Want to change how your kids eats? Implement The Rotation Rule. I promise, it will change your life.
That's no exaggeration. I've had parents tell me that implementing The Rotation Rule, doing just this one thing, changed their lives: kids started being more adventurous, they asked to taste foods, some kids even started eating the occasional vegetable!
The Rotation Rule is simple: Don't serve the identical food two days in a row.
And by extension...don't serve an identical food twice in one day. (Parents with cheese stick-aholics, I'm talking to you.)
Read House Building 101.
Most parents already implement a version of The Rotation Rule, but they do it only at dinner.
If you have family dinners, meals probably change from night to night.
All other meals and snacks, however, are typically handled with a small number of go-to foods.
And therein lies the problem:
- Day after day, at every eating opportunity except for dinner, kids eat a repetitious diet of familiar, warm and fuzzy foods that they come to expect.
- Control over eating decisions shifts from kids during the day to parents at dinner. (You may think you are in control, but if you serve foods because you know your kids will eat them, your kids are really in charge of the eating plan.)
This feeding style encourages children to get locked into a patterned way of eating that unintentionally teaches kids to prefer "child-friendly" fare, not to try new foods, and to resist your efforts to teach them to eat right.
You need a coherent feeding strategy.
Without a strategy, every eating opportunity has to be dealt with on its own terms.
In other words, parents end up winging it based on...
1) Some version of nutrition that they carry around in their heads. (Nobody has the whole thing covered, and everyone worries about different things.
2) The answer to three questions:
- Will my child eat it?
- Is it relatively healthy? Or, at least, is it healthier than other available options?
- Has my child already had too much junk?
Winging it doesn't really work.
When there is no feeding strategy, parents can't:
- Be consistent.
- Communicate the reasons behind food-related decisions to their kids so the kids never know the game plan.
- Stop the constant negotiation that kids seem to like so much.
And, when you constantly look inside food to see the nutrients you stop paying attention to taste and texture, the factors that shape kids habits. Read The (Chocolate) Milk Mistake.
The Rotation Rule solves all of these problems.
The key to implementing The Rotation Rule sucessfully? Choices and reassurance.
Choices: You set the rotation structure; your kids choose the specifics.
Reassurance: Kids need to know their favorites aren't gone forever.
- "Would you like waffles or eggs?"
- "You had toast yesterday. You can have toast again tomorrow but today you have to have something different. Would you like waffles or eggs?"
The next day...
- "Yesterday you said you wanted toast, and I said you could have it tomorrow. Well, now it's tomorrow. Do you still want toast? Or would you like yogurt?"
How different do foods in the rotation have to be?
Only you know your child, but ideally you would rotate between foods that are really different: cereal one day, eggs the next.
If you have a child who is particularly picky, or who has issues with sensory sensitivity, your rotation might be more subtle: different brands of blueberry yogurt, slight variations in the texture of the apple sauce.
Other things to know:
- Only use the kinds of foods your child already eats. Save the "real" new stuff for later.
- Don't keep the strategy a secret. Communicate The Rotation Rule—and your rationale for using it— to your kids.
Read about how to use The Rotation Rule in real life.
- Eating, Seen Through Your Child's Eyes
- The BIG Fix: What To Do When Feeding Strategies Fail
- Kid Eats Q&A: How do you handle it when your children protest the new food on their plates or when they want something else for their meal or snack?
- When You're Too Tired to Cook.
- Breakfast: The Most Important Meal of the Day
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~