Thursday, December 8, 2011

Super-Sizing Healthy Food Makes Kids Eat More of It

By Julia Moravcsik, PhD, author of Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food

Children tend to eat more of a food if they see more of it on their plates.  This "super-sizing" has been seen as a bad thing.  Fast food restaurants have been blamed for providing huge portions, which cause people to eat more unhealthy food.

But what if we could turn "super-sizing" on its head?  What if we could help our children eat more of a healthy food by super-sizing it?

A recent study found that serving children double portions of fruits and vegetables made them eat 37% more vegetables and a whopping 70% more fruit!

Give Your Child Super-Sizes of Healthy Foods

If you are serving vegetables, fruit, or other healthy foods for dinner, try giving your child a big, adult-sized portion.  You may be surprised that she focuses on eating this big portion, rather than the other less healthy items on her plate.

This Technique Only Works If Your Child Already Likes the Food

If your child hates spinach, and sees a huge glob of it on her plate, she will not eat more.  If anything, she may be repelled by the large pile that takes up half her plate.

Start by teaching your child to like the food by using these techniques.  Once your child likes the food (or at least thinks it's ok), then give her larger portions of it.

Give Your Child Less of the Main Dish and More Fruits and Vegetables

Another study has found that giving children less of a main dish, like macaroni and cheese, made children eat more of the healthy fruits and vegetables that accompanied it.  Give your child a healthy main dish, but make sure it's a child-sized portion. You don't want your child filling up on the main dish and leaving the extra healthy fruits and vegetables untouched.

Doesn't Serving Big Portions of Fruits and Vegetables Waste Food?

Frugal or environmentally conscious parents might object that giving your child big portions may waste food.  Although your child will eat more of the food if the portions are big, she may also leave more on her plate than she would if she were served a child-sized portion.

You can finish off your child's extra food yourself.  Your child will see you eating it and will be even more convinced that the food is tasty because Dad or Mom is eating it with such enthusiasm. 

Would you like a simple, easy-to-follow program that will teach your child to love healthy food? See my new book Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food on

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Just Say No to the Kid's Menu

By Julia Moravcsik, PhD, author of Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food

It happens every time.  You sit down with your family at a restaurant and the server gives your child a children's menu -- full of games, puzzles, and...yes...junk food!

As unhealthy as many restaurants are, the least healthy food is reserved for the children.  Hamburgers, fries, hot dogs, soda, and loads of sweets.  Our growing children, who need a greater percentage of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients to thrive, are served a lower concentration of these valuable chemicals than we, the parents, are!

Food on Children's Menus is High in Fat

The food on children's menus averages almost 50% fat.  Ironically, fast food children's menus have a slightly lower percentage of fat than sit down restaurants.  But both are loaded with fat.

Some fats are fine, and even healthy for children.  Olive oil, nuts, and seeds are healthy fats.  The fat in children's menus, however, comes mostly from saturated fats (meats, butterfat) or oil from deep frying (which can cause cancer by producing dangerous acrylamides and other oxidation products).

Food on Children's Menus is Repetitive

No matter how exotic and exciting a restaurant is, the children's menu has the same tired set of options.  Hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, and macaroni & cheese.

If you wanted to teach your child her multiplication tables, you wouldn't have her study the "two times" equations after she had already learned them.  If you want to teach your child to like a wide variety of healthy foods, you shouldn't keep teaching her the "hamburger" lesson over and over again.  She isn't learning a thing about the taste of new foods.  And giving your child the same foods over and over again can make her into a picky eater.

Food on Children's Menus is Overly Sweet

Children's menus usually come with soda or dessert.  What calories aren't taken up by fat are taken up by sugar!

Food on Children's Menus Have Very Little Fruits, Vegetables, or Other Healthy Foods

Your child can easily eat half her daily calories in one kid's meal without eating a single fruit, vegetable, or other healthy food.   Restaurant owners know that most children haven't learned to like fruits and vegetables, so they omit them from the kid's menu.

