Your Child’s Weight: Helping Without Harming (Book Review)

childs-weightEvery parent and dietitian should read Ellyn Satter’s Your Child’s Weight: Helping Without Harming.  Ellyn Satter is a registered dietitian and family therapist, and is considered to be the leading expert on feeding and raising healthy kids.

In the book, Satter refutes the idea that parents must force their children to eat less and exercise more to lose weight.  In the long run, this technique backfires, as children become preoccupied with food and turned off to physical activity.  Rather, Ellyn coaches parents to feed well, parent well, and allow children to grow up to get the bodies that are right for them.

For a summary of the books main points, read on, or click here for a PDF summary from Satter herself.

Feed well.

Feeding embodies your entire relationship with your child.  Feeding your child is nurturing your child, and it should be about providing, not restricting.  Restricting hurts both emotionally and physically, and in the long run it will make your child fatter, not thinner.

To feed well, start by having regular family meals.  Family meals are more important than most people realize.  Not only do family meals teach kids how to eat well, they also provide kids with reliable social and emotional support.  Children who have regular family meals do better in school, have better mental health, and display better social skills.  Make family meals rewarding for everyone by following these tips:

  • Prepare and serve food that you enjoy.  It doesn’t all have to be healthy.  Find a balance.
  • Put 4-5 foods on the table and let everyone pick and choose what they want.
  • Teach and expect your children to behave nicely.
  • Understand enough about children’s normal eating behavior to feel successful with feeding.
  • Follow Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility (below).

Follow Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility.

Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility states that:

  • Parents are responsible for the what, when and where of feeding.
  • Children are responsible for the how much and whether of eating.

In other words, if parents do a good job with feeding, they can relax and trust their child to do a good job with eating.

Parent’s feeding jobs:

  • Choose and prepare the food.
  • Provide regular meals and snacks.
  • Make eating times pleasant.
  • Show children what they have to learn about food and mealtime behavior.
  • Do not let children graze for food or beverages between meal and snack times.
  • Let children grow up to get the bodies that are right for them.

Children’s Eating Jobs:

  • Children will eat (although sometimes erratically, this is normal).
  • They will eat the amount they need.
  • They will eat an increasing variety of food.
  • They will grow predictabily.
  • They will learn to behave well at the table.
  • Gradually, during school age and teen years, your child will learn to manage the what, when and where of feeding for himself.  Slowly dole out responsibilities as they demonstrate responsibility to handle them.

Parent well: physical activity.

Ellyn Satter also promotes a division of responsibility with physical activity:

  • The parent is responsible for providing structure, safety and opportunities to move.
  • The child is responsible for deciding how much and whether to move.

In other words, if parents will provide fun and safe opportunities for physical activity, the child will take care of the rest.  Children are naturally inclined to move and find joy in active play.

Parents jobs:

  • Provide safe places for activity that the child enjoys.
  • Find fun and rewarding family activities.
  • Provide opportunities to experiment with group activities such as sports.
  • Set limits on TV but not on reading, writing, artwork or other sedentary activities.
  • Remove the TV and computer from the child’s bedroom.
  • Make children responsible for dealing with their own boredom.

Children’s jobs:

  • Children will be active.  Each child is more or less active depending on natural inclinations.
  • Each child is more or less skilled, graceful, energetic or aggressive, depending on natural inclinations.
  • Children’s physical capabilities will grow and develop.
  • Children will experiment with activities that are in concert with their growth and development.
  • Children with find activities that are right for them.

Know how to read your child’s growth chart.

Children grow predictably, usually along a similar path on a growth chart.  According to Satter, it doesn’t matter if the child is at the 5th percentile or the 95th percentile, as long as he/she is tracking along the growth chart.  There is only an issue if a child’s weight is accelerating or decelerating, and rapidly crossing growth chart lines.  (Slow and gradual change across the percentiles is typically normal.)

If a child’s weight is rapidly accelerating or decelerating, Ellyn asks, “What is undermining this child’s natural ability to grow in a way that is right for him/her?”

Usually, Ellyn finds that the cause is restrained feeding, poor feeding practices or stress.  Forcing food, restricting food, or allowing children to graze all day can all cause weight issues.  The solution?  Follow the division of responsibility, and the growth pattern will begin to track appropriately.

Allow children to grow up to get the bodies that are right for them.

Satter recommends that you let go of any agenda that you (or your child’s doctor) may have regarding your child’s size or shape.  Feed well, parent well and help your children to feel good about themselves at any size.

Questions?  Comments?  Let me know what you think.

“What’s Cooking” Sunday? Salmon burgers.

I like to take time on Sundays to prepare my meals for the week.  Read on to see what’s cooking this week.

