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 (15)

Wednesday
Jun182014

Three Ways to Get the Most Out of Breakfast

Yes, breakfast is important nutritionally, but it is also the biggest missed opportunity for teaching your kids to eat right.

You’ve heard the nutrition news a zillion times before: kids need to eat breakfast.  It makes them healthier and better students at school.  (Though I’m not sure kids need the chocolate chip pancakes at IHOP which come in at over 600 calories, or the flapjacks at your local diner which are probably just as fantastic.)

But you probably haven't thought about breakfast from the habits perspective.

Used correctly, breakfast can teach kids to eat new foods.   Used incorrectly... well, you probably know what happens.

Here are three ways to get the most out of breakfast:

1) Use breakfast to get kids used to the idea that they eat different foods on different days and they’ll be more open to new foods.

Most parents settle on the same 1 or 2 things to feed kids in the morning.  It’s a busy time, and we want our kids to eat breakfast (after all, we know how important this meal is).

But feeding kids the same stuff all the time gets them used to eating the same stuff all the time.  No wonder they balk when different stuff comes around - even if different comes later in the day.

Read Make "New” Work For You.

Tip 1: Rotate the breakfast foods you serve.  You don’t need to introduce foods your kids have never eaten.  Simply establish the procedure of not serving the same food two days in a row.  If you must serve cereal every day, at least switch up the brands and the flavors.

2) Use breakfast to expand the taste, texture, appearance, aroma and temperature of foods your kids will eat and they’ll be more open to new foods.

Most parents think they are providing a variety of foods, but they’re not. Breakfast foods tend to all have basically the same taste, texture, aroma, appearance and temperature. 

Toast, cereal, bagels, muffins, French toast, pancakes … they’re all relatively bland, bready products.  Some offer a little more sweet, or a little more crunch, but the variation is minimal.  That’s because the main ingredient is the same: refined flour.

Read The Ingredients Game.

Tip 2: Pay attention to which tastes your kids gravitate towards and then slowly introduce them to other flavors.  Do the same thing with texture (do they only like crunchy?), appearances (are they white or beige eaters?), aromas and temperatures.

Read The Variety Masquerade.

3) Use breakfast to reduce your kids’ dependence on sweet and fat-laden foods and they’ll be more open to new foods.

A lot of what we feed our kids in the morning fosters eating habits that run counter to the healthy stuff we’re always begging them to eat.

Do our kids really need to develop a lifelong taste preference for butter, cream cheese, and sugar?  Not if you want them to eat broccoli.

Tip 3: Teach your children that …

  • Butter is an ingredient in food, not a topping on food.  Yes, it’s yummy but it’s also 100% fat, and nothing else. Get your kids in the habit of eating toast topped with peanut butter, cottage cheese, hummus, guacomole... anything but butter. 
  • Cream cheese is a treat, not a staple. According to the USDA cream cheese doesn’t fulfill your kid’s daily dairy requirement because it doesn’t have enough calcium.  Instead, it’s a fat delivery system - thinkcream cheese - that packs in 100 calories per ounce. Most people slather on at least 2 ounces. Read about USDA Milk Group.
  • “Children’s cereals” – which have up to 85% more sugar than those marketed to adults -- are treat snacks, not breakfast foods.  Maybe this is one reason most kids have such a sweet tooth! Read A Spoonful of Sugar? 
  • Syrup.  Is there really any point?  Think Coke without the bubbles.  Ounce for ounce Aunt Jemima’s syrup has 5 times as much sugar as Coke.  (Coke has 3.3g sugar per ounce; the syrup has 16g per ounce. A point of reference: those little packets of syrup served at fast food joints are approximately 2 ounces.) Teach your kids to enjoy pancakes with jelly, fresh fruit or -- here's a radical idea -- plain naked (then they'll know what pancakes really taste like).

When it comes to teaching kids to eat new foods every meal counts, especially breakfast.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~

=======================================================

Source: Zinczenko, D. and M. Goulding, 2008. Eat This Not That for Kids. New York, NY: Rodale. p. 74; product labels.

Monday
Jun162014

5 Easy Ways to Mix-It Up: The Rotation Rule in Action

The Rotation Rule—switching what you serve from day-to-day— lays the foundation for introducing new foods.

I write about this all the time (so, sorry if you're sick of it) because it's crucial. Kids who get used to eating different foods are more open to eating new foods.

Still, many people find it very hard to mix-it up. That's why I was glad to receive this question from Emily. Emily writes: 

You often mention the importance of switching things up. But could you possibly provide some ideas on *how* to do so in the midst of a packed schedule? Part of the reason why my son eats a lot of the same foods is because I only have so much time to make a meal or a snack. How can busy parents find the time to shake up the food rotation?

I get it. Lots of people are too exhausted (both physically and mentally) to put more effort into meals. I, myself, confessed to suffering from this situation in When You're Too Tired to Cook...

Here are 5 ideas to make mixing it up easy to do.

1) The Simple Rotation

Make a list of what your children eat for meals and snacks. Then, develop menus by alternating what you serve. Don't strive to provide radically different meals. The idea is to create a structure of change. 

  • Day 1: Eggs Day 2: Waffles Day 3: Cereal
  • Day 1: Eggs Day 2: Waffles Day 3: Eggs

2) Borrowed Foods: Foods your children eat for different meals and snacks.

Make a list of all the foods your children currently eat on a regular basis. Then mix up when you serve stuff. 

You don’t have to stick to breakfast foods for breakfast, lunch foods for lunch and/or dinner foods for dinner. And you certainly don’t have to stick to snack foods for snacks—any food can fit this category. Make a list of foods your children happily eat at other times and consider using them to fix your Food Ruts. Everyone enjoys pancakes for dinner, but you can also consider carrot sticks and dip at breakfast or chicken and broccoli for snack. Anything goes! 

Read Falafel for Breakfast.

2) Forgotten Foods: Foods your children used to eat but which they now refuse.

Parents often take food refusals more seriously than their children do. Don't assume that once rejected is always rejected. 

Read The Easy Way to Solve Your Toddler's Decision to Suddenly Refuse Certain Foods. 

3) Planned-for Foods: Foods your children would willingly eat but which take a little planning to use on a regular basis.

Muffins, omelets, blintzes, and lasagna for instance, all can be refrigerated or frozen for use during the week.

4) Invented Foods: Old favorites you can dish up in new combinations.

For instance, does your child like cottage cheese, bananas and jelly? Put them together and make a breakfast banana split.

5) Get your kids involved

Let your children tell you how they experience foods they eat. Then, get them to help you figure out how to mix up tastes, textures, etc.

If your children are extremely attached to one food...

Consider varying the flavor, the texture, or the brand. As your child's palate expands you'll be able to reduce your dependency on this one food.

When your children ask for a Food Rut two days in a row...

Remind them you will honor their request the following day. This way your kids won't think their favorite food is out of the rotation forever.

Remember to tell your children before you make any changes.

A simple statement should do it, "Tomorrow we are going to start eating different things on different days because that's the healthiest way to eat. Don't worry, I'm not going to ask you to eat anything new."

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Tuesday
Jan282014

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.~