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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Entries in Bread (3)


Feed Your Kids Like a Chef—Cooking Optional

If you want your kids to be stellar eaters, start thinking like a chef.

You don't have to cook like a chef—although I'm sure it doesn't hurt if you have the know-how—just think like one.

Bon Appetit recently asked a bunch of renowned chefs what they do to get their kids to eat right.  If, like me, you thought the chefs would talk, first and foremost, about the amazing creations they whip up to dazzle their little delights, you'd be wrong.

Instead, most of the chefs said they:

  • Don't feed their children special "kid" food. 
  • Expect their children to eat whatever is being served.
  • Routinely expose their children to a wide variety of tastes and textures.

They sound a little like the French! Read Early Vegetable Variety: The French Advantage.

The chefs also talked about shopping, gardening, cooking and dining with their children, but these strategies don't constitute the core of anyone's eating "curriculum."

Read the article, Chefs: They're Just Like Us, the Parental Edition

In contrast...

The other day I was eating at Panera, and—sorry Moms for snooping— I noticed that all the mothers were eating some version of soup and salad.  All the kids were eating some version of bread and cheese.

  • A bagel with cream cheese
  • A grilled cheese sandwich
  • Macaroni and Cheese

I'm not saying that chefs don't feed their children bread and cheese. I'm sure that they do. But the uniformity of the feeding choices across all the tables at Panera really struck me.  It made me wonder what we're teaching our kids.

Child-friendly isn’t just a kind of food. It’s a mindset.

I'm not going to talk about the nutrition of bread and cheese.  Suffice it to say that bread and cheese isn’t really a bad meal. It isn’t really a nutritional winner either.   Read What’s the Problem with Cheese? and La Crème de la Crème.

From a habits perspective, though, a steady diet of bread and cheese can be a disaster:

  1. When kids eat a steady stream of bread and cheese, they want to eat… more bread and cheese.
  2. When parents eat different foods than they feed their kids, children learn they should eat differently than their parents.

I know, you're probably thinking you don't feed your child bread and cheese that often. But what about bread and cheese look-alikes?

From what I see, most toddlers eat a steady stream of:

Toast, bagels with or without cream cheese, waffles, pancakes, muffins, cereal, grilled cheese, crackers with cheese, crackers without cheese, crackers that claim to have cheese, plain pasta, pasta with cheese, quesadillas, pizza, cheese sticks, string cheese...

Not exactly the chef's special, and all versions of bread and cheese. Read Pizza. Pizza. Pizza. and The Variety Masquerade.

Chefs know that eating is a matter of math.

Chefs also know that when parents eat different foods than they feed their kids, children learn they should eat differently than their parents. Read Mind Over Matter

What your kids think they should eat is what they’ll want to eat. 

Not should in the broccoli way—you should eat this—but should in the “child-friendly” way—you should want to eat this because this is what kids eat. You can change all that.

Chef Suzanne Goin caters to her kids' taste buds and to their expectations to "sell" them new stuff.

[M]y kids LOVE Asian food so I use those flavors especially when serving something new or that I think they might not love (or that they think they don't love.)

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


Pizza. Pizza. Pizza.

Some parents feed their kids pizza every day.  Some parents even encourage their kids to pound down the pizza 2 or 3 times a day. Can you believe it?

No? OK. Maybe most parents aren’t exactly passing out pizza 2 or 3 times a day, but they are giving their kids pizza-equivalents: grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, mac & cheese…

From a nutrition perspective, these foods all have basically the same nutrition profile. 

More importantly, from a habits perspective, regularly eating pizza and pizza-equivalents reinforces your kids’ love of pizza; it does nothing to teach them to eat peas, broccoli, or mushrooms…  That's why pizza makes it onto my list of The 10 Most "Dangerous" Foods.

When is pizza not pizza?  When it's pasta! Pizza equivalents are all made with the same ingredients. 

Flour. Cheese. Tomato.  Here are 10 equivalents.  See what I mean?

  1. Pasta with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese
  2. Grilled cheese sandwich
  3. Quesadilla
  4. Bagel with cream cheese
  5. Macaroni & cheese
  6. Ravioli
  7. Cheese and crackers
  8. Cheese sandwich
  9. Lasagna
  10. Calzones (AKA Pizza Pockets)

So a child who wakes up to a bagel and cream cheese, moves on to a grilled cheese sandwich at lunch, and finishes up the day with a bowl of pasta has eaten...well...a lot of pizza.

Read What's the Problem with Cheese? and La Crème de la Crème.

Pizza equivalents have the same nutrition profile.

Here are the numbers for a slice of pizza from Pizza Hut compared to a Kids Grilled Cheese from Panera Bread.

 Honestly, I don't make this stuff up!

Pizza equivalents constrict rather than broaden the number of foods your children will accept.

It’s true that pizza is crunchy and pasta is gooey, but if you go down the list of pizza-equivalents you will see that they offer a limited range of mouth-feel experiences.  And it's mouth-feel that determines what your kids will eat. 

