No Cookie? No Problem

Expert Weight-Management Tips from PBRC and the DRIVE Study.
Released: Wednesday, June 05, 2019

BATON ROUGE, La. - "Our parents know how to eat healthily, but what often trips them up are the strong emotions and habits that drive food choices today," said Allison Davis.  Ms. Davis is a project manager and behavioral coach who conducted the DRIVE study in-home coaching sessions. These sessions aimed to help parents improve the health of their children with obesity.   

Below are some success tips she shares from coaching sessions.
  1. Extinguishing tantrums. The first time you tell a child, "No, you can’t have the cookie," after you’ve been giving them a cookie every day for a year is going to be tough. Expect tantrums. 

    Tantrums do not last forever! 10-20 minutes can be normal. "I reminded my parents that if a tantrum lasts more than 25 minutes, there may be other issues that at need attention. They can talk to their doctor about it if they have concerns," Davis said.

    The good news is that once you’ve gotten through the first tantrum, each one after that should be shorter. The bad news is that if you give in to a tantrum, resisting next time will just be that much harder.

    • If a tantrum happens at home or some other safe place, then ignore the child for one minute for each year of age (i.e., 2 minutes for a 2-year-old).
    • Reconnect with a positive message immediately after extinguishing or ignoring a tantrum. The point is to extinguish (not reinforce) the behavior. But, you don't want the child to feel like he or she is being punished.
    • If a tantrum happens in the grocery store, it is best to take the child home. If tantrums often happen in the grocery store, avoid taking children to the grocery store, if you can.
    • If you can't avoid taking a child to the grocery store,
      • Shop quickly and from a list so you don’t linger in enticing aisles.
      • Put a snack in a baggie and let your child carry it through the store. 
      • Go to the store right after the child has eaten.
      • Let your child look at a book or even play with your phone! Distractions help.

  2. Be aware of physical activity "myths."  Yes, children at play burn calories – but not enough to burn off a modern-sized hamburger, fries and a soft drink.  Fast-food calorie loads are much higher than they were 25 years ago when afternoon recess or an after-dinner walk was all that was needed to keep kids (and parents) in shape.

  3. Make it easy on yourselves. Families today need all the dinnertime help they can get. If you can make children's plates the night before and keep them in the fridge, it's easier to get the meal on the table the next day to avoid tantrums and snack requests. 

    If not -- microwaves and freezer sections of the grocery store can be great resources:

    • Steamer bags of veggies and mixed greens make a great salad and side dish.
    • Microwaveable hamburgers out of the freezer section are a better choice than burgers delivered via the drive-thru window of a fast-food restaurant (think portion control!).  Even chicken nuggets from the freezer section can be a better and cheaper choice than fast food.
  4. Celebrate your family's unique style.  Distracting cries for more cookies with art supplies and blank canvas may expose a budding artist in the family. Or start a jump rope competition and reward 1,000 skips with a $1 when the bored "I-want-a-snack" pleading begins.  Making lemonade out of lemons might be a tradition that your children cherish for a lifetime.

Looking for more techniques? Davis suggests checking out "Parenting the Strong-Willed Child" by Rex Forehand. The strategies are good for children of any age.

For more information or the DRIVE study or parenting tips, email or check out the press release here

  • "Developing Relations that include Values of Eating and Exercise" (DRIVE) was a study of the effects of an in-home weight management program that included coaching compared to delivery of educational materials only without in-home coaching.  Fifteen in-person sessions 30 minutes long were delivered in the family's home. The group that did not receive in-home visits was mailed information on nutrition, physical activity, and parent-child interaction at the beginning of the study.

Children in the DRIVE intervention maintained their body weight with a modest reduction in body mass index over the 19 weeks of the study. Children whose families received health education without coaching significantly increased their body weight and body mass index during that same period. 

The full study results were published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior in June 2019.

DRIVE was supported by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. This work was performed at the Pennington Biomedical Nutrition Obesity Research Center and partially funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) through grants P30DK072476 and T32DK064584 and the Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science Center, funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences through grant U54GM104940.  The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

For more information on how you can support this and other projects at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center, visit