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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Links

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 Snacks (56)

Wednesday
Aug132014

Are Packed Lunches Healthy? Research Says, "No."

By now you've probably heard about the research study which found that home-packed lunches are often nutritionally inferior to school lunches.

The study found:
  • Only 27% of home-packed lunches met at least 3 of 5 National School Lunch Program standards
  • Only 4% of snacks met 2 of 4 Child and Adult Care Food Program standards.

The Boston Globe wrote about this study, and I was thrilled that my thoughts were included in the article. Read At lunch, home-packed may not mean healthy.

Three things stand out from this study for me...

1) The easiest way to improve the quality of your child's diet is to improve snacks.

You could, if you wanted, forget about lunch. Snacks are where the action really is.

Desserts & sweetened beverages are the major source of calories children consume from snacks. But salty snacks are gaining ground! Read The Snack Attack.

Teach your kids that, from a habits perspective, snack is a time of day, not a type of food.

  • Make fruits and vegetables the go-to for snacks. You don't have to do this everyday, but most days would be the ideal goal.
  • Start off small. One or two bites of fruit or vegetable, combined with other "snack" foods would be a good start.
  • Talk to your children before you pack their snacks. Otherwise the fruits and vegetables will definitely come home uneaten!

When I wrote about this on my Facebook page, someone noted that her child got teased when he brought vegetables for lunch. While my general thought is, "Shame on those other children," my other thought is, "Children need to learn lots of life lessons and being different is one of them. This is actually a gentle way to begin that conversation with your kids.

2) It's easy to think we have only two choices: send a healthy lunch or send a junky one. This is a false dichotomy.

Baby steps change habits in the longterm, and that's what you're after. Consider using:

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

SourceHubbard, K. L., A. Must, M. Eliasziw, S. C. Folta, and J. Goldberg. 2014. “What's in Children's Backpacks: Foods Brought From Home.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics In press.

Monday
Jun162014

5 Easy Ways to Mix-It Up: The Rotation Rule in Action

The Rotation Rule—switching what you serve from day-to-day— lays the foundation for introducing new foods.

I write about this all the time (so, sorry if you're sick of it) because it's crucial. Kids who get used to eating different foods are more open to eating new foods.

Still, many people find it very hard to mix-it up. That's why I was glad to receive this question from Emily. Emily writes: 

You often mention the importance of switching things up. But could you possibly provide some ideas on *how* to do so in the midst of a packed schedule? Part of the reason why my son eats a lot of the same foods is because I only have so much time to make a meal or a snack. How can busy parents find the time to shake up the food rotation?

I get it. Lots of people are too exhausted (both physically and mentally) to put more effort into meals. I, myself, confessed to suffering from this situation in When You're Too Tired to Cook...

Here are 5 ideas to make mixing it up easy to do.

1) The Simple Rotation

Make a list of what your children eat for meals and snacks. Then, develop menus by alternating what you serve. Don't strive to provide radically different meals. The idea is to create a structure of change. 

  • Day 1: Eggs Day 2: Waffles Day 3: Cereal
  • Day 1: Eggs Day 2: Waffles Day 3: Eggs

2) Borrowed Foods: Foods your children eat for different meals and snacks.

Make a list of all the foods your children currently eat on a regular basis. Then mix up when you serve stuff. 

You don’t have to stick to breakfast foods for breakfast, lunch foods for lunch and/or dinner foods for dinner. And you certainly don’t have to stick to snack foods for snacks—any food can fit this category. Make a list of foods your children happily eat at other times and consider using them to fix your Food Ruts. Everyone enjoys pancakes for dinner, but you can also consider carrot sticks and dip at breakfast or chicken and broccoli for snack. Anything goes! 

Read Falafel for Breakfast.

2) Forgotten Foods: Foods your children used to eat but which they now refuse.

Parents often take food refusals more seriously than their children do. Don't assume that once rejected is always rejected. 

Read The Easy Way to Solve Your Toddler's Decision to Suddenly Refuse Certain Foods. 

3) Planned-for Foods: Foods your children would willingly eat but which take a little planning to use on a regular basis.

Muffins, omelets, blintzes, and lasagna for instance, all can be refrigerated or frozen for use during the week.

