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 Snacks (55)

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.

Wednesday
May142014

Playing Sports Teaches Bad Eating Habits

Kids who play sports consume more healthy and more unhealthy foods. They also consume more calories.

But what if kids consume more calories than they expend playing sports? Being on a sports team could just be a contributing factor to obesity.

(When my daughter played soccor in first grade, she spend more time hanging out on the field than running up and down.)

Sports participation is on the rise: 44 million US children participated in an organized sport in 2008, a 25% increase since 1997. 

Increased sports participation is:

  • An opportunity for good. 
  • An opportunity for harm.

The study: Observations of food consumption during Youth Baseball games in a small town in northwest North Carolina.

  • Six teams
  • Boys between 8-11 years old
  • 12 games during one 6-week season

OK. It's a small study. But the results will jibe with your experiences...I'm sure.

True, practice sessions might be healthier than game-day snacks. After all, there's no concession stand at practice. Still...

What can you do?

Of course, you could advocate for change.

Become a snactivist. Click here for info from Real Mom Nutrition activist Sally Kuzemchak.

Teach your kids about proportion.

Encourage your children to make choices. Either they can have their junk at baseball or they can have their junk some other time during the day. They can't have both.'

And, when you're thinking about what constitutes a treat, I recommend you consider foods that fall under the radar...like waffles.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Source: Irby, M. B., M. Drury-Brown, and J. A. Skelton. 2014. “The Food Environment of Youth Baseball.” Childhood Obesity 10(3) June.