Alternatives to the Children's Menu

1. Tell your child that kid's menus are for babies.  Every child wants to be a big kid.  When the server hands your child a kid's menu, tell her that these menus are for babies and toddlers who haven't learned how to eat grown-up food yet.  She can enjoy the puzzles and the crayons, but can happily choose her food from the adult menu.

2. Split a meal with your child.  If the meals are too big, you and your child can decide on a meal that you both like and then split it.  Ask the server for a plate for your child.

3. Eat family style.  Order a few dishes and then allow everyone to take what they want from the dishes.  Your server can bring plates for all of you. 

4. Take food home.  Let your child order a meal off the grown-up menu, and then take the remainder home.  She can enjoy another serving a few days later, which will help her become even more familiar with the dish.

Would you like a simple, easy-to-follow program that will teach your child to love healthy food? See my new book Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food on

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

5 Little-Known Ways to Help Your Overweight Child Lose Weight

By Julia Moravcsik, PhD, author of Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food

Obesity in children has been increasing by leaps and bounds in the past few decades.  1/3 of American children are now overweight or obese. 1/4 of British children are overweight or obese. 

Policymakers tell parents to feed their children less and get them to exercise more.  This advice is accurate, but leaves many parents shaking their heads and saying "But how exactly do I get my child to eat less and exercise more?"

Some well-meaning parents put their overweight children on a diet.  But forcing an overweight child to go hungry will backfire.  Overweight children often have strong instincts protecting them from famine.  Triggering a "famine" by forcing them to diet can make them crave food -- especially high calorie food -- even more.  Their brains are now on alert because they have experienced the threat of starvation, and try to protect the children by making them put on more fat stores by eating lots of high calorie food.

The only permanent solution to obesity is to teach your overweight child to like healthy, low calorie foods that don't cause obesity.

Here are 5 little-known tips to help your child make the transition to liking healthy foods.

Tip 1: Stop All Junk Food Right Away

Children (and lab animals!) who are given junk food will inevitably choose the junk food over healthy food.  Overweight children are especially susceptible to this.  If junk food is removed, children (and animals) will actually go hungry for days before eating the healthy food.

Your child has little or no chance of learning to like healthy food if he is also eating junk food.  The healthy food simply won't taste good.

Stop buying sweets, chips, fast food, and processed food.  Your child will complain for a while, but in a month or two he will adjust to his new diet and like it just as well as he liked the junk food.

Tip 2: Give Your Child 5 Servings of Vegetables Per Day

Vegetables are the lowest in calorie density of all foods.  Make sure your child gets 5 servings of vegetables a day.  Give him vegetables for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.  And make sure they taste good.  You can search for highly-rated recipes online.

Tip 3: Only Give Your Child Milk, Water, and Herb Teas to Drink

Your child's brain does something astounding when your child drinks.  It assumes that all liquid is water!  This means that your child's brain does not register calories in liquids

If your child drinks 200 calories per day in soda, it will not decrease his appetite.  He will eat as much as if he didn't drink the soda.

This means that he will be taking in 200 extra calories a day!!

Scientists have found that soda is one of the biggest predictors of childhood obesity.

Only give your child milk, water, or unsweetened no-calorie drinks like tea.  Your child's brain does recognize the calories in milk, perhaps because it is a substance that humans have always drunk.  Sugar-sweetened beverages are simply too new in our evolutionary history.

Tip 4: Don't Give Your Young Child Choices Around Food

Even a normal weight child will make poor food choices.  Overweight children, however, are victims of their brains, which are compelling them to eat large amounts of high calorie food. 

Don't let your child browse in the kitchen.  Feed him the same food that you feed the other members of the family. 

You may experience a month or so of rebellion because your child is used to demanding food at the grocery store or browsing through the refrigerator when he’s at home.  If you allow no exceptions, however, your child will accept the new rules within a month or two. 

Once your child is a teenager, you’ll need to teach him to make wise decisions around food.  At this point, give him the responsibility of making food decisions for himself and the family.  Allow him to choose the menu for the family dinner, as long as the foods are healthy.  Teach him to cook quick, healthy meals full of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Tip 5: Feed your child a variety of foods over the long term, but limit variety each day.

