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 Moderation (21)


The New Happy Meal Scores a Win, Research Shows

The changes McDonald's has made to the Happy Meal are a win.

Unlike most of the buzz on the internet, I was in favor of the changes McDonald's made to the Happy Meal: smaller fries, including apple slices as a side, advertising milk as the drink of choice instead of soda. Read Why I'm Not So Unhappy About the New Happy Meal.

Now, research shows these changes have been successful: 

  • Kids consume an average of almost 19% fewer calories
  • More meals have milk than ever before.

Does McDonald's have a long way to go before their food is really healthy? Sure. But from a habits perspective these changes are great.

The new Happy Meal teaches the right habits.

  • A serving of french fries that is 56% smaller gets kids used to seeing child-sized french fries. That teaches great portion control.
  • Automatically providing apple slices—without the caramel topping, by the way—gets kids used to the idea that fruit is the go-to side dish. Read How Do You Like Them Apples? for my take on caramel dipping sauce.
  • Advertising milk instead of soda downplays the desirability of soda.

It's easy to vilify McDonald's and other fast food restaurants.

But the truth is that children eat more of their junk at home. Read Home Meals as Bad as Fast Food, Research Says.

And, as this research shows, kids can eat their favorite foods, learn the right habits and still cut calories. 

Personally, I'm in favor of teaching children proportion—to eat really healthy foods most frequently—rather than totally restricting unhealthy foods.

It doesn't matter what your kids eat. What matters is how often they eat it. 

Total restriction backfires by making the forbidden food more desirable.

I'm also in favor of teaching kids moderation: eating the right amount.

The changes McDonald's has made to the Happy Meal points kids in the right direction.

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.~

Source:Wansink, B. and A. S. Hanks. “Calorie Reductions and Within-Meal Calorie Compensation in Children's Meal Combos.” Obesity Published online 23 Dec 2013.


The Downside of Healthy Eating: Why, Its Not About Nutrition

It's not enough to know what to eat. You have to know how to eat as well.

After being diagnosed with hypothyroidism, health afficionado Jennifer Berman finds out that the kale juice she drinks every morning is a no-no. Writing in The New York Times Berman says:

Kale, which I juiced every morning, tops the list [of foods to avoid], followed by broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels Sprouts and collard greens—the cruciferous vegetables I consumed in large quantities because they are thought to prevent cancer, which runs in my family.

Read Kale? Juicing? Trouble Ahead.

Every morning. Large quantities.

Over-consuming even healthy food has a downside. What you choose to eat is only part of the healthy-eating equation. You have to think about why, when and how much too.

When, why and how much get short-shrift in the current culture of nutrition.

But they shouldn't. Knowing these behaviors is the key to healthy eating habits.

The rest of Berman's healthy diet has a downside for her hypothyroidism too. Also on the list of no-no's?

And flax—as in the seeds—high in omega 3's, that I sprinkled on cereal and blended in strawberry almond milk smoothies. Also forbidden: almonds and strawberries, not to mention soy, peaches, peanuts, corn, radishes, rutabaga and spinach.

I want to be clear, here's what I'm not saying. I'm not saying that:

  • Berman is responsible for her hypothyroidism.
  • Kale and other vegetables are harmful and should be avoided.
  • It's time to run out and buy a box of Twinkies. (Though you might be surprised by what Berman writes about Twinkies at the end of her article!)

Berman writes that her world was rocked further when she went to the dentist. Do you snack on candy and sodas all day long, he asked.

What did he take me for? No, I answered. I don't eat sugar and drink only fresh vegetable juices—no longer kale, of course, but carrot and celery, which I'm still allowed. And filtered water with lemon.

Sounds healthy, no? Like the diet we all aspire to adopt.

"You'd be better off with chocolate and cola," he said. Apparently the natural sugars in fruit and vegetable juices can cause decay, and lemon, though high in vitamin C and bioflavonoids which may prevent cancer, had eroded the enamel that protected my teeth.


What's this got to do with feeding your kids? Spend less time focusing on what your kids eat and more time teaching them how to eat.

Three principles of healthy eating translate nutrition into behavior:

  • Proportion
  • Variety
  • Moderation

This is not giving up!

When your children know how to behave in relation to food (the when, why and how much of eating) they will automatically get the what right too.

Read 10 Habits MORE Important than Vegetable-Eating.

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. It's out tomorrow!!!

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


Food Lists Often Backfire

I love, and I look forward to getting their weekly newsletter. But I hate food lists. And they're all over the place right now. This one landed in my inbox today.

Best Superfoods for Kids.

Nothing on the list will surprise you:Photo:

Eggs, Oatmeal, Fruit, Nuts, Milk, Blueberries, Tofu, Tomatoes, Lowfat Greek Yogurt, Cabbage, Salmon, Cocoa, Black Beans, Basil, Cinnamon.

These are all terrific and healthy foods. So why do I hate foods lists?

Food lists often backfire.

  1. Food lists create pressure and panic. What if you don't serve these foods frequently enough? Or if your kids don't like them? Pressure makes parents do crazy things like bribe, barter and do The Two-More-Bites Tango.
  2. Food lists promote monotony, not variety. For everything that is on the list, something that is equally good and healthy is left off the list. Kidney Beans? Spinach? 

It takes more than good food to create good eating habits.

Enough already. You already know what your kids ought to eat. Besides, it's not just what your kids eat that matters. When, why and how much matter too.

Three behaviors translate nutrition into behavior. 

  1. Proportion
  2. Variety
  3. Moderation

 Teach your kids these three habits and they'll be set for life.

It's a paradox of modern parenting but if you focus on the food, it's easy to (mistakenly) teach bad eating habits. If you focus on teaching good habits, however, good nutrition naturally falls into place.

For more on Food Lists, read Top 10 Healthy Food Lists: Ditch 'Em

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.

I wish everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year. I'm looking forward to spending 2014 with you!

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~