5 Things I Frequently Say to My Children When They Eat

by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD on July 21, 2016

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The other day I was saying something to my children about food when I realized I say it all the time. Then I made a list of the other things I frequently say during mealtime. In short, I try to teach important lessons using common sayings with a bit of humor.

So here are the 5 things I say most frequently at mealtime, and more importantly, why I say them.

1. Be Flexible with Food

Okay, this one I say before eating but it’s important to include. I say “Be Flexible with Food” when my kids are going to eat at someone else’s house or we are going over to friends for dinner or to an unknown restaurant. I follow with more info such as remembering their manners, not yelling “I don’t like it,” and taking the food that is offered even if they aren’t sure they want to eat it.


Big A gets this, but Little D still needs the reminder. I find preparing the kids and managing expectations for the eating experience helps a lot.

2.Two Cheeks!

Little D has this habit of grabbing his food and eating it while standing up. It drives me crazy and I always follow this behavior with asking him to sit down. Often, he’ll get on the chair but not sit directly on it. So when I say “Two Cheeks!” it means I want his entire bottom — both cheeks — on the seat.

It’s become a joke in our home and the kids now know that if one of their cheeks is not on the chair, it’s at risk for getting pinched.

3. What Does Your Tummy Say?

I’ve been saying this one the longest. Typically, when my kids ask for more food or dessert, I ask them what their tummy says. Sometimes it’s a “more” and other times they will decide they are full.

According to one study, child care providers often give cues for children to eat more without references to hunger or fullness. Examples include asking children if they want more food without referring to fullness, telling children to eat, try or finish food, and praising children when they eat more food.

The researchers call helping children recognize hunger and fullness cues “intake coaching” which is when parents accept their children’s hunger cues, but help them to make appropriate choices. “What Does Your Tummy Say?” is my low key way of helping my children assess how hungry they are before taking food.

4. Food Deserves Your Attention

During meals, sometimes the kids look around, decide to get up or turn while eating. I remind them that “Food Deserves Your Attention.” The point is food is important in our house and when we eat, let’s pay attention and be mindful. More in this post about why it’s important to pay attention at meals.

5. Save Your Appetite for Dinner

At home we are sure not to eat leading up to dinnertime so my kids have an appetite for dinner. But when we go other places, there are often appetizers they like to snack on. When they keep going back for more I remind them to “Save Your Appetite for Dinner.” They don’t always listen but I do it anyway.

The last time we ate at grandmas, Big A realized she ate too many pretzels and watermelon and just wasn’t hungry for dinner. She was kind of sad because it was one her favorite foods, chicken. So hopefully with the reminders and this natural consequence, it will sink in.

And really that’s what’s behind these little sayings. Kids may not take heed the first or twentieth time you say it, but eventually it becomes what they do.

What do you say to your kids at mealtime?

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What Most Poeple Get Wrong About the Great Moderation Debate

by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD on July 8, 2016

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Over the past few years there’s been a growing number of articles against eating in moderation.

“Like any overly simplistic attempt to reduce a complex aspect of human physiology to a simple rule, it just does not work for the majority of people.” Greatist.com

“Don’t eat everything in moderation. Eat as much healthy food as you can, whenever you are hungry. Eat as little unhealthy garbage as you can. If possible none at all.” Dietdoctor.com


A recent study published in Appetite added fuel to the fire, and the media ran with it. The study showed that people often define moderation as larger-than-moderate quantities of unhealthy food like chocolate chip cookies. Most people thought they were doing great with this eating in moderation. The conclusion? “Everything in moderation” doesn’t work after all.

And like it always is, the most important point is completely missed. click to continue

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How I Fall Back in Love with Health Again (and Again)

July 1, 2016
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I’ve been conscious about my health since I graduated high school. This was the time I realized how eating well, sleeping soundly and being active made me feel. This lifestyle gave me more energy to live life. I felt ten times better. It was a secret I couldn’t wait to share with others, which is […]




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Summer Dinner Rotation

June 23, 2016
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I made it through my end-of-the-year busy time and now summer is here. After a quickie vacation, we are ready to go. I always find the kids whine a lot the first few days without a schedule. I found myself getting agitated when I realized this always happens the beginning of summer. Sure enough, things […]




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7 Ways I Maintain Health When Life Gets Crazy

June 9, 2016
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Over the past month or so it’s been a bit hectic here. First, is the realization my kids are going to be out of school in early June and my next book is not even close to done yet. So I’ve been working extra hard, waking up before 5 and going all day. Then there’s […]




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5 Changes You Can Expect to See on the Nutrition Facts Label

May 24, 2016
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Have you heard? On May 20th, the FDA announced new changes coming to the nutrition label of food products. Why? Well, the current label is over 20 years old. On their website the FDA states that “The changes announced today are based on updated scientific information, new nutrition and public health research, more recent dietary […]

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What Harping on a Child’s Weight Looks Like 20 Years Later

May 11, 2016
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She was in the 4th grade when she realized her body was wrong. “It’s probably from eating all that pizza and ice cream. It tastes good, doesn’t it? But it makes your body big and fat,” said her pediatrician during a check-up, detailed in this post by My Fat Friend on Medium.com. “Just imagine that […]

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Dinner Rotation: April-May

April 28, 2016
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I hope you all are well. Sorry I missed posting my last meal rotation. I don’t know about you but here in San Diego it’s become warm (although not today) and summer buzz is in the air. So Thursdays will be grill nights as we gear up for summer grilling. Since my husband is in […]

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Want to Strengthen Your Child’s Self-Control Muscle? Avoid This Common Feeding Mistake

April 20, 2016
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This is part of an ongoing series on moderation. It’s in preparation for my next book and includes expert interviews, the latest research and expert tips. Sign up for my updates to get these posts and subscriber discounts including FREE e-book offers. Since I started blogging I’ve consistently received the same question from parents. It […]

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The Power of Paying Attention at Meals

April 12, 2016
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This is part of an ongoing series on moderation. It’s in preparation for my next book and includes expert interviews, the latest research and expert tips. Sign up for my updates to get these posts and subscriber discounts including FREE e-book offers. As a young child, I remember sitting down to family dinners but this […]

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