Free Resource Sheets to Teach Healthy Eating Habits


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Entries in Habits (90)


Healthy Snacks for Kids: Bars vs Cookies

In the spirit of Eat This, Not That!, I've done a series of posts over the years pitting foods against each other.

But rather than assess the nutrition, I compare how different foods influence habits. Here I discuss bars and cookies.

source: yacobchuk1 /depositphotos.comFrom a Habits Perspective, if a bar seems like a cookie, then it is a cookie. And so...

  • If you wouldn't give your kids cookies every day, then don't give them bars every day. 
  • And if you give your kids a bar one day, don't give them cookies that same day.

Think of this as the if-it-quacks-like-a-duck argument. This is especially true when toddlers are just learning to eat right. 

From a habits perspective, bars and cookies are equivalents.

The only key difference between a bar and a cookie is that people don't generally polish off a box of bars, but a box of cookies? So, from this angle, and pretty much only this angle, bars beat cookies. (Though I do admit, this is a pretty big advantage!)

From a nutrition perspective, many cookies and bars are also equivalents.

Yes, some bars are healthier than others. And I'm sure you're home made bars certain are. But in general, cookies and bars are essentially equivalent.

For instance, compared to a Kashi Soft-Baked Ripe Strawberry cereal bar, a Kashi Soft-Baked Oatmeal Raisin Flax cookie has fewer calories, less sugar and the same amount of protein. The cookie even has one extra gram of whole grains.

Yes, I cherry-picked, but only to get two products that are kind of middle-of-the-road. But the nutrition argument is essentially splitting hairs. I guarantee that for every super-healthy bar out there we could find a cookie equivalent.

In the January/February issue of their Nutrition Action Healthletter, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, rated bars: nut, protein, granola...

"Let's be clear. Even the best bars don't hold a candle to fresh fruit, vegetables, plain Greek yogurt, or a handful of unadorned nuts. (That's why we awarded no Best Bites, just Better Bites.) If none of those will do, a bar could work in a pinch. But are you getting a decent snack or a glorified cookie?"

If you want to read CSPI's nutrition comparisons of all the major bars, consider subscribing to their healthletter. It's a wonderful resource.

In the meantime, make sure you "use" baked goods as if they're cookies.

Sweet beverages as if they're soda. Muffins as if they're donuts. Pretzels as if they're chips. I think you get my point.

And for fruits and vegetables, plain yogurt, etc. for most snacks!

And now, check out these other posts. 

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


Some Thoughts on How to Actually Change Feeding Strategies

As dissatisfied as many parents are with the way their toddlers (or even older kids) eat, the thought of changing strategies can be daunting.

I'd go so far as to say it might even be paralizing. Here are the 6 steps you need to implement in order to achieve the change you desire.

Remember, success comes when you adopt the Habits Approach — or catch the habitude! Eating isn't really about nutrition, it's about shaping behaviors.

1. Recognize that what you're doing works—at least in some way. 

Yes, the way you and your kids interact around food may not be moving your kids towards new foods or a healthier diet...but it does something positive for youThe quesion is, what? For most parents, the answer is straightforward: It gets the job done! In other words, you feed the kids the way you do because it prevents hunger, prevents conflict, enables you to use food to express love...the list goes on. Read What's It to You?,  What's Holding You Hostage, Soccer Mom Syndrome, and, for my own confession on this topic, Cookie Love.

2. Prioritize problems. 

Trying to tackle too much change at once is a recipe for disaster. Remember, this is a system that's giving you some stability. Make a list of everything you want to change. Then, recognize that many problems (your child won't try vegetables) harbor other problems (your child won't try new foods).

Then, prioritize which problem you will tackle first. There's usually a logical sequence. For instance, it makes sense that you have to teach your child how to be more comfortable trying new foods before you can get her to eat more vegetables.

Read Baby Steps and the Step-by-Step Guide to Introducing New Foods series.

3. Gather strategic ideas.

Watch how other parents handle similar situations. Get expert advice, i.e. read It's Not About the Broccoli!. Don't compare as a way to bring yourself down. Instead, consider how/why other strategies work.

Then, try some strategies on for size—but only in your mind. This mental exercise will give you valuable information about whether a strategy has potential to work for you. Not all will. And that's OK. Some parents can let their kids go to bed hungry but others can't. If you pick a strategy that goes seriously against the grain, it won't work. 

4. Plan a course of action.

I can't stress this enough. Make sure you know what you are going to do—the Happy Bite or the Rotation Rule,—for instance. And then, make sure you know what you are going to do when your child won't play along. Here are a few ideas. And here are some more.

5. Stay positive.

Don't let the naysayers into your head. This can happen in lots of different ways. The most common? All kids eat this way. You just have to wait it out. 

Yes, all kids go through developmental stages. No, you don't have to just wait it out. Read Parenting Myth: It's Good to Treat All Your Kids the Same Way. Actually, It's Not.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


Quit These 10 Crippling Parenting Habits Before Your Child Turns 2

Research shows that many kids have their healthiest eating habits before age 2. And it makes sense. During the weaning phase, parents feed their kids primarily fruits and vegetables...not chicken nuggets!

Enter Toddler Kingdom and the world gets turned upside down. Toddlers are notoriously difficult eaters.

It's time to adopt the right habitude. (Like that word?)

If you don't change how you parent around food, you can't change how your kids eat. Keep doing the same thing and you'll continue to get the same results.

Source: iqoncept /depositphotos.com10 Crippling Parenting Habits

1) Habit: Making your kids eat the last bite. Lesson: Other people know how much you ought to eat. It's important to be full when you eat dessert.

2) Habit: Following your toddler around with a spoonful of food. Lesson: There is no need to eat at the table - or stop playing.

3) Habit: Letting your child eat straight out of the bag. Lesson: Overeating. Research shows people (and kids are people) systematically eat more than they ought to when they eat straight out of a big bag.

4) Habit: Feeding the same food every day. Lesson: It's normal to eat a monotonous, not varied, diet.

5) Habit: Thinking juice is healthy. Lesson: Sweet beverages rock! Research shows juice turns into soda as kids grow up.

6) Habit: Bribing kids to eat their vegetables. Lesson: Veggies must really be awful.

7) Habit: Pushing milk. Lesson: If you don't like the food, there's always milk. My parents will do whatever I want if they think I won't drink milk.

8) Habit: Keeping ingredients a secret. Lesson: Healthy foods are "bad." Mom and Dad can't be trusted.

9) Habit: Making your child eat the meal before dessert. Lesson: Dessert is more desirable. Dessert has power.

10) Habit: Fixing a booboo with food. Lesson: Food soothes the soul.

Which one of these crippling habits will you work on changing?


 ~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~