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
Dec162014

Healthy Eating Holiday Food Rules: Why You've Got to Have Them!

This holiday season, do your kids a favor. Set some rules.

Then trust your kids to work out the details.

Even young kids can do this. (And if yours can't...ask yourself, how are they ever going to learn?)

It's the only way to teach your kids the right habits for a lifetime of holiday eating.

New research confirms:

  1. Children as young as two can (and must!) learn to self-regulate.
  2. Even children who can self regulate need their parents to set some rules about food/eating.

And here's the kicker: knowing how to self-regulate isn't enough. Kids also need those rules.

Here's what the study found:

  • Preschoolers who were able to self-regulate at 2 had healthy eating habits by the time they were 4, so long as their parents also set rules about the right types of foods to eat.
  • On the other hand, self-regulation by itself, without parental food rules, made little difference in childrens' later eating habits.

Soda is a particular problem.

The researchers are quoted as saying:

  • "We found that preschoolers whose parents had no food rules drink soda about 25 percent more than children whose parents had food rules."
  • "We found that soda is pretty attractive to preschoolers, but soda cannot kill their hunger. It doesn't fill them up."

This study, conducted by researchers at the University at Buffalo, analyzed data for 8,850 children that were originally collected as part of a larger study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education.

Read more about the study here.

Some things you need to know: 

  • In this study, self-regulation at age 2=parental assessment of the child's ability to wait for something as well as general of irritability, fussiness and whimpering. There might be other, and even better measures of self-regulation. The point here, though, is that self-regulation isn't tied specifically to food and it still matters.
  • There is mounting evidence that parenting style matters. And the parenting style here is called authoritative. It's a blend of structure and warmth/compassion.

Parenting style matters so much that focusing on parenting style alone can improve how your kids eat.

Read more about the importance of parenting styles here.

On the other hand, just implementing rules probably won't work. That parenting style is called authoritarian and it has been shown to produce a few problems.

Think rules plus choices. Or rules plus autonomy. Or rules plus trust.

The rules you set for consumption should focus on the habits you want your kids to learn.

And the good news is that there are only 3 habits that translate everything you need to know about nutrition into behavior. They're easy for kids to learn too.

  • Proportion: We eat really healthy foods the most. (And by really healthy I don't mean chicken nuggets.) 
  • Variety: We eat different foods from meal-to-meal and from day-to-day.
  • Moderation: We eat when we're hungry, and stop when we're full. And we don't eat because we're bored, sad or lonely.

Here are some rules you might consider to get you through the holidays:

  • On days when there are no parties, there are no treats. (Discuss this as the principle of proportion.)
  • When you're at a party, you can eat whatever you want, but it's always better to eat the treats you love, rather than the treats that happen to be available. (You'll have to tell your kids what foods are going to be available and when.) OR...
  • You can have X number of treats at the party. You choose which ones and when you'll have them.
  • Pay attention to your tummy. (Discuss this in terms of hunger/fullness...i.e. moderation.)

For more on this topic, read Healthy Eating for the Holidays.

Happy Holidays!!!

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Monday
Dec012014

How to Feed a Vegetarian... When You're Not One

My daughter is a vegetarian. My husband and I aren't. 

But I know families where the reverse is true: the parents are vegetarians and the kids aren't. (Sorry Melissa, it took me so long to answer your question.)

So what can you do to feed the family and avoid becoming a short-order chef? 

As usual, my answer involves some tidbits about the food and some tidbits about the lessons.

First the food:

1) Cook to the largest common denominator. In my home, this means  we eat a lot of vegetarian meals. (This works for me because I'm a near-vegetarian. It works less-well for my husband who prefers to eat a lot of burgers!)

2) Occasionally make meals that please just one or two eaters. In my home this means I occasionally serve chicken, fish and burgers. But when you do...

3) Make sure there is always at least one thing on the table that everyone will eat. When I serve meat, I also serve a few extra vegetarian side dishes. (Nothing elaborate...just some extra peas and/or potatoes.)

4) Use a healthy dessert, such as fruit, as a backup. Read Healthy Desserts for Kids.

Now, the lessons.

