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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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 

Tuesday
May262015

No Health Benefit from Yogurt, Study Says

Yogurt. It's not the miracle food we've been led to believe.

That's good news. Especially if your child doesn't like to eat yogurt.

It's also good news if you've been compromising and buying heavily sweetened yogurts just to get yogurt into your kids.

A Spanish team of researchers evaluated 4445 adults and concluded:

"In comparison with people that did not eat yogurt, those who ate this dairy product regularly did not display any significant improvement in their score on the physical component of quality of life, and although there was a slight improvement mentally, this was not statistically significant..." 

Read more about the study here and here.

Does this mean you shouldn't eat yogurt?

No, it just means you shouldn't go out of your way to include yogurt in your (or your children's) diets.

But you can use yogurt can to your kids healthy eating habits—especially the habit of tasting NEW foods.

Read Yogurt on the Brain and The Magic of Yogurt.

Don't you think that it's time to move away from thinking about individual foods and individual nutrients, so we can really start focusing on the overall diet?

I do. 

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Thursday
May072015

The Argument Against Making Food Fun for Toddlers

Experts are always telling parents to make food fun. I’m here to tell you that this is misguided advice.

I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with fun food. Everyone enjoys a little levity in their diets. I’m just saying you don’t have to make food fun. 

I’ll even go one step farther: regularly making food fun teaches kids the wrong lessons.

Who came up with the idea that children shouldn't be expected to eat food unless it's fun? And that this is especially true for healthy food? 

Now, I admit that for years, I plopped food on my daugther's plate in the shape of a face. But that was artful plating, not food art. And I didn't have to do it. Indeed, if I had ever felt that my daugther required (or demanded) the food art in order to eat, I would have stopped immediately.

The "Fun Food Factor" not only puts the pressure on parents, but it also distorts the power relations between parents and children. 

Right? If you've got to present food in a way that pleases your kids, who is in charge? You or them?

Now, I'm not saying that parents shouldn't create some levity at the table. In fact, enjoyment— you know the kind where everyone likes being at the table— can improve how toddlers eat.

But I’m not talking about the “draw some ketchup happy faces on your kid’s plate” kind of fun.  I’m just talking about garden-variety fun. You know, where your child actually enjoys eating. At the table. With you!

Research shows that eating enjoyment reduces picky eating.  In other words, feed your picky eater some enjoyment, and your picky eater might just stop being so picky.

What lessons should kids learn about eating?

  1. Food nourishes the body.
  2. Hopefully, the food tastes good too. But sometimes, you have to eat a clunker.
  3. Kids should eat the food you serve because it makes them good family citizens.

Of course, in order to be good eaters, kids have to learn how to try new foods. If that's your struggle, read my step-by-step, blow-by-blow guide to introducing new foods.

It is the stress, not the lack of food art, that kills how kids eat.

Many kids simply shut down when they feel stressed about eating. And that's true even when the food is "fun." And that's why searching for the right design, or the right recipe, can't solve a picky eating problem. So make food fun when you want to, but not when you have to.

 ~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Source: van der Horst, K. 2012. “Overcoming Picky Eating. Eating Enjoyment as a Central Aspect of Children's Eating Behaviors.” Appetite 58: 567-74

Friday
May012015

Some Thoughts on the Hunger-Induced Toddler Meltown

I'm reluctant to wade into the topic of the toddler meltown because it's tough and sensitive. Nonetheless, this is one area that can mess up your food-parenting strategy.

Here's a radical thought: there's no way to know if your child's hunger is actually causing the meltdown. Consider the following scenarios: 

  • You want to serve more fruits and vegetables for snack but the time you tried, your child refused and then had a hunger-induced meltdown. So now you stick to crackers because it's the safer bet.
  • You think the Rotation Rule is a good idea, but when you gave your child a choice between a turkey sandwich and a ham sandwich, she said she wanted peanut butter. You tried to stick to your guns (following my advice/script)—"You can have peanut butter tomorrow but today your choice is turkey or ham."—but then your daughter refused to eat lunch and all afternoon she was a mess.
  • You're not fond of the before-bed snack, but when you don't give your son a little something, he cries and then wakes up throughout the night. It's not worth the fight.

I could go on, but you get my point. The hunger-induced meltdown gets in the way of your best plans...all the time!

You can connect the dots (hunger-->no eating-->meltdown) but there's no way to know whether the meltdown is actually caused by your child's hunger since you can't get inside your child's tummy.

Possibilitiy A: Your child is so hungry he can't think straight. Hence the meltdown.

Possibility B: Your child is hungry, but wants something different to eat, and she knows from past experiences that behaving badly gets her what she wants.

Possibility C: Your child is not hungry but wants to eat and he knows that behaving badly gets you to produce snacks.

Possibility D: Your child is not hungry but is just behaving badly. When you produce the snacks you distract her from the tantrum and calm is restored.

This is just one of the things that makes parenting kids around food soooo difficult.

Since you can't know whether you're dealing with Possibility A, B, C, or D, the only solution is structure. And a couple of lessons.

Structure, i.e. rules that lay the foundation for what and when food is eating, is necessary because it makes food and eating predictable for your kids. 

And here's one last radical thought: One important lesson even small children can (and need to learn) is how to soothe themselves in the face of the hunger meltdown.

After all, most young children can't really eat when they're upset anyway. 

There's no reason not to feed the child who has the one-off hunger-induced meltdown, but doing it on a regular basis sets up the wrong habits, both for now and for a lifetime of healthy eating.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~