Wednesday, March 31, 2010

fried brown rice and favorite new kitchen addition

A confession- I didn't meal plan this week past Tuesday. I have been making brown rice more and I was inspired by a big bowl of leftovers, a bunch of asparagus and shrimp. (I even had to borrow an egg from a neighbor since I ran out this morning!)

Feeding tip: I couldn't remember the last time I had made fried rice so I winged it. I made the shrimp (I had 10) separately (which she likes) and added peas as a side (which she likes.) Remember, when introducing new foods try to have other foods that your child is likely to eat. It was awesome!

I cut and boiled the asparagus for about 8 minutes and cooked the rest while I boiled the water and waited.

melt a pat of butter and a swirl of olive oil in a pan until just bubbling. Add the shrimp (I peel and devein myself which saves about $4 a pound) and fry about 2 minutes. I add a little smear of the above garlic paste to each one with a butter knife, then flip it individually and fry another 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with a tiny pinch of salt. Watch not to scorch the butter. Super fast and easy.

Rice: (I winged it after not finding a recipe quickly.)
leftover brown or white rice
olive oil
1 medium chopped onion
1/2 inch ribbon of garlic and ginger paste
1 egg (or 2 if enough left-over rice)
splash of sherry or rice wine
2 Tbspns soy sauce

Heat olive oil in a wok or deep pan. Cook onion until glassy (about 7-8 minutes) add garlic and ginger and stir about 1 minute. (I used two wooden spoons.) Add sherry and cook about 1 minute. Add rice and break up/heat through. Add cracked egg to it all and mix until thoroughly cooked (3-4 minutes?) Dump in drained asparagus (and shrimp if you're not accomodating a kid) and mix and serve!

M tried some, closed her eyes, and smiled that it was delicious. She ate some asparagus, but ate mostly the rice, shrimp and peas. (and a piece of home-made bread.)

I LOVE the herb pastes. They are from Target and other stores and save so much time. I wrote about it last year, and this new try for 2009 has passed muster.

Monday, March 29, 2010

simmer sauces make dinner quick

This is a really nice simmer sauce that is mild, but flavorful (meaning my 4 year old will eat it, and she has a pretty low spice threshold.)

Quick Tikka Masala dinner
one med onion
chicken breasts (or thigh) or left-over pulled chicken (cut up)
one jar simmer sauce
peas optional
olive oil
1 can 14 ounce tomato sauce

Sautee one chopped onion (usually over medium heat) and chicken breast (or thigh) until onions are soft and glistening and chicken is cooked almost through. Stir in the tomato sauce and Tikka simmer sauce. Simmer for 15 minutes, can stir in frozen peas and bring back to a simmer and serve.

brown or white rice (use a rice cooker if you have it) brown rice takes almost 2 hours in my rice cooker.
broccoli (microwave or steam in sauce pan)

We like lots of sauce which is why I stretch this dish with tomato sauce. You can also serve it with leftover pork or steak. Do you have a favorite simmer sauce?

new cooking mag for kids

Keep your eyes open for ChopChop magazine for kids. Website is under construction. I'll keep checking for when they put up recipes. Have you read it?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Casualties in the war on "childhood obesity"

Please read this poignant blog post by a "former obese child."
She covers eloquently, all the reasons why we have to be so careful with language and our public health campaigns and zeal to "help." I fear that this is going to get worse before it gets better.

Label a child as obese or overweight (whether or not that child is healthy or growing in a way that is right for him/her) and s/he will:
  • feel flawed in every way
  • feel less capable
  • be more likely to diet (and gain weight,)
  • be more likely to engage in disordered eating behaviors
  • be less likely to engage in physical activity
And yet, there is a huge push to identify and label children. It doesn't help and often makes matters worse. (With the electronic medical record I fear a whole new layer of harassment and misdiagnoses.)

FYI, the little boy in the picture is "obese" according to current CDC guidelines via BMI...
Share your stories about you or your child being labeled and the consequences?

Here are a few lines from the post from Fatshionista:

"I never had any weight-related health issues...But I began to diet. I did! In elementary school... My pediatrician sent me to a dietician, who prescribed daily menus in strict portions.... As the years passed and I ventured into the numbers-obsessed indoctrination of Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, my standards become tighter and the “good” food list grew ever shorter... " (My note-this would be the "control model" of eating and dieting.)