Human beings eat more food if there are a variety of dishes spread before them.  You probably notice that you eat a lot of food at a buffet, where you can sample many tasty items.

You'll want to teach your child to like many different varieties of healthy foods, so you'll want to give him many different dishes in the long term.  But limit the number of foods he eats for meals to two or three.

Would you like a simple, easy-to-follow program that will teach your child to love healthy food? See my new book Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food on

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Is My Child Too Thin? He May Just Look Thin Compared to Today's Kids

Children Are Getting Fatter
By Julia Moravcsik, PhD, author of Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food

A recent study found that kindergarteners today are much heavier than they were in the 1970s and 1980s.

There are more obese children and fewer thin children.  The average-weight children are fatter than they used to be.

What Seems Normal Is Really Too Fat

One consequence of this is that parents who have a healthy weight child may think that their child is too thin.  We all have a natural tendency to think that what we see as average is good.  Since the average weight has gone up, a child who was average 10, 20, or 50 years ago may be seen as too thin today.   Adults around him may try to fatten him up by pressuring him to eat more.

Look at Children in Old Movies and TV Shows

A fun way to notice your own bias is to look at movies and TV shows from the 1940s or 1050s, when people were of a healthier weight.

Really look at the children in these shows.  These children look very thin! But they aren't. This is the healthy weight of a normal child.

Your Child is Probably Not Too Thin

With rare exceptions, if you have a thin child, he is probably not unhealthy.  If your child eats healthy food, he is probably getting enough nutrients.

If your child is extremely thin, has lost weight recently, or you think he may have a feeding or eating disorder, check with your doctor. 

Don't Feed Thin Children Junk Food to Fatten Them Up

Thin children who eat junk food have a double whammy -- they aren't getting as many calories AND those calories don't contain enough vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and other healthy chemicals.  Stick to a healthy diet, filled with whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and other healthy foods.

Ignore Weight Charts for Your Thin Child

Weight charts are based on current statistics.  That means that as children get fatter, what is considered "underweight" will get higher and higher.  If your child is in the 10th percentile for today, he may have been average if he had been born 50 years ago.

The only reason to look at weight charts is to make sure that your child isn't losing percentile points. If he is in the 5th percentile and has been there for years, there is no reason to worry.

Would you like a simple, easy-to-follow program that will teach your child to love healthy food? See my new book Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food on

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Does Banning Sugar and Junk Food Make Kids Want It More?

By Julia Moravcsik, PhD, author of Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food

The most effective way to teach your child to love healthy food is also the simplest -- Give your child healthy food and don't give her junk food.  Children have an instinct to like food that they're used to.  They will learn to like healthy food because it's familiar.  And they won't like junk food as much because they aren't used to it.

Unfortunately, there is another instinct that children have that makes banning junk food difficult.  Children have a perverse desire to like things that are banned.  They become curious and want the forbidden fruit.

If you forbid junk food and sweets it may make your child want them even more. 

What can a parent do to get out of this dilemma?

Don't Keep Junk Food in the House

If you keep junk food in the house, but don't let your child have any, it will make her want the food even more.  She will see the package of Milky Ways in the top cupboard but she won't be able to get at them.  Her desire for the forbidden Milky Ways will grow and grow.  If she finally gets a chance to eat them, she will stuff herself until she is sick.

Scientists have found that showing children a food -- but not letting them have it -- makes them want it more.  They will work harder to get the food. 

It's Easier to Have No Junk Food in the House Than to Have It Occasionally

If your child knows that the top cupboard occasionally has cookies in it, every time she looks at the top cupboard she will think about cookies.  It's actually easier to make your house a no-junk-food zone than to cut down on the junk food.  Your child simply won't think about sweets and junk food when she's at home. 

Don't Eat Junk Food in Front of Your Child

If your child sees you eating doughnuts, but she can't have any, she will really want them.  It will kick off her instinct to like forbidden fruit and it will also kick off her instinct to eat what someone else is eating.

