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.

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Raise Healthy Eaters One of the best blogs (other than my own) for learning to raise healthy eaters.

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weelicious Great Recipes for Kids 

Entries in Variety (42)

Tuesday
Jul082014

Talk is Cheap...But It Can Change How Your Kids Eat!

Want to change how your kids eat? Here's the simplest advice I have: Let your kids in on the game plan.

In my experience, talking to your kids about how to eat is one of the most effective, and most overlooked, parenting strategies out there.  

  • Talk to your toddlers often.
  • Talk to your toddlers as specifically as you can.

But don’t talk to your toddlers about:

The good news is that there are only 3 things you need to talk to toddlers about.

These principles translate everything anyone needs to know about nutrition into behavior. 

Proportion, variety and moderation create the structure—a set of stable rules—you need for eating/feeding success.

I’ve written a lot about the importance of creating a durable structure.  Read:

Proportion, variety and moderation are easy for toddlers to understand.

  • Proportion: We eat more fresh, natural foods than anything else (including crackers, hot dogs, sugary yogurts, candy, cookies...) 
  • Variety: We eat different things on different days. 
  • Moderation: We only eat when we're hungry. We stop eating when we're full.

How easy is that?

Try boiling everything you want your kids to know about nutrition into 3 easy-to-understand statements. You couldn't do it.  

If knowing about nutrition produced healthy eating habits we would be a nation of stellar eaters. 

Educating your kids about food only teaches them more about food.  You want to teach your toddlers how to eat, that means teaching them how to make eating decisions.

Never before has a nation known so much about nutrition, yet eaten so poorly. 

It’s time to give up our obsession with nutrition (or should I say addiction to nutrition?) and start talking about habits instead.

Don't underestimate how much toddlers understand. 

The beauty of proportion, variety and moderation is that they are specific and action-oriented. They tell your kids exactly how you want them to eat.

All too often parents know what they mean when they say something, but their kids interpret things differently. 

  • Don't go too far? (Across the room? Across the street?)
  • Don't eat too many sweets? (2? 10? A bagful?)

If you think about it, one reason the “2 more bites” tactic works (at least in the short run) is because it’s incredibly specific. Both you and your kids know exactly what you expect.

Specific statements that produce good eating include directions about how to choose what to eat, nothow much to eat.

In this regard, I’m totally with Ellyn Satter who says that you decide what food you’re going to provide and your kids decide how much of it they’re going to eat.  Satter calls this the Division of Responsibility and you can read more about it on her site: www.ellynsatter.com. Also, read To Restrict or Not, That is the Question.

In my experience, many parents end up focusing on how much their toddlers eat because parents feel at a loss to shape what their kids eat. Parents don't make the switch from what to how much intentionally, and there are lots of good reasons to try to get kids to eat more—like you don't want to whip up a meal in the middle of the night. But if you want  your toddlers to choose the right foods, you have to give them some governing guidelines.

Here are a few things you should be very specific about.

Tell your toddlers you want them to eat:

There are other guidelines such as when it's time to eat (and when it's not) and how many sweets to eat in a day. I won't list them here, but they all flow from the three primary principles: proportion, variety and moderation.

Talk may be cheap...

But when it comes to teaching kids to eat right, what you say can really influence what your kids do. And doing (not knowing) is the key to teaching kids to eat right.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Wednesday
Jun182014

Three Ways to Get the Most Out of Breakfast

Yes, breakfast is important nutritionally, but it is also the biggest missed opportunity for teaching your kids to eat right.

You’ve heard the nutrition news a zillion times before: kids need to eat breakfast.  It makes them healthier and better students at school.  (Though I’m not sure kids need the chocolate chip pancakes at IHOP which come in at over 600 calories, or the flapjacks at your local diner which are probably just as fantastic.)

But you probably haven't thought about breakfast from the habits perspective.

Used correctly, breakfast can teach kids to eat new foods.   Used incorrectly... well, you probably know what happens.

Here are three ways to get the most out of breakfast:

1) Use breakfast to get kids used to the idea that they eat different foods on different days and they’ll be more open to new foods.

Most parents settle on the same 1 or 2 things to feed kids in the morning.  It’s a busy time, and we want our kids to eat breakfast (after all, we know how important this meal is).

But feeding kids the same stuff all the time gets them used to eating the same stuff all the time.  No wonder they balk when different stuff comes around - even if different comes later in the day.

Read Make "New” Work For You.

Tip 1: Rotate the breakfast foods you serve.  You don’t need to introduce foods your kids have never eaten.  Simply establish the procedure of not serving the same food two days in a row.  If you must serve cereal every day, at least switch up the brands and the flavors.

2) Use breakfast to expand the taste, texture, appearance, aroma and temperature of foods your kids will eat and they’ll be more open to new foods.

Most parents think they are providing a variety of foods, but they’re not. Breakfast foods tend to all have basically the same taste, texture, aroma, appearance and temperature. 

Toast, cereal, bagels, muffins, French toast, pancakes … they’re all relatively bland, bready products.  Some offer a little more sweet, or a little more crunch, but the variation is minimal.  That’s because the main ingredient is the same: refined flour.

Read The Ingredients Game.

Tip 2: Pay attention to which tastes your kids gravitate towards and then slowly introduce them to other flavors.  Do the same thing with texture (do they only like crunchy?), appearances (are they white or beige eaters?), aromas and temperatures.

Read The Variety Masquerade.

3) Use breakfast to reduce your kids’ dependence on sweet and fat-laden foods and they’ll be more open to new foods.

A lot of what we feed our kids in the morning fosters eating habits that run counter to the healthy stuff we’re always begging them to eat.

Do our kids really need to develop a lifelong taste preference for butter, cream cheese, and sugar?  Not if you want them to eat broccoli.

Tip 3: Teach your children that …

  • Butter is an ingredient in food, not a topping on food.  Yes, it’s yummy but it’s also 100% fat, and nothing else. Get your kids in the habit of eating toast topped with peanut butter, cottage cheese, hummus, guacomole... anything but butter. 
  • Cream cheese is a treat, not a staple. According to the USDA cream cheese doesn’t fulfill your kid’s daily dairy requirement because it doesn’t have enough calcium.  Instead, it’s a fat delivery system - thinkcream cheese - that packs in 100 calories per ounce. Most people slather on at least 2 ounces. Read about USDA Milk Group.
  • “Children’s cereals” – which have up to 85% more sugar than those marketed to adults -- are treat snacks, not breakfast foods.  Maybe this is one reason most kids have such a sweet tooth! Read A Spoonful of Sugar? 
  • Syrup.  Is there really any point?  Think Coke without the bubbles.  Ounce for ounce Aunt Jemima’s syrup has 5 times as much sugar as Coke.  (Coke has 3.3g sugar per ounce; the syrup has 16g per ounce. A point of reference: those little packets of syrup served at fast food joints are approximately 2 ounces.) Teach your kids to enjoy pancakes with jelly, fresh fruit or -- here's a radical idea -- plain naked (then they'll know what pancakes really taste like).

When it comes to teaching kids to eat new foods every meal counts, especially breakfast.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~

=======================================================

Source: Zinczenko, D. and M. Goulding, 2008. Eat This Not That for Kids. New York, NY: Rodale. p. 74; product labels.

Friday
May302014

"You're Too Fat" Backfires

Ever told your child that she was too fat?

If so, you're not alone. One study, which followed over 2000 girls from age 10 until age 19, found that 58% reported being labeled as fat.

This study is nationally representative, which means: More than half of all girls are labeled fat. That's shocking.

The study wasn't focused solely on labeling done by parents.

The question, "Have any of these people told you that you were too fat?" was followed by a list that included father, mother, brother, sister, best girlfriend, boy you like best, any other girl, any other boy, and teacher.

Being labeled as fat at age 10 increased the odds of a child being obese at age 19.

    • Girls who were labeled by their families were 60% more likely to be obese at age 19.
    • Girls who were labeled by others were 40% more likely to be obese at age 19.

You might think the results just reflect who was fattest at age 10, but the researchers took that into consideration when they analyzed the data. The labeling effect is an added factor.

What's the takeaway? Even if you have a legitimate reason to worry about your child's weight, don't label her.

And don't put your child on a diet either. Kids can lose weight simply by growing.

Instead, focus on teaching your childen the skills they'll need for a lifetime of healthy eating.

There are only three habits that translate everything you need to know about nutrition into behavior:

  • Proportion
  • Variety
  • Moderation

Read Table Talk.

For more on parenting and weight:

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Source: Hunger, J. M. and J. A. Tomiyama. “Weight Labeling and Obesity: a Longitudinal Study of Girls Aged 10 to 19 Years.” Journal of American Medical Association Pediatrics Published Online April 28, 2014.