We all want our kids to eat healthy, and to learn to appreciate a wide range of foods.  In recent years, there is an explosion of picky eating, which is fueled by the programming of children and parents, as well as poor guidance from many professionals.  Recent research clearly reflects the impact of commercial advertising upon children, and advertisers know that they can affect parental decisions by reaching out to children.

Why is this so problematic?  Because the foods that are advertised to your children tend to fall into unhealthy categories.  There is a proliferation of foods that are primarily simple carbohydrates, and study after study documents the unhealthy and damaging nature of such foods.  If not a simple carbohydrate, then these are often over-processed and lacking in nutritional value while being packed with calories.

So, let’s imagine you really want to build some picky eaters, and live your life as a short-order cook who is never appreciated and the food is always sent back…with complaints.  In order to compete with the best of the picky eaters, then you must make these decisions to avoid getting on a healthy track! Read More→

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Dr. Cale,

I have been reading your articles recently, and enjoyed your advice on bringing more gratitude to Thanksgiving.  As you often write about families, I am concerned about the message we are sending our children.  Why have we abandoned family time, and especially having meals together?  Also, what are your thoughts on the pace of family life and the priorities reflected in our choices?  We’re curious.

Henry and Sharon, parents of 4 boys

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Hi Henry and Sharon,

I think your question resonates with the thoughts of many parents.  Many of us grew up in a world where life moved at a slower pace.  The schedule of practices, extra curricular activities, and academic work was not as intense or as demanding as it is this day and time.

The amount of time devoted to just being with our families has eroded in many homes.  However, I am not certain that parents have consciously abandoned family time, but rather we can get lost in the momentum of the world moving by us.

In speaking to parents, I am often asked about the loss of family time, and whether there is clinical data to substantiate the conclusion that this trend is harmful to children.  Here are my thoughts on where we are at:

  1. A commitment to family time helps children to cherish time with the family.

This is just plain common sense.  You teach about what you value based upon where you put your time and energy.  The more parental energies are scattered among dozen of other activities, with little time devoted to family time and family activity, the more the message to your children becomes clear: family time is low on the priority list.  This then brings consequences. Read More→

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Mom… Dad… Just imagine:

You want to have a night off.  More importantly, you deserve a night off from cooking, but you remember :

  • Children complaining
  • Demanding to eat unhealthy foods
  • Unending nagging for children kicking each other
  • Climbing under the table tops while dinner gets cool
  • Siblings miserable when waiting for food
  • Picking at one another worsens as dinner continues
  • Mom’s irritation ultimately steals the joy from your night out
  • When the food doesn’t please your child they take it to the dark side and perhaps an outburst explodes and you feel totally disabled

So, you shudder at the thought of dinner out and drop the plan.

Stop!  You don’t have to take that path! You need not do this.  It is reasonable to manage such family disasters with a proven, practical approach to managing the children’s mealtime behaviors.

Master the Three Strike Rule To Always Nurture Peace During Family Meals

For your children, the message is, “Guess what kids, from now on, when we go out to eat, ‘We only eat in peace.’ Let me tell you what that means :As long as you eat appropriately, you can stay and keep eating.

“If you kids start whining, complaining, hitting, kicking, arguing, or fighting, I will give you one warning, “That’s strike one.” Read More→

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One of the most frequent questions that I receive concerns the difficulties parents have with their children around food.  With child obesity rates doubling, handling food battle becomes critical to the success of helping children lose weight.

This is also a crucial issue to resolve, as the parent/child struggles over food provide the foundation for future eating disorders.

WHY BATTLES OVER FOOD ARE HARMFUL!

As a Licensed Psychologist, I coach parents on how to succeed in parenting.  Here is a scenario I hear more and more these days:

Jennifer is four, and Mom is worried because Jennifer often picks at her food, and rarely eats everything on her plate.  Jennifer is thin for her age, and Mom consistently encourages Jennifer to eat more.

Because she is concerned, perhaps Mom buys lots of high calorie snacks and treats, and makes these available to Jennifer.

Jennifer grows more and more fond of these types of foods, and consistently rejects or refuses to eat healthy food.  As Jennifer gets older, she becomes more and more resistant to eating healthy foods, but she starts to gain weight so mom and dad are happy. Read More→

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Dr. Cale,

I loved your article on eating out in peace.  It made an immediate difference when we go out with the kids.  But what about dining at home?  My kids are always running around like crazy, and I can’t keep them in their seat.  When I do get them to sit down, they are always picking at each other.  Help!  Then, when I dinner is over, they eat junk, junk, and more junk.  How do I stop this pattern?

Theresa, mother of three

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Dear Theresa,

I am happy that you enjoyed the article on eating out in peace.  You can certainly create the same kind of peaceful environment when eating at home.  Kids can present with a number of different challenges, and each can be dealt with by following a few simple guidelines.

Dr. Cale’s Eating In Sanity Rules

  1. You can only eat…if you stay in your seat.

More and more kids are very active, tend to jump out of their seat, run around and punch their brother or run back and forth to the TV.

You can put an end to this easily.  You let your kids know, “You only get to eat when you remain in your seat.  If you get out of your seat…you’re done.”  Once dinner starts, and you put the new rule into place, you might remind them just once per meal, for the first week.  After this, the rule stands without you having to state it.

Now…if kids get out of their seat, you simply reach over and take their plate, and put their food in the garbage, and let them know they’re done.  No discussion.  No snacks, until the next meal. Read More→

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When mom and dad differ in their parenting styles, it spells trouble for the child.  We often see these differences show up in the form of childhood habits, that fall between the cracks.  Overweight children, poor eating habits, and overindulged desires are only a portion of the problems created when mom and dad disagree.

We are not talking about minor differences between parents. They are bound to happen, as no two people are same. However, problem arises when they disagree on the styles of parenting and fail to keep a common ground.

What Is Needed For Good Parenting?

It is crucial that both mom and dad include limits, routines, and exposure to experiences in such a way that it encourages healthy behavior as well as choices. The two most important mentors of this world – mom and dad – must show their child that they are capable and reliable.

YOUR CHILD MUST BELIEVE IN YOU. He or she should know that when mom and dad say something, they mean it. When mom and dad put a limit, then that IS the limit. If your limits keep on changing everyday and you and your partner differ in them, it gets tough for your child to grasp your message. Read More→

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As you look forward to your children’s futures, what are the primary addictions that predictably could compromise your child’s future happiness and success?  Is your child overweight, eating unhealthy, or not exercising?

It’s not as if there is a mystery here.  The research is starting to accumulate, and we now know that there are a handful of highly addictive experiences that could quite literally squash your child’s future joy and the destroy their chances for a fulfilling life.

What are they?

  • Excessive TV watching.
  • Excess sweets and simple carbohydrates.
  • Excessive video games (especially violent games).
  • Cigarette smoking.
  • Excess alcohol use.

Some of you may note that I did not put drug use on this list.  I do this for several reasons.  First of all, few of you model using drugs as a household activity.  In essence, if you are reading this article, you are likely already saying no to drugs.  More importantly the list noted above represents a much more practical and real life risk to your child’s future.

In many ways, it is easy to avoid paying attention to the things that are right in our face…because the consequences are often so delayed from the time that we make a choice.  On the other hand, you might wonder why I have included some of these items, such as excessive TV watching.  As you continue reading, you’ll find out my rationale for this, and why it is important to pay attention to what the research is suggesting…and what you can easily do about this now. Read More→

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You want to eat out with your kids, but you picture this:

  • Kids whining at the table
  • Siblings kicking and picking at each other
  • Kids’ tantrums, outbursts, and demands

…and you shudder at the thought and drop the idea.