"I was extremely hungry, you understand. All of the time... When I’d managed to eat so little as to feel tingling in my extremities and a racing feeling in my chest, I knew I was Doing Well On My Diet."

"Eventually I would surrender, devastated, heartbroken, and eat normal food again, and then the lost weight would return, plus more. And then, after that, I would marshal my forces and make a fresh attack on my fatness, one which would be doomed to failure like all the rest. I would return to exercise; but not the exercise of my younger days, playing games with friends, having fun. Exercise became a chore."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

children are tiny, crazy irrational people: dinner theater

A reminder not to try to rationalize with the irrational, or why negotiating around food doesn't work and makes people crazy.

Scene: dinner. roast chicken on table, microwaved frozen peas, squash (roasted with the chicken with butter, brown sugar, salt) egg noodles with some reduction from the chicken...

Mom, Dad and 4 yo M are at the table. M, who has been home sick with little appetite for 5 days (who has been allowed to get away with all kinds of attitude to keep the peace) looks at squash (a former favorite)

M: Ew. It's gross, I hate squash.
Mom: You don't have to eat it or like it, but you need to be polite. Say, "No thank you." There are lots of other things.
Mom: (taking lots of peas) You guys don't want any peas, do you?
Dad: Yes, we do. Take a few scoops and pass them on please.
M: I'm hungry, there aren't enough peas! I hate squash!
Mom: We can make more peas. Dad, what was the best part of your day?

Mom is at end of rope, no longer engaging the explanation. M takes chicken, and more chicken. Asks where the eyes are, if the blood tastes good. Eats lots of peas, some noodles. Starts scooping squash onto her plate. Has clearly recovered her appetite. (Yay! Back to school tomorrow! thinks Mom)

M: singing, "I love squash, I love squash!"
spills water and cries, "You always make me clean this up!"

Dad: I will help you, please pick your fork up off the ground.
Mom: takes another swig of beer... and curtain falls

Imagine if I had tried to convince her that she loved squash and was being unreasonable. More or less fighting? Would she have eaten the squash or not?

Another example of the irrational games: Morning Star sausage patty this morning. M was having trouble cutting it, so Dad helped. She got upset because she wanted strips, not smaller pieces and pitched a mini-fit. We said we were trying our best. So half was in strips, half in pieces. Then she proceeded to cut the strips in half. Dad asks, "Why did you do that? You got upset when I cut it up?" M says, "It was too big for my mouth."
Remember, tiny crazy people, and they want to suck you into the insanity. Sometime the pull is so strong it's hard to resist, but the more you can stay neutral and out of the fray, the better you will do.

A note on feeding the sick child: We've been so out of our routine with M being sick. All bets are off. They can't tell if they are hungry or full. I try to follow her lead. I relax on the division of responsibility and ask her more what she wants to eat. I let her chose and I let her nibble and graze when she's under the weather. Her appetite returned and now we'll get back to the old ways. Structured meals and snacks, no grazing, and I chose what to serve, she choses if and how much to eat.

Just wanted to let you know it wasn't ALWAYS peace and joy at my family table :)
Any crazy theater you want to share?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"Saving your family's sanity at mealtimes" article

Here's an interview I did with Healthy and Fit magazine. It has some great bullet point reminders on the Division of Responsibility and getting the power struggles out of feeding.

local chef's path to good relationship with food

I recently reached out to Emily Noble after seeing comments she made about kids and eating in the Star Tribune. We had a wonderful chat! Her photos of food are gorgeous. Check out her new project on Leafy Reader for 28 dinners in 28 days. Set your DVR now and watch TV with your kids as she does cool science experiments on PBS Scigirls April 2. (Teaser: kids taste peaches with different things to see which tastes the "peachiest." Was it salt, sugar, vinegar? Tune in!)

Emily is a PhD candidate in nutrition (studying a compound related to appetite and reward,) a chef and blogger who describes her journey to a good relationship with food as a no-regrets “winding candyland path.” As my goal is to help people find that "good relationship" with food, I thought I'd ask Emily to share some of her experiences.

You mentioned you eat now without restriction but that was not always the case.

Emily:I’ve done low-fat, low-carb, no high fructose corn syrup, dairy, and wheat. I have been a strict vegan, vegetarian, and avoided anything "processed". Then I fell in love, which cured me, briefly, of my dietary restrictions. It's funny how dining with new love can turn ice cream into a totally reasonable breakfast item. Shortly after, my partner was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease (ended up being a wrong diagnosis). I worked at a co-op at the time, and heard that raw foods might help.

