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.

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 


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.~


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.~


Why Kids Fight with You Over Food

Kids fight with parents over food because parents fight with their kids over food.

This isn't a blame-game going on. So hear me out. I'm making an argument about the lessons kids learn.

Have you ever stopped to think about all the ways you teach your kids to be controlling around food?

Probably not. The way most parents are controlling around food probably doesn't feel that controlling. And it certainly doesn't feel avoidable.

But if you think about the situation through your child's eyes, I think you'll see what I mean. 

Without really meaning to, many parents control almost every aspect of their children's eating.

We control what kids eat, when they eat, what order they eat their food in, how much they have to eat. No wonder that some kids start controlling you back!

Here's a sample of the controlling conversation between a father and his 2-3 year old son that I overheard at a restaurant the other evening.

  • No, you can't have that until you've had your veggie pouch. (I couldn't see what that was, but I assumed it was some kind of snack food the father had brought to the restaurant.)
  • You have to have your milk before you drink your milkshake. (This one I didn't understand.)
  • You're going to have a hamburger.
  • Eat a few more bites.

Granted, there are many reasons to structure what and when children eat. 

And I'm NOT advocating that parents become permissive. I'm just saying that if you think about...

Everytime you interact with your children around food, you're teaching them something about:

  • The food 
  • How to interact with you around food

Control is the enemy. It teaches kids to be controlling back.

After all, young kids are in the business of learning to control their bodies and their environment.

Structure is the antidote to control.

Establishing rules and boundaries stops the fighting because it clearly delineates domains. Think of this as the car-seat law: After an initial outburst, kids don't argue about the car seat because it doesn't get them anywhere.

Then, kids start thinking about what they can do while they're in the carseat!

Here are some ways to structure meals:

  • Use the Rotation Rule, don't serve the same food 2 days in a row
  • Use the Eating Zones Rule, establish times for eating and times for not eating
  • Teach children a style of eating called One-One, so kids eat a little of everything before they finish anything

Structure provides the same directions as the controlling interaction, but it's not controlling because it happens as a rule outside the interactions.

And then...

Within the structure give your children plenty of choices.

And make sure to give your kids plenty of choices around non-food related things too:

  • "Do you want to sit in this chair or that chair?"
  • "Do you want to put on your shoes now or in 5 minutes?"
  • "Do you want to put your shoes on your self right now or have Mommy do it right now?"

Properly empowering children takes the food out of the fight.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~