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.

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 


Why Kids Fight with You Over Food

Kids fight with parents over food because parents fight with their kids over food.

This isn't a blame-game going on. So hear me out. I'm making an argument about the lessons kids learn.

Have you ever stopped to think about all the ways you teach your kids to be controlling around food?

Probably not. The way most parents are controlling around food probably doesn't feel that controlling. And it certainly doesn't feel avoidable.

But if you think about the situation through your child's eyes, I think you'll see what I mean. 

Without really meaning to, many parents control almost every aspect of their children's eating.

We control what kids eat, when they eat, what order they eat their food in, how much they have to eat. No wonder that some kids start controlling you back!

Here's a sample of the controlling conversation between a father and his 2-3 year old son that I overheard at a restaurant the other evening.

  • No, you can't have that until you've had your veggie pouch. (I couldn't see what that was, but I assumed it was some kind of snack food the father had brought to the restaurant.)
  • You have to have your milk before you drink your milkshake. (This one I didn't understand.)
  • You're going to have a hamburger.
  • Eat a few more bites.

Granted, there are many reasons to structure what and when children eat. 

And I'm NOT advocating that parents become permissive. I'm just saying that if you think about...

Everytime you interact with your children around food, you're teaching them something about:

  • The food 
  • How to interact with you around food

Control is the enemy. It teaches kids to be controlling back.

After all, young kids are in the business of learning to control their bodies and their environment.

Structure is the antidote to control.

Establishing rules and boundaries stops the fighting because it clearly delineates domains. Think of this as the car-seat law: After an initial outburst, kids don't argue about the car seat because it doesn't get them anywhere.

Then, kids start thinking about what they can do while they're in the carseat!

Here are some ways to structure meals:

  • Use the Rotation Rule, don't serve the same food 2 days in a row
  • Use the Eating Zones Rule, establish times for eating and times for not eating
  • Teach children a style of eating called One-One, so kids eat a little of everything before they finish anything

Structure provides the same directions as the controlling interaction, but it's not controlling because it happens as a rule outside the interactions.

And then...

Within the structure give your children plenty of choices.

And make sure to give your kids plenty of choices around non-food related things too:

  • "Do you want to sit in this chair or that chair?"
  • "Do you want to put on your shoes now or in 5 minutes?"
  • "Do you want to put your shoes on your self right now or have Mommy do it right now?"

Properly empowering children takes the food out of the fight.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


Are Packed Lunches Healthy? Research Says, "No."

By now you've probably heard about the research study which found that home-packed lunches are often nutritionally inferior to school lunches.

The study found:
  • Only 27% of home-packed lunches met at least 3 of 5 National School Lunch Program standards
  • Only 4% of snacks met 2 of 4 Child and Adult Care Food Program standards.

The Boston Globe wrote about this study, and I was thrilled that my thoughts were included in the article. Read At lunch, home-packed may not mean healthy.

Three things stand out from this study for me...

1) The easiest way to improve the quality of your child's diet is to improve snacks.

You could, if you wanted, forget about lunch. Snacks are where the action really is.

Desserts & sweetened beverages are the major source of calories children consume from snacks. But salty snacks are gaining ground! Read The Snack Attack.

Teach your kids that, from a habits perspective, snack is a time of day, not a type of food.

  • Make fruits and vegetables the go-to for snacks. You don't have to do this everyday, but most days would be the ideal goal.
  • Start off small. One or two bites of fruit or vegetable, combined with other "snack" foods would be a good start.
  • Talk to your children before you pack their snacks. Otherwise the fruits and vegetables will definitely come home uneaten!

When I wrote about this on my Facebook page, someone noted that her child got teased when he brought vegetables for lunch. While my general thought is, "Shame on those other children," my other thought is, "Children need to learn lots of life lessons and being different is one of them. This is actually a gentle way to begin that conversation with your kids.

2) It's easy to think we have only two choices: send a healthy lunch or send a junky one. This is a false dichotomy.

Baby steps change habits in the longterm, and that's what you're after. Consider using:

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

SourceHubbard, K. L., A. Must, M. Eliasziw, S. C. Folta, and J. Goldberg. 2014. “What's in Children's Backpacks: Foods Brought From Home.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics In press.


The Happy Bite Podcast

I've always wanted to do a podcast. So I'm pleased to announce the launch of The Happy Bite! 

I’m collaborating with registered dietician and mom, Sally Kuzemchak.

Sally writes one of my favorite blogs, Real Mom Nutrition. (If you don't already know about Sally's work, check her out!)

Twice a month, we will share our thoughts about topics related to kids and food.

We've already recorded three episodes.

  • Eating on vacation
  • Artificial Food Dyes
  • Camp Food

Coming up, we'll talk about:

  • Back-to-school topics like school lunch
  • Breakfast
  • Lots more, including YOUR suggestions.

We hope you’ll tune in to learn and laugh along with us.

We also hope you’ll email us if you’ve got a topic or question you’d like us to cover in an upcoming episode!

Two ways to listen:

The Happy Bite. Bringing two bodies of knowledge together:

What your kids ought to eat...

And the habits your kids need to learn so they'll actually eat what you serve! 

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~