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 Salt (16)

Tuesday
Apr012014

A Cool Way to Teach Toddlers to Taste New Foods

Have you ever done paired taste testings?

It's how the researchers who conducted the study that I discussed in my last post figured out that a preference for super-sweet and super-salty foods often go together. 

(If you missed that post read Are You Sweet, or Are You Salty?)

Give paired taste testings a try. Most kids will find it super cool.

Paired Taste Testings are Mini Contests

The "winner" of each round gets into the next round until there's only one food "standing." 

In the study:

  1. The kids were given two tastes of sugar water: one barely sweet, the other a little sweet.
  2. The preferred sample was put up against another sample of sugar water that was a little sweeter.
  3. The kids picked their preferred sample from this round. This "winner" was then put up against another, slightly sweeter, sample of sugar water.
  4. This went on until the child picked the same sample twice in a row.

Because the foods are presented with different concentrations of sweetness, the food that "wins" twice in a row is preferred over both a sweeter and a less sweet food.

The researchers also presented the foods on a second occasion in reverse order to make sure that the kids weren't always picking the first choice.

Make sense?

You can do something like this at home and it would be super cool. 

  1. Give your child two samples of the same kind of food: Let's use apples.
  2. Ask your child which apple she prefers.
  3. Put the favored apple up against a third kind of apple.
  4. Put the favored apple from the last "contest" up against another kind of apple.
  5. Keep going unti your child picks a favorite apple.

For more ideas on how to structure the tasting read: Unleash Your Toddler's Inner Food Critic

Remember, this is a TASTING exercise, not an EATING exercise.

Use very small tastes. Pea-sized. You do this kind of taste test with different kinds of pairs.

  • Carrots prepared in different ways.
  • Different textures (think mushy, crunchy, soupy)

You could even do completely different kinds of foods: crackers and mac 'n cheese, for instance.

Follow up the tasting with a conversation about what was tasted. But don't, I repeat DON'T, ask your kids if they want to eat whatever they've tasted.

For a list of questions you might ask your kids read Nix the Negativity.

Also read Two Hundred Tantalizing Terms to Move Beyond, "I Don't Like It!"

Don't take your child's taste preferences too seriously.

It will be tempting to find the food your child likes the most and then serve it over and over. That would be a mistake because it would constrict rather than expand your child's palate.

Also, children younger than 5 don't have stable taste preferences. So use this method as a way to increase your child's exposure to new foods and flavors rather than to discover what she tastes she prefers.

For more on this read Kid-Approved Meals.

I discuss all these ideas in It's Not About the Broccoli.

 

 ~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Friday
Mar282014

Are You Sweet or Are You Salty?

Among the many lessons kids need to learn in order to eat right:

  • Liking something (or even, really, really liking something) is not a good enough reason to eat it all the time.
  • There are lots of good tasting flavors out there.

I bring this up now because a new study just came out that "discovered" some obvious findings:

  1. Children enjoy sweet and salty flavors.
  2. Children tend to enjoy sweeter and saltier flavors than do adults.

This study also reported a less obvious finding:

  • People who prefer intensely sweet foods also prefer intensely salty foods.
  • This goes for children and for adults.

In other words, the idea that you're either a sweet or a salty snacker might just be a myth.

It's tempting to think that if it's natural for children to enjoy very sweet and very salty foods, there's nothing you can do except wait it out. After all, over time, these preferences do change (usually).

Waiting it out is a mistake.

Understanding your children from a developmental perspective is not the same thing as knowing how to parent your children through their developmental phases.

  1. Most "child-friendly" foods are very high in sugar, salt and fat. Read The Truth About "Child-Friendly" Foods.
  2. Feeding to your children's taste preferences only reinforces them.
  3. The more your children get used to eating these "flavor hit" foods, the less likely they are to enjoy fruits and vegetables. Read My Toddler Used to Eat Vegetables.

In other words, feeding to your children's taste preferences makes their eating habits horrible and makes your life...hell.

This is important stuff. According to this study:

  • Over 90% of American children 2-8 years of age are getting more than half of their discretionary calorie allowance from added sugars. For more on discretionary calories, read When Calories Don't Count.
  • Sodium intake is approximately 3200mg per day, well above the recommended level of 1,200-1,500mg per day for children 4-13.

The researchers conclude:

"Because children naturally prefer higher levels of sweet and salty tastes than do adults, they are vulnerable to the modern diet, which differs from the diet of our past, when salt and sugars were once rare and expensive commodities."

The researchers go on to say:

"Having children eat diets low in sodium and added sugars requires a social, political, and economic food environment that supports and promotes this behavior change."

And, I would add:

Parents can teach their children a style of eating that takes taste preferences into account, but which isn't dominated by preferred foods. 

It's all in the lessons....

Which brings us right back to the beginning. Teach your kids:

  • Liking something (or even, reallyreally liking something) is not a good enough reason to eat it.
  • There are lots of good tasting flavors out there.

How? Talk about Proportion, and implement The Rotation Rule.

I discuss all these ideas in It's Not About the Broccoli.

 

 ~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Monday
Feb172014

The Outsized Problem of Pizza: It Takes Up Too Much of the Pie

I'm getting a lot of flak for saying that pizza—not Valentine's Day candy—could single-handedly ruin our kids' eating habits.

In response to my last post—Valentine's Day Candy vs Pizza—one friend even accused me of hating pizza. (The only other post that stirred up this much animosity was Donuts vs. Muffins.)

So let me clarify: All I meant to say is that our diets are out of whack. Not because of Valentine's Candy—or because of candy in general—but because of pizza. And other grain products.

To meet current dietary recommendations, Americans would have to reduce our total grain consumption by 27%. 

Imagine reducing your grain intake by 27%. We're a grain-crazy country.

Add up all the bread, bagels, cereals, crackers, pretzels, granola bars, cookies, pasta, pizza, tacos, rice, popcorn and other grain-stuff your kids load up. Then comopare this group to everything else your kids eat. See what I mean?

I have nothing against pizza. I was making an argument about proportion.

Proportion is one of the three habits of healthy eating. (Variety and moderation are the other two.)  

  • If 1 in every 6 kids between the ages of 2 and 5 is eating pizza on any given day, then we're a country of people who eat too much pizza.
  • A healthy diet is not one that is dominated by one kind of food. Particularly if that food is a huge source of saturated fat and sodium. But even if you're diet were dominated by peas it would not be considered a healthy diet.

You know most people are eating a distorted diet when pizza is the second largest source of refined grains.

And since most people eat refined, not whole grains, I think it is safe to say that pizza is the second largest source of grains in the American diet. Not cereal. Not rice. Pizza.

Source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 | Chapter Three 

From the habits perspective, a diet that is dominated by pizza is bad news.

One study found that pizza was the #5 source of calories for kids between the ages of 4-8. It was the #2 source of calories for kids between the ages of 9-13.

More proof that habits earned early in life tend to stick around.

I discuss all these ideas in It's Not About the Broccoli.

 

 ~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Additional Source: Possible Implications for U.S. Agriculture from Adoption of Select Dietary Guidelines; Reedy, J. and S. Krebs-Smith. 2010. “Dietary Sources of Energy, Solid Fats, and Added Sugars Among Children and Adolescents in the United States.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 110(10): 1477-84.