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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Entries in Nutrition (17)


Nutrition By Numbers

How well do you know your nutrition?

If you want to have some fun play the Nutrition by Numbers game that NuVal recently posted on their website.  (Click on Play Game at the bottom of the NuVal home page.)

Don’t be surprised, however, when it turns out that putting 3 products in order from most to least nutritious turns out to be trickier than you thought. I was wrong almost as often as I was right – at first.  (Would YOU know that chocolate soy milk beats out creamed spinach by 30 points?)

Then I remembered, there are only 3 things you need to know about a food to know about its nutritional value: 

  • how processed it is
  • how much fat it contains
  • whether or not it’s loaded up with added sugars

I went back to play another round of Nutrition by Numbers using these criteria and my score improved a lot.

(See It Doesn’t Matter WHAT Your Kids Eat, and It’s Too Simple for more on this topic.)

Here’s a quick cheat-sheet for playing Nutrition By Numbers.

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables always score higher than any processed food.
  • Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables almost always score higher than processed foods.
  • Fruits and veggies trump chicken, meat and fish.
  • Fish trumps chicken and meat.
  • Meat and fish usually trump processed foods.
  • Guessing between 3 processed foods is basically a crapshoot.

Are there exceptions to these rules?  Of course.

  • Old-Fashioned Kettle-Cooked Cape Cod Potato Chips 40% Reduced score 32 (out of 100 for top nutrition) and Birds Eye Carrots and Cranberries only scores 22.
  • Snyders of Hanover Original Tortilla Chips score amazingly well: 31.
  • Del Monte Quality Sweet Bavarian Style Sauerkraut is a nutritional wasteland: 2.

In general, though, fruits and vegetables are your winners.  Even iceberg lettuce (82) beats a pork tenderloin (35). 

Nutrition by Numbers is only necessary when you are considering processed foods. If you stick primarily to fruits, vegetables and low-fat proteins, you can easily go-it-alone.

If you are wondering whether Cap’n Crunch Sweetened Corn & Oat Cereal is a better bet than Wonder Cinnamon Raisin Bread – it is – or whether you should give your kids Annie’s Whole Wheat Bunnies or Nabisco Mini Teddy Grahams (it’s basically a push), then you need Nutrition by Numbers.  There’s no other way to make sense of things.

But if you make processed foods a minimal part of your kids' eating habits, you can disregard the nutrition numbers.

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~


When is a cookie NOT a cookie?

NEVER.  A cookie is always a cookie.  No matter what you do to it

Oh sure, I know you know this.  But parents often say, “well, it’s home made and I used apple juice instead of oil, a banana instead of sugar” as if this somehow changes the status of the cookie.

From a nutrition-perspective that makes sense. Cookies make from healthier ingredients, are indeed healthier.  But from a habits perspective? Don’t trick yourself.  Regularly giving kids cookies, even the healthiest kind, teaches them to eat cookies… regularly.

Now there’s nothing wrong with that.  The question is: what do you want your children to learn about how often to eat cookies? 

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Why feeding kids is not about nutrition - Part 2

At first, the focus on nutrition seems to make sense.  Nutrition, after all, is the science of nourishing our bodies. Surely, the more we know about which foods are most beneficial for promoting growth and sustaining healthy lives the more likely we are to eat them.  Right? And the more we know about the artery-clogging effect of steak, the sodium-spiking result of chips and the girth-expanding consequences of sweets, the more we'll avoid them? Sure!  

That's like saying you can get people to quit smoking simply by educating them about the health effects of cigarettes (like they don't know that already) or by telling them how healthy they would be if only they would quit. OK.  Maybe those strategies work for some people, but the most effective way to get people to stop smoking is to get them to change their habits.  You don't have to know the details about the health damages of smoking to decide to quit, but you do need to know a lot about how to change your behavior before you can become successful.

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