Free Resource Sheets to Teach Healthy Eating Habits


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Entries in Snacks (60)


Study: Fresh Fruit is Better Than Candy. Can You Say, "Duh?"

Yes, we need this kind of research, but really, I don't think anyone would be surprised by the results. Which snack is more filling? 

  • 65 calories of mixed berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries)
  • 65 calories of a fruit-flavored candy (made with real fruit juice)

Give people a snack: one day candy, another day fruit. An hour later, let them eat as much pasta as they want. What happened?

A 20% increase in pasta calories after the candy compared to the fruit.

  • The candy snackers consumed 825 calories' worth of pasta
  • The fruit snackers consumed 690 calories' worth of pasta

From a nutrition perspective, fruit is clearly healthier than candy. But it's the habits perspective that matters more.

From a habits perspective, it is important to teach kids that fruit and vegetables are the go-to food. Plus, every bite pays off. The better your kids eat at snack, the less you have to worry about how well they eat at dinner. 

Read Fruit and Vegetables at Every Meal and Every Snack, Every Darned Day and 10 Ways Improving Your Kids' Snacking Will Improve YOUR Life.

This was a small study, only 12 women, but I don't think we need much more to establish that eating fruit holds you over between meals better than candy.

Candy ingredients: Sugar, Glucose Syrup (contains Sulphites), Water, Gelatine, Concentrated Fruit Juices** (1%) (Apple, Strawberry, Blackcurrant, Raspberry), Acid (Citric Acid), Colours (Anthocyanins, Vegetable Carbon), Flavourings, **Equivalent to 5.5% Fruit Juice

Fruit ingredients: Fruit

  • Less sugar
  • More volume
  • More fiber
  • More chewing

And...reinforcing the importance of the mind: researchers speculate that the fruit snack may have produced higher expected satiety. People think they're fuller and more satisfied so afterwards they eat less food.

Enough said!

Thanks to The Center for Science in the Public Interest for writing about this study in their Jan/Feb 2016 Nutrition Action Healthletter.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Source: James, L. J., M. P. Funnell, and S. Milner. 2015. “An Afternoon Snack of Berries Reduces Subsequent Energy Intake Compared to an Isoenergetic Confectionary Snack.” Appetite 95: 132-37.


Does Your Preschool Have a Beverage Policy?

The simplest change preschools can make to improve kids' eating habits is this: Stop serving juice.

I don't mean stop serving juice drinks, like Hawaiian Punch. That's a no-brainer. And everyone knows to eliminate soda. I mean stop serving 100% fruit juice.

  • Hydrating with juice increases total calorie consumption
  • Regularly drinking juice, which is sweet, reinforces the sweet-taste habit. In this way, beverages are related to overall habits.

1) Kids don't compensate for juice calories at snack by eating less food.

In one study: 

  • Serving juice instead of water increased snack calorie consumption by 67%.
  • The bigger the juice box, the more kids drank. When the kids got a bigger water, they drank more water too, but they didn't drink as much MORE as when they drank juice. 
  • The children in this study reported liking the water and the juice equally.

Here are some other reasons to eliminate juice from the preschool snack:

2) In general, kids drink too much 100% fruit juice. And they're not just drinking juice at school.

The AAP recommends that children drink no more than 4-6 ounces of 100% juice each day. However, research shows that children who drink juice consume an average of 10 ounces each day. 

Eliminating juice at school would help bring our kids' juice consumption down to the recommended level.

3) Kids consume too many of their daily calories from snack. Eliminating juice is an easy fix.

Research shows that kids 2-6 years old snack more frequently than they used to, that they consume more calories from snacks than they used to and that more of those snack calories come from beverages, especially juice.

The typical preschool snack, such as a small pouch of Goldfish crackers, delivers a little over 200 calories. Add in a small, 4 ounce juice box, and you add 60 calories. Combined, this snack delivers close to 20% of the average preschoolers' daily caloric needs.

Eliminating juice is the easiest way to reduce calories from snack. And unlike the challenges preschools face when it comes to changing the kind of food served at snack (cost, storage, refrigeration, taste preferences, etc), eliminating juice has no downside.

4) Drinking juice isn't the same as eating fruit. 

