For better or worse, the nutritional gatekeeper controls around 70% of what our family eats. Children eat what tastes good and what is convenient and what portion size they see as appropriate. You can use this to help create positive lifetime food patterns.
• Be a good marketer. Foods are neither a punishment nor a reward. Healthy foods can, however, be fresh, crunchy, refreshing and make make you strong, smart, and maybe even “goiter-free.” (They might even be what long-neck dinosaurs eat.) Be convincing. Some of our early findings suggest that the more foods you expose your child to, the more nutritionally well-rounded he or she may become. Marketing new recipes, new ingredients, ethnic foods, and different types of restaurants will all help mix it up and break the junk food habit.
• Use the Half-Plate Rule. Around the house, the Half-Plate Rule can lead to more balanced meals, and it can give your children an idea of what is a healthy meal. Is spaghetti and meatballs a balanced meal? No, it is only half of the plate – you still need a vegetable or salad for the other half.
• Make serving sizes official. Provide “official” servings by giving them their snacks in sealed baggies, in Tupperware, or in Saran Wrap. Do not let them see extra snacks. We found that any extra snacks on the counter increase the amount they see as a serving size. Clean the counter at snack time.
For 30 years my Lab and I have focused on discovering secret answers to help people live better lives. Some of these relate to health and happiness (and often to food). Please share whatever you find useful.
This video of one of my post-docs gives a flavor of one type of research that we've done: