You’ve read all the advice and you’re psyched.

  • It’s time to cut back on sweetened yogurt.
  • You’re determined your child will eat dinner in his high chair.
  • Snack time will be filled with fruits.

It’s easy to get excited for change, but it’s not so easy to carry it through. That’s because the system you have going works for you and your kids – at least on some level. (You wish your child ate better but perhaps you hate conflict, or are worried she’ll be hungry.)

For change to stick you need a plan of action.

1) Before you start, decide exactly what you are going to do.

Break down your goal into multiple components and implement one at a time. You can’t be too specific. Do you want your child to eat more vegetables? She may have to accept them on her plate, agree to put a small amount in her mouth, swallow.

2) Anticipate how your child will react to the change and figure out how you will respond to the reaction.

Will your child be angry? Throw a fit? Refuse to comply? Remember, change will never happen while your child is throwing a fit so you need to be prepared to correct your kid’s behavior.

3) Talk to your child about what you are going to change and why.

“I know you don’t like to have different foods on your plate but you are old enough now to eat like a big boy. So we’re going to start putting a little of everything on your plate.”

4) Tell your child when the change will begin.

“We’re going to start putting a little of everything on your plate starting with dinner tonight.”

5) Acknowledge how difficult change is and tell your child what you will do to make the change easier for her.

“I know how hard it is going to be for you because you really don’t like to have different foods on your plate. I’m going to help you by giving you a big plate and very small amounts so nothing will touch.”

6) Tell your child how you expect her to behave during the change. Be clear what the consequences will be for misbehaving.

“Remember, you don’t have to taste the food, but you do have to have it on your plate without a fit.  You can say you are unhappy or tell me how you are feeling but you may not scream or shout.  If you do you will have a time out.”

7) Make the changes on schedule, so don’t forget or put it off.

If something comes up, or you decide to put off the plan, tell your child immediately. “Remember I told you yesterday that we were going to start putting all the food on your plate?  Well, I’ve decided that we won’t start until tomorrow because we’re going to Grandma’s house for dinner tonight.”

8) Immediately praise your child for positive behavior (or discipline her if necessary).

Do this immediately, as soon as you “catch her” being good.  “Thank you for not having a fit when all the different foods are on your plate.”

If you see your child look like she might be considering having a fit: “I know it’s hard but you are doing a good job and acting like such a big boy.”

At the same time, implement consequences if necessary.

But remember, don’t punish your child for not following the plan. Only discipline your child if she misbehaves.

Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.