How many times have you strongarmed your kids into a car seat?

I’m guessing…zillions.

I call this the strongarm stage of learning new habits: The period before your kids willing (even happily) comply with the rules.  It’s the time before the habit has taken hold when your kids often need a little, shall we say, a little extra encouragement.

Of course, teaching kids good eating habits is more challenging than getting kids in the habit of riding in a car seat.

You can’t really throw manpower–mompower?–at the problem during the strongarm stage.  (Though I’ve known a few parents to try!)

Since you can’t force your kids to eat, the only thing you can do is create an environment that is conducive to the outcome you’re after: Veggie eating, trying new foods, pleasant dinners…

So I’ve put together my Top 10 Tips for Translating Nutrition into Behavior so your kids will eat the way you want them to.

 1. Taste preferences are more nurture than nature. Read Food Culture and What It Means to be “Child-Friendly.”

2. Don’t serve marginal foods or use questionable strategies to get nutrients into your kids. It’ll ruin both their short- and long-term eating habits.  Read The Ten Most “Dangerous” Foods and The Two-More Bites Tango and How YOU Can Take the Lead

3. Never ask children to eat new foods. Ask them to taste a pea-sized sample and describe what they’ve tasted instead. Read Why Some Kids Should Spit and Nix the Negativity.)

4. Commit to The Rotation Rule: Don’t serve the same item two days in a row and deliberately rotate through different tastes and textures. Read End Picky Eating with The Rotation Rule)

5. Serve a fruit and/or a vegetable at every meal and every snack—every darned day.  And be satisfied with one Happy Bite.  Read Fruits and Vegetables at Every Meal and Every Snack—Every Darned Day and The Happy Bite

6. Stop pressuring your kids to eat and start serving smaller portions.  Read When Less is More.

7. Improve the quality of your kids’ snacks.  It will improve how your kids eat and it will change YOUR life.  Read 10 Ways Improving Your Kids’ Snacking Will Improve YOUR Life.

8. Talk to your kids about eating behavior more than you talk to them about nutrition. See the world of food and eating through your kids’ eyes.   Read Eating, Seen Through Your Child’s Eyes.

9. Clearly delineate eating and non-eating times. Don’t let your toddler eat on demand. Don’t be afraid to let your child feel some hunger. Read What To Do About Snacks and Do Kids Need to Snack?

10. It’s just as important to teach your kids why, when and how much to eat as it is teach them what to eat.  Don’t feed your kids when they’re bored, sad or lonely (or because you need to buy some quiet time).  10 Habits MORE Important than Vegetable Eating and Soul Food for Kids.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~