Free Resource Sheets to Teach Healthy Eating Habits


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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 Drinks (7)


Training Kids for the Big Swig: What Bloomberg Knows About Teaching Kids to Eat Right

Whatever you think about New York City Mayor's Michael Bloomberg's plan to ban the sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces, I just want to say this: Its heart is in the right place.

I’m going to sidestep the main debate here: Whether it is right, ethical and/or desirable to allow the government to regulate our drink consumption.  

Photo: NY Times. Click on the photo to read article

But this I know: When we make it easier for people to eat right, they eat right. When we make it easier for people to eat wrong, they eat wrong.  

It's time to start making it easier for people to do the right thing.

And if you really need more than 16 ounces of soda there are easy ways to get it. (Buy two drinks, get a refill, go to the grocery store.)

There is incontrovertible empirical evidence that...

  1. The bigger the serving size, the more people consume.  Read Size Matters.
  2. When portion sizes grow, the amount people consider "normal" to eat grows too.  BIG becomes habitual. Read How Big is That Bag?

And get this: Research shows that people consume more food when it's convenient. Within arms reach convenient.  Have to walk a few feet across the room? Forget about it. Consumption goes down.

What kind of eating environment are you creating at home?

Are you inadvertently imitating the obesogenic eating environment of the world around you? Or are you creating something a little more sensible?

Do the sippy cup check.  Do your children tote around 12 ounce sippy cups?

Filled with apple juice, that cup delivers almost 200 calories and 40 grams of sugar. And it teaches your kids to swig big.

It's pretty good training, too, for needing that 32-ouncer later in life.

Here are some things you can do to shape change what, and how much your kids eat.

  • Use small plates and cups.
  • Keep fruits and vegetables visible to your toddler, and within easy reach.
  • Keep sweets and treats out of sight and hard to reach.
  • When you let your kids snack on the go, carry fruits and vegetables. Have your kids sit at the table to eat sweets and treats.
  • Use big sippy cups only for water.  Use small sippy cups for everything else (even if you dilute the juice).
  • Allow sippy cup refills, but make your kids go to the kitchen to top up. (A little work goes a long way.)
  • Read Water vs. Punch and Soda.

All too often parents act as if there is a protected period of time when it doesn't matter what we teach our kids about how to eat.

There is not.

Parents can learn a few things from Bloomberg's plan.  

Make bad eating harder, and good eating easier, even by a fraction, and you'll be setting your kids up for a lifetime of healthier eating.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


Privitera, G. J. and H. E. Creary. 2012. “Proximity and Visibility of Fruits and Vegetables Influence Intake in a Kitchen Setting Among College Students.” Environment and Behavior Forthcoming. Published online before print April 17, 2012:

Wansink, B., 2006. Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. New York: Bantam Books.


The (Chocolate) Milk Mistake

If you give your kids chocolate milk to get them to drink milk you would be better off giving them a glass of plain milk and a Dunkin' Donuts Chocolate Frosted Donut.

The total sugar intake would be slightly lower (although a few grams more or less hardly makes a difference).

  • One cup of lowfat chocolate milk has around 28g of sugar (depending upon the brand).
  • One glass of plain, lowfat milk has 12g of sugar.  Add a Dunkin Donuts Chocolate Frosted Donut (13g) for a total of 25g

 More importantly, the milk and donut option will teach your kids 2 important lessons:

  1. What real milk tastes like.
  2. That the sweet part -- the donut -- is a treat.

In contrast, chocolate milk teaches kids that: 

  1. Plain stuff isn't tasty, but chocolate certainly is.
  2. Somehow, mixing milk with chocolate negates the chocolate, rendering the whole drink healthy. 

Chocolate milk should be an occasional treat, not a daily (or even weekly) staple.

I know what you’re saying: Some of the sugar in chocolate milk comes from the milk itself.

But that just drives home the point that milk is already sweet.  Why sweeten it even more?

And: You're worried about your children’s calcium intake.

There’s really no need to worry.   Kids 1-3 only need about 500mg of calcium per day.  That can be fulfilled in lots of ways:

  • 2 cups of milk
  • a cup of milk and some cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup of milk and 1 container of YoBaby Organic Whole Milk Yogurt.  (Want to sweeten the yogurt up? Read The Magic of Yogurt for ideas.)

There is also calcium in spinach, tofu, salmon, pudding, ice cream and a myriad of fortified cereals and juices. Read the National Institute of Health’s Calcium Fact Sheet.

Ironically, giving your kids chocolate milk on a regular basis because you're worried about their calcium intake will ultimately reduce their calcium intake. Training tiny taste buds to prefer sweet foods reduces the range of foods your kids will eat, thereby reducing the sources of calcium (other than chocolate milk) that they consume.

