Free Resource Sheets to Teach Healthy Eating Habits


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Entries in Potato Chips (7)


Pretzels vs. Chips

Most parents I know think pretzels are a healthy snack because they are baked and have no fat.

The status of pretzels as a food that is good for you is reinforced when people do what marketers hope they’ll do: compare pretzels to potato chips, the ultimate junk food. I call this The Potato Chip Challenge, as if somehow surpassing the standard set by potato chips makes a food, de facto, healthy.

But does it?

Look at how Snyder’s of Hanover Pretzel Rods stack up against Lay’s Classic Potato Chips.

Let’s start tallying the “wins.”

Ounce for ounce (about 15 chips or 3 pretzel rods):


  • Pretzels win on calories, fat and protein
  • Potato chips win on sodium and fiber. 

I concede things are looking pretty good for pretzels; less fat translates into significantly fewer calories. Still, the question remains: are pretzels really the healthier snack? Most pretzels are made from refined flour. At least potato chips are made from potatoes. 

Have you heard about NuVal?

NuVal is a nutritional value scoring system that, after calculating more than thirty nutrient and nutrition factors, ranks foods on a scale of one to one hundred. One hundred represents top nutrition. 

  • Lay’s Classic Potato Chips=15
  • Snyder’s of Hanover Pretzel Rods=15

In contrast, blueberries score a cool 100.

Of course, if you compare different brands you’ll get different results.

The overall pattern will stay the same. 

  • Utz Extra Dark Pretzels=NuVal 8
  • Utz Ripple Potato Chips =NuVal 8

I suppose you could look for a better pretzel, but this won’t solve anything because there are chips out there that score better too. 

  • Snyder’s Organic Whole Wheat Pretzel Nibblers=NuVal 28
  • Baked Lay’s Original Potato Crisps=NuVal 25
  • Cape Cod Potato Chips 40% Reduced Fat=NuVal 31

Suddenly chips are ahead!

Not everyone agrees with the NuVal rating system.

Or even with the idea of scoring systems in general. Still, these scores are informative. By applying a uniform calculation to everything they analyze NuVal makes it easy for us to compare the relative healthfulness of different products.

In this case, the NuVal scores illustrate my point: when it comes to salty snacks, you can look for the “best” choice, but nutritionally you’re basically splitting hairs.

Fifteen is the average NuVal score for the entire category of salty snacks.

If you consider habits—eating any kind of salty snack produces a salty snack-eating habit—minor nutritional differences become moot.

Read 10 Ways Improving Your Kids' Snacking Will Improve YOUR Life.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Sources:, accessed 1/22/13;, accessed 1/15/13; Personal email communication with NuVal;, accessed 1/15/13; accessed 1/15/13;, accessed 1/15/13.


Can Chocolate Help Your Kids Eat Healthier?

What can you do when your kid refuses to eat the very foods he needs most?

Nutritionist Nicci Micco suggests you go "kid-friendly."

  • Your kid doesn't like fruit? Mix it up in a "milkshake."
  • Your kid won't eat beans? Mash them up into a yummy dip and serve them with chips.
  • Your kid shuns broccoli (and other good-for-you veggies)? Drizzle on the cheese sauce.
  • Your kid won't drink milk? Stir in some chocolate.

In my view, these tactics should be the start point, not the end point, and certainly not the everyday point. Maybe this is what the author meant, but I don't thnk so. 

Read Micco's post.

Make these kinds of compromises (chocolate, cheese and chips) with caution. You could end up with kids who reject more of the real stuff.

I made this point on my Facebook page and got some kickback.

  • One person noted that these suggestions are intended as a way to introduce kids to foods they won't eat.
  • Another person said that using these kinds of compromises are the only way she can get her kids to eat any fruits or vegetables.

These are valid comments, and I appreciate that these readers posted them.  I would like to add:

1) Sometimes the less nutritious choices is right.

This is a position I have advocated many times. Read When the Less Nutritious Choice is Right and You Catch for Flies with Honey.

2) I wish parents would read pieces like this as ideas for introducing new foods, but they don't.

In my experience, when parents see a suggestion (or a food item) that works, they use it repeatedly, not just as a stepping stone to other foods. 

That's how kids end up eating so much cheese: it appears on every list of toddler friendly foods.  That's a mistake.  Read How Much Cheese Should You Eat? and Cheese vs Chips.

