Free Resource Sheets to Teach Healthy Eating Habits


The Podcast

Listen Now!

Hire Dina Bring Dina to your community Schedule a Professional Development Seminar

DINA ROSE, PhD is a sociologist, parent educator and feeding expert empowering parents to raise kids who eat right.

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 Texture (11)


8 Steps to More Fruits and Vegetables

Most parents I know wish their children would eat more fruits and vegetables.

But guess what? The pressure tactics most parents use to accomplish this are counterproductive. They teach kids to hate fruits and vegetables, not love them.

Read 10 Ways Kids Learn to HATE Veggies and 10 Ways Kids Learn to LOVE Veggies.

Here are two things I know for sure:

1) What your kids are used to eating determines what they like.

Eating is really a matter of math. Read Pizza and Peas: The Untold Story.

2) Taste preferences are formed more than they're found.

Your job isn't to discover what your kids like. It's to shape what they like. Read You Catch More Flies with Honey.

Still, kids can be very opinionated about what they will and will not eat.

That's what makes this whole feeding-thing a real challenge!

With these two principles in mind...

7 Steps to More Fruits and Vegetables

  1. Pay attention to the flavors and texture you expose your kids to the most. Read Kids Can't Like Food They Haven't Tasted.
  2. Don't justify questionable food choices with, what I call, Selective Attention: You focus on the nutrient you're interested (say calcium) and overlook the "problems" (like sugar). Read Virus Sufferers Choose Granola.
  3. Slowly shift your kids' diets towards the kinds of tastes and textures you find in healthy foods. In practice this might mean starting with canned peaches in heavy syrup, moving to canned peaches in light syrup, to canned peaches in fruit juice, and finally, to real peaches. Read For Extreme Fruit and Vegetable Avoiders...
  4. Teach your kids to be good tasters.This happens separately and BEFORE they'll be good eaters. Read A Cool Way to Teach Toddlers to Taste New Food.
  5. Talk about the concept of proportion, so your kids know the eating habits you're aiming to teach them. Read You Can't Make Me Eat It!
  6. Set limits on how many sweets and treats your kids can eat in a day or a week, but let your kids decide when they actually eat their sweets and treats. Read The How-to-Control-Your-Kids'-Candy-Consumption Con.
  7. Remember that pressure is your enemy. Read The Pressure-Cooker Problem
  8. Be happy with a Happy Bite. Read The Happy Bite.


~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~ 


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.~


Tackling Tough Textures

The worst thing you can do if you have a texture-averse eater is avoid offensive textures. Instead, you need to teach your child to overcome her aversion.

It's counterintruitive, but avoidance locks in the problem. Exposure, on the other hand, helps eliminate it.

I'm not about to advocate that you plop a pile of texture on your child's plate and settle in for a control struggle. That would be crazy. And counterproductive.

However, rather than go out of your way to keep offending foods at bay...start teaching! Here's my five-point plan.

1) Talking is the first step in teaching.

Don't worry that acknowledging the problem will make it worse. It won't. Especially if you commiserate.  

2) State your goal clearly: I want to help you get used to eating foods with different textures.

Your child can't get onboard if he doesn't know where you're going. Being upfront with your feeding goals won't harden your child's resolve to resist you—and if it does, commiserate some more.

3) Teach about textures.

Talk about how different foods have different textures. And how foods change texture when you cook, soak, and chew them.

4) Start exploring different textures.

This is a sensory exercise so get all your child's senses involved. What do different textures look like? Smell like? Feel like, both to the touch and to the mouth?

Read Unleash Your Toddler's Inner Food Critic!

5) Introduce foods with small textural changes.

Take baby steps. And celebrate each small sucess.

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

 ~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~