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.

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 Portion Size (14)


One for Girls, Two for Boys

When I was a child, my mother taught me that girls ate one cookie, boys ate two.

Imagine the scenario: I would start singing this little ditty, "One for boys, two for girls," whenever the topic of cookies (or any kind of dessert) came up. Sometimes I'd even start skipping!

It was cute. I was cute: this little thing, with blond pigtails high up on her head, skipping along and singing about cookies.

Over dinner a few months ago one of my two brothers said that this image—me singing "one for girls, two for boys"—was his iconic childhood memory of me.

I said it was sexist. "Why should girls, by definition of their gender, consume fewer cookies than boys?"

After some grumbling about how my mother was trying to do me a favor—which just reinforced my opinion that this was a sexist move on her part, my weight mattered, but my brothers' weights didn't?—my brother took another stab at it: "You were smaller than we were," he said.

And that's a good point.

Younger children need fewer calories than older children. As a consequence, they have fewer discretionary calories to play around with during the course of the day.

The idea that different people need (and I use that term a little tongue-in-cheek) a different number of cookies is something I've written about before. Read Fair is Fair...Or Is It? 

Why bring this up now? It's the right lesson for the gorging season which starts next week with Thanksgiving. 

  • Kids who've eaten cookies in the morning need fewer cookies in the afternoon than kids who haven't had any cookies yet that day.
  • Kids, who are, on average, a lot smaller than adults need smaller slices of pumpkin pie than their parents.
  • Kids with tummy aches don't need any pie at all!

Too often we get caught up in the idea that all children need is to be treated exactly that same, that same is equality.

But that's the wrong principle when it comes to eating. What kids need is to be taught is that sometimes difference is equality. In other words, equality is getting what's right for you.

So, after all these years, I can say that my mother was on to something. As the youngest child, I needed fewer cookies than my brothers. I just wished my mother had talked about age or size instead of gender.

(I also wished she hadn't taught me that "ladies always leave a little food on their plates," another lesson that could have been framed differently...but that's a topic for another day!)

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


All's Fair...In Love, War and Feeding Kids!

I recently overheard two mothers talking. One mother was describing her frustration at the enormous bag of candy her son "earned" by winning some kind of competition.  

  • This mother didn't think it would be fair to take away her son's prize. After all, he'd earned it.
  • On the other hand, she didn't want him to have so much candy.

How'd this mother resolve the dilemma?

With a stealth attack! Every night after her son went to bed this mother snuck into the kitchen and threw out a little bit of the candy.  

Forget the fact, just for a moment, that it's a shame that the competition organizer decided to use candy as a prize. 

And, forget too, that this is a variation of the problem every parent experiences on Halloween.

We're talking about the concept of fair here.

I agree with this mother that it wouldn't be fair for her to take away the prize her son earned for doing something fabulous. But why does she think it is fair to discard her son's candy prize surreptitiously?

I suspect it's because she hasn't thought about her secret solution in quite this way. Rather, she has only thought about her actions as a practical solution to a perpelexing problem.

And I get it. Candy ain't broccoli. And, kids who gorge on candy can be— how shall I put this nicely?—pesky.

But think about what sneaky parenting teaches kids about fairness.

Not just about fairness when it comes to eating, but about fairness when it comes to relating to other people.

(It's OK to do whatever you want as long as your motives are good, and you don't get caught?)

The solution is to rethink the idea of fair.

When it comes to eating fair isn't necessarily eating what—or how much—everyone else is eating. Or even eating however much you happen to have in your hand.

Fair is eating the amount that's right for you at the time.

That's what I wrote about in my last post: Fair is Fair...Or is it?

And then, to teach your child important food skills.

Such as... how to manage a mountain of candy. Hmmm. Sounds like a Halloween dilemma to me. Read But What Are You Going to Do with All that Halloween Candy?

I know it feels like letting children keep their candy will only lead to problems.

But teaching children the wrong idea about what's fair leads to bad eating habits. And reducing conflict by performing some midnight magic is a short-term solution to a long-term problem.

For more ideas on how to solve the problem of sweets and treats read The Nag Factor and A Cookie a Day...

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


Fair is Fair...Or is it?

Scenario 1: Three young children (ages 4, 6, 8) and three glasses of chocolate milk.

Which of the following is fair?

  1. All three glasses of chocolate milk are exactly the same size

  2. There is a small, medium, and a large glass of chocolate milk.

Scenario 2: Three children (ages 4, 6, 8). You're serving cookies for dessert after dinner. One child has eaten cookies (or another dessert treat) already that day. The other two children have not. 

Which of the following is fair?

  1. Everyone gets to eat cookies for dessert

  2. Only the children who haven't already eaten their treats get cookies

Most of the parents I know would choose option 1 in both scenarios.

They're thinking of fair as equal.

  • Everyone gets the same size glass of chocolate milk.

  • If anyone gets cookies than everyone gets cookies.

But I would argue that fair means getting what is right for you: Option 2.

  • Small children get smaller glasses of chocolate milk because it's the right amount for their tummies.

  • Children who have eaten treats earlier in the day have already eaten the amount that's right for them.

It's easy to think that children can't cope with this kind of "disparity."

But they can. Indeed, children cope with disparities all the time (older children go to bed later than younger children; adults drink alcohol and they don't).

One reason children complain about disparities is because, when it comes to eating—and especially when it comes to sweets and treats—we allow them to believe that fair=equal.

Teach them otherwise and they'll complain less. They'll also have learned a valuable lesson about eating right.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~