Just how sweet is chocolate milk?  Compared to the 28g of sugar in one cup of chocolate milk…

  • One Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar = 24g of sugar.
  • One serving of Cocoa Krispies has 12g of sugar.
  • Entenmann’s Softees Powdered Donuts = 26g of sugar.
  • One Dairy Queen Child’s Chocolate Cone = 17g of sugar.
  • One Dairy Queen Child’s Chocolate Cone with Rainbow Sprinkles = 22g of sugar.
  • One Dairy Queen Child’s Chocolate Cone with Oreo Pieces = 28g of sugar.
  • An apple fritter at Starbucks = 27g of sugar.
  • One 12-ounce can of 7UP = 25g of sugar. 
  • 6 Oreo Cookies = 28g of sugar.
  • 1 large Pepperidge Farm Soft Baked Chocolate Chunk Dark Chocolate Brownie = 13g of sugar. 

Of course, if you give your children the 16-ounce bottle of Nesquik chocolate milk (58g of sugar) -- which your tot will probably drain since research shows that the container size determines consumption-- you might as well give your kids a McDonald's Hot Caramel Sundae: it has only 44g of sugar.

The fallacy of using the nutrition model to feed kids is that it encourages something I call Selective Attention and the Feel Better Approach: we focus on the dimension of food that makes us feel better (in this case the calcium) and overlook the dimension we would rather ignore (the sugar).

Unfortunately, good eating habits can't be shaped that way because it's the desirable, not the nutritious, aspect of food which shapes how our kids really eat.

Chocolate begets more chocolate; it never leads to carrots. Or spinach. Or tofu -- unless it's Tofutti Chocolate Supreme (with 8g of sugar per 1/2 cup).

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~

For more on chocolate milk read Chocolate Milk vs. Chocolate Bars: The 10 Most "Dangerous" Foods.


All websites accessed 7/27/10 


The 10 Most "Dangerous" Foods

I want to be clear: the items on this list aren't dangerous in the sense that they are poisonous.

source: Andreus /depositphotos.comBut they are dangerous in the sense that they poison your children's eating habits. In other words, they're a ticking time-bomb!

Danger #1: Regularly eating any of these items will constrict rather than expand the range of foods your children will accept.

Nothing on the list looks, smells, tastes or feels like any of the new foods you're always coaxing your kids to eat. This matters because kids eat foods with sensory properties they're used to.  Instead of introducing new tastes and textures, the foods on this list reinforce the ones your kids already enjoy.  They're all...

  • Bland or Sweet
  • Liquid/non-chewable goo or Chewy/Crunchy

Danger #2: These foods all point your children's taste buds in the direction of the junk you're trying to control.

When "healthy" foods mimic junk they encourage your children to eat more junk. For instance...

  • Chocolate milk has more sugar than some chocolate bars and drinking it regularly teaches kids to like chocolate, not milk.
  • Oatmeal breakfast bars taste more like cookies than oatmeal (and are usually less nutritious than oatmeal cookies). 

Danger #3: These foods trick YOU into teaching your kids these foods are healthy.

These items seem to pass nutritional muster -- if barely -- and because you've got your eyes on monitoring vegetables and junk, these items slip right by.  

Even worse, because these foods (and I use the term loosely) seem "good enough" (even though they're really not) they fill in for healthier fare, and that's what we teach our kids. Who hasn't made their kids finish their mac & cheese, their pizza, or their bagel (because it's the "good" stuff) before moving on to dessert?

"Dangerous" Foods can be used safely, they just have to be used sparingly.

  • Be Unpredictable: Make sure there's a gap of at least one day between "uses" so your kids don't expect these items as daily fare.
  • Be Selective: Don't use more than 1 or 2 items from the list on any one day.
  • Be Choosy: Consider these items as stand-ins for junk (even if they're healthier) and then let your kids choose between these foods and the junk they clamor for. Make it sweet yogurt or ice cream, chocolate milk or cookies...

10 Most "Dangerous" Foods (in no particular order):

1) Cheese Read What's the Problem with Cheese?

2) Sweet Yogurt Read Yogurt vs. Coke

3) "Healthy" crunchy snacks like veggie chips, pretzels or Goldfish crackers. Read Goldfish vs. Bunnies and Potato Chips Win Again!

4) Bagel and Cream Cheese Read The Snacking Minefield and Manna from Heaven.

5) Granola or Breakfast Bars Read Cookies for Breakfast?!

6) Chocolate Milk Read Chocolate Milk vs. Chocolate Bars and Chocolate-Flavored Formula Rocks!

7) Juice Read Training Tiny Taste Buds

8) Sports Drinks Read Soccer Moms, BEWARE!

9) Pizza Read Pizza and Peas: The Untold Story.

10) Macaroni & Cheese Read Mac & Cheese Scores Again!

You may have a slightly different group of dangerous foods, but if you're having trouble getting your kids to eat something exotic (like tuna, tomatoes or turnips) evaluate the foods you feed them on a regular basis.

And then start mixing it up. Read House Building 101.

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~