Research shows:

  • Eating whole fruit may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, while drinking fruit juice may raise the risk.
  • Whole fruit curbs appetite better than juice.

Read The Juice Generation.

5) Juice consumption can actually reduce vegetable consumption.

In one study, when children were given a sweet juice drink with a vegetable snack they consumed fewer vegetables than when they drank water with their snack.

Read Water vs Punch and Soda.

6) Ounce for ounce, juice often has more sugar than soda.

This graph is hard to read, but click on the image and you can see the original from the Harvard School of Public Health.

  • Cola: 12 ounces = 10 teaspoons of sugar, 150 calories
  • OJ: 12 ounces = 10 teaspoons of sugar, 170 calories
  • Welch’s Grape Juice (not shown): 12 ounces = 13.5 teaspoons of sugar, 210 calories 



~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Sources: Norton, E. M., S. A. Poole, and H. A. Raynor. 2015. “Impact of Fruit Juice and Beverage Portion Size on Snack Intake in Preschoolers.” Appetite 95: 334-40

Piernas, C. and B. M. Popkin. 2010. “Trends in Snacking Among U.S. Children.” Health Affairs 29(3): 398-404.

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.

Center for Science in the Public Interest. 2013. “Fruit 2, Juice 0” Nutrition Action Healthletter,40(9): 8; Wojcicki and Heyman, 2012, American Journal of Public Health, 102 (9): 1630-1633. 

Cornwell, T. B. and A. R. McAlister. 2012. “Contingent Choice: Exploring the Relationship Between Sweetened Beverages and Vegetable Consumption.” Appetite  doi:


Cognitive Scripts: How Kids Learn When and What to Eat

When you go to the movies, do you always get popcorn?

If you do, that's probably because you have what's called an cognitive script for going to the movies. Congitive scripts tell you what normally happens in different situations--and in what order.

  • Buy movie ticket.
  • Buy popcorn.
  • Watch movie and eat popcorn!

Cognitive scripts work because they simplify decision-making and guide behavior. 

Kids have congitive scripts too.

And guess what: they develop those scripts early on. Maybe even by the age of 2. Certainly by the age of 3.

Maybe you know where I'm going with this...

Every time you serve food in a given situation, you're helping your children write a cognitive script.

My infant daugther cried every time she was in the car. It didn't take long for me to learn that if I fed her in the car she didn't cry. It didn't take long for my daughter to learn that every time she was in the car she got a snack.Talk about a bad eating habit!

Here's the study: Kids between 4 and 6 years old were asked to tell researchers about what usually occurs during playdates, when they go to the movies, or when they attend a sporting event.

The children were asked to name four things that occured on each of these occasions. And this is what the reseachers learned. 

  • 54% of the children mentioned eating on playdates
  • 74% of the chidlren mentioned eating at the movies.
  • 54% of the children mentioned eating at sporting events.

When researchers asked kids who didn't mention food if they ever ate during these events, the numbers jumped. For instance, now 71% said they normally ate on playdates.

This was a small study, but it makes perfect sense, especially when you think about how habits form...and how hard they are to break.

I know what you're thinking: what's wrong with eating on a playdate?

My answer: nothing. Unless your children develop a cognitive script which makes them think that playdates and food always go hand-in-hand.

  • Or a cognitive script that tells them that playdates mean cookies.
  • Or a cognitive script that tells your children that tantrums are followed by food. 
  • Or a cognitive script that dinner=pizza. (I know kids like this.)

Cognitive scripts shape people's behavior and expectations in the long run.

That's something to consider. Especially because research shows: 

  • Children today consume more calories and eat more frequently than children did 30 years ago.
  • One study found that, for school-age children, snacks account for 27% of total daily calories. In comparison, breakast=18% and lunch=24% of total calories.

And while it's tempting to thing that snacking is a healthy habit, the research shows that most kids snack on pretty bad stuff. Read The Snack Attack and Snacks: The Gifts That Keep on Giving, and Change How Your Kids Snack.

What cognitive scripts are you writing with your kids?

And how are these scripts shaping your kids' eating habits? Now that's food for thought.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Source: Musher-Eizenman, D. R., J. M. Marx, and M. B. Taylor. 2015. “It's Always Snack Time: an Investigation of Events Scripts in Young Children.” Appetite 85: 66-69.