Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Skinny on Fat

There are a lot of people out there that think, if I eat fat, then I will get fat. And rightfully so, I mean they are both the same word. Fat in food = fat on the body. Well readers, I am here to tell you, not so.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day; we were talking about low-fat muffins. If you take the fat out of a muffin, what is left? Flour and sugar. Not a good combination. Once that fat free muffin hits your digestive tract it is rapidly absorbed into your blood stream, causing blood sugar and insulin to spike. Fat helps slow down digestion and your blood sugar will remain more stable over a longer period of time. So, although that muffin with fat may have more calories, it may prevent you from eating another one later on, when your blood sugar plummets. Or it may help you only eat one instead of two because fat increases feelings of fullness. But I digress; because we all know that there are better things to eat than muffins, fat-free or full of fat.

Fat is necessary in the body for so many reasons. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble. This means they need dietary fat to be absorbed by the body. If you are drinking vitamin A and D fortified skim milk, good luck getting any of that A and D.

Did you also know that our brains are made of 75% fat? This is the primary reason why doctors recommend that little ones need whole milk until age 2, while their brains are rapidly developing. But guess what? The brain doesn’t stop developing until adolescence, or perhaps even later in life according to this study. So why do we recommend low fat for kids past the age of 2?

The cell walls in our body are made of fat, both saturated fat for structure and polyunsaturated for fluidity. This helps with cell signaling, and proper metabolism. In addition, fat keeps our hair and skin supple and soft instead of dry and brittle.

Getting back to the muffins, fat in the diet also increases feelings of fullness and may help us eat fewer calories over time, which is how to promote weight loss. In 2005, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health studied weight and milk consumption in children ages 9 to 14. They found that skim and 1% milk were associated with weight gain, while dairy fat was not.

Yet plenty of registered dietitians promote fat free products like skim milk and suggest removing egg yolks from eggs. When will nutrition professionals stop suggesting these ridiculous ideas and start teaching people how to eat more whole, natural foods that include fat as a part of a healthy balanced diet? We need to end fat phobia and start focusing on limiting items in the diet that truly lead to weight gain and poor health, like added sugar and processed food.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tips for Parents of Picky Eaters

I have people ask me all the time, “why wont my kid eat vegetables?” Getting your child to eat a healthy balanced diet can be a challenge, but here are a few tricks of the trade that will help you to raise a healthy, independent eater!

1) Eat vegetables yourself! Why on earth would a child eat a green mysterious looking vegetable on his or her plate if there is none on yours? Children learn by example, and if Mom and Dad aren’t excited about vegetables, it is certain that your child wont be either. Don’t like vegetables yourself? To get the whole family started on a veggie kick, start with simple, familiar, less bitter choices like carrots, sweet potatoes, romaine lettuce, zucchini and cucumbers. Don’t be afraid to make them taste good too! Try a delicious dip like hummus or tzatziki for raw vegetables and serve cooked vegetables with a little pat of butter and sea salt.

2) Don’t buy “kid food”. One of my biggest pet peeves is junk food that is marketed to children. Hot dogs, macaroni and cheese out of the box, chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs, little rainbow colored crackers, sugary cereal with Dora the Explorer on the front of the box. Your child does not need this food. It is often sugar and preservative laden and when given the option, they will choose this food over others because of the marketing. If you grocery shop with your child and they beg for this food, which they will, simply explain to them that there is nothing in the food that will help them grow up big and strong. Then, allow them to choose a fruit or vegetable out of the produce section.

3) Make ONE meal. You are not a short order cook. When you prepare dinner for the family every evening do you make 3 different meals to please everyone in the house? The family should eat together seated at the table, and they should all eat the same thing. If you have a baby that eats pureed food, include a simple fruit or vegetable in the family meal and reserve a little to mash up for baby. You can do the same for your toddler by cutting up the fruit or vegetable into bite sized pieces and/or fun shapes and wait to add strong spices after his or her food has been reserved. Make sure that you serve one item in the meal that you are sure everyone will enjoy and then you wont be jumping up to cater to your picky eater.

4) Don’t force it. If your kid still refuses what you would prefer they eat, never force it. Forcing your child to take 5 more bites is torture. Imagine if you were forced to eat when you weren’t hungry or to eat something that tasted terrible to you. Not nice. It is not up to you how much your child eats or whether or not they eat at all. Forcing food can establish unhealthy eating behaviors and negative feelings about food so if your kid says they are done with dinner then respect your child’s decision. You CAN remind them that food won’t be available again until the next meal or snack, and if they still refuse, then drop it.

5) Never bribe with food. “Clear your plate and you can have dessert.” “If you are well behaved today then you can have ice cream.” Parents do this all the time, and again you are setting your child up for unhealthy eating habits. You are telling them that if they are really “good” then they can eat something “naughty”. You are also teaching them to ignore their hunger and fullness cues.

6) Don’t give up! It can take a child up to 20 times of being introduced to a new food before they want to eat it and enjoy it. If your child refuses avocado one day, they may eat it the next so keep offering but again, don’t force.

7) Have fun and relax! Don’t let mealtime be a stressful time in your household. Feeding your children can be fun and exciting. Worrying about them eating too much or not enough not only causes you undue stress, but it stresses out your child. Children are quite in tune with their bodies and recognize hunger and fullness, better than most adults. Allow your child to make some of their mealtime decisions but don’t let them run the show. Do the best you can do by providing wholesome and appealing food at set times and trust your kid can figure out the rest!

For more information on feeding your child visit: