Change the Conversation from Nutrition to Habits with Children

Dina Rose Health Guide
  • The pressure on parents to get the right nutrients into their kids is enormous in this country—and it’s ruining the way our kids eat.


    Rather than let kids explore which foods they like, or figure out how much they should eat, parents—at the behest of pediatricians, nutritionists, and policy makers—are doing anything they can to make sure their kids take in 16 ounces of milk a day, eat the right amount of protein (even if parents don’t know exactly how much that is), and consume at least some of the vegetables parents know their kids should have.


    It’s the rare parent who can resist all the pressure to make sure kids eat right.  Or who can resist resorting to some unsavory solutions: bribing, begging, bargaining, canoodling, punishing, threatening, and tricking our kids into eating certain foods, at certain times, and in certain amounts (even though you know you shouldn’t).

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    Is it a coincidence that we spend the first few years of our children’s lives trying to get them to eat more, and the rest of their lives trying to get them to eat less?  


    You’re probably just trying to get your kids to move beyond chicken nuggets, but let’s pretend that you’re starting from scratch.  What can you do to avoid falling into the usual parent/child food fights and at the same time produce a kid who has good eating habits? 


    The answer may surprise you: stop paying so much attention to what your kids eat because the answer can never be found in the food.  Read You Can’t Feed Your Way Out of a Picky-Eating Problem. 


    Instead, remember that kids are like sponges; they sop up everything in their path.  Sometimes, though, the lessons you intend to teach about food and eating aren’t necessarily the lessons your kids are learning.  Read Conscious Parenting.


    For instance, if you:

    ·    Feed your children the same small set of foods for each meal and snack, you’re unintentionally narrowing your children’s palates instead of expanding them.  Read Breakfast: The Most Important Meal of the Day.

    ·    “Juice-up” your kids, you are increasing their sugar threshold. Read Training Tiny Taste Buds.

    ·    Dole out cookies when your children are bored, sad, or lonely, or when you need some quiet time, you’re teaching y our children to eat for reasons other than hunger.  Read Using Sweets to Soothe the Soul.

    ·    Negotiate how much your children must eat you’re teaching your children to overlook their own hunger and satiation cues.  Read Raising Lawyers.


    The gap between the lesson you think you are teaching, and the lesson your kids are actually learning is where most problem-eating patterns are born.  Close the gap and you’re golden.  It’s not what you feed— but what you teach—that matters.


    ~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


    Dina R. Rose, has a PhD in sociology from Duke University. She has over 15 years experience in teaching and research.  Just as importantly, she is also a mother.  Dina has been studying how parents teach their children to eat since her daughter was little and she offers lectures, workshops and individual coaching on this topic.  She is also the author of the popular blog It’s Not About



Published On: June 02, 2011