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

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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 Junk Foods (26)


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.


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.~


Kid Eats Q&A: My Child is Preoccupied with Treats

Ever heard the advice that treats should be a sometimes food?

Of course you have. When it comes to nutrition advice, eating treats occasionally—or sometimes—is the mantra.

I've even offered this advice myself when discussing the principle of proportion. Read Have Your Cake and Eat it Too!

But what if telling your kids that treats are a sometimes food is a strategy that can backfire?

That's what happened to Nicole. She writes about her 4 year old daughter, "She is always asking, When can I have this? And, Can I have more of this?"

Nicole's daughter asks so frequently that Nicole has even begun to wonder if her daughter is food obsessed. I don't think so, and that's what I told Nicole. I think her daughter is suffering from the ambiguity of sometimes.

Sometimes seems arbitrary to kids.

If you never know when sometimes will be, it helps to ask about it...a lot. For more on this read You Can't Make Me Eat It!

Structure is the antidote to arbitrary.

I advised Nicole to decide what sometimes means. Can her daughter have a treat once a day? Three times per week? Once a week?

Read A Cookie a Day...

Sharing control is the way to eliminate control struggle.

Next I advised Nicole to give her daughter control over when she eats her sweets and treats. Read Lollypops whenever they want?

Then, use real life to teach the concept of sometimes.

Stick to the rule...but not so strictly that the rule becomes an issue. 

Scenario 1: You have a birthday party coming up so you work with your daughter to plan for that even and to incorporate on of her treat moments into the party. 

  • Now you're at the party. Normally your daughter gets one treat but there is candy, ice cream and cake. Instead of trying to limit her to one of these, I would "bend" the rule and allow her to have what she wants—knowing this will push her over her normal allotment.
  • After the party, talk to your daughter about how many treats were at the party and tie it into the planning you and she do so that the lesson to plan for sweets and treats begins to take hold.

Scenario 2: Your daughter has already had her 3 treats for the week adn you end up at a playdate and everyone is eating cookies. What do you do? Tell your daughter she can't have any cookies? No!

  • Whisper in her ear that you know she's already had her treats but that she can have a cookie if she wants one (or even two).
  • Then, sometime later, talk about unplanned events, how often they occur, and why that's a reason not to eat sweets and treats every day. You're planning for sometimes!

Think your child is too young to have this kind of conversation?

Let's evesdrop on Nicole and her daughter talking in the car on the way to the store:

  • Nicole's Daughter: Can I have a cookie from Harris Teeter?
  • Nicole: Sure.
  • Nicole's Daughter: Can I have one or two?
  • Nicole: How many do you think you should have?
  • Nicole's Daughter: Probably one.
  • Nicole: OK.


  • Nicole's Daughter: If I have that cookie then I can't have ice cream tonight.
  • Nicole: Why?
  • Nicole's Daughter: Well because I already had the cookie.
  • Nicole: Right, one treat is enough.

For more on this topic read Help! My Kid is Food Obsessed! 

It's something to think about. It might even be something to read about!

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

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~