become too tight to peel, so simply save the small pieces for sautéing or roasting.


Recipe reprinted from The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright (c) Jennifer Tyler Lee, 2014

Want to know more about The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by Jennifer Tyler Lee?

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Thursday
Oct302014

Halloween Candy

The essential question about Halloween is, What to do with all that candy?

But here's a better question: Shouldn't parents just prevent the candy problem in the first place? 

(Rest assured, I'm not going to suggest that your prevent your children from trick-or-treating.)

There are three easy ways parents could lighten the candy load.

With regard to trick-or-treating, you could:

  1. Limit the amount of time 
  2. Limit the number of houses
  3. Limit the size of the bag

I gently proposed this on my Facebook page yesterday to one reader. She replied that Halloween is a social time and she didn't want to rain her her kids' parade.

I get it. And I think this reader's thoughts represent mainstream opinion. I really appreciate that she shared it. Moreover, this exchange got me thinking.

Here, in no particular order, is a look into my brain:

1) As a culture, we're psycho. Think Jekyll and Hyde. We glorify and then villify sweets and treats. Just look at how people ooh and ahh over cake and cookie pictures/recipes on the Internet. Then listen to the chatter about how sugar is the devil. Halloween is just one representation of this dynamic.

2) Another mixed message: Bigger is better; Don't eat too much. There's no question that in America we value BIG and Halloween is no exception. There is a lot of excitement promoted about getting as much candy as you can score. But then...after the fact we tell kids they can't eat it all.

3) Not setting collection limits subtly teaches gluttony. "Get as much as you can, regardless of whether or not you like that particular candy, and regardless of whether you'll actually be able to eat it all," is an unintended lesson of Halloween.

4) The Halloween Culture also teaches kids that it's more important to preserve fun than it is to prevent waste. This teaches a cavalier attitude towards food (even if we can all agree that candy isn't really food). Even sending excess candy to the troops sends a mixed message: you can't eat too much candy, but the troops can.

5) What would happen if we taught kids to collect enough? I think of this as "greed" vs "plenty." Collection limits might teach children to collect only the candy they really wanted, giving the stuff they don't love a pass. Now that's a life lesson we should all learn!

6) Why do we think kids can't have fun on Halloween if they're not trick-or-treating the entire time? Consumption limits don't automatically mean that kids have to go home when they hit their limit. The social part of Halloween remains. So why would we want to teach our children that the only way to have fun is to get more candy? Especially when more is the problem.

 7) Why doesn't our national dialogue include a discussion on consumption limits as a viable way to control candy consumption? Put another way: why does preventing the problem feel so un-American, but controlling candy consumption feel so right?

8) We already set limits in ways that can "ruin" our kids' fun. Take bedtime, for instance. Why does setting limits on candy collection, then, feel so bad? (This is kind of the same question as #6, I know. But that's how my brain works!)

I've written a lot about what to do about Halloween candy after the fact.

Most recently I wrote about this in a post on Psychology Today: 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Dump Your Kids' Halloween Candy.

My essential point, which I think you can tell from the title, is that dumping your kids' candy teaches the wrong lessons. What's more, you can actually use Halloween to teach your kids healthy eating.

But now, I'm thinking in a more complex way.

Candy is the Purpose. Candy is the Problem.

And it's this dynamic that makes Halloween a tinderbox for teaching eating habits. Halloween is a one-day event, but the lessons our kids learn are enduring.  

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Tuesday
Oct212014

Hunger vs Appetite

We have an almost-pathological fear of kids being hungry in this country.

I'm not talking about real hunger. I'm talking about the kind of hunger that people naturally develop in between meals. You know, the old grumbling-in-the-tummy kind of hunger.

So here's the question: "Should I feed my toddler on demand or on a schedule?"

The answer is a hybrid. Feed your child on a flexible schedule that imposes some structure but which is responsive to your child's hunger.

For many parents, helping their children avoid hunger seems like a rational strategy. 

  • Hungry children are prone to meltdowns (and, for some reason, this usually happens when in public)
  • Hungry children don't do well in school
  • Hungry children are sometimes harder to feed

But avoiding hunger is the wrong habit to teach children.

Sometimes a little hunger goes a long way. Read The Upside of Hunger to find out why. Here's one reason:

Toddlers need to learn to connect the feeling (pangs in their tummies) with the problem (hunger) and the solution (eating).  If they never feel hungry, they’ll never learn this connection. 

Help your children build an appetite: Implement the Eating Zones Rule

Eating Zones are regular blocks of time that you create—one for each daily meal and snack. On any given day you can choose one time during each Eating Zone when you will offer something to eat.

Eating Zones help you avoid constant on-demand grazing, but they do not snap you into a rigid schedule.

  • Look at your typical day to see when you normally provide meals and snacks.
  • Account for variables, such as naps, outings, school, or your work schedule.
  • Evaluate when your child is usually hungry, when she is too tired, too hungry, or too distracted to eat. 
  • Use this information to create blocks of time each day when you can serve a meal or a snack.

The importance of Eating Zones is that they designate some times as eating times and other times as NO-EATING times.

You create opportunities for eating, but let your children choose whether and how much to eat.

And if your child wants to eat during a no-eating zone, respond compassionately, but help her wait. And remember...

  • You can always move the next Eating Zone up so the wait isn't too long
  • The wait is where the learning happens

The structure of Eating Zones:

  1. Creates a predictable parenting dynamic. Read You Can't Make Me Eat It! to find out why predictability is important.
  2. Constructively shares control with your child. Read The Hunger Dilemma.
  3. Prevents unnecessary snacking. Read What to Do About Snacks

In the perfect world, children would be taught to eat when (and only when) they were hungry. That's not the world we live in.

But in the world we live in, children are usually required to eat at meal times—regardless of how much or how often they've eaten throughout the day. That is a lesson in overeating.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~