The repetition is a trap.

3) The better takeaway from this Micco's post is this: Make foods taste good.

You don't need to go "child-friendly" to avoid making vegetables bland and boring. Think garlic, oregano, cumin.

4) There are two essential elements to increasing new food acceptance: 

  1. Mixing it up. Read End Picky Eating with The Rotation Rule
  2. Asking kids to taste—but never asking them to eat—new foods. Read Why Some Kids Should Spit.

Of know, for every study that shows “child-friendly” foods are bad, you can find ones that say they’re not so bad.

One study Micco cites in her post found that kids who drank flavored milk had higher calcium intakes than kids who drank unflavored milks, without any increase in their overall intake of added sugar

In other words, more calcium, the same amount of sugar: seems like a win. 

But not if you have to keep sugaring up food to “sell” it.  And not if chocolate milk makes your kids avoid foods that aren’t so sweet.

Simply put, overusing "kid-friendly" tastes and textures points your kids' taste buds in the wrong direction.

It reinforces, rather than rectifies, the problem. Read Why Toddlers Don't Eat Vegetables.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Source: Johnson, R. K. and M. Q. Wang. 2002. “The Nutritional Consequences of Flavored-Milk Consumption By School-Aged Children and Adolescents in the United States.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 102 (6): 853-56.


Graham Cracker Goodness for Kids

If you feed your kids Graham Crackers because you think they're healthier than other kinds of crackers, I've got bad news.

There's not a whole lot of goodness going on.

More than other kinds of crackers, Graham Crackers have benefited from a halo effect. That's probaby because people think Graham Crackers are made from graham flour (a type of whole wheat flour).  


Most Graham Crackers, though, are only made with graham flour.  The first ingredient in Honey Maid Honey Grahams, for instance, is refined flour.


I’ve ranted about crackers before—Read Polly Want a Cracker?—so you know that most crackers aren’t up to their nutrition claims. That’s not what bothers me, though.

What bothers me about crackers is that they teach kids bad eating habits.

Getting kids in the habit of snacking on salty, crunchy crackers is tantamount to teaching them to snack on chips. Especially when the crackers are eaten as a chip substitute and not as a platform for real food like hummus or cheese. (Goldfish Crackers, I'm talking to you.)

Similarly, snacking on sweet crunchy crackers like Graham Crackers teaches kids to snack on cookies. 

I was glad to read that Nabisco is positioning its new product Grahamfuls as a cookie alternative.

Katie Butler, the senior brand manager for Honey Maid, told  The New York Times that Grahamfuls are "a healthier option than many cookies."

(Don't worry if this is the first time you've heard about Grahamfuls. They were introduced by Nabisco this week. Do go ahead and try them. They're delish.)

Of course, whether Grahamfuls are healthier than other kinds of cookies is open to interpretation.

Ironically, unlike Graham Crackers, Grahamfuls are made entirely from Graham Flour.  Still:

  • One Grahamful has 120 calories, 5g fat, 135mg sodium, 5g sugar.
  • 2 Oreo Cookies (a close equivalent amount by weight) has 106 calories, 5g fat, 93mg sodium, 9g of sugar.

Where the Grahamfuls "win" is in the fiber and protein departments. Each Grahamful=3g of protein, 2g of fiber. The Oreos? Next to nothing. 

I'm not sure that cookies need to be "healthified"—they are cookies after all—but even healthy cookies produce a cookie-eating habit.  Read When is Cookie Not a Cookie? and Cookies and the Cycle of Guilty Eating.

What disturbs me is that Honey Maid is promoting the idea that parents should think of Grahamfuls as fuel.

"Help fuel your next adventure," reads the copy on the box. "Refuel with the crunchy delicious taste of Honey Maid graham crackers..."

Grahamfuls are not just cookies. They're super-cookies. They're fuel. (I see a new marketing category: there's food, and then there's fuel.)

Of course, all food is fuel, but is that how you want your kids to think about (glorified) cookies? Especially in the long-run?  ("Wow, what a workout. Let's go have some cookies to refuel.")

So I say, give your kids Grahamfuls if you want to, but teach your kids to think of real food (bananas, broccoli, beans) as fuel, and to think of cookies as, well, as cookies.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~