Free Resource Sheets to Teach Healthy Eating Habits


The Podcast

Listen Now!

DINA ROSE, PhD is a sociologist, parent educator and feeding expert empowering parents to raise kids who eat right.

Hire Dina Bring Dina to your community Schedule a Professional Development Seminar


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 

Entries in Cereal (10)


Why I Gave My Daughter Chocolate Cake for Breakfast

I gave my daughter chocolate cake for breakfast this morning and I had some very good reasons!

Reason #1: We broke our Yom Kippur fast last night with a feast, and when we got to the end of the meal my daughter said she wanted some chocolate babka but she was too full.

So I said I'd save it for her.

My message: It is safe for you to forgo the babka tonight because it will be waiting for you whenever you want it.

Have you ever thought about Dessert Insecurity? It's not believing that your piece of the pie will still be there when you're ready for it.

And so we eat dessert, whether or not we want it, and whether or not we're full.

I grew up with a couple of brothers who would devour everything in sight, so I know a thing or two about dessert insecurity.

By the way, I made up the term dessert insecurity, at least as far as I know.

Kids need to know that what is theirs is theirs.

Think of this as Dessert Security.

I highly recommend thinking about Dessert Security anytime you suspect that your kids are eating simply because they need to make sure they get their share of the goodies.

Dessert Security is a useful tool for teaching the habit Moderation. (The other two habits that translate nutrition into behavior are proportion and variety.)

Moderation: Eating when you are hungry, stopping when you are full, and not eating because you are bored, sad or lonely—or worried that your favorite cake will be gone before you get a piece!

This is why I recommend a candy drawer. Read:

In case you're worried about how unhealthy the babka is, it compares pretty well to other common breakfast foods.

Yes it has a lot of sugar, but not more than pancakes with syrup. On the other hand, it has way fewer calories and lots less fat than a bagel with cream cheese. And the babka has as much protein as Honey Nut Cheerios.

By the way, I served the babka with a glass of milk.

Let me be clear: I'm not saying that cake is a healthy breakfast. I am saying that it isn't much worse than some of the standard stuff. You can see the comparisons below.

Most importantly, my daughter knows that cake for breakfast is a treat.

Most kids don't think of marginal breakfast fare as treats. Yes, I'm talking about pancakes, waffles, sugary cereal, muffins or even a bagel with cream cheese.

One serving (1.5 oz) of Green's Babka, Chocolate, Original

  • Calories=160
  • Fat=5g
  • Protein=2g
  • Fiber=1g
  • Sugar=18g

I didn't serve this brand, but the cake I bought didn't have a nutrition facts label.

(For those of you who aren't familiar with chocolate babka, it's kind of like a coffee cake, or a bread, made with sweet yeast dough and, usually, either chocolate or cinnamon. For some funny about babka watch this Seinfeld Episode.)

A plain bagel and cream cheese from a place like Panera Bread:

  • Calories=490
  • Fat=19.5g
  • Protein=13g
  • Fiber=2g
  • Sugar=3g

Honey Nut Cheerios 

  • Calories=110
  • Fat=1.5g
  • Protein=2g
  • Fiber=2g
  • Sugar=9g

Two Eggo Blueberry pancakes without any syrup deliver about 7grams of sugar.  Add the syrup and you’re up in Coke territory.  Two ounces of syrup– I know it sounds like a lot but those small fast food packets contain-- has approximately 32g of sugar. Read Cookies for Breakfast.

My other reasons for dishing up cake for breakfast...

Reason #2: New braces=sore mouth.

Reason #3: The desire to make my daugther happy...but I've confessed before. Read Hot Chocolate to Soothe the Soul. Then read Falafel for Breakfast.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


Television and Junk Advertising

Should you let your children watch television channels that have "junk" advertising?

Many parents say, "no," but I say, "yes."

Yes, I know that children can't tell the difference between advertising and program content. And yes I know that children believe everything they see on television. And yes I know that food manufacturers are after our children. 

  • A recent content analysis of the top 40 food and beverage brand websites found that 63% of the websites contain gaming in which a product is featured. 
  • More than half used cartoon characters or had websites specifically designed for children.

The answer isn't to avoid these channels (unless you don't like the programming content). The answer is to educate your children. Even the young ones.

Tell your children that food manufacturers often lie to children. 

