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 (57)

Tuesday
Oct212014

Hunger vs Appetite

We have an almost-pathological fear of kids being hungry in this country.

I'm not talking about real hunger. I'm talking about the kind of hunger that people naturally develop in between meals. You know, the old grumbling-in-the-tummy kind of hunger.

So here's the question: "Should I feed my toddler on demand or on a schedule?"

The answer is a hybrid. Feed your child on a flexible schedule that imposes some structure but which is responsive to your child's hunger.

For many parents, helping their children avoid hunger seems like a rational strategy. 

  • Hungry children are prone to meltdowns (and, for some reason, this usually happens when in public)
  • Hungry children don't do well in school
  • Hungry children are sometimes harder to feed

But avoiding hunger is the wrong habit to teach children.

Sometimes a little hunger goes a long way. Read The Upside of Hunger to find out why. Here's one reason:

Toddlers need to learn to connect the feeling (pangs in their tummies) with the problem (hunger) and the solution (eating).  If they never feel hungry, they’ll never learn this connection. 

Help your children build an appetite: Implement the Eating Zones Rule

Eating Zones are regular blocks of time that you create—one for each daily meal and snack. On any given day you can choose one time during each Eating Zone when you will offer something to eat.

Eating Zones help you avoid constant on-demand grazing, but they do not snap you into a rigid schedule.

  • Look at your typical day to see when you normally provide meals and snacks.
  • Account for variables, such as naps, outings, school, or your work schedule.
  • Evaluate when your child is usually hungry, when she is too tired, too hungry, or too distracted to eat. 
  • Use this information to create blocks of time each day when you can serve a meal or a snack.

The importance of Eating Zones is that they designate some times as eating times and other times as NO-EATING times.

You create opportunities for eating, but let your children choose whether and how much to eat.

And if your child wants to eat during a no-eating zone, respond compassionately, but help her wait. And remember...

  • You can always move the next Eating Zone up so the wait isn't too long
  • The wait is where the learning happens

The structure of Eating Zones:

  1. Creates a predictable parenting dynamic. Read You Can't Make Me Eat It! to find out why predictability is important.
  2. Constructively shares control with your child. Read The Hunger Dilemma.
  3. Prevents unnecessary snacking. Read What to Do About Snacks

In the perfect world, children would be taught to eat when (and only when) they were hungry. That's not the world we live in.

But in the world we live in, children are usually required to eat at meal times—regardless of how much or how often they've eaten throughout the day. That is a lesson in overeating.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

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.~