Free Resource Sheets to Teach Healthy Eating Habits


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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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Entries in Vegetables (104)


Let's Stop Growing a Nation of Guilty Eaters

What's your guilty pleasure? Translation: What's the thing you enjoy even though you know you shouldn't?


Admittedly, your first answer may have nothing to do with food. But food always makes the list. Brownies. Ice cream. Gummy Bears.

It's time to stop growing a nation of guilty eaters. If you enjoy something, shouldn't you just enjoy it?

Healthy eating doesn't mean banning sweets and treats—or eating them secretly—or eating them alongside a sizable serving of guilt. Healthy eating means building sweets and treats into the diet in a healthy way. And teaching kids to enjoy healthy food. There's a list of things you can do at the end of this post.

Guilty eating is a consequences of a phenomenon I call, "The Medicalization of the Meal," i.e. thinking of food like medicine.

Eat spinach, we are told, because it is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, magnesium, folate, manganese, iron...

In this model, there is no legitimate space for unhealthy food. Honestly, I just saw a post on how to put vegetables in a chocolate dessert smoothie and a recipe for kale chocolate chip ice cream. The only thing that drives this trend is our belief that every bite can and should be healthy.

Is guilt really the lesson you want to pass on to your children? Read Cookies and the Cycle of Guilty Eating.

In America, the food world is divided into good and evil. 

  • Apples? Good. 
  • Brownies? Evil. 
  • Brownies with ice cream?

This would be OK if we thought evil foods tasted bad, but we don't. We think they're awesome. This also is an outgrowth of medicalizing the meal.

By medicalizing the meal we have inadvertently reserved all the good-tasting descriptors for sweets and treats. As a consequence we have come to believe that healthy food tastes bad and junky food tastes GREAT.

 When we talk about healthy food we stress nutrition. 

  • Eat an apple. It's good for you.
  • Eat an apple. It is full of vitamin C.
  • Eat an apple a day. It'll keep the doctor away!

When we talk about sweets and treats we talk about how good they taste.

  • These brownies are soooo chocolatey.
  • These brownies are rich and creamy.
  • These brownies are delicious. 

And the sad news is that even if you think healthy food tastes good, the research shows you subconsciously think junk food tastes better. Read Junk Food=Yum, Healthy Food=Yuk.

One way parents teach kids to be guilty eaters is by making the dessert deal: "Eat your peas and then you can have some pie."

We know we shouldn't do this, but most of us do it anyway. The pressure to get kids to eat vegetables is enormous and nothing gets peas down a kid's gullet faster than dessert.

As you probably know, making vegetables the price your kids have to pay in order to get to dessert makes your kids—shall we say appreciate?— dessert more than they already do. It also reinforces the idea that vegetables are necessary, but eating them is a chore. Yuk.

If this is news to you, or if you want a refresher, read Wheelin' & Dealin': 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Trade Peas for Pie.

5 things you can do to grow a healthy, not a guilty, eater.

1. Teach your kids about proportion. Then teach them to eat their sweets and treats with gusto, to enjoy every morsel. Read Have Your Cake and Eat It Too! and Mark Bittman's Dream Food Label (or how Bittman stole my ideas)

2. Never make kids earn dessert. Read Should My Child Get Dessert If He Doesn't Eat Dinner?

3. Don't talk about "good" and "bad" foods. Read "The Look": How Your Emotions Shape Your Kids' Eating.

4. Increase vegetable consumption by serving veggies more frequently. Read 10 Ways Improving Your Kids' Snacking will Improve YOUR Life and Fruits and Vegetables at Every Meal and Snack -- Every Darn Day

5. With veggies, implement The Happy Bite. Read The Happy Bite.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


Introducing New Foods: Where to Go From Here?

You've come a long way, baby.

But maybe not as long a way as you would like.

  • The good news is that if you follow this step-by-step, blow-by-blow guide to introducing new foods, it's guaranteed to change how your kids eat.
  • The bad news is that no matter how much progress you make, at some point, your child will slide back.

This is the last installment in my series The Step-by-Step, Blow-by-Blow Guide to Introducing New Foods that's Guaranteed to Change How Your Kids Eat. If you're new, start here.

Here's my last piece of advice...and I'm sorry, it might feel like a downer, but it's meant to be an upper.

You've got to plan for future!

In my experience, kids will "play along" for some amount of time...until they stop. (I hate to be the one to break it to you.)

The thing to remember is that these setbacks are just that...setbacks.

If you have a plan then the setback won't throw you off-track. It will just be a pause. A deep breath. A moment of reflection.

What can you do when your children—who have been doing a really good job tasting new foods— suddenly stop tasting new foods?

  1. Talk to your kids about what is going on in a non-judgmental way.
  2. Take a mini-vacation from tasting.
  3. Take a few steps back. Reverting to an easier step will bring your child back onboard. Instead of tasting, offer a smell, a touch, or just a look.
  4. Pull out the heavy hitters: start offering tastes of ice cream, cookies, etc. This reminds your children that tasting can be fun. Read Take a Walk on the Wild Side.
  5. Remember those shampoo instructions: rinse and repeat.
  6. Have a class of wine!

Got questions? Ask.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


What Do You "Do" with Hungry?

How comfortable are you with hunger? Or more specifically, your child's hunger?

Not real hunger, as in starvation. Temporary hunger. Your answer to this question will determine a lot about how successfully you can introduce new foods at meals.

Quick Catch-Up

  • You've grown a good taster. This might have taken a few weeks. It might also take a few months.
  • You're ready to introduce new foods at meals, with the idea that possibly...just possibly, your child will actually eat what you serve.
  • Still, you ask your child to taste the new food...not with the proviso that "if you don't like it you don't have to eat it." That assumes eating and that assumption is pressure. Rather, you provide a teeny, tiny taste and say, "What do you think? Is it crunchy? Salty? Sweet? Ask anything but, "Do you like it?"
  • You have put something on the table that your child can be reasonably expected to eat. This ensures he won't starve.
  • You have used a backup. This really ensures that your child won't starve.

(If you're new to this series on introducing new foods, start here.)

Now, if your child doesn't eat...or doesn't eat enough...what do you do?

Nothing. This is why you have to be comfortable with your child's temporary hunger.

If you do anything—say, provide another alternative or beg, cajole or even bribe your child into eating more—you'll undermine your efforts. The message: Your hunger is powerful. Your hunger makes me jump. You don't really have to eat anything I've prepared because if I think you're hungry I'll prepare something else. 

When hunger is power the normal parent-child relationship is reversed: the kids hold the keys.

Set a schedule for meals and snacks. I call this the Eating Zones Rule.

And then stick to it. Your child has to have the freedom to choose not to eat before he'll have the power to choose to eat. 

This is different than starving out your kid. This is authoritative parenting in action.

You've put sufficient food down, and have created a reasonable meal and snack schedule, to know that your child has enough access to food—and food that she normally eats—to eat if she wants to.

For more, read The Upside of Hunger and Hunger vs Appetite.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Read the next installment in the series.