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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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 Refusing Food (92)

Thursday
May072015

The Argument Against Making Food Fun for Toddlers

Experts are always telling parents to make food fun. I’m here to tell you that this is misguided advice.

I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with fun food. Everyone enjoys a little levity in their diets. I’m just saying you don’t have to make food fun. 

I’ll even go one step farther: regularly making food fun teaches kids the wrong lessons.

Who came up with the idea that children shouldn't be expected to eat food unless it's fun? And that this is especially true for healthy food? 

Now, I admit that for years, I plopped food on my daugther's plate in the shape of a face. But that was artful plating, not food art. And I didn't have to do it. Indeed, if I had ever felt that my daugther required (or demanded) the food art in order to eat, I would have stopped immediately.

The "Fun Food Factor" not only puts the pressure on parents, but it also distorts the power relations between parents and children. 

Right? If you've got to present food in a way that pleases your kids, who is in charge? You or them?

Now, I'm not saying that parents shouldn't create some levity at the table. In fact, enjoyment— you know the kind where everyone likes being at the table— can improve how toddlers eat.

But I’m not talking about the “draw some ketchup happy faces on your kid’s plate” kind of fun.  I’m just talking about garden-variety fun. You know, where your child actually enjoys eating. At the table. With you!

Research shows that eating enjoyment reduces picky eating.  In other words, feed your picky eater some enjoyment, and your picky eater might just stop being so picky.

What lessons should kids learn about eating?

  1. Food nourishes the body.
  2. Hopefully, the food tastes good too. But sometimes, you have to eat a clunker.
  3. Kids should eat the food you serve because it makes them good family citizens.

Of course, in order to be good eaters, kids have to learn how to try new foods. If that's your struggle, read my step-by-step, blow-by-blow guide to introducing new foods.

It is the stress, not the lack of food art, that kills how kids eat.

Many kids simply shut down when they feel stressed about eating. And that's true even when the food is "fun." And that's why searching for the right design, or the right recipe, can't solve a picky eating problem. So make food fun when you want to, but not when you have to.

 ~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Source: van der Horst, K. 2012. “Overcoming Picky Eating. Eating Enjoyment as a Central Aspect of Children's Eating Behaviors.” Appetite 58: 567-74

Thursday
Apr022015

Introducing New Foods: Where to Go From Here?

You've come a long way, baby.

But maybe not as long a way as you would like.

  • The good news is that if you follow this step-by-step, blow-by-blow guide to introducing new foods, it's guaranteed to change how your kids eat.
  • The bad news is that no matter how much progress you make, at some point, your child will slide back.

This is the last installment in my series The Step-by-Step, Blow-by-Blow Guide to Introducing New Foods that's Guaranteed to Change How Your Kids Eat. If you're new, start here.

Here's my last piece of advice...and I'm sorry, it might feel like a downer, but it's meant to be an upper.

You've got to plan for failure...er...the future!

In my experience, kids will "play along" for some amount of time...until they stop. (I hate to be the one to break it to you.)

The thing to remember is that these setbacks are just that...setbacks.

If you have a plan then the setback won't throw you off-track. It will just be a pause. A deep breath. A moment of reflection.

What can you do when your children—who have been doing a really good job tasting new foods— suddenly stop tasting new foods?

  1. Talk to your kids about what is going on in a non-judgmental way.
  2. Take a mini-vacation from tasting.
  3. Take a few steps back. Reverting to an easier step will bring your child back onboard. Instead of tasting, offer a smell, a touch, or just a look.
  4. Pull out the heavy hitters: start offering tastes of ice cream, cookies, etc. This reminds your children that tasting can be fun. Read Take a Walk on the Wild Side.
  5. Remember those shampoo instructions: rinse and repeat.
  6. Have a class of wine!

Got questions? Ask.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Wednesday
Apr012015

What Do You "Do" with Hungry?

How comfortable are you with hunger? Or more specifically, your child's hunger?

Not real hunger, as in starvation. Temporary hunger. Your answer to this question will determine a lot about how successfully you can introduce new foods at meals.

Quick Catch-Up

  • You've grown a good taster. This might have taken a few weeks. It might also take a few months.
  • You're ready to introduce new foods at meals, with the idea that possibly...just possibly, your child will actually eat what you serve.
  • Still, you ask your child to taste the new food...not with the proviso that "if you don't like it you don't have to eat it." That assumes eating and that assumption is pressure. Rather, you provide a teeny, tiny taste and say, "What do you think? Is it crunchy? Salty? Sweet? Ask anything but, "Do you like it?"
  • You have put something on the table that your child can be reasonably expected to eat. This ensures he won't starve.
  • You have used a backup. This really ensures that your child won't starve.

(If you're new to this series on introducing new foods, start here.)

Now, if your child doesn't eat...or doesn't eat enough...what do you do?

Nothing. This is why you have to be comfortable with your child's temporary hunger.

If you do anything—say, provide another alternative or beg, cajole or even bribe your child into eating more—you'll undermine your efforts. The message: Your hunger is powerful. Your hunger makes me jump. You don't really have to eat anything I've prepared because if I think you're hungry I'll prepare something else. 

When hunger is power the normal parent-child relationship is reversed: the kids hold the keys.

Set a schedule for meals and snacks. I call this the Eating Zones Rule.

And then stick to it. Your child has to have the freedom to choose not to eat before he'll have the power to choose to eat. 

This is different than starving out your kid. This is authoritative parenting in action.

You've put sufficient food down, and have created a reasonable meal and snack schedule, to know that your child has enough access to food—and food that she normally eats—to eat if she wants to.

For more, read The Upside of Hunger and Hunger vs Appetite.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Read the next installment in the series.