We lined our cabinets with nut butters, imported young coconuts, and dates. I bought a dehydrator, which sat in the center of our kitchen whining a dull whir, and our countertops disappeared under sprouted nuts and beans. At the coffee shop, we isolated ourselves with decaf teas and raw honey, while our friends enjoyed the animation that comes from a few cups of delicious coffee. They felt like strangers - part of a different world.

After about two months of raw foods, I made a simple salad. I took one bite and tears welled in my eyes. I called a friend and said, 'This salad it the most beautiful and delicious thing that I have ever eaten.

'"Um" she said, "you sound insane. Maybe we should stop raw foods."

In nutrition class, I had learned that the brain up-regulates certain reward pathways when the body is starving to try and encourage feeding. Thus, in a starving state, plain oatmeal (or…salad?) can be as rewarding as chocolate or ice cream. That was my experience with raw foods. We stopped the diet that day, and for the first time in my life I ate unrestricted. I am a lot less obsessed with food when I don't follow rules around it.

How do you think you got started restricting foods in the first place?

Emily: I grew up with an awareness of food as being a really important thing that caused my mother a lot of pain. She would say things like "I wish I didn't love food so much" and I would say "I love food too" "I am afraid that you inherited that from me" she would laugh. I think that I have felt ashamed about how much I loved food in the past.

The messages I received at home about how food is something powerful that needs to be controlled are the same messages from the world at large. As an adult I have come to feel that my love of food is an asset. I have even made a career out of it. My mother has been instrumental in encouraging me about my cooking and writing, which has empowered me to experience food in a whole new way.

Are you happy with how you eat now, and how did you get to that point?

Emily: My relationship with food is a good one these days. I am not mad at my dinner for making me too full or too fat, potentially encouraging some future disease, or isolating me from an exclusive subculture of high-minded eaters. I have no regrets. The different eating styles I have experimented with have strengthened my skills as a chef. I say this because I find it is easy for me to judge my past behavior, but I find it is more useful to acknowledge the gifts that have grown out of it. There really is no right or wrong way to eat, and what is right for me now might not be right for me in the future.

Stay tuned for Part 2 and cooking with kids...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

my kid is drinking milk again-finally

Remember when I shared that my little one had suddenly gone off drinking milk? That was over four long months ago. It has been a long time of offering yogurt, cooking with evaporated milk and sitting on my hands and biting my tongue while she turned her nose away from milk. I didn't push her (though tempted) knowing that pressure with feeding backfires. I continued to offer it and drank milk with dinner myself most nights, and I'm happy to say she's asking for milk again and enjoying it. It took several months, and patience, and consciously not worrying about her intake day to day but remembering the big picture. And I'd be lying if I didn't admit to being really happy when she chose milk last week.
Waiting is hard.
For anyone transitioning to a trust model of feeding, for parents who have been pushing food and now stop, or parents who have been bribing with dessert to get veggies in, or parents who have been cutting kids off before the child wanted, the days, weeks and months can seem like forever. Your child will test to see if you can be trusted not to pressure, and your child will need time to learn to tune in to hungry and full again and to feel in control about trying new foods (see Division of Responsibility.) Hang in there, celebrate the little victories and allow them to give you strength for the inevitable feeding "challenges."
A client told me her son recently chose the pears over crackers and this was a first. She was excited. We paused to note that her son was coming along with his feeding. It would take time, but he was proving that he could be trusted. With structure and support and no pressure, he would have a better relationship with food in the long run.
Have you been able to hang in there, or have you lost your nerve and done some back-sliding? Do you need help with your feeding challenges?

what is competent eating?

I really like this blog post over on
I met Michele. She's amazing and doing important work. We are both trained in Ellyn Satter's Eating Competence model.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

interview with Good Enough Moms

Check out this podcast interview with Good Enough Moms on picky eating, weight concerns and more!

Monday, March 15, 2010

food addiction?

I finally looked up the source for one of my favorite quotes. It's from Psychology Today in an article called, "The Science of Willpower." I hope you read it.

