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 Overeating (25)


Should You Sneak Kale into the Thanksgiving Stuffing?

No. Definitely not. Don't sneak kale into the holiday stuffing.

Put it there if you like kale and if it will make the stuffing taste good. But don't put it there to "healthify" the holiday.

Here are two other things you don't have to think about this Thanksgiving:

  1. Making sure you stuff your kids with healthy snacks before the main meal. 
  2. Make sure your kids eat their veggies before they nose-dive into the pie.

Unless you want to risk teaching your kids to overeat. 'Cause really, no one passes up the pie just because they're full.

The pressure to make Thanksgiving healthy is misguided. It's part of a trend towards the medicalization of meals.

I recently saw a video where a Registered Dietician was showing some children how to make tacos that followed the MyPlate guidelines. Everything that went into the tacos was "justified" by its health benefits.

The tomatoes, the RD offered, should go in because—and I don't remember the wording exactly— they were packed with healthy things like vitamins and Lycopene. As an afterthought the RD added something about how great tomatoes taste.

As long as we continue to talk about food in terms of health, and not in terms of taste, we'll never sell the "good" stuff, and we'll keep selling the "good" stuff—if you know what I mean.

I'll write more about the medicalization of meals another time. But it's important to think about this during Thanksgiving because you don't want to put too much pressure on this lovely holiday.

Besides, how valuable is "healthifying" Thanksgiving if you don't teach your kids some healthy holiday habits?

The skills and habits you teach your children about how to handle holiday eating will last a lifetime.  So, what are you going to teach them?

I’d like to suggest:

  • Have fun.
  • Enjoy the food.
  • Don’t throw up.

I’m only partially joking.  An incredibly important holiday survival strategy is learning to indulge without grossly overeating, i.e. without throwing up. 

So much attention is placed on one or two celebratory days.  When really, if you have developed the right eating habits, you should be able to go wild—if that’s what you want—for each and every holiday of the year.

There are three habits that translate nutrition into behavior. 

  • Proportion: Eating healthy food more frequently than mediocre or junky food.
  • Variety: Eating different food over time.
  • Moderation: Only eating when you're hungry, and stopping when you're full (and not eating because you're bored, sad, or lonely). 

During Thanksgiving focus primarily on teaching Proportion and Moderation. (If you want, you can include variety during step 3 below: Bookends.)

Here are three strategies to teach your kids that will serve them well over a lifetime of holiday eating.

  1. Eat What You Want
  2. Pace Yourself
  3. Bookend the Holidays with Healthy Eating

For tips on how to implement these strategies, read Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


The Lying Zone

Should you let your kids stop eating even if you suspect they're not quite full?

Or let them eat if you know they're not hungry?

The surprising answer is yes.

Otherwise, kids just learn to lie.

In most families, there is only one legitimate reason to eat: hunger.

That means if kids want to eat something they have to say they’re hungry, even if they’re not. “That cake looks good; I’m hungry.”

It also means that if they don’t want to eat something kids often have o say they’re not hungry, even if they are. “Those peas look gross; I’m not hungry.” (Sometimes kids also say, “I don’t like it,” to get out of eating.)

I don’t really think of this as lying, per se. Rather, children are working with the tools we give them.  

A story to illustrate the problem:

One day when my daughter was about four I needed to drag her along during an unusually long morning of running errands. As we were going to be in a part of town that we rarely visited, which also happened to be near my daughter’s favorite ice cream parlor, I told her that I would take her for an ice cream when we were done.

After running around for most of the morning, we headed over to the ice cream parlor. It was around noon so I asked my daughter if she was hungry. I thought the question was relatively benign but when my daughter stared back at me in silence I knew something was wrong.

I waited a moment and then asked again. Still, nothing. After a few minutes I had an insight.

  • “You can’t tell me whether you’re hungry,” I said. 
  • “You are worried that if you say you are hungry I will make you eat lunch. Then you’ll be too full for ice cream." 
  • "On the other hand, if you say that you’re not hungry, you’re worried that I won’t let you have any ice cream because we don’t usually eat when we’re not hungry. Is that right?” 
  • My daughter nodded; her eyes welled up. 
  • She was in quite a jam; she really wanted that ice cream.

The solution:

  • “How about if you tell me the truth and I promise that you can have ice cream either way.”
  •  That reassured my daughter enough for her to admit, albeit tentatively, that she really was hungry. 
  • So I suggested that we stop off at a restaurant and share a small salad. After that we would go on for the ice cream.

Insisting that kids eat at least some healthy food before moving on to the fun stuff is a common parenting strategy.

But I wasn’t using the ice cream to get my daughter to eat the salad. I was trying to teach her something about hunger.

So what would I have done if my daughter had said that she wasn’t hungry? If we had the time, I would have pushed off eating for an hour or so until my daughter had more of an appetite. Then we would have eaten the light lunch followed by the ice cream.

But if that wasn’t in the cards, if we had to rush right home for instance, I would have taken my daughter for the ice cream, as promised. I just would have talked to her about hunger first. “Remember,” I would have said, “you’re not really hungry. Normally it would be better to wait until you were hungry, but we don’t have time today. So, let’s just have a small ice cream. You don’t want to get too full, or to get a tummy ache.”

Teach your kids to become fluent in the "language" of hunger—no matter how young they are.

Eating is a complicated business because people eat for all sorts of reasons and kids need to know this.

For instance, in addition to Tummy Hunger, people often eat because of the following reasons: 

  • Taste Hunger; something looks good. When this happens, it’s best to have a small portion, just a taste.
  • Practical Hunger, they need to eat for practical reasons such as when there won’t be time for lunch later. In this case, you might have to have a few bites even if you aren’t hungry.
  • Emotional Hunger, the times we eat to quench uncomfortable feelings. These situations are best responded to with a hug, or other comforting measure.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Source: Tribole, E. and E. Resch, 2003. Intuitive Eating: a Revolutionary Program That Works., Vol. 2nd Edition. New York: St. Martin's Press.


When Kids Overeat

Parenting an overeater is definitely challenging.

You've probably heard that children (like adults!) shouldn't diet and that restricting food makes kids hoard. So how can you help while keeping their self esteem intact?

Register for my class at the Natural Gourmet Institute! 

Sunday February 24th, 2-5pm

In this class I will show you how to stop being the "food police" and start helping your kids enjoy health-supportive meals without guilt or dieting. This naturally leads to eating less.

You'll also learn how to help your kids recognize their intuitive hunger signals, taste preferences, and satiation, as well as coping techniques for a range of eating situations including parties, play dates and buffets.

Everyone who attends will leave armed with an individualized action plan to teach your kids the skills they'll need for a lifetime of healthy eating.

Source: The New York Times

Register Today!!!

Read this great article from The New York Times to get started.



~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~