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 Breakfast (14)


The Argument for a Junky Breakfast

Parents tell me all the time that they can't get their children to eat breakfast. 

"But," I usually ask, "would your child eat a junky breakfast?" The answer is usually, "yes."

(Actually, it's usually, a "yes, but...")

Which would you rather do? Send your child to school: 

  • Having eaten something...and without a fight?
  • Not having eaten something...but still having had a fight? 

Sounds like two bad choices, I know. But sometimes, those are the only choices you've got. And sometimes, as parents we've got to get out of our own way.

I know that a healthy breakfast is your goal, but...

From a habits perspective, the choice is clear. 

  • Establish a breakfast-eating habit first.
  • Gradually improve the quality of the breakfast that is eaten.

Believing any change is permanent—and that you get only one change per problem—trips parents up.

In practice, you may have to go through a sequence of changes to get where you're going.  

  1. Consider a concession that makes you crazy.
  2. Reduce the pressure. 
  3. Resolve the original problem.
  4. Correct the correction before it becomes entrenched.

Read The Road Less Traveled.

I've made this argument before when talking about the struggle parents have introducing vegetables.

Sometimes The Less Nutritious Choice is Right.

Think about how good you'll feel when: 

  • Your child willingly (maybe even eagerly) eats breakfast.
  • You no longer get all twisted up inside worrying about sending your child off to school hungry.
  • Mornings lose the drama.

Once you've got a good breakfast-eating habit going...Use the Rotation Rule to switch things up.

If you don't know what I'm talking about (or if you need a refresher), read End Picky Eating with The Rotation Rule.

I discuss all these ideas in It's Not About the Broccoli.

 ~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


Hot Chocolate to Soothe the Soul

This morning I made my daughter hot chocolate for breakfast.

...from scratch!

OK, so when it comes to hot chocolate from scratch is't a big deal: milk, cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla+stir. (Actually I used maple syrup instead of sugar, but still...)

As I was stirring I thought about all the times people have been surprised when they see me or my daughter eating anything that isn't Über healthy.

To these folks I always say, "My message is about proportion--fitting treats into your diet in the right way."

Then—remember, all of this is going on in my own mind— I got defensive. "It's got calcium," I said to the fictional critic.

"And the muffin is whole wheat!" (Yes, I also took a homemade muffin out of the freezer, because what's hot chocolate without a muffin?)

But I didn't give my daughter the hot chocolate (or the muffin) for either of these reasons.

Nope. Though I could have convinced myself that I did.

I gave my daughter hot chocolate because I'm a Nurturer: A Person who Feeds to Show Love.

My poor little 7th grader is feeling particularly stressed right now. Last night was homework hell. And when I woke her up this morning (because she forgot to set her alarm), the first thing she said was, "I have to study."

I've confessed to my Nurturer tendencies before.

Read Cookie Love.

And I like to think of myself as a reformed Nurturer.


Like it or not, we all feed our children for, shall we say, extra-curricular reasons!

I'm a nurturer, but some parents are Peacemakers (using food to avoid conflict) or Time Buyers (using food to get some peace and quiet). And many of us are Hunger Avoiders (using food to make sure your kids never, ever feel a drop of hunger.)

Read Using Sweets to Soothe the Soul

What motivates how you feed your kids?

The point isn't to feel bad. The point is to recognize that these weak spots sabotage our efforts to teach our kids healthy eating habits.

My hot chocolate this morning won't do any real damage, but if I give in to my food=love impulse on a regular basis, what lessons and habits will I teach my daughter? To comfort herself with love?

It's something to think about.

Maybe even to read about!

I discuss this idea in detail in Chapter Three of It's Not About the Broccoli.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


If You Give Your Kid a Muffin...

...Consider doling out a donut instead.

  • Donuts score better in the nutrition department. (Now that’s something I never thought I would say!)
  • Parents are also more honest about them.  We teach our kids that donuts are indulgences, not healthy foods.  I wish they would tell their children the same thing about muffins.

This may be one of the most controversial entries I've ever posted.

People are pretty attached to the idea that muffins, or at least their muffins, are healthy.

But I stand behind my message: no matter how healthy your muffins are, they teach the wrong habit if you use them as if they're anything but cake. Keep reading to find out why.


After reading the stats on muffins, you’ll be tempted to start searching for healthier muffins.  Don’t do it!  

The nutritional gain only seems good because the numbers start off so bad.  The effect on your kids’ eating habits, however, will always remain the same—even if they're eating super-de-duper, beefed-up, nutritional-gold-medal, powerhouse, mighty-muffins.

Regular muffin-eating doesn’t just teach your kids to like muffins, it teaches them:

  • What kinds of food people eat in the morning.
  • How often people should eat muffins compared to other foods.  Every muffin morning isn’t an egg morning, for instance.
  • To gravitate towards the taste and texture of baked goods, rather than towards the experience of fresh foods.

And the list of lessons goes on…  Read When is a cookie NOT a cookie?

Muffins have mistakenly acquired a halo of health.

Don’t be conned.  Think of muffins as the Lady Gaga of baked goods— they’ve acquired a better reputation than they deserve.  At Dunkin’ Donuts, though, even the cookies fare better than the muffins.  Check out the Dunkin’ Donuts Nutrition Guide, and you'll see what I mean.

Could the muffin-halo-hype really be about the bran (which muffins rarely contain anymore)?

Dunkin’ Donuts sells 70 different kinds of donuts and 7 different muffins.  Here are the numbers.

Donuts have FEWER CALORIES than muffins!

  • 50% of the donuts deliver 310 calories or less.  Only 3 donuts pack in more than 490 calories and theworst one has only 555 calories.
  • All of the muffins have 450 calories or more; 40% have more than 600 calories.

Donuts have LESS SUGAR than muffins!

  • 97% of the donuts contain less than 24 grams of sugar.
  • The muffins all have 35 grams or more.

Donuts have LESS FAT than muffins!

  • The average donut has 16 grams of fat.
  • The average muffin has 20 grams of fat.

Donuts have LESS SODIUM than muffins!

  • 50% of the donuts have 340 mg of sodium or less; 81% have less than 400 mg of sodium.
  • All the muffins exceed 400 mg of sodium (and the corn muffin tops out at 840 mg).

Wondering about the good nutrients?

Muffins WIN on protein!

  • Each muffin delivers 5 grams or more of protein.  In contrast, only 27% of the donuts pack the same protein punch.  Most donuts deliver between 3-4 grams of protein instead.

Donuts and muffins TIE on fiber.

  • Donuts and muffins average 2 grams of fiber each. 

“But my kid only eats half.”

Instead of thinking of half a muffin as portion control, think of half as a challenge.  It's like saying to your child, “You can only handle half now, but wait until you’re a little older. Then you’ll eat the whole thing.”  (Don't believe me? Think of the last time you saw a non-toddler-type person stop at 1/2 a muffin.)

But even full-grown adults don’t benefit from downing a gargantuan glob of baked goodness.  Does anyone really need to blow ¼ of their daily calories on a sugar-laden land mine?

Treat all baked goods as if they were donuts and you'll teach your kids how to fit them into their diet in the right way. 

Kids who eat muffins more often than they should become adults who do the same—unless they retrain their habits later in life.

 ~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~