Wait! You need not do this. It is possible to manage the above problems with a simple and straightforward approach.

Eating-Out Rules

For kids…

  • Eat in peace. If you do not, you get FIRST WARNING.
    Tell the kids that they are free to eat out as long as they do not complain, whine, hit, kick, yell, or show tantrums. The first—and JUST THE FIRST—time they are found getting out-of-hand, they will get the FIRST warning.
  • If you do not eat peacefully, you get SECOND WARNING.
    Tell them, if they break the first rule, mom or dad will take them to the car at once for a time-out. The time can be 5-10 minutes. If they remain quiet during that time, they are in. If not, then they remain in the car.

If you still do not eat in peace, you get THIRD WARNING and you are out!


Explain to them that breaking second rule will lead them to the car again and they will remain there until mom and dad finish their meal. Moreover, mom and dad will not pack any food home. Make them realize that mom and dad are serious and you will have them skip the meal.

  • You will have to repeat this many times to make your kids realize that you are serious about the rules and your kids will really not have any food to eat, if they don’t behave. Kids that are more stubborn require extra trips to the car before they learn.

For parents…

  • Do not make the rules unless you are serious about them.
    You have to be serious about the rules before implementing them, or else you weaken your credibility and effectiveness on your kid.
  • Be steady in your decision.

Whatever be the situation or your stamina level, you have to be steady in following rules. However, do not expect your kid to learn immediately or at the first trip of eating out. Teach your child from the consequences, and not from the threat of consequences. Even if you are too tired to take your kid to the car for breaking the rule, you have to take him or her. If you skip, then your rules will have no effect.


Do Not Nag, Preach, Remind, And Correct Constantly


Avoid paying attention to your kid’s unwanted behavior, or else you will encourage it to grow. When your kid starts showing tantrums at the table, simply ignore it and take him or her to the car. Correcting or lecturing will not help.

Notice Your Kids When They Are Behaving Properly
Acknowledge your kids with a smile, a nod, or a touch when they are quiet and under control at the table. This encourages the development of healthy behavior, at home and outside.

Remember, kids learn by experiencing the consequences, not just by hearing the threat.

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You want to eat out with your kids, but you picture this:

  • Kids whining at the table
  • Siblings kicking and picking at each other
  • Kids’ tantrums, outbursts, and demands

…and you shudder at the thought and drop the idea.

Wait! You need not do this. It is possible to manage the above problems with a simple and straightforward approach.

Eating-Out Rules

For kids…

  • Eat in peace. If you do not, you get FIRST WARNING.
    Tell the kids that they are free to eat out as long as they do not complain, whine, hit, kick, yell, or show tantrums. The first—and JUST THE FIRST—time they are found getting out-of-hand, they will get the FIRST warning.
  • If you do not eat peacefully, you get SECOND WARNING.
    Tell them, if they break the first rule, mom or dad will take them to the car at once for a time-out. The time can be 5-10 minutes. If they remain quiet during that time, they are in. If not, then they remain in the car.

If you still do not eat in peace, you get THIRD WARNING and you are out! Read More→

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Many parents believe that their picky eater is not a candidate for becoming overweight, yet this is not accurate.  Many times, the picky eater develops habits that support only eating high carbohydrate foods, and foods high in unhealthy fat.

The consequence is that these children sometimes refuse to eat healthy foods, and parents engage in repeated struggles to get them into healthy patterns.

Below is my rapid fire game plan, that gets control of your home and your picky eater.

The specific steps that are outlined below can be extraordinarily helpful.  However, they may require you to adjust your mental attitude and your beliefs about your role in supporting healthy eating habits.

HOW TO HELP YOUR PICKY EATER!

1.   Adjust your mindset.

To expand the foods your child eats, it is essential to let go of the idea that you can (or should) force or demand your kids to eat healthy food.

This is not to say that you relinquish this goal.  It simply acknowledges that forcing or demanding your children to eat healthier will not work. Read More→

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