Salmon Burgers

Canned salmon is a convenient and healthy way to eat fish.  I tried this recipe today from the back of a can of premium wild Bumble Bee salmon.  It turned out pretty tasty.  Rather than pan-fry the patties, I prefer to grill them on my indoor electric  grill.  They are a little less crumbly if you freeze the patties, and then defrost them for 1 minute in the microwave before grilling.

I enjoyed these burgers with a salad and 100-calorie whole wheat bun.

salmon burger

How to Snack at the Office

Top-12-Best-Healthy-SnacksSnacking can help you stay energized and prevent overeating at your next meal.  But chips, candy and soda contain “empty calories,” meaning short-lasting energy and virtually no nutritional value.  Here are some healthy snack ideas to fuel your workday.

Fruits and vegetables: Hands down, the healthiest snack choice you can make is fresh fruits or vegetables. Try keeping a fruit bowl at your desk, or bringing fresh vegetable sticks to munch on.  If you are trying to lose weight, consider limiting snacks to only fresh fruits and vegetables to cut calories.

Dried fruit is less nutritious than fresh fruit, but a much healthier snack than candy.  The fiber in dried fruit helps to slow the absorption of sugar, making you less likely to have an energy spike and crash compared to eating candy.  Stay away from fruit juice, which has lots of sugar but no fiber.

Nuts: People often fear nuts because of their high calorie content, but a recent study published in the Obesity journal found that people who eat nuts at least two times per week were 31% less likely to gain weight than were participants who never or almost never ate nuts.  Grab a small handful of nuts for a mid-afternoon snack, or spread 2 Tablespoons of nut butter on apple slices or celery sticks.  Choose nuts or nut butters without added oil, sugar or salt.

Light microwave popcorn: Did you know that popcorn is considered a whole grain?  Whole grains are more nutritious than refined grains (such as white rice and white bread), because fewer nutrients are stripped away during manufacturing.   Three cups of light popcorn contain only 100 calories, making popcorn a light, yet voluminous snack.  Microwave popcorn packets fit conveniently into your desk drawer.  Just don’t overcook it in the microwave, unless you really want to tick off your coworkers!

A hard-boiled egg: Eggs have gotten a bad reputation in the past for their cholesterol content, but more recent research suggests that the amount of cholesterol consumed from food is not linked to heart disease.  Plus, eggs are an excellent source of important nutrients, including high-quality protein, selenium and choline.  Studies have found that people with a high choline intake have lower levels of inflammation.  This is a good thing, because chronic inflammation has been linked to a number of diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.

Most health groups in the US suggest that up to one egg yolk a day and unlimited egg whites will not increase the risk of heart disease, even for people who are watching their cholesterol.  Hard-boiled eggs and other protein-rich foods should not be kept at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.

Your food choices have a significant impact on your health and wellbeing.  The time spent preparing healthy snacks for work will pay off with improved energy and health.

This article was originally written for Comstock’s Magazine, the premier monthly business publication in California’s Capital Region.

“What’s Cooking?” Sunday

I like to take time on Sundays to prepare my meals for the week.  Read on to see what’s cooking this week.

1. Grilled sirloin tri-tip

I used this marinade and the cooking technique described in this recipe to slow-roast the steak on the grill.  The result was very juicy and flavorful!

2. Ratatouille

I picked up some Chinese eggplant, tomatoes and onions today at the farmer’s market, and decided to make ratatouille in the slow cooker.  I used this recipe, minus the zucchini.  I accidentally forgot to add the garlic, but it still turned out delicious.

It’s going to be a tasty week!

Recommended Weight Loss Books


Picture Perfect Weight Loss
by Dr. Howard Shapiro

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Likes:

  • The “Food Awareness Training.”  Colorful pictures show dramatic calorie comparisons, proving that if you choose the right foods, you can actually eat more and weigh less.
  • The advice.  Dr. Shapiro draws on research and experiences with his own weight loss clinic to give advice.  The approach is realistic and simple.

Gripes:

  • Is this guy sponsored by the soy industry?  Although I approve of edamame, tofu and soymilk; I recommend using caution with highly processed soy foods (as with all highly processed foods).  In general, stick to fresh foods and limit the amount of highly processed foods you eat.

Thin for Life: 10 Keys to Success from People Who Have Lost Weight and Kept It Off by Ann Fletcher, MS, RD

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Likes:

  • The advice.  This book features both scientific evidence and the stories of individuals who have successfully lost weight and kept it off for at least 3 years.
  • It’s much more than a diet plan.  It also addresses the psychological and emotional issues to weight management.

Gripes:

  • The low-fat diet approach is a little outdated.  Diets including moderate amounts of healthy fats are more widely accepted today.