If you are determined to raise a child who likes healthy food, you'll need to eat the same healthy food yourself.  Change begins with the parent.  If you have a weakness for rocky road ice cream, hide it in the back of the freezer and eat it after your child goes to bed.

Have a Casual Attitude Towards Junk Food Outside the Home

We live in a junk food culture, and when your child goes to friends' houses, buffets, or parties, she will be inundated with junk food.

Let your child occasionally eat junk food when she is at somebody else's home.  If you forbid your child to eat birthday cake at a party, you will make it into forbidden fruit.  She will also feel like an outsider.

Convey the attitude that junk food and sweets are simply not something that your family buys and brings into the house.  Give the impression that your family simply isn't interested in junk food.

Your No-Junk-Food Child Might DESIRE Junk Food More, But Not LIKE It More

If your child rarely gets sweets or junk food, she may seem to like them more because she gets excited when there are brownies or cupcakes at a party.  Her friends are more casual about it because they eat desserts every day.

Don't mistake this excitement for actually liking the dessert more.  Since she only has it rarely, even if she doesn't really like it, she will feel cheated if she doesn't grab it when it's there.

A Sneaky Trick You Can Use
You can take advantage of your child's instinct to be interested in things that are forbidden.  You can lure your child into trying turnips, for example, by eating them in front of her and saying "No, these are only for me.  You can't have any."  She will immediately beg for a turnip.  After protesting for a while, you can say "Well, ok." and give her some.

Would you like a simple, easy-to-follow program that will teach your child to love healthy food? See my new book Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food on

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Use Tasty or Yucky Facial Expressions to Get Your Child to Like Healthy Foods

Yummy Face
Yucky Face
By Julia Moravcsik, PhD, author of Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food

Children learn which kinds of food to eat by observing their parents.  This is an ancient instinct.  In prehistoric times, there were many wild plants that were poisonous. If a child simply ate whatever he found growing on the ground, he would die of poisoning.  Children look to adults to find out if a food is edible and tasty or yucky and poisonous.

You may have discovered this already.  If Uncle Jim comes to dinner and refuses to eat his asparagus, this attitude can spread like a cold virus throughout your family.  Soon all your children are leaving piles of uneaten asparagus on their plates. 

Children Look at Yucky and Yummy Facial Expressions

One way children tell whether an adult likes a food or not is to look at his facial expression.  If the adult is relishing his food with a blissful expression, it is probably tasty.  If the adult has his upper lip and nose curled up in an expression of disgust, it is probably repulsive.

A recent study found that young children liked a food better if it was being eaten by someone who had an "mmm...good" smile, and disliked a food if it was being eaten by someone who had a "yucky" disgusted expression. 

A Trick to Getting Your Child to Like Healthy Foods

When your child is eating a healthy food, eat the same food yourself and make a "yummy" expression.  Children can see through fake expressions, so really try to enjoy the food yourself and let a natural "yum" expression come to your face.  You can say something like "Mmm...this asparagus is really good." to emphasize it and to get your child to look at your face.

Remember, if your child catches on, this technique will backfire.  If he thinks he's being manipulated into eating a healthy food, he will think that it's not tasty enough to eat for its own merits.  So use this technique sparingly, and try to be genuine in your own appreciation.

A Trick to Getting Your Child NOT to Like Unhealthy Foods

If your child is eating a food that isn't healthy, you can express your opinion by putting on a yucky expression while he's eating it.

Try to be genuine here as well.  It may not be difficult, given the disgusting junk that food manufacturers make for children!  When my son poured his Halloween candy out on the counter, there were chewy eyeballs and "fruit" flavored chalky candies that made me cringe with disgust just looking at them!  I made a few comments about how disgusting they were and he never ate them.

Of course you'll want to respect your child while you're doing this.  Sitting in front of a poor kid who's eating an ice cream cone and flashing disgusted faces isn't polite or kind!  But occasionally, if there is an unhealthy food that really is pretty disgusting, feel free to let your opinion express itself on your face!

Be Careful of Picky Eater Friends

Children are very influenced by their friends. If your child eats lunch with a friend who hates vegetables, he may start hating them too.

Would you like a simple, easy-to-follow program that will teach your child to love healthy food? See my new book Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food on

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why Children Like Processed Food and What You Can Do About It

By Julia Moravcsik, PhD, author of Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food

If you're like many parents, you may try to cook tasty, healthy meals for your child.  But you may feel like your own home-cooked meals can't compete with processed junk food -- food made in a factory or a fast food restaurant. Your child picks at the lasagna, salad, and whole wheat garlic bread that you make, and then eats her weight in McDonald's french fries or Doritos.

Processed food is the scourge of the modern world.  It can cause obesity, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer's, autism, and even permanently lower the intelligence of your child.  Why do children like it so much?

Processed Food Comes in Pretty, Fun Packages

Part of the reason children like processed food is the packaging.  Manufacturers will try to win your child's trust and interest by putting your child's favorite cartoon character on the package.  They spend millions on commercials that make their food seem exciting and fun.

One of their goals is to get your child to have brand loyalty.  Researchers found that children liked food better if it had McDonald's branding on it, especially if the children watched a lot of TV and saw commercials for McDonald's.

What To Do  

Stop the TV commercials. Don't let your child watch TV commercials.  Manufacturers don't care about your child -- they are only interested in making money.  Commercials are the reason why TV causes obesity.  There are plenty of alternatives to commercial TV -- PBS, Netflix, pay-per-view, or DVDs rented from the library.

Decorate your food. Try to make your homemade food look pretty and fun.  Make faces, animals, or trees with your vegetables and fruit.  There are many great books that can give you ideas for food art.

Use Names. Give healthy foods cute names.  A recent study found that calling healthy foods names like Emerald Dragon Bites made children like them more.

Processed Food Tastes the Same -- There Are No Surprises

One package of Doritos Cool Ranch chips tastes exactly like another.  Compare this to carrots.  Each carrot tastes slightly different -- one may be sweet, one might be bitter, one might be crisp, one might be soft.

Children feel safer if their food tastes exactly the same.  Our primitive ancestors used their sense of taste to determine whether food was rotten or spoiled.  If a mushroom tasted different from usual, your primitive ancestor quickly spat it out.

Processed food has such a uniform flavor that it teaches children to be afraid of food that has variability.  Your child expresses this fear by being picky, and refusing real foods with real variations in taste and texture.

What To Do  The less experience your child has with processed food, the more she will like the taste of real foods, and the more accepting of the natural variations that occur in real food.  Keep on making those home-cooked meals! 

Processed Food is High in Fat, Sugar, and Salt

It will come as no surprise to you that processed food tends to be high in fat, sugar, and salt.  Children will immediately like fatty, sweet, and salty food.  They have to learn to like the taste of real foods over time.

Manufacturers rely on fatty, sweet, and salty tastes partly because it is difficult to make processed food have tasty flavors.  The complex, natural flavor of an apple, cantaloupe, or peach will deteriorate if it is exposed to oxygen and light.  Most processed foods don't really taste that good -- we think that they do because they have addictive tastes of fat, sweet, and salt.  Close your eyes the next time you eat something out of a package, and think about the flavor -- not whether it's salty, sweet, or crunchy, but the flavor.  It is often bland, insipid, or unpleasant.  A twinkie really doesn't taste good -- it just has a lot of fat and sugar.

What To Do You can capitalize on the fact that manufacturers can't mimic tasty flavors.  If you continue to feed your child homemade food, and avoid processed food, then years later your child will think processed, manufactured tastes are yucky.  The imitation apple flavor of a lollipop won't compare with a real apple. 

Would you like a simple, easy-to-follow program that will teach your child to love healthy food? See my new book Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food on

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Hunger Makes Food Tasty - How You Can Use This To Help Your Child Love Healthy Foods

By Julia Moravcsik, PhD, author of Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food

Hunger makes the pleasure of eating much stronger.  Food tastes wonderful!

When your child is hungry, foods that she normally dislikes will taste good.  Foods that she is normal neutral about will taste great!  If your child didn't eat anything all day, biting into a normally disliked tomato would be a blissful experience.

Children Learn to Like Foods That They Eat When They're Hungry

Your child will grow to like foods that she eats when she is hungry, because the food tastes especially good.

If your child always eats chocolate bars when she is hungry, she will grow to love chocolate bars.  If your child eats carrot sticks when she is hungry, she will grow to love carrot stocks.

Give Your Child Healthy Foods When She is Hungry

When your child is hungry, give her foods that you want her to learn to like.  Follow up with foods that she is already familiar with, or foods that are less nutritious.

Snacks Should Be Healthy

Think about what many parents feed their children for snacks, when they are hungry between meals.  Cookies, chips, and granola bars!  Food companies even market this food as "snack food."

When parents feed their children sugary, high fat treats when they are hungry at snack time, it trains their brains to love these treats.  A hundred years ago, children also occasionally ate treats, like fresh pies, but they were almost always given at the end of the meal as desserts.

Snack time is perfect for teaching your child to like healthy foods like vegetables and fruits, or foods that are new to your child.

  1. Set out an appetizer tray with vegetables and dip while you finish preparing dinner.
  2. Serve dessert last when your child is no longer hungry.
  3. If you're trying to teach your child to like a food, like broccoli, give it to her when she's hungry.
  4. If your child is a picky eater and you're trying to get her to like more foods, feed her new, unfamiliar foods first.

Would you like a simple, easy-to-follow program that will teach your child to love healthy food? See my new book Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food on

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Why Children Don't Like Vegetables -- And What You Can Do About It

By Julia Moravcsik, PhD, author of Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food

It seems like Nature has played a nasty trick on parents.  Vegetables are some of the healthiest foods, but they are also the hardest foods to get children to like. 

Why is this?  Why do children dislike vegetables so much?  Can parents do anything about it?

Human beings developed their innate taste preferences hundreds of thousands of years ago.  In prehistoric times people were in danger of starving.  Overly sweet, high-fat food was an extremely rare find.  Humans developed instincts to shun the plentiful vegetables and crave the rare treats of honey, high-fat grubs, or bone marrow fat which would keep them alive during famines.
Children can still learn to like vegetables, but they are an acquired taste.

Here are some reasons why children don't like vegetables, and what you can do to counter them.

Vegetables are Low in Calories

Most vegetables are extremely low in calories.  A cup of cauliflower has 25 calories.  A cup of M&Ms has 1023 calories.

All humans have an instinct to overeat sugary, fatty calorie dense food.  Children, however, have an especially strong instinct to eat them because children are growing and have a greater need for calories.  Scientists have found that children who were growing liked the taste of extremely sweet foods more than children who weren't.  It's no wonder that children like foods that are so sickeningly sweet that most adults would find them disgusting.

Vegetables are on the other end of the spectrum.  They are extremely low in calories.  A prehistoric child who filled up on vegetables would not get enough calories to survive and grow. 

What You Can Do  Add fats to vegetables.  Nut butters, olive oil, cheese, and butter are all fats that you can use. If you're worried about your child getting too much fat, remember that children have a higher fat requirement than adults.  Your child should be getting a medium-fat (not low-fat) diet.  You can balance out the high-fat dishes with lower calorie foods elsewhere and still give your child a medium-fat diet.  Concentrate on healthy fats like nuts or olive oil.

Vegetables are Bitter

Human beings have an instinct to avoid bitter tasting foods.  Scientists think that our bitter receptors evolved to detect poisons in foods, many of which are bitter alkaloids.

Children like bland, sweet, and salty foods the first time they taste them. Bitter foods are acquired tastes, because Nature wants to make sure the food is safe before your child eats too much of it.

The first time you ever tasted black coffee or beer, you probably thought they were disgustingly bitter.  After drinking them a few times, however, you came to love the taste.  Your brain "learned" that coffee and beer were not poisonous, even though they had a bitter taste.

What You Can Do  Your child needs to "acquire" the taste of vegetables.  He needs to eat them often.  Feed your child vegetables at least three times a day.  Over the course of a year, he will get 1000 "lessons" in acquiring the taste of vegetables.  The poor kid next door, who only gets vegetables a few times a week, will only get 100 lessons, and may never learn to like the bitter taste of vegetables.

Vegetables Have Strong Tastes

Imagine taking a bite of white bread.  It has an extremely mild taste.  It's almost hard to discern a taste at all, except "starchy."

Now imagine taking a bite of raw broccoli.  Broccoli has a very strong taste.

Foods with strong tastes have more chemicals in them.  Your child's brain distrusts these chemicals because they could be poisonous.  Of course we know that domesticated plants are not poisonous, and many plant chemicals are extremely healthy antioxidants and beneficial phytochemicals.  But your child's brain is still in the Stone Age, when many plants were poisonous.

What You Can Do Your child's brain has a technique for testing foods for poisonous chemicals.  Your child eats a tiny amount and then waits a few days to see if it's poisonous.  If, after a few days, your child does not feel sick, he may eat a little more and see if the bigger portion is poisonous.

Feed your child a new vegetable every few days for 12 to 15 times.  At this point, he should like it.  If he doesn't, wait six months or so and try again.

Vegetables Are Fibrous

Processed food has easy-to-eat textures that most kids like immediately.  Crunchy, creamy, bready are all textures that are easy to eat.

Vegetables can be fibrous.  Celery has strings that are hard to break apart.  Raw cauliflower is very hard, and chewing breaks it apart into many small hard pieces.

Children have an instinct to avoid textures that are unfamiliar and hard to eat, because these foods may cause choking. If your child is not used to vegetables, he may unconsciously be afraid that the fibrous textures may choke him.

What You Can Do  The more vegetables your child eats, the easier it will be for him to chew and swallow them.  Give your child lots of vegetables, both raw and cooked.  After a while he will be an expert vegetable-chewer!

Vegetables Are Mushy

Some vegetables, like tomatoes, okra, or cucumbers, have a mushy, slimy texture.  Human beings have an instinct to avoid mushy, slimy textures because rotten foods have this texture.

What You Can Do Your child will learn to ignore the mushy, slimy textures if he is given many vegetables with this consistency.  Give your child tomatoes, okra, cucumbers, and other slimy vegetables often.  Make sure they are in tasty recipes. See more on slimy and mushy tastes.

Would you like a simple, easy-to-follow program that will teach your child to love healthy food? See my new book Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food on

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Eat Your Child's Food! It Will Make Them Like It Better

By Julia Moravcsik, PhD, author of Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food

This article is about a strange technique for getting your young child to like a food.  To make your child like her food, you should eat it yourself!

I'm not talking about eating the same KIND of food.  I'm talking about eating the actual food off their plates!

There are two versions of this technique. 

The Tricky "I Want Your Food" Technique

Imagine that you've served your toddler a healthy meal of vegetable frittata and grapes.  Your toddler eats the frittata, but leaves the grapes.  You're not surprised -- you know that your little sweetums is not a grape lover.

"Oh, YES!" you say, using your best acting skills.  "I'm so glad you didn't eat your grapes because I LOVE grapes!"

Grab her plate and wolf down the grapes, making suitable relishing noises.

If your child is like most children, this will tell her 2 things:
  1. Grapes are tasty because Mom (or Dad) is loving them.
  2. Someone has taken my grapes away and is enjoying them.  I WANT THEM BACK!
Children have a paradoxical desire to like things that other people take from them, even if they hated them a second ago.  Heaven help the parent who, within the sight of their child, throws away a cheap toy that their child no longer plays with.  Immediately it becomes the favorite toy!

Use this technique sparingly, and only for young children who aren't sophisticated enough to catch on that you're only pretending.

The Loving "We're Sharing This Food" Technique

Children have a natural instinct to eat the same foods as their parents.  You can see this same instinct in many mammals.  A young fawn will push its mother's nose aside and eat the same plants that its mothers was eating.

You can (and should) encourage this instinct by eating the same foods as your child.

However, to really take advantage of this instinct, eat from the same plate as your baby or toddler.  Share a plate of food with your child.  You can sit your child in your lap so she can see the food. Your child's brain will definitely get the message that you and she are eating the same food!

Sharing a plate is a cozy, comfy, and fun thing to do.  Your child will associate the taste of grapes with the warmth of your lap, and will like them more as a result.

Our Primitive Ancestors Shared Their Food

People a long time ago (and today in some cultures) ate from the same plates.  It is a time-honored way of teaching children to eat the same food as the rest of the tribe or family.  It added motivation to eat in the form of mild competition (if I don't eat this then brother will get it) and role modeling.

What About Germs?

You may be concerned that sharing plates will spread germs.  This is a valid concern.  Young children can catch dangerous germs from their parents, including those that cause cavities.

With a little care, you can share a plate and still avoid spreading germs.  Avoid touching your mouth if you're eating finger food.  If you're eating spoon food, use a different spoon for you and for baby, and spoon from different parts of the plate.

What About Table Manners?

You may be concerned that your child will learn bad table manners. You don't want your child grabbing food off Grandma's plate at Thanksgiving!

This technique is for babies and toddlers.  You have plenty of time to stop before your child gets old enough to be expected to have table manners.  Don't worry about manners, mess, or mayhem this early in your child's life.  The important thing is to have fun and teach the taste of healthy foods!

Would you like a simple, easy-to-follow program that will teach your child to love healthy food? See my new book Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food on

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Feeding Babies Lumpy Foods Before 9 Months Prevents Picky Eating

By Julia Moravcsik, PhD, author of Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food

Your baby has made the transition to "solid" food.  She opens her mouth like a little baby bird whenever she sees a spoonful of jarred baby food.

But now you're wondering "When do I start feeding her lumpy food?  When do I put the purees behind and feed her food with some texture?"  Is your baby ready for the next step?  How will you know when she is?

Babies Gag When They Encounter a New Texture

You decide to experiment.  You mash a banana, leaving almost imperceptible lumps.  Your baby opens her mouth, takes the banana, and then...gag...choke...!  As a new parent, you're terrified!  You try frantically to remember the baby Heimlich maneuver.

Your baby spits out the banana.  "Well," you think, "That's an obvious sign.  She just isn't ready."

Babies Need to Learn New Textures

What you may not realize is that many babies gag when they experience a new texture.  They need to learn to swallow new textures, and this learning takes time.

The banana encounter was a first lesson for your baby.  Even though it seemed to end badly, your baby did experience the feeling of slightly lumpy food.  She may spit out lumpy food dozens of times, but each time is a new lesson.  Over time she will feel more comfortable.

If Your Baby Does Not Learn to Eat Lumpy Textures Before 9 Months, She May Be a Picky Eater for Years

Why not avoid all the drama and wait until a baby is developed enough so that she doesn't have to go through dozens of texture lessons?

There is a very good reason not to wait.

Studies like this one have found that parents who wait until their babies are 9 months old before introducing lumpy textures have children who, at seven years old, eat many fewer foods, including fruits and vegetables!  In other words, these children have been made into picky eaters!

It's amazing that just a few months difference in timing can create fussy eaters six years later!

How Our Ancestors' Babies Learned to Eat Solid Food

The original solid food came, not from a jar, but from the mother chewing up food in her mouth and giving it to her baby.  This food was "naturally" textured.

I'm not advocating chewing food for your baby, although many parents do this.  But it's nice to know that for hundreds of thousands of years, babies' first solid food was lumpy, and they did just fine.

Start at 6 Months

You can start serving lumpy food to your baby at 6 months.  Start with tiny, soft lumps and slowly work your way up. 

Your baby may accept lumpy food better if it is mixed in a puree that she loves.  So if she's a carrot fan, mix small lumps into her carrot baby food.

If you have been trying for weeks to give your baby lumpy food and she still gags and chokes, check with your physician.  She may have an oral motor issue that can be helped by a visit to a speech pathologist.

Would you like a simple, easy-to-follow program that will teach your child to love healthy food? See my new book Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food on

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