Book Review
Teaching Children Healthy Eating Habits
Apr 2, 2014 - 2:48:36 PM

( - Habits, both good and bad, are instilled at an early age.  That includes eating habits.  IT'S NOT ABOUT THE BROCCOLI, by Dina Rose, PhD, empowers parents to teach the three fundamental habits of healthy eating:  Proportion, Variety, and Moderation.

Too many parents, according to Rose, are hung up by a nutrition mindset where they evaluate the merits of individual foods while overlooking the broader patterns and bad underlying lessons that kids are learning.  "The nutrition mindset is a trap," says Rose, a sociologist, parent educator, and feeding expert.  "Parents are inadvertently teaching their children to prefer marginal and mediocre foods by perpetuating the myths that healthy foods don't taste good or that if you eat food that contains some of the ‘right' nutrients that's acceptable." The key is to focus not on nutrition but to recognize that eating, like sleeping or bathing or manners, is about teaching and learning proper habits, and setting boundaries that are flexible enough to respond to a child's temperament and individual needs. The three essential habits to healthy eating, according to IT'S NOT ABOUT THE BROCCOLI, are: ·

Proportion By placing foods into one of three categories - Growing Foods, Fun Foods, and Treat Foods - parents can make informed choices about which foods their children should be eating, how often, and in what proportion. ·

Variety By teaching the habit of tasting new foods, parents instill in children the confidence they need to be good eaters.  This is especially important for helping picky eaters broaden their palates. ·

Moderation This is the habit of eating when hungry and stopping when full.  This is the most difficult habit to teach because food is often an outlet for relieving life's daily pressures.  But it is the most important skill because it gives children the skills they need to live in the real world. IT'S NOT ABOUT THE BROCCOLI gives parents a framework for teaching these habits called The Big Fix.  Borrowing concepts from sociology, The Big Fix is about creating a structure, or repeating pattern, of interactions between parent and child.  "The Big Fix is surprisingly simple," says Rose.  "It lets you take down your old structure, the one that isn't working for your family, and build up a new structure based on three rules."

Rule 1:  Decide When Your Child Eats Create Eating Zones, or regular blocks of time for each daily meal and snacks.  Within each Eating Zone, children get to decide whether and how much to eat.

Rule 2:  The Rotation Rule Never serve the same meal two days in a row.  The Rotation Rule lets parents create a straightforward guideline for how food choices are made that is easy to explain to even the youngest children.

Rule 3:  Give Your Kids Choices Honor your child's desire for control by redirecting it into an arena where their choices will not undermine their habits.  For instance, serving three or four different dishes - one meat and two vegetables - and allowing your child to pick what to eat.

IT'S NOT ABOUT THE BROCCOLI provides techniques for incorporating the structure of The Big Fix into a family with multiple children.  Parents can teach specific lessons that siblings need to learn, such as:  "Fair doesn't mean that everyone gets to eat something at the same time, especially when it comes to sweets and treats.  Fair means people get treats when the time is right for them." "In other words, instead of teaching that everyone gets cookies if anyone gets cookies, teach your kids that if they've already eaten their cookies, but their brother hasn't, he can have a cookie for dessert, but they can't," says Rose. Unlike the nutrition mindset, the teaching approach espoused by IT'S NOT ABOUT THE BROCCOLI gives parents a dynamic strategy that can be used with different children, at different times, and in different situations.

About the AuthorDina Rose, PhD, is a sociologist, parent educator, and feeding expert.  Trained at Duke University, Dr. Rose worked as a criminologist before she decided to seek out practical, research-based ways to help kids learn to eat right.  She lives in Hoboken, N.J., with her husband and daughter.  For more information visit

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