Tuesday, December 15, 2015

No Two Meals… One of My Few Selected Rules

By: Holly L. Goroff MS, RD, CDN

As an experienced dietitian in both clinical and community nutrition, I don’t have many rules when it comes to health and wellness.  I have the information, ability to motivate, perspective and strategy. I find empowering people with these qualities to meet their wellness goals is MUCH more effective for success then giving a bunch of rules, ‘do’s and don’ts’ and a meal plan. That said, I do have a one rule that I believe is crucial when trying to get young children to eat healthy: No two meals for any one meal time.

I work with both adult and childhood obesity clients and hear this all too often - ‘I want to eat healthier but my kids don’t like it so I make something for me and something for them’. This should not be the case as everyone in your family should be eating the same healthy meals.

No two meals for any one meal time means if one member of the family is trying to eat healthier and meet their wellness goals, and are making meals that help accomplish those goals, then that should be the dinner for the whole family.
It should NOT be the case that the healthy dinner is made for the person trying to lead the healthy lifestyle and the children are provided mac and cheese, for example, because they don’t want to eat the healthier meal. Don’t worry. If the child does not like the meal, and refuses to eat unless it is something they want, they won’t fall off the growth chart skipping a meal. They need to learn from the person who knows what they need to be healthier - which is the parent!

When you set this rule, children learn the benefits of healthy eating and following the rules of the parent.

How To Implement The Rule

I understand this might be a difficult rule to implement, especially if you have been serving two different meals and are looking to make a switch back to one.

A really helpful tip that I have is to allow your children to participate in any part of the meal, whether it is purchasing the foods at the market with you, washing or cutting the foods, or stirring the pot (with adult supervision). This hands on activity will increase their interest in trying the foods and even taking pride in helping with dinner.

If children have a tantrum because they did not get what they wanted at meal time, it is important to remember that the parent knows best, and succumbing to making the second meal because children put up a fight means essentially that they, the children, are calling the shots - I know it’s a harsh reality. These moments when parents stand their ground and set “tough” rule are life lessons for the children, and will resonate far beyond the dinner table.

If you need to encourage yourself (because this transition may be hard depending on the children and their relationship with food so far) remember that by having children eat healthier more often, you are helping them avoid being in the position of having to change their dietary patterns to remain healthy in the future. They will learn to love their fruits and veggies and will mirror your health eating behaviors.

If you have further questions feel free to post them at The Mobile Dietitian on Facebook!



What are meal times like in your home? Do your children happily eat that same meal as the adults?

About the Author: Holly is an experienced dietitian in both clinical and community nutrition. She is currently serving as the Clinical Nutrition Manager at now guest blogger for Choosy Kids!

She received her Master of Science degree in Nutrition and Food Studies from the Steinhardt School at New York University. She is published through her research and contributing work at Burke Rehabilitation Center investigating nutritional factors impacting neurological rehabilitation in stroke patients.

In addition to managing her staff of clinical nutritionists, she has a passion for serving at-need and underserved communities. She teaches outreach programs focused on mindful eating and strategies to make healthier lifestyle choices to at-risk community populations. She has recently been made lead in her hospital for teaching and managing the outreach classes to reduce childhood obesity.

She has expertise in: weight loss and management, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dealing with polypharmacy and achieving nutrition goals, achieving wellness goals in a creative and resourceful manner and motivating change.

43 comments :

  1. Yes yes YES! We have done this many times, especially when the hubs found out he was diabetic years ago, we changed everyone's diet.

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    1. Hehe! Love your yeses! (Is that a word?) sorry about your hubs but hopefully your family is pulling together for him when it comes to meals.

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  2. My daughter has what we are suspecting are mild texture issues, and so, I will often modify what we have for dinner (giving her spaghetti sauce without the pasta for example) however I have not made 2 separate meals in about 6 months. It can be hard some days, and we still have days where we eat leftovers and my girls eat something else, but when I cook a meal everyone either eats what I cook, or skips that meal. Definitely great advice. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Good for you for finding ways to please your daughter and her texture issue but still make one meal!

