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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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 (28)

Tuesday
Dec162014

Healthy Eating Holiday Food Rules: Why You've Got to Have Them!

This holiday season, do your kids a favor. Set some rules.

Then trust your kids to work out the details.

Even young kids can do this. (And if yours can't...ask yourself, how are they ever going to learn?)

It's the only way to teach your kids the right habits for a lifetime of holiday eating.

New research confirms:

  1. Children as young as two can (and must!) learn to self-regulate.
  2. Even children who can self regulate need their parents to set some rules about food/eating.

And here's the kicker: knowing how to self-regulate isn't enough. Kids also need those rules.

Here's what the study found:

  • Preschoolers who were able to self-regulate at 2 had healthy eating habits by the time they were 4, so long as their parents also set rules about the right types of foods to eat.
  • On the other hand, self-regulation by itself, without parental food rules, made little difference in childrens' later eating habits.

Soda is a particular problem.

The researchers are quoted as saying:

  • "We found that preschoolers whose parents had no food rules drink soda about 25 percent more than children whose parents had food rules."
  • "We found that soda is pretty attractive to preschoolers, but soda cannot kill their hunger. It doesn't fill them up."

This study, conducted by researchers at the University at Buffalo, analyzed data for 8,850 children that were originally collected as part of a larger study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education.

Read more about the study here.

Some things you need to know: 

  • In this study, self-regulation at age 2=parental assessment of the child's ability to wait for something as well as general of irritability, fussiness and whimpering. There might be other, and even better measures of self-regulation. The point here, though, is that self-regulation isn't tied specifically to food and it still matters.
  • There is mounting evidence that parenting style matters. And the parenting style here is called authoritative. It's a blend of structure and warmth/compassion.

Parenting style matters so much that focusing on parenting style alone can improve how your kids eat.

Read more about the importance of parenting styles here.

On the other hand, just implementing rules probably won't work. That parenting style is called authoritarian and it has been shown to produce a few problems.

Think rules plus choices. Or rules plus autonomy. Or rules plus trust.

The rules you set for consumption should focus on the habits you want your kids to learn.

And the good news is that there are only 3 habits that translate everything you need to know about nutrition into behavior. They're easy for kids to learn too.

  • Proportion: We eat really healthy foods the most. (And by really healthy I don't mean chicken nuggets.) 
  • Variety: We eat different foods from meal-to-meal and from day-to-day.
  • Moderation: We eat when we're hungry, and stop when we're full. And we don't eat because we're bored, sad or lonely.

Here are some rules you might consider to get you through the holidays:

  • On days when there are no parties, there are no treats. (Discuss this as the principle of proportion.)
  • When you're at a party, you can eat whatever you want, but it's always better to eat the treats you love, rather than the treats that happen to be available. (You'll have to tell your kids what foods are going to be available and when.) OR...
  • You can have X number of treats at the party. You choose which ones and when you'll have them.
  • Pay attention to your tummy. (Discuss this in terms of hunger/fullness...i.e. moderation.)

For more on this topic, read Healthy Eating for the Holidays.

Happy Holidays!!!

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

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.