Here's the quote:
"Food might not be addictive on its own, but prohibiting it can set off a cycle of anxiety, craving, and overconsumption that for all purposes looks like addiction."

morning oatmeal

I often have clients say they don't know how to cook, and the breakfast cereal rut is one of the big challenges for them. Breakfast is really important. Kids do better in school when they eat breakfast and tend to struggle less with unhealthy weight gain.
One Dad asked how to make oatmeal. I not a huge fan of the little packets of microwave oatmeal as they have lots of sugar and other things and are more expensive. If you really like them, try using a packet with some quick cook oats and microwaving so it's not quite so sweet. Oatmeal is a nice whole-grain, minimally processed breakfast. I often scramble an egg or two in another pan while making the oatmeal and put the eggs on the table too. Sometimes M eats them, sometimes not, but I love some eggs most mornings. (Small amount butter in nonstick pan, crack eggs directly into pan, stir up with wooden spoon! Easy!)

Here's how we do oatmeal. Younger kids can help measure, and older kids can help stir. (Or, do it yourself on weekday mornings to save time!)

morning oatmeal (for 3)
Use 1/2 cup measure (1/2 cup is one serving roughly)
1 (1/2 cup measure) of quick cook oats
2 (1/2 cup measures) of regular old-fasioned oats
5 (1/2 cup measures) of milk (this was a great source of calcium when M wasn't drinking milk-can even stir in evaporated milk for more calcium and creamier taste)
combine and stir over medium heat. When starts to bubble, turn down to simmer until thickens, about 5 minutes. (It will be thick on purpose so you can add cold milk to cool it off. Little kids often like luke-warm food so this way you don't end up sitting there for 10 minutes blowing on the oatmeal. )

(I use a ratio of 1:2 quick to old-fashioned oats because I like the consistency and it seems to go a little quicker.)

Put oatmeal in bowls. Add milk to desired temp and thickness. I like hot oatmeal, so I microwave a little extra milk to add to mine.

Topping options:
brown sugar, raisins, honey, maple syrup, M likes frozen blueberries right now, craisins, walnuts...
Have an oatmeal sundae bar and let the kids chose the toppings. Enjoy!

How do you make oatmeal? (I really want to buy a small crockpot, but I am on a temporary moratorium on new kitchen gadgets-no room!)

Friday, March 12, 2010

hot dogs and corn-keepin' it real

I slacked off on my meal-planning this week and found myself at four o'clock after a busy day at work wondering what was for dinner.
Ellyn Satter says in order to be a home cook for the long-haul, you have to let go of the "food snob" mentality. I grew up in a home with a meat, starch, salad, veggie EVERY night. (Mom, I don't know how you did it...) Consequently, I feel like a bit of a failure if I don't do the same. A strange thing then happens. I don't feel like I can put together a balanced, "complete" meal, so we go out, or get take-out, which is likely to be way more expensive and also not likely to be balanced. I saw a similar dynamic when I taught cooking classes for my diabetic patients. They were so wary of adding any fat to their cooking-even a few tablespoons of olive oil to cook some veggies- that they gave up, didn't know what to do and ended up eating out and choosing meals with far higher fat content and less balance.
So, I went to the freezer and pulled out our favorite all-natural beef uncured hot-dogs with whole wheat sandwich buns that we rolled around the dogs. We ate corn and peas (M's favorite) and had some fruit with it all. We do the best we can. We all really like this meal and it was way better than what we would have ordered from the corner diner or take-out.
What are your favorite freezer or pantry meals? Are you a food snob? How do you cook and work or take care of kids every night?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

book review: End of Overeating

Bottom line: skip it (the book, not my brilliant review)

David Kessler MD shares his quest to find out why he is a "conditioned hypereater," why certain foods "won't relinquish their hold" on him. The good news- the book has some valuable insights about the American food industry and its calculated, money-making opioid-releasing mixes of fat, sugar and salt, but misses out on major players in why we eat the way we eat- namely restriction and physiology.

There is one paragraph in the book that basically dismisses restriction and dieting as contributing significantly to out of control eating, yet most of his anecdotes pulse with avoidance, restriction and the ghosts of failed diets.

He relates going to NYC and thinking the whole time about a certain ice-cream parlor and how his wife is like an AA sponsor who keeps him from indulging. Maybe dopamine (the "I want it") hormone spikes BECAUSE he thinks he "shouldn't" eat it. There are studies that show that scarcity of food increases dopamine, so why wouldn't self-imposed scarcity (diet and restriction) lead to higher dopamine and obsession with food? He goes on and on about dopamine and the intense wanting of "forbidden foods" but blames fat, salt and sugar alone. Sounds like a fun trip to NYC. (Plus his repeated graphic descriptions of fat on sugar on salt felt like self-indulgent food porn.)

