Free Resource Sheets to Teach Healthy Eating Habits


The Podcast

Listen Now!

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

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

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 Growing Foods (5)


Everyone Knows That Healthy Food Tastes Bad

Try this experiment: 

  • Ask your child to taste a new beverage. Say it's healthy.
  • Ask how much your child likes the beverage and whether he would like you to buy it again.

Repeat the procedure a few days later using the same beverage. Only this time, don't say the beverage is healthy. Just say it's new.

Which beverage do you think will get the better rating?

Healthy Doesn't Sell

If you listened to our national dialogue you would think that eaters are rational people, that we make decisions about what to eat based on how healthy it is. Wrong.

People—especially those people known as children— make decisions about what to eat based on how the items taste. And on our habits (or what we're used to eating).

Have you ever noticed that when people talk about healthy food they describe its nutritional value, but when they talk about sweets and treats they talk about how yummy it is?

Imagine giving your kids the Chocolate Cake Look when you bring out a bowl of broccoli!

Telling kids something is good for them kills the mood.

In fact, it's a guaranteed way to make your kids hate whatever you're serving. Read How to Help Your Kids Hate Spinach.

When researchers in England performed the beverage experiment:

  • 55% said they would like their parents to buy the "health" beverage; 85% said they'd like their parents to buy the "new" beverage.
  • 45% predicted their friends would like the "health" beverage; 55% predicted their friends would like the "new" beverage.

(I know this is an old study, but, sadly, it's still as relevant today as it ever was.)

Emphasize taste over health.

Kids aren't the only ones who feel that healthy foods taste bad. Read Junk Food=Yum, Healthy Food=Yuk and see discover one reason why the French have healthier eating habits than we do.

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


 ~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Source: Wardle, J. and G. Huon. 2000. “An Experimental Investigation of the Influence of Health Information on Children's Taste Preferences.” Health Education Research 15 (1): 39-44.


When Should Kids Eat Their Cupcakes?

Here's the scenario: You go to a party. On the buffet table there is a big spread. Lots of real food, and some cupcakes. What do you do?

  • Insist that your kids eat the real food before they eat a cupcake? OR
  • Let them load their plates up with real food and a cupcake? 

That's the scenario Sally at Real Mom Nutrition recently faced. She let her kids each take a cupcake with their meals. Then, Sally didn't monitor the situation when her boys ate their cupcakes first.

Read Sally's post: Let Them Eat Cupcakes.

Parents often tie themselves in knots trying to get their kids to eat their food in a certain order.

This feeds the fight. And it misses the main point. The goal is to teach kids proportion, i.e. to teach them to know how much crap they can consume. 

Here's a favorite post that explains. It doesn't matter when your kids eat their crap; what matters is how much crap they eat.

(If you're not convinced, read Sally's post. It will show how this strategy works in real life.)


Parents are obsessed with the order in which their kids eat food!

Or at least that is what an alien visitor would probably conclude.

  • “Finish your food.  Then you can have dessert.”
  • “Two more bites of broccoli before you eat your brownie.”
  • “If you want some ice cream you have to eat your pizza first.”
  • “No, you may not have candy before breakfast. You have to wait until after lunch.”

But really, it doesn’t matter when your kids eat their crap; what matters is how much crap they eat.

Trying to control when your kids eat their sweets and treats is a losing battle.

As far as I can tell, parents don’t fixate on regulating the order of their kids’ eating because they’re concerned about etiquette. (Although, on some level it is true that we do need to teach our little heathens not to attack dessert first so they’ll pass muster at their first black-tie event, but that’s material for another post.)  

Instead, parents become timekeepers for two reasons:

1) Parents are convinced that without a little incentive their kids would never touch anything green.

2) Parents are trying to convey something about the relative importance of sweets and treats compared to vegetables and other healthy foods: sweets come last because they’re less essential.

Unfortunately, neither goal can be accomplished by holding out on sweets and treats.

Research shows that:

1) Bribing kids to eat broccoli is a surefire way to ruin its reputation — I’m having flashbacks to high school, and it’s not pretty — just as it reinforces the superior status of sweets.  So kids learn that vegetables are important (like chores) but not desirable. This lesson lasts a lifetime.

2) Pressuring kids to eat something (and bribing or controlling the order in which your kids get to eat is indeed a form of pressure) makes kids eat less of the target food. 

Trying to put vegetables and other healthy fare first doesn’t actually work.

Letting your kids control when they eat their sweets and treats isn’t the same thing as giving them a free-for-all. 

You still need to provide some structured guidance.

1) Rather than teach your children that they need to eat healthy foods before they eat their sweets and treats, teach them the about proportion. In other words, teach your kids to eat more healthy foods and lesssweets and treats overall. Read It Doesn’t Matter What Your Kids Eat!

2) Set a daily or weekly limit on sweets and treats and then let your children decide when they get the goodies.  If you’re worried that candy before dinner will ruin your kids’ appetite, make sure the serving size is small.  It won’t just solve your immediate problem; it’s also the right lesson for your kids to learn.  Read Candy with Breakfast?

3) Reinforce the message at parties and other special-eating events where the desserts always look fabulous.  Don’t insist your kids eat the healthy offerings before the desserts. Instead, give your kids some guidance on the goodies, and then direct them to the mains if they’re still hungry. (And make yourself feel better by remembering that at these events the healthy food isn’t usually that healthy anyway.)

4) Consider serving the dessert at the same time as the dinner.

5) Upgrade the quality of your kids’ snacks to include more fruits and vegetables and take the pressure off dinner.  Read 10 Ways Improving Your Kids’ Snacking Will Improve YOUR Life.

Release yourself (and your kids) from the bondage of time.  It will teach your kids the habits they need for a lifetime of healthy eating (and eliminate at least one of the headaches of parenting). Read How Do I Get My Child to Eat More Growing Foods?

For more on this topic read, To Restrict or Not, That is the Question.

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~


How Do I Get My Child to Eat More Growing Foods?

My entry It Doesn’t Matter WHAT Your Kids Eat! was about teaching children to eat foods in proportion to their healthful benefits.  

Thanks to the reader who said, “I understand that non-processed foods are better for all of us, but how can I get my child to eat more of them?”

I hate to say it, but on one level the solution is pretty easy: feed your kids more Growing Foods and that’s what they’ll eat.  Of course, if it were that easy, everyone would be doing it.  So I've listed some more concrete suggestions.  Bear in mind though, that there is a system in place -- involving food and behavior -- and in order to see change you have to alter multiple aspects of the system.

Click to read more ...