Read Pizza and Peas: The Untold Story.

There are lots of other equivalents out there. 

Most “child-friendly” foods are sweet, gooey or crunchy.  If you have trouble introducing new foods, overusing child-friendly foods may explain why.  Even if you think you are offering up a diverse diet, your kids are probably not experiencing a lot of variety.  

Read The Variety Masquerade.

You don’t have to introduce new foods to expose your kids to different tastes and textures. 

I’m going to say that again: You don’t have to introduce new foods.

You simply have to start examining the foods you offer from your kids' perspective, and then consciously rotate through foods based on flavor, texture, aroma, appearance and temperature. For instance, serve eggs for breakfast one day, cereal the following day, and yogurt smoothies the next.  Read House Building 101.

Remember, every time you feed your kids, you are:

  • Training their taste buds.
  • Teaching them how often to expect certain flavors.
  • Shaping their ideas about what foods they should want to eat and when.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


Manna from Heaven

Have you ever played that game where you have to list the 1 food you would most want if you were ever stranded on a desert island?

Well, for me, it would be bread.  I love it.  For me, bread truly is manna from heaven. My daughter loves bread too.

But even though bread has been a staple food throughout history, most of us eat way too much of it. (I just finished a bagel as I type this!)  Our kids eat way too much bread too.

If you are having trouble selling your kids on fruits and vegetables, evaluate how much bread they eat.

I know it doesn’t seem like bread is related to broccoli, but it is:

  • Bread is hard to beat.  It has a satisfyingly chewy consistency when fresh, and a delectable crunch when toasted.  It’s bland and unchallenging, and appeals to most pint-sized palates.  But bread couldn’t be more different than fruits and vegetables in terms of taste, texture, appearance, aroma… the aspect of food that matters most to kids.  Since kids are most comfortable eating the same kinds of foods they’re used to, over-exposing your kids to bread is a recipe for disaster: it produces bread-lovers who end up eating less of everything else.
  • Bread is extremely filling.  Give your kids bread during a meal and they can easily forgo the other stuff you really want them to eat.

Bread’s got a good publicist: it’s part of the most popular club in the Food Pyramid (the grains) and it’s endowed with an aura of health.

But bread isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – especially if it’s not made from whole grains.  


Even though the Food Pyramid makes us think our kids gotta get their grains – grains do get the biggest share of the Pyramid after all --  kids don’t need as much as you think. 

If you use up your kid’s grain allotment with bread, there isn’t a lot left for other grains, like rice or pasta. 



The USDA recommends kids 2-3 year olds consume approximately 3 ounces of grains per day.   That’s not a lot.  The typical bagel now weighs in at 4 ounces.

Three ounces of grains amounts to:

  • 2 slices of bread and a handful of crackers.  Or
  • 1 pancake, ½ cup of cooked pasta and ½ an English muffin. Or
  • 1 small box of Goldfish crackers and 1 slice of bread.

If your kids eat half a bagel for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pasta or rice for dinner, they’ve had more than their fair share.  Throw in some snack time crackers and some popcorn and they’re on grain overload. Forget about adding in pizza, muffins, or even a granola bar.

From a nutrition perspective, most bread isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.  Most of today’s bread is a mass of refined flour baked up with sugar and salt.

  • Most bread gets a NuVal score in the 20-30 range. (Remember, NuVal scores the nutritional value of foods from 1-100 with 100 being top nutrition.)  Sure there are breads that score higher, but are those the ones your kids eat?  Probably not.  Most of our kids are more likely to eat Wonder Cinnamon Raison Bread, which scores 8, than they are to eat Arnold Flax and Fiber Bread which scores a 48. NuVal bread scores.
  • Bread is one of the top sources of sodium in the American diet.  Not because it is so much saltier than other processed foods, but because we eat so much more of it.  For instance, one slice of Arnold Whole Wheat bread has 170 mg of sodium.  That translates into 11% of an adult’s daily sodium intake and 17% of a toddler’s intake. Pita bread can be even saltier.  One Damascus Bakeries whole wheat pita has 290mg  -- 29% of your toddler’s recommended intake.

So much of what your kids will eat is a function of what they already eat.  It’s really a matter of math. 

I know it sounds like circular logic to say that you have to get your kids used to the kinds of foods you want them to eat before they’ll eat those foods the way you want them to, but that’s what you’ve got to do.

Use your children’s tendency to want to eat what they’re used to eating to your advantage.

Assess how often your kids eat bread (and bread-like products such as crackers, pizza, quesadillas) compared to fruits and veggies.  Then tip the balance in your favor by reversing the ratio.

Teaching kids to eat foods in the right proportion is the biggest part of getting them to eat right.  Start getting the ratios right by helping your kids develop the proper bread habit.

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~


Source: accessed 5/20/10; accessed 5/20/10; Marsh, B. 2010. “Stealth Salt in the Pantry.” New York Times. April 24