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  3. I have never even considered making my fussy eater his own meal. If he's hungry, he can eat what I make - or he just doesn't eat. His choice.

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  4. YES... this has always been a rule for us. It was the same for us growing up. You eat what mom makes or you do without! I ask my older two to help, and I allow them to help pick out what we are having with our meal as well. Even the baby eats what we are eating!

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  5. Awesome tips and excellent ideas for making our kids eat :) Thanks Holly for your awesome advice!

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  6. I love this rule! Our one year old always eats whatever we're eating so it's a good encouragement for us to make sure we're eating healthy.

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  7. It is a good rule to have! My kiddo eats what I give him or he doesn't eat dinner (trust me he eats it every time).

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    1. Good job! Kids can be so picky but it sounds like you have your meal game on point.

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  8. Great rule! My son has just started to move away from baby food, and I am trying very hard to make healthy meals for him and do the same for myself. It is tricky, but the best thing I can do for my son's health is lead by example.

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    1. You are so right. It might be hard with the transition but you'll figure it out.

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  9. Very smart parenting! If I had kids, I would do this, too.

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  10. I agree with the rule of no two meals. I cook one meal but I always ask the kids what they want and let them pick out something we are having and I make sure to cook healthy and encourage them to try everything.

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    1. That is another idea of asking what they want!!

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  11. These are some great points. I think having the kids involved in the preparation is a really clever way to get them more interested in trying the healthier ingredients.

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  12. My husband and I really try to implement this rule, too. My child is such a fussy eater though.

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  13. I love this! I try so hard to cook one meal but lately I've been giving in and making two just to make it easier. I've got to stick to my rule again!

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    1. Sometimes for your sanity it is easier to make 2 meals but stand your ground on those days that you can. One meal and one meal only. If your kids are old enough, let them know that if they don't eat it for dinner you'll save it for breakfast the next day. :P

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  14. That definitely makes a lot of sense. I can't imagine people preparing two meals though, that's so much effort. Kids should be taught that what ever is served on the table should be consumed.

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    1. Sometimes it isn't worth the battle but it needs to be a rule from day 1.

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  15. This is a really smart rule. Not only does it ensure that everyone is eating healthy, but it also saves the cook time for preparing just one meal. Great suggestion!

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    1. Yes! Because there aren't enough hours in the day.

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  16. This is absolutely a great tips for making my kids eat.

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  17. In our home, everyone eats what's on the table. That's how my kids learned how to eat fish and veggies.

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    1. Great job! Fish is a favorite for a lot of young children until they get older. Then it all changes!!

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  18. I have a son who is picky. I'm working very hard to get him to eat healthier. Very hard.

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  19. Excellent point. We started this a long time ago. When you have four kids (and a hubby who is picky) it can get exhausting finding something for everyone, but you have to put your foot down.

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  20. I did this with my kids when they were little and when the hubs found out he had high cholesterol we all changed out diet. I have picky eaters so it's a little hard to get everyone on board with what I'm cooking but since I'm the cook, I call the shots :).

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  21. I was raised with the rule that you eat what is served or you go hungry and I raised my daughter with the same rule. However I do have family members who can't follow the only one meal rule due to allergy restrictions.

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  22. When I cook, everyone eats the meal. I have rarely had an issue with my kids refusing to eat and wanting something else.

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  23. You're so smart, were trying to cook and eat healthy foods like veggies and fruits in breakfast. This is great advice.

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  24. I always cringe when I see people do this. Our kids eat what we eat. When we go out to dinner, we don't ever order from the overly processed and bland kids menu, we order healthy grown up food so our kids will get accustomed to flavored and texture and a variety of healthful food options. I don't understand the chicken nuggets and American cheese grilled cheese phenomenon as acceptable food for children.

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  25. Great rule - gotta remember this for when I have kids of my own ;)

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  26. I cook seperate meals in my family, but only because my daughter decided on becoming a pescetarian two years ago. I can totally support this in terms of just picky eaters in the family but at the same time... some families just have extenuating circumstances which makes cooking the same meal for everyone in the family impossible. I belive that since my daughter became a pescetarian, it has inspired me to cook healthier for my family as a whole too.

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