Free Resource Sheets to Teach Healthy Eating Habits


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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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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 

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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.~


When Should You Feed Your Kids Exactly What They Want?

You've probably heard, even from me, that you shouldn't let your kids dictate what they eat. Don't be a short-order chef!!!

While that sounds simple, teaching kids to eat right isn't! And, there are always exceptions to every rule!

© illustrart/DepositPhotosIf you're unsure about whether or not to give in to your toddler's feeding demands, here's what you need to consider before making your decision. 

When to Say Yes to Your Child's Food Requests (Demands?)

1) Your child is generally a good eater and she just has a hankerin' for something.

2) Grandma likes to indulge your child and she only visits occasionally.

3) It's the holidays and some other special event.

4) You share menu planning in your house, kind of like a round robin.

5) You're taking the week "off" from introducing new foods to reduce pressure at meal times. Read more about hitting the "reset" button on interactions around new foods.

When to Say No to Your Child's Food Requests (Demands?)

If the time doesn't align with one of the "When to say yes" pointers, ask yourself these questions:

1) Is making food demands a nighly occurrence?

2) Will giving in to your child help her learn something positive, such as her cravings are taken into account from time-to-time? Or, will it teach your child that food is a viable area to exert control?

3) Will giving in to your child's demands cause too much overload for the cook? If so, the answer is a definite, "no."

4) Has your child been narrowing his palate lately? If so, then meeting his "demands" will only exacerbate the problem. Consider implementing the Rotation Rule instead. 

5) Are siblings copying this demanding behavior?

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


My Kid is a Super Eater at School but Not at Home

I'm always glad when parents tell me their children are adventurous eaters at school but not at home.

OK, maybe we're not talking adventurous. Maybe your kids are just willing to try something when it is presented by the teacher...or the nanny...or the grandparents...or...well, anyone but you.

It's frustrating. But it can also be a cause for celebration.

When children are willing to eat for someone else, it means:

  • There is no oral-motor issue to resolve.
  • No extreme sensory sensitivites.
  • No medical condition.
  • No psychological condition.
When a child eats one way with one person and another way with another person you're dealing with a plain old, garden variety, control struggle.

You can never win a control struggle by out-controlling your kid.

You might think you've won a control struggle -- your child will eat another bite of broccoli in order to get to the pie - -but this is a false'll have to use the big guns again tomorrow. Read Wheelin' and Dealin': 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Trade Peas for Pie.

Control struggles often look like a game of catch: first I have the ball (control) and then you have the ball (control). We need a new model: shared control.

It doesn't mean the solution will be easy. It does mean that the path is clear.

Here is my 6 Step Plan for Turning Super School Eaters into Super Home Eaters.

This plan is authoritative parenting in action. It combines structure with warmth and compassion. It also teaches the three eating habits: proportion, variety, moderation. 

1. Discuss the situation with your child, in a non-threatening, non-accusatory, non-pressure way: "I have noticed that you are willing to eat mashed potatoes at school but you don't want to eat mashed potatoes at home. Can you tell me why?

2. Don't try to reason with your child. Don't try to talk your child out of eating this way. Don't try to talk your child into eating another way. When kids eat this way, they're not operating with their rational brain. Anything you say to "argue" your point will be met with resistence.

3. Implement the Rotation Rule and the Eating Zones Rule at home.

  • The Rotation Rule, not serving the same food two days in a row, will set a foundation for new food acceptance. It will also provide structure for making eating decisions that go beyond, "This is what I want to eat right now." The Rotation Rule makes eating decisions predictable, not arbitrary, and that cuts down on the fighting.

   If you aren't familiar with the Rotation Rule, read End Picky Eating with the Rotation Rule.

  • The Eating Zones Rule sets a structure for when food is available and when food is not available. This helps children learn the natural consequences of not eating -- they get hungry -- and that they can live with temporary hunger. Both are extremely valuable lessons for kids to learn. The Eating Zones Rule will help YOU remember that a meal or snack is always around the corner. 

   If you aren't familiar with the Eating Zones Rule, read Hunger vs. Appetite.

4. Turn your picky eater into a Food Critic. Explore the sensory properties of food with no expectation that your child will eat food that is being sampled. Read: Unleash Your Toddler's Inner Food Critic.

5. Start serving whatever you want at meals. But be nice, make sure there is always something familiar on the table.  

  • Make sure you rotate through familair foods. In other words, don't put bread on the table every day.
  • Don't make the familiar food a favorite food, such as pasta, except occasionally.
  • It's OK if the familiar food is boring, such as broccoli and/or rice.
  • Consider using a backup. Read How Cottage Cheese Changed My Life.

6. Keep the conversation going. Authoritative parenting combines structure and warmth/compassion. It is a model of shared control, that's all about teaching.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~