He also barely mentions physiology and blood sugar, hormones or the stress response...
Are these "cravers" providing regular balanced fuel for their bodies or crashing from famished to stuffed with similar spikes and drops in blood sugar and insulin levels? Are they skipping breakfast and lunch to save up calories only to lose control at the office? A person who has fasted all day will be frantic with hunger, and the NORMAL survival instinct is to eat- a lot.

His solution?
Restrict more! Be "flexible," but only eat things that don't trigger you. Have a meal coach berate you for eating too much. Be responsible to your family so that when you "fail" you will feel that you let them down. (Lovely, more guilt and shame, which we know are not positive motivators for change.)
His one size fits all prescription of avoidance, more restraint (though with lots of nice cognitive behavioral language around it) is really more of the same. Want a treat? A single piece of chocolate or a small frozen yogurt should do it- but not yet-maybe after several months of complete abstinence! He implies weight loss will happen if you can just say no-enough.

Dr. Kesslar does not once mention the notion that you CAN learn to eat in a competent, inclusive and joyful way that is grounded in permission, joy and discipline (yes, you have to provide regular meals and enough variety for yourself.)

There is no joy, no balance, no permission.

Consider a competent eater scenario... (see Ellyn Satter's definition of Normal Eating)
Why not look forward to the ice-cream in New York? Plan to enjoy it. Savor it, be in control and then move on and enjoy the other wonderful things in NYC. Eat a good breakfast with some protein, fat and carbs, then plan on a nice meal and ice cream for dessert or skip the meal and enjoy the ice-cream for lunch. Enjoy window shopping and walking through Central Park. (Imagine, actually enjoying NYC, not obsessing about how you can't have ice-cream the whole time!)

Yes, fat and sugar and salt taste good, and they release pleasure hormones, but it doesn't mean these foods can't be enjoyed by competent eaters in a positive way-does it?

The book left me dissapoointed and sad for the many who will read it and think all they have to do is try harder.

"Food might not be addictive on its own, but prohibiting it can set off a cycle of anxiety, craving, and overconsumption that for all purposes looks like addiction."
(can't remember the source, but I love this!)

Monday, March 8, 2010

First do no harm: email Michele Obama

Ellyn Satter's newsletter
click on the link to get some ideas and instructions for writing to Michele Obama about the campaign against "childhood obesity." I've sent mine in, have you sent yours yet?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

home-made salad dressing

See Martha Stewart's idea for using up that last bit of dijon...
I would just add some white wine vinegar or white balsamic with some olive oil and a blob of honey and shake. (About 3 to 1 oil to vinegar...) I prefer a little extra vinegar, but 3:1 is the classic. Thanks for sending this my way Tilney!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

teach ALL kids how to eat

In spite of what all the press around Michele Obama's "childhood obesity" campaign might lead you to believe, we are not merely facing a “childhood obesity crisis,” we are facing a crisis in feeding our children.


teen girls have the worst nutrition of any group in America. 10% have iron deficiency anemia– effecting IQ, attention, energy level, mood

only one in ten teenagers gets close to the recommended fruit and vegetable intake

• 2 out of 3 teenage girls are dieting

dieting is a predictor of weight gain and depression and is often a trigger for devastating eating disorders

even “healthy” dieters are heavier and have more disordered eating than non-dieters

• almost half of teenage girls use extreme dieting measures such as laxative abuse, vomiting or crash fasting

• 20% of kids have “feeding disorders” that impair growth and development (according to Kennedy-Krieger researcher)

80% of kids with developmental problems have feeding problems

there is an increase in diagnoses of eating disorders at ever younger ages

• 80% of "obese" adults were not "obese" as children. Even if you believe that weight on its own predicts health care costs (a point of significant debate,) the current approach of targeting "fat" children will fail to control future costs as it gives today's "normal" and "underweight" kids a pass-and they don't know how to eat either.

We need to address eating and health behaviors for all children.

What do you think?

Monday, March 1, 2010

anti-obesity "expert" Meme Roth

Some of you may have seen the TV debate, "Is it OK to be fat?" with "expert" Meme Roth. I did not watch it (I don't think my blood pressure could handle it and I doubted anything new would come of it) but I did like this investigative piece on about her "qualifications."
Here is my rant from last year about Meme Roth and all the haters who are not adding anything constructive to the issue (and that's putting it kindly.)