Five lessons everyone needs to learn to make this system work:

  1. Dinner doesn't always have to be your favorite. And related to this...
  2. Everyone has to eat a clunker now and then.
  3. While it's awesome when meals are delicious, sometimes they are just sustenance.
  4. As long as there is something on the table that you can eat, then go ahead and eat it!
  5. Learn to cook. Then, don't just make your meal. Share the burden of providing the family meal.

Some families encourage the "odd-eater-out" to cook a separate meal. I don't advocate this.

The "odd-eater-out" has plenty of opportunities to eat their "odd" way. My husband, for instance, eats a lot of burgers at lunch, or when we eat out. Even children, who don't have the same ready access to restaurants as my husband, have plenty of opportunities during the day to eat entirely "their way."

The communal meal is about a lot more than the food

Especially for children. And the lesson of serving one meal that kinda, sorta, accommodates everyone is the right lesson for life. It teaches flexibility, community, compassion, caring...

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~ 

Saturday
Nov012014

The 52 New Foods Challenge: Change the Way Your Kids Eat Forever!

If I were ever going to write a cookbook, it would be a lot like this one, The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by Jennifer Tyler Lee.

It's like Jennifer has been living inside my head for the past decade! I'm not joking.

You know how I'm always talking about the importance of reducing pressure? About using variety to lay the foundation for new foods? About how teaching kids about the sensory properties of foods eliminates fear and resistence?

Well, it's all in there. Concrete, practical steps. (Use it as the handy compendium to my book!)

The 52 New Foods Challenge is not so much a cookbook as it is a how-to guide:

  • How to get kids used to the idea of trying familiar foods in new ways.
  • How to create an engaging game that makes children eager to try new foods.
  • How to help your children explore food with all their senses: sight, smell, touch, sound and taste.
  • How to get your kids into the kitchen.
  • How to reduce tension around the table so you can stop being a dictator and start being a teammate.
  • How to help your kids feel safe around unfamiliar foods.
  • How to leverage your children's intrinsic motivation to be healthy eaters.
  • How to use rewards effectively.
  • How to stage meals to encourage veggie consumption.
  • How to shop, cook and plan meals efficiently and effectively.

And then, as if that weren't enough, The 52 New Foods Challenge, actually provides recipes!

Not hard, complicated recipes. Easy and tasty ones.

Here's the plan:

Every week your family picks one new food to taste test. One new food. That's not so hard. And then there are a handful of recipes for each new food so your family can sample it multiple ways.

The book is organized seasonally so you'll be trying foods that are fresh, easily available, and which you're probably already in the mood for. 

  • Fall calls for families to try foods like sweet potatoes, pumpkin and brussels sprouts.
  • Winter is all about kale, leeks, Asian pears, quinoa.
  • Spring will move you onto asparagus, zucchini, strawberries and cherries.
  • Summer introduces corn, peaches, lavender and chickpeas

Get your copy of The 52 New Foods Challenge here.

My family has a pretty diverse diet already, but I have to say that this book put a little more spring into our step.

Reading this book reminded me about foods we like but which I rarely buy—foods like leeks. And while I had a quibble or two about the guidelines for families, this book has already helped us break out of the go-to recipe rut.

Last week my family made Brussels Sprouts Chips. They're like Kale Chips...only a teensy bit better.

We all dove into this dish with gusto—and huge smiles. 

You should definitely try making this. Here are Jennifer's directions (page 77).

 

Brussels Sprouts Chips

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.

2. Using your fingers, peel away the leaves from the sprouts.

3. Place the leaves on a rimmed baking sheet. Add 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Toss to combine.

4. Bake for 10 minutes, then toss the leaves in the pan. Reduce the heat to 250° F and bake the sprouts for 15 minutes more, or until the leaves are crispy and almost burnt. Let your kids watch closely to figure out the best timing for your oven.

Jennifer's tip for peeling the leaves: Cut off the ends, turn the sprouts over and gently pry the leaves away starting at the stem. Keep trimming off the ends as you go to make it easier to peel off the layers. This takes patience (and time), but it's a fun activity for your kids. As you get closer to the center, the leaves will become too tight to peel, so simply save the small pieces for sautéing or roasting.


Recipe reprinted from The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright (c) Jennifer Tyler Lee, 2014

Want to know more about The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by Jennifer Tyler Lee?

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~