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Friday, June 27, 2014

book - It's Not About the Broccoli

It's Not About the Broccoli
Three habits to teach your kids for a lifetime of healthy eating 
by Dina Rose, Ph. D. 

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This book is amazing! I learned so much I want to re-read it just to make sure it all sinks in. I've read tons of books about teaching our kids to eat healthy foods, but this is by far the BEST. I fully intend to purchase this book because I know it'll be a great resource for years to come.

You can tell this doctor is also a mother, because she really seems to understand what kids need and the way they operate around a dinner table. I'm so impressed at how straight-forward the rules and ideas are, they aren't written with huge language or doctor speak, it's plain old mommy English so we can really put these ideas to use in our homes.

She encourages the use of these 3 ideas around food with kids: (page 23)

  • Proportion - "We eat foods like fruits and vegetables more often than we eat foods like hot dogs or crackers." 
  • Variety - eating all kinds of different foods each day.
  • Moderation - Eating only when hungry, stopping when full. 
She said just like learning to walk, talk, etc. learning to eat right doesn't happen overnight. It takes time, encouragement, patience, etc. from we parents. 

On page 32, she wrote about how we are all born with natural preferences for sugar, fatty, sweet foods. "consistently giving your kids sugar... you just ramp up that natural preference, making their craving for sweet things even stronger." 

"If you taste a flavor frequently, it becomes the baseline expectation for how food should taste. That's how habits work." (page 32)

Her philosophy on how what we provide to our kids for food is not only nutritionally feeding them, but also teaching them food habits. For example, giving them one kind of food can make them naturally go toward another food that we didn't plan on them eating. 

"Sweetened fruit yogurts point kids toward pudding and ice cream. Breakfast bars lead to pastries. Crackers teach kids to like chips. Granola bars aim kids toward cookies. Juice sets kids up to drink soda." (page 34)

"Another problem is that when you serve predictable kinds of foods at predictable times, you're creating a limited sensory experience... Kids who eat the same kinds of things at the same time of day, over and over, are more likely to become rigid in their approach to food - and rigidity is the opposite of being willing to try new things." (page 43)

A good idea to arrange this is to serve your kids foods at different times. For example, breakfast for dinner, or a sandwich for breakfast. 

She's not in favor of encouraging kids to eat supper so they can eat dessert. It entices kids to think the dessert is the good stuff, do whatever to get through to that part of the meal, it's better, the sweet part is the good part. These are not great long-term food ideas for kids.

She also suggests NOT encouraging to eat one more bite or to finish their plates... as kids typically won't anyway, it causes them to utilize their only means of control and not eat at all at that point, for the most part. Even if they did eat a bite or two more, what was gained besides you winning and the kid giving up? The goal is to teach kids to notice when they are full and hungry.

The author's rule is "never serve the same food (except milk) two days in a row." 

This is called the Rotation Rule. Rotate through which foods you serve, to encourage kids to eat more variety in their diet. 

She also encourages having Eating Zones, periods of time when breakfast is served, snacks are eaten, dinner is on the table, etc. It doesn't have to be exact minutes, but overall time zones, so that kids learn to eat at certain times.

Variety ... including the sweets are OK!

Rose suggests that "what you eat isn't important; what's important is how often you eat it." (page 123)

"There are people out there who disagree. They would say that your children have to avoid certain kinds of foods at all costs; anything containing high fructose corn syrup is one type that readily comes to mind. I think, though, that you can find a place in your children's diets for anything they want to eat (or anything you will allow them to eat). Candy? Doughnuts? French fries? Bring 'em on. Just keep them in their place. Not only are Treat Foods tasty, but they are everywhere. You can't avoid them. Your kids aren't going to live in a world without junk food. If you don't teach your kids how to put Treat Foods into their proper proportions now, you're sending them out into the world without an essential skill." (page 123)


Serve fruits or vegetables with EVERY meal your child eats. 
It's a crazy thought, but really not that bad. This way you know there is something good there for your child and that she will at least get used to eating those each meal.

A good way to try to give kids vegetables is as an appetizer before lunch or dinner. Have cut up veggies ready to go, even with dip, it's a healthy option. (page 134)

She also encourages you to make dinner not the pressure-filled meal of the day. Make it a take or leave type of meal, something that if the kids are too tired, busy, fussy, etc. to eat it (like most kids are at the end of the day), it's OK, they have filled up on other foods during the day that were healthy.

Rose encourages we parents to have mind shifts. To think differently about what we think we know about feeding our kids. If we can realize that putting veggies into mac n' cheese yes makes it better but still doesn't make mac n' cheese so great to eat all the time, or that the way we encourage our kids to finish their meal before dessert is in theory good but setting them up for short-term success instead of long-term healthy habits, we'll all be better off. 

"When it comes to the task of teaching kids to enjoy new foods, pressure is your enemy. It makes mealtime miserable. Parents push, kids resist, and everyone feels tense. Parents end up communicating  disappointment and failure to their kids because it's hard to applaud that tentative taste when you're hoping for so much more. Kids end up thinking, 'Why try?' On top of all that, the pressure creates a negative association with whatever food you're pushing." (page 141)

I was pleased to see this tip, as it's something I swear by and we've always done with our children: Serve up at least one familiar food you know your kids enjoy at every single meal. That way you know that if they don't like the new fish dinner or the new soup you are trying out on them, they will enjoy the fruit you served or the bread, etc.

"Whether to eat is ALWAYS your child's decision." (page 168)

"Even though there are plenty of reasons not to trust what your children say about being hungry or full, you really have no other options. How much your children eat is something they have to decide for themselves." (page 196)

All parents need backup right?! Rose states that you should feed your kids what you're making, end of story, no making second and third meals. We eat what we're given, that's the end of it. However, sometimes kids just aren't as hungry or aren't as daring... so to avoid the issue, she says to come up with a Backup Meal. 

The Backup Meal needs to be something that's not exciting, nothing tasty that they prefer. So no PBJ sandwiches. She used a Backup Meal of cottage cheese. It's something a lot of kids do like eating, but it's not fruity like yogurt or cereal, and it's filling with protein. If the child doesn't want the regular meal after trying some, the Backup Meal is offered. It's something boring that if the child does this game every night at dinner time, she's going to get sick of it and end up trying the real meal.

Buy different colors, shapes, flavors, different brands of food, etc. Make it different so your kids can get used to different things. For example, kids who love mac n' cheese or chicken nuggets at home but cannot eat those things in a restaurant because they don't taste or look the same. If they were used to various brands, they'd do better when out and things are different. Try various textures and tastes.

When ordering in restaurants, order from the appetizers for kids instead of the kids' menu, sometimes it's healthier. Keep serving sizes small so it's less expectation for kids to try something new. Serve salad or veggies first, then the rest of the meal so there is less competition with other yummy foods for your kids so they try the veggies. (page 188)

"If your kids resist, don't try to coax or to convince. Reinforce Eating Zones with a safety net instead." 

When you pressure kids to eat more than they want (try one more bite!) you teach them to stop listening to their internal cues or to recognize when they are hungry and full, a life skill they need to be a healthy adult. (page 197)

This was such a fantastic book - such real-life, helpful tips. 
She is realistic, too, that's my favorite part. Author Dina Rose encourages having a candy drawer in your house and teaching kids to moderate when they eat from it! What?! In a health book, a candy drawer? I love it. I'm a realist. I want my kids eating healthy food and growing up big and strong, but at the same time I'm living in the U.S. where we're at a birthday party at least once a month and there is cake served and chips and dip and lots of Goldfish around us. I'm loving these ideas of moderation, variety, teaching our kids internal hunger cues and when to notice that they are full or hungry.

These are not novel ideas. We've probably heard these things before. But this doctor and author and originally mother puts these ideas into practice and real ideas that work for busy parents. I LOVE this book. I think you will, too!


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