At Home



Nothing has as much influence on eating behavior in both kids and adults as what is actually there to eat.  Stephen Gullo, author of Thin Tastes Better and The Thin Commandments, says it best:  “Availability creates the craving.”

Set up your kitchen exactly the opposite of the way a grocery store does.  Do not have the kid appealing things at kid eye level.  Put them in a less convenient location that requires a little effort to get to like a higher cabinet above the refrigerator, a bureau in a downstairs storage room or the garage.

Buy junk food snacks in pre-portioned amounts.  This will help them (and you!) be aware of how much they are having, as well as create an external stop button.   These foods often override their internal stop button.  David Kessler, former Surgeon General’s new book, The End of Overeating , goes onto this science in depth.  A real eye opener – explains a lot!

Keep only the healthy snacks ready, visible and at their eye level.

One of my clients puts a list front and center on their refrigerator each week of the healthy snacks that are ready to go in their house. This was surprisingly effective for everyone in their family!

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Create a veritable smorgasbord of healthy choices.  Keep a bowl of fruit instead of junk visible, out on the counter.  Put out colorful veggies and hummus or dips for after school when they are often the most hungry.  Visit my Kid Snacks page for healthy snack options.

Do not create a smorgasbord of junk food snacks. Research shows that variety of tastes and textures will stimulate you to eat more.  Did you know, people will eat more multi colored M&M’s than they will of a single color?

Let each child pick out one type of treat food per week to keep in the house. Or, better yet, as one of my clients does, buy them in individual portions on the way home from school each day and don’t keep them in the house in quantity at all.

Provide a variety of vegetable and fruit options at each meal.  Kids will usually eat more produce overall if they can have a small amount of several different things.  There are several resources for great recipes.  Visit my Resources for Kids for regular updates on websites and my Books page for updates on books.

Especially for breakfast, be sure to have “grab and go” options (like 2 cheese sticks and an apple) on hand so that there is no excuse for not starting the day on the right foot. Read, What Actually Happens WhenYou Don’t Eat Breakfast and for 38  Low/No Starchy Carb Breakfast Ideas.

Except for the produce, make only as much food as you really need for the meal – especially starches.  If it is a time saver to bulk prepare, put the extra away before you begin the meal.

Serve only the vegetables “family style”.

Take advantage of Crock Pot cooking.  Not only does it make it easier for those days when your kids have to be four different places during the dinner hour, but when you do arrive home frazzled, the whole house is infused with the smell of a delicious meal, and you can eat immediately – no snacking while you prepare or wait for the take out to arrive!  Also, you would then be handling the food in the morning when you will likely be less hungry yourself.

Have one treat night a week.  One of my clients lets her kids have absolutely anything they want for dinner one night a week providing they will eat whatever she serves the other nights.  Works for them!  Interestingly, after going through ice cream sundaes, waffles and burgers and fries, their favorite “treat” night meal is now sushi.  Go figure!

Make it a family ritual to go out for special treats like ice cream or frozen yogurt rather than keeping all the options at home.  This will both limit constant stimulation as well as create the aura of “specialness” for treats.

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Create family traditions that involve cooking healthy foods.  The owner of a nationally recognized weight management company used to let his children take turns selecting the ingredients for his famous multi-grain, multi-nut, multi-dried fruit hot breakfast cereal.  For their family, this tradition was like making brownies.

Be the good example – their eating behavior will default to the lowest common food denominator – that is to the worst adult eater in the house.

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Plant a vegetable garden together.  Read them the children’s book, Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert.

Be enthusiastic about vegetables.  They will respond to your attitude – positive or negative.

Check out the colorful picture book of produce, Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert and let them pick out the fruits and veggies when you shop, learning the alphabet along the way.

Acquire a repertoire of delicious vegetable recipes.  Don’t be afraid to use healthy fats and condiments in reasonable quantities.  Experiment with the flavor of different cultures.  They each use a variety of interesting seasonings, and research shows that seasonings and flavors will create satiation in a way that sugar, fat and salt do not.  Check out Strategies for the Vegetable Challenged for ideas and recipe links.

Encourage them to help with cooking.  Let them help make their lunches.  Research shows that they do not as readily trade food they have helped prepare.

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Re-acclimate their tastes by using nuts and nut butters as healthful fats and dried fruits for sweets.  Processed foods with tons of sugar and salt over-ride your appetite controls and dull your taste for natural foods.  When these are lessened, the actual enjoyment of “real food” increases.  Again, check out  Kessler’s book, The End of Overeating for explanations.

Start their day with the right breakfast (proteins and fats, not sugars and refined starches) so that they do not have junk food cravings all day.  Read, What Actually Happens WhenYou Don’t Eat Breakfast for an explanation of the appetite chemistry and for 38  Low/No Starchy Carb Breakfast Ideas

Give them the most effective tool to maintain appetite control, mood and concentration by incorporating proteins, healthy fats and produce at every meal and snack.  Eating For Optimal Hormonal Balance is a handy visual tool.

Feed them the healthiest foods when they are the hungriest.  They will actually grow to like them better through a process called “imprinting”.  Kids tend to be hungriest during the daytime, and especially after school.

Start the meals with “calorie diluted” foods to take the edge off their appetite.  Create starter courses of fruit, broth based soups and salads to give their brain time to get the message and bring on satiation before they begin eating the more calorie dense foods.

Use corn in vegetable mixes.  Most kids like it and it enhances the desirability of the dish in general.

Use condiments, especially healthy fats, with their vegetables.  There are plenty already prepared options you can buy.  A healthy grocery store will usually have several condiments representing all types of cultures that have no trans fats, high fructose corn syrup or additives.  The right fats are good for you and make the veggies much more appealing for them and you!  Click on Optimal Protein, Fat and Carb Choices for a detailed listing.

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