Then, tell your kids that if they hear anything about a particular food they should come check with you to see if it is true.

Say these things often. It filters what your children absorb and shapes what they believe. 

Be proactive: Children believe their parents.

Does this mean I'm letting food manufacturers off the hook?

Not at all. They're after our kids and that is unacceptable.  

Every day on average in the United States, children and teenagers see 12 to 14 food ads on television. And they're not advertising broccoli. (Although there is that one ad for Cuties mandarins, which I love.) 

Read this great New York Times piece How Advertising Targets Our Children. (Thanks Casey for sending me the link.)

Ads most likely to be marketed towards kids are fast foods, sugared cereals, sugary drinks and candy.

To me this makes the problem easier for parents to confront. After all, there's no ambiguity here: these foods are trash and everyone knows it. It's time your kids do too. Read A Spoonful of Sugar?

It's harder to teach children that chicken nuggets are trash, but they are. Read Are Chicken Nuggets Really Chicken? and The 10 Most "Dangerous" Foods.

Having said this, I recognize that emphasizing the need for kids to be educated consumers plays into the hands of food manufacturer.

"We don't have to stop advertising; you have to know what you're buying." So let's work on a shared approach. Work to stop this kind of advertising.

But I hate the way this is discussed, as if parents are (and should be) passive. Educating kids is a caring and reasonable response to a terrible problem.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Source: Henry, H. K. M. and D. L. G. Borzekowski. 2011. “The Nag Factor: a Mixed-Methodology Study in the Us of Young Children's Requests for Advertised Products.” Journal of Children and Media 5(3): 298-317.


A Spoonful of Sugar Part 2

The Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University just released their 2012 report on cereal.

You may remember I wrote about their 2009 findings in A Spoonful of Sugar?  But even if you don't remember, you probably won't be surprised by the new findings.  Compared to cereals advertised to adults, the cereals aimed at kids contain:

  • 56% more sugar
  • 52% less fiber
  • 50% more sodium

Believe it or not, that's an improvement.  Back in 2009 cereals geared to children had 85% more sugar, 65% less fiber and 60% more sodium than cereals targeted to adults. 

There's a lot to be learned from (read: appalled by) reading the report.

For instance, media spending to promote child-targeted cereals totaled $264 million in 2011, an increase of 34% versus 2008.

But that's not what bothers me the most.

What gets me is how cereal manufacturers trade on the healthy image of one cereal to sell you another cereal that's way more inferior.

Let's take Cheerios for instance.

The Rudd Center assigned every cereal a score from 0 (very poor) to 100 (excellent) which takes into account the cereal's entire nutrition profile (and conveniently called the score the Nutrition Profile Index or NPI).  

Regular Cheerios get an NPI of 70.   In contrast:

  • Apple Cinnamon=50
  • Banana Nut=46
  • Chocolate=46
  • Cinnamon Burst=52
  • Frosted=46
  • Fruity=48
  • Honey Nut=46
  • Multigrain=56
  • Multigrain Peanut Butter=48
  • Oat Cluster Crunch=50
  • Yogurt Burst Strawberry=46

You probably don't need Yale to tell you that Chocolate Cheerios aren't all they're cracked up to be, but Honey Nut Cheerios?  Come on General Mills. Most parents I know think of Honey Nut Cheerios as nutritious. But with a score of 46, Honey Nut Cheerios are in the lower half of the range, and right down there with Chocolate Cheerios.  And with Cocoa Puffs (44).  And not too far from Trix (42).

  • Regular Cheerios have 1 gram of sugar per serving.
  • Honey Nut Cheerios have 9 grams of sugar per serving.  That's 2 more teaspoons of sugar.

You don't need Yale to tell you which cereals to buy.  And you don't need to read nutrition labels either.

All you have to do is think about your kids' habits.  Want them to develop more of a hankering for sugar? Go for the sweetened stuff.  Want them to be more receptive to broccoli? Shoot for less sweet flavors instead. Read Why Toddlers Don't Eat Vegetables.

If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck...Anything that tastes like a treat should be used like a treat.

Believe it or not, I'm not against sugary cereals.

Sugary cereals have their place in the diet, but it's usually in the snack drawer. Or in my case, the summer vacation drawer. Read Why I Feed My Daughter Inferior Food

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~