The Mayo Clinic Diet: Eat Well.  Enjoy Life. Lose Weight.

Mayo Clinic Diet

Likes:

  • Written by a team of experts from the reputable Mayo Clinic.
  • Emphasizes changing your habits—in other words, a lifestyle change—rather than a short-term diet.

Gripes:

  • The journal is sold separately.  But you’ll definitely want the journal.  It goes hand-in-hand with the book and will help you to track your progress.

Creating Your New Lifestyle by Hamilton C. Erridge

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Likes:

  • This book is written based on the author’s personal experience.  He struggled with weight loss, but learned to manage his weight by mastering the psychological and emotional issues tied to weight management.
  • Short, sweet and easy to read.

Gripes:

  • This is not a comprehensive weight loss book.  It is a nice supplement to other weight loss books.

The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite by David A. Kessler, MD

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Likes:

  • This book views overeating as an addiction.  Kessler explores the science behind our tendencies to overeat and gives practical advice to break the addiction.  Read my complete review of The End of Overeating.

Gripes:

  • The one part I disagree with in this book is using negative reinforcement to change behavior.  For example, the author recommends putting an unflattering photo of yourself on the refrigerator as a reminder to make healthy choices.  This practice is likely to do more harm than help.  Positive reinforcement is more effective and better for self-esteem.

The 90/10 Weight-Loss Plan by Joy Bauer, MS, RD, CDN

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Likes:

  • The 90/10 approach teaches the art of balance.  90% of the foods you eat are nutrition-rich foods from all the food groups, and 10% are “Fun Foods.”  Chocolate, ice cream, potato chips, wine… You can have up to 250 calories of your favorite treats, every day of the week if you want.
  • The meal plans are simple, nutritionally-complete and realistic for the busy adult.

Gripes:

  • This book may not help you to overcome any underlying emotional issues that lead to overeating.

Pick Holiday Food that Won’t Pack on the Pounds

ImageNavigating the food choices at holiday parties can be a challenge for nutrition-conscious people.  Here are a few general strategies and specific ideas to enjoy a healthy holiday.

Don’t arrive hungry.

Although it can be tempting to skimp on breakfast and lunch to “save up your calories” for a party, this strategy almost always backfires.  Eat balanced meals and avoid arriving hungry, or you risk overindulging in high-calorie party foods.

Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrition, but low in calories.  When you fill up on fruits and vegetables, it’s easier to moderate the amount of higher-calorie foods you eat.  This is a good habit to adopt not only around the holidays, but year-round for good health.

Choose wisely.

Not all holiday foods are created equal.  Here are some common holiday foods and better choices to avoid packing on the pounds.

Drinks:

  • Instead of egg nog (350 calories), choose sugar-free hot chocolate (25 calories).  Packets of sugar-free or “diet” hot chocolate are available at most grocery stores.  Skip the whipped cream though, or you’ll add 150 calories.
  • Instead of mixed drinks (250+ calories), choose light beer, red wine or champagne (100 calories).  Keep in mind that alcohol lowers your inhibitions, making moderation at dinner more challenging.  After 0-2 alcoholic drinks, switch to calorie-free beverages.

Appetizers:

  • Instead of crab cakes (400 calories), choose shrimp cocktail (150 calories).  In general, appetizers that are fried soak up a lot of oil, and calories along with it.  Stick to appetizers that are steamed, baked, grilled or fresh.
  • Instead of chips and dip (290 calories), choose vegetables and hummus (75 calories).  Salsa is another excellent low-calorie dip choice.

Dinner:

  • Instead of prime rib (600 calories), choose grilled salmon, beef tenderloin, or roasted turkey breast without the skin (180 calories).  The proper serving size for meat is 4 oz, or about the size of the palm of your hand (fingers not included!)
  • Instead of traditionally prepared stuffing or mashed potatoes (300+ calories), find recipes with lighter versions online (150 calories).  Hidden ingredients like butter and turkey drippings add unnecessary calories.

Dessert:

  • Instead of pecan pie or cheesecake (600 calories), choose pumpkin pie and leave off the crust (150 calories).   Another good strategy is to share your favorite dessert with a friend.

The holidays are a time for celebration, so plan to enjoy small amounts of your favorite holiday foods.  Balance them out with a few of these healthful strategies, and you can relax and enjoy the holidays without worrying about packing on the pounds.

This article was originally written for Comstock’s Magazine, the premier monthly business publication in California’s Capital Region.

How Stress Can Affect Your Appetite

Stress has been shown to make some people crave sugary, fatty foods.  What’s the reason behind this phenomenon?  Find out by watching the below clip from the Weight of the Nation documentary series.

Watch the entire Weight of the Nation Series at http://theweightofthenation.hbo.com.