4) Invented Foods: Old favorites you can dish up in new combinations.

For instance, does your child like cottage cheese, bananas and jelly? Put them together and make a breakfast banana split.

5) Get your kids involved

Let your children tell you how they experience foods they eat. Then, get them to help you figure out how to mix up tastes, textures, etc.

If your children are extremely attached to one food...

Consider varying the flavor, the texture, or the brand. As your child's palate expands you'll be able to reduce your dependency on this one food.

When your children ask for a Food Rut two days in a row...

Remind them you will honor their request the following day. This way your kids won't think their favorite food is out of the rotation forever.

Remember to tell your children before you make any changes.

A simple statement should do it, "Tomorrow we are going to start eating different things on different days because that's the healthiest way to eat. Don't worry, I'm not going to ask you to eat anything new."

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Tuesday
May272014

Change How Your Kids Snack

The easiest way to change how your kids eat is to change how they snack.

Most parents I know think of meals as The Nutrition Zone— The time when parents try to pack in the nutrients—and snacks as the Fun Zone (or maybe it's the Forgotten Zone).

Here's the math on Fruits and Vegetables: On average, children consume....
  • Less than 3 servings per day
  • Less than half of one serving at snack time
  • Slightly more than 1 serving at dinner

Changing Snack Behavior is easier than changing Dinner Beahvior because...

Adding some to zero gives you a bigger mathematical bang-for-your-buck than adding more to some.

If your children eat 2 snacks each day, and if those snacks usually featured fruits and vegetables, that would add up to a big change in their diets...even if your kids only ate a few bites at each snack.

On the other hand, getting kids who normally eat 3 or 4 bites of vegetable at dinner to eat 5, 6, or 7 bites would probably be a lot of work for YOU. And you'd probably resort to begging, bribing, etc. (You know not to do that, right? Read Wheelin' & Dealin': 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Trade Peas for Pie.)

Fruits and Vegetables should be your kids' Go-To Snack.

I know, you think your kids won't eat fruits and vegetables at snack time and you don't want them to be hungry. Or, your kids are in school where they don't serve fruits and vegs at snacktime. Or fruits and vegetables aren't really portable.

I hear you. To these real objections and problems I say:

  • Instead of emphasizing health, talk to your kids about proportion. Fruits and vegetables should show up in the diet more frequently as a group than crackers, cookies, salty snacks, etc.
  • It's ok to let children refuse a snack. It teaches them that temporary hunger is survivable. Think of this as letting your kids build an appetite.
  • If your kids have a meltdown, this is a behavioral problem, not a food problem. And even if you know that food would solve the meltdown, you still have to teach your kids how to behave even if they're hungry.
  • Compensate for schools that serve lots of crackers and salty snacks by making sure you serve healthy after-school snacks. Again, teach the concept of proportion.
  • It's just as easy to grab an apple as it is to grab a bag of Goldfish crackers. But I hear you: why not store some apples and oranges in the car, replacing/replenishing every few days? Or pre-cut/pre-bag fruit and keep it in the refrigerator?

If you want your kids to eat more fruits and vegetables you have to serve more fruits and vegetables.

Eating is really a matter of math. Kids want to eat the foods they're most accustomed to eating.

Research shows that kids today take in a lot more calories from snacks than they did a generation ago.

Sadly, the research also shows that kids don't compensate for consuming more calories during snack by consuming fewer calories at meals.

And even sadder is this news: Most snack calories come from desserts and sweetened beverages, but salty snacks – i.e. potato chips, tortilla chips, pretzels -- and candy are the fastest growing category of snack consumption.

Read Snacks: The Gifts That Keep On Giving

Your Kids won't be the only ones to benefit from better snacking. Your life will improve too.

To find out how, read 10 Ways Improving Your Kids' Snacking Will Improve YOUR Life. 

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Source "Here's the math...": Draxten, M., J. A. Fulkerson, S. Friend, C. F. Flattum, and R. Schow. 2014. “Parental Role Modeling of Fruits and Vegetables At Meals and Snacks is Associated With Children's Adequate Consumption.” Appetite 78C: 1-7.