It’s getting kids to eat what parents serve that causes so many problems.

Sign up for my newsletter!

Search

The Huffington Post



DINA ROSE, PhD is a sociologist, parent educator and feeding expert empowering parents to raise kids who eat right.
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 Variety (39)

Friday
Mar282014

Are You Sweet or Are You Salty?

Among the many lessons kids need to learn in order to eat right:

  • Liking something (or even, really, really liking something) is not a good enough reason to eat it all the time.
  • There are lots of good tasting flavors out there.

I bring this up now because a new study just came out that "discovered" some obvious findings:

  1. Children enjoy sweet and salty flavors.
  2. Children tend to enjoy sweeter and saltier flavors than do adults.

This study also reported a less obvious finding:

  • People who prefer intensely sweet foods also prefer intensely salty foods.
  • This goes for children and for adults.

In other words, the idea that you're either a sweet or a salty snacker might just be a myth.

It's tempting to think that if it's natural for children to enjoy very sweet and very salty foods, there's nothing you can do except wait it out. After all, over time, these preferences do change (usually).

Waiting it out is a mistake.

Understanding your children from a developmental perspective is not the same thing as knowing how to parent your children through their developmental phases.

  1. Most "child-friendly" foods are very high in sugar, salt and fat. Read The Truth About "Child-Friendly" Foods.
  2. Feeding to your children's taste preferences only reinforces them.
  3. The more your children get used to eating these "flavor hit" foods, the less likely they are to enjoy fruits and vegetables. Read My Toddler Used to Eat Vegetables.

In other words, feeding to your children's taste preferences makes their eating habits horrible and makes your life...hell.

This is important stuff. According to this study:

  • Over 90% of American children 2-8 years of age are getting more than half of their discretionary calorie allowance from added sugars. For more on discretionary calories, read When Calories Don't Count.
  • Sodium intake is approximately 3200mg per day, well above the recommended level of 1,200-1,500mg per day for children 4-13.

The researchers conclude:

"Because children naturally prefer higher levels of sweet and salty tastes than do adults, they are vulnerable to the modern diet, which differs from the diet of our past, when salt and sugars were once rare and expensive commodities."

The researchers go on to say:

"Having children eat diets low in sodium and added sugars requires a social, political, and economic food environment that supports and promotes this behavior change."

And, I would add:

Parents can teach their children a style of eating that takes taste preferences into account, but which isn't dominated by preferred foods. 

It's all in the lessons....

Which brings us right back to the beginning. Teach your kids:

  • Liking something (or even, reallyreally liking something) is not a good enough reason to eat it.
  • There are lots of good tasting flavors out there.

How? Talk about Proportion, and implement The Rotation Rule.

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

 

 ~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Wednesday
Mar192014

How Young is Too Young?

"I don't think my 2 year old understands. I've tried to implement The Rotation Rule, but when I ask her if she wants yogurt or cereal for breakfast she always says pancakes. How young is too young?"

Sound familiar? I get this kind of question all the time. The answer is: No child is too young to learn how to eat right.

Before you think I'm nuts, consider two things: 

  • Babies learn from an early age that their parents will come when they cry.
  • Research shows that children often learn bad eating habits, like emotional eating, as young as 2 or 3. (Read Using Sweets to Soothe the Soul.) If kids can learn bad habits at age 2, how can they be too young to learn good eating habits at age 2?

But here's the real reason that kids can't be too young to learn good eating habits...

Implementing techniques like the Rotation Rule shapes how PARENTS interact with their kids.

And it's shaping your interactions that ultimately teaches kids how to eat. (Even those who are pre-verbal or too young to have a conversation!)

Let's take a look at some interactions. You'll see what I mean.

When you have trouble getting your kids to accept the Rotation Rule, parents are thinking some version of the following:

  • "I've explained the Rotation Rule: We're not going to eat the same food two days in a row."
  • "My child doesn't go along with the rule. She must not be able to understand it."
  • "If she's too young, I should stop trying."

(Don't know what the Rotation Rule is? Click here.)

Here's the child's version of events:

  • "Mom explained something called The Rotation Rule."
  • "Mom offered me two choices for breakfast: yogurt or cereal."
  • "I said I want pancakes."
  • "Mom said I need to choose either yogurt or cereal."
  • "I said I want pancakes."
  • "Mom is getting irritated. She offered me yogurt or cereal...again."
  • "I said I still want pancakes. I started whining."
  • "Mom gave me pancakes."
  • "Yum! Hurray!"

I say, this child understands exactly what's going on. 

 It's just that she's learned a different lesson then the one mom intended. The child has learned:

  1. Hold out. 
  2. Make a fuss. 
  3. Wait long enough and you'lll your pancakes!

The disconnect between the lesson you think you're teaching and the lesson your kids are actually learning is the space where feeding problems crop up. 

For more on this topic, read Eating, Seen Through Your Child's Eyes.

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

 

 ~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Monday
Jan062014

The Downside of Healthy Eating: Why, Its Not About Nutrition

It's not enough to know what to eat. You have to know how to eat as well.

After being diagnosed with hypothyroidism, health afficionado Jennifer Berman finds out that the kale juice she drinks every morning is a no-no. Writing in The New York Times Berman says:

Kale, which I juiced every morning, tops the list [of foods to avoid], followed by broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels Sprouts and collard greens—the cruciferous vegetables I consumed in large quantities because they are thought to prevent cancer, which runs in my family.

Read Kale? Juicing? Trouble Ahead.

Every morning. Large quantities.

Over-consuming even healthy food has a downside. What you choose to eat is only part of the healthy-eating equation. You have to think about why, when and how much too.

When, why and how much get short-shrift in the current culture of nutrition.

But they shouldn't. Knowing these behaviors is the key to healthy eating habits.

The rest of Berman's healthy diet has a downside for her hypothyroidism too. Also on the list of no-no's?

And flax—as in the seeds—high in omega 3's, that I sprinkled on cereal and blended in strawberry almond milk smoothies. Also forbidden: almonds and strawberries, not to mention soy, peaches, peanuts, corn, radishes, rutabaga and spinach.

I want to be clear, here's what I'm not saying. I'm not saying that:

  • Berman is responsible for her hypothyroidism.
  • Kale and other vegetables are harmful and should be avoided.
  • It's time to run out and buy a box of Twinkies. (Though you might be surprised by what Berman writes about Twinkies at the end of her article!)

Berman writes that her world was rocked further when she went to the dentist. Do you snack on candy and sodas all day long, he asked.

What did he take me for? No, I answered. I don't eat sugar and drink only fresh vegetable juices—no longer kale, of course, but carrot and celery, which I'm still allowed. And filtered water with lemon.

Sounds healthy, no? Like the diet we all aspire to adopt.

"You'd be better off with chocolate and cola," he said. Apparently the natural sugars in fruit and vegetable juices can cause decay, and lemon, though high in vitamin C and bioflavonoids which may prevent cancer, had eroded the enamel that protected my teeth.

Sigh. 

What's this got to do with feeding your kids? Spend less time focusing on what your kids eat and more time teaching them how to eat.

Three principles of healthy eating translate nutrition into behavior:

  • Proportion
  • Variety
  • Moderation

This is not giving up!

When your children know how to behave in relation to food (the when, why and how much of eating) they will automatically get the what right too.

Read 10 Habits MORE Important than Vegetable-Eating.

It's something to think about. It might even be something to read about! 

 I discuss all of these ideas in It's Not About the Broccoli. It's out tomorrow!!!

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~