It’s getting kids to eat what parents serve that causes so many problems.

Sign up for my newsletter!


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 Refusing Food (64)


That Fried Chicken Might As Well Be Fried Crickets

Have a child who won't take even a tiny taste of something you've made?

Can't understand why? Here's my story about trying fried crickets last summer in a piece I wrote for Portland Family. Hopefully, it will shed some light on your situation.

(Leave a comment about the scariest food you've ever tasted!)

What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever tasted?

Do you remember how you felt as you put it into your mouth? Hold onto that feeling. Chances are, that’s exactly how your reluctant taster feels each and every time you ask him or her to sample something new.

The scariest thing I’ve ever tasted is a fried cricket.

I was exploring an African food market last summer with my husband and 12-year-old daughter when we noticed a basketful of fried crickets. “Try one?” the vendor asked, offering up his bounty. The three of us looked at each other and said, “Sure.” Only I wasn’t thinking, “Sure.” I was thinking: ReallyEat cricketsAre you nuts?

One reason the idea of tasting crickets left me shaking in my boots is that I had absolutely no idea what they would taste like.

 It’s not like I could steel my shaky nerves by thinking back to the time I’d eaten locusts or grasshoppers … because that had never happened. In fact, nothing in my eating life had prepared me for this moment. So I had to wonder: Would the crickets taste pleasant? Would they have a strong and overpowering taste? Would they make me gag? (And if that happened, would I completely embarrass myself by losing my lunch in the middle of the market?)

My husband was the first to select his specimen.

“Not bad,” he reported. And with that, I took a deep breath, screwed up my courage—“When are you going to get another chance like this?” I asked myself—and then, before I could back out, I popped that little pest into my mouth. It was crunchy and a little salty. Most importantly, though, that cricket was swallowed. It was gone. Down the gullet. And I’d never have to conquer a cricket again.

I know, you’ve never asked your child to taste anything as out there as fried crickets. But roasted chicken? Asparagus? To you, these foods probably seem like a walk in the park. To a reluctant taster, though, roasted chicken might as well be a cricket. They’re both unfamiliar, intimidating and potentially lethal.

Read the rest of the article at Portland Family.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


Stress Taste, Not Health When Talking to Toddlers About Food

The more you push healthy food because it's healthy, the less kids want to eat it.

The message is loud and clear:  If healthy food were good, we'd talk about how good it was. But we don't, we talk about how healthy it is.

This is what I call the Medicalization of the Meal. Ever give broccoli the Chocolate Cake Look? You know what I mean!

Read Junk Food=Yum, Healthy Food=Yuk, 

Here's the theory: We're talking about Experiential Benefits vs Instrumental Benefits.

You can enjoy food because...

  • It's a good experience (i.e. it tastes good). This is called an Experiential Benefit.
  • It is instrumental in advancing another goal. This is called an instrumental Benefit.

Research shows that when people focus on an activity's instrumental benefit, they enjoy it less. 

You might think that you could "sell" healthy food by talking up both its experiential and its instrumental benefits: "Yummmm, this broccoli is so tasty. It's also really good for you!"

But research shows that people believe if something will help them achieve an instrumental benefit, it can't also be effective in achieving a positive experience.

Here's the study.

Three different groups of 4-5 year old preschoolers are told a story during which Tara eats Wheat Thins either because they're healthy, they're tasty, or for no specific reasons.

  • In the healthy condition, "Tara felt strong and healthy, and she had all the energy..." 
  • In the yummy condition, "Tara thought the crackers were yummy, and she was happy..."

The healthy=bad effect happened and we're talking about crackers, not carrots.

After hearing the story, the children were offered a chance to eat Wheat Thins crackers.

  • Children in the "healthy" group ate fewer crackers than children in the "yummy" or the "no-story" group.
  • There was no difference in consumption between the "yummy" and the "no-story" group

The researchers replicated this study with younger children. They also replaced the "healthy" message with other instrumental messages, such as: These carrots will help you learn to read!

And the results were the same: kids don't want to eat food that is instrumental. They want to eat food that is tasty.

(Don't worry, they told the kids afterwards that eating carrots wouldn't help them read!)

What's the takeaway? You are better off saying nothing than saying "it's good for you."

But there's plenty of research that shows that talking about the sensory properties of food is better than saying nothing.

So make sure you keep talking to your kids about food. Just switch what you talk about from health to taste.

For more on how to talk about food, read Teaching Your Way ouf of a Picky Eating Problem with Sensory Education.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Source: Maimaran, M. and A. Fishbach. October 2014. “If It's Useful and You Know it, Do You Eat? Preschoolers Refrain From Instrumental Food.” Journal of Consumer Research. Forthcoming.


8 Steps to More Fruits and Vegetables

Most parents I know wish their children would eat more fruits and vegetables.

But guess what? The pressure tactics most parents use to accomplish this are counterproductive. They teach kids to hate fruits and vegetables, not love them.

Read 10 Ways Kids Learn to HATE Veggies and 10 Ways Kids Learn to LOVE Veggies.

Here are two things I know for sure:

1) What your kids are used to eating determines what they like.

Eating is really a matter of math. Read Pizza and Peas: The Untold Story.

2) Taste preferences are formed more than they're found.

Your job isn't to discover what your kids like. It's to shape what they like. Read You Catch More Flies with Honey.

Still, kids can be very opinionated about what they will and will not eat.

That's what makes this whole feeding-thing a real challenge!

With these two principles in mind...

7 Steps to More Fruits and Vegetables

  1. Pay attention to the flavors and texture you expose your kids to the most. Read Kids Can't Like Food They Haven't Tasted.
  2. Don't justify questionable food choices with, what I call, Selective Attention: You focus on the nutrient you're interested (say calcium) and overlook the "problems" (like sugar). Read Virus Sufferers Choose Granola.
  3. Slowly shift your kids' diets towards the kinds of tastes and textures you find in healthy foods. In practice this might mean starting with canned peaches in heavy syrup, moving to canned peaches in light syrup, to canned peaches in fruit juice, and finally, to real peaches. Read For Extreme Fruit and Vegetable Avoiders...
  4. Teach your kids to be good tasters.This happens separately and BEFORE they'll be good eaters. Read A Cool Way to Teach Toddlers to Taste New Food.
  5. Talk about the concept of proportion, so your kids know the eating habits you're aiming to teach them. Read You Can't Make Me Eat It!
  6. Set limits on how many sweets and treats your kids can eat in a day or a week, but let your kids decide when they actually eat their sweets and treats. Read The How-to-Control-Your-Kids'-Candy-Consumption Con.
  7. Remember that pressure is your enemy. Read The Pressure-Cooker Problem
  8. Be happy with a Happy Bite. Read The Happy Bite.


~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~