It’s getting kids to eat what parents serve that causes so many problems.

Sign up for free parenting support!


Search

The Podcast

Listen Now!


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

Schedule a 30 minute call today Bring Dina to your community Schedule a Professional Development Seminar

Links

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 Junk Foods (27)

Friday
May162014

Stress Taste, Not Health When Talking to Toddlers About Food

The more you push healthy food because it's healthy, the less kids want to eat it.

The message is loud and clear:  If healthy food were good, we'd talk about how good it was. But we don't, we talk about how healthy it is.

This is what I call the Medicalization of the Meal. Ever give broccoli the Chocolate Cake Look? You know what I mean!

Read Junk Food=Yum, Healthy Food=Yuk, 

Here's the theory: We're talking about Experiential Benefits vs Instrumental Benefits.

You can enjoy food because...

  • It's a good experience (i.e. it tastes good). This is called an Experiential Benefit.
  • It is instrumental in advancing another goal. This is called an instrumental Benefit.

Research shows that when people focus on an activity's instrumental benefit, they enjoy it less. 

You might think that you could "sell" healthy food by talking up both its experiential and its instrumental benefits: "Yummmm, this broccoli is so tasty. It's also really good for you!"

But research shows that people believe if something will help them achieve an instrumental benefit, it can't also be effective in achieving a positive experience.

Here's the study.

Three different groups of 4-5 year old preschoolers are told a story during which Tara eats Wheat Thins either because they're healthy, they're tasty, or for no specific reasons.

  • In the healthy condition, "Tara felt strong and healthy, and she had all the energy..." 
  • In the yummy condition, "Tara thought the crackers were yummy, and she was happy..."

The healthy=bad effect happened and we're talking about crackers, not carrots.

After hearing the story, the children were offered a chance to eat Wheat Thins crackers.

  • Children in the "healthy" group ate fewer crackers than children in the "yummy" or the "no-story" group.
  • There was no difference in consumption between the "yummy" and the "no-story" group

The researchers replicated this study with younger children. They also replaced the "healthy" message with other instrumental messages, such as: These carrots will help you learn to read!

And the results were the same: kids don't want to eat food that is instrumental. They want to eat food that is tasty.

(Don't worry, they told the kids afterwards that eating carrots wouldn't help them read!)

What's the takeaway? You are better off saying nothing than saying "it's good for you."

But there's plenty of research that shows that talking about the sensory properties of food is better than saying nothing.

So make sure you keep talking to your kids about food. Just switch what you talk about from health to taste.

For more on how to talk about food, read Teaching Your Way ouf of a Picky Eating Problem with Sensory Education.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Source: Maimaran, M. and A. Fishbach. October 2014. “If It's Useful and You Know it, Do You Eat? Preschoolers Refrain From Instrumental Food.” Journal of Consumer Research. Forthcoming.

Wednesday
Feb262014

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.

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.~