Monday, June 27, 2011

Are You a Good Parent To Yourself?

When I was in college, a nursing student told me, "It must be terrific being a dietetics major. You know how bad some foods are for you, so you don't want to eat them. How lucky for you!" Her perspective caught me off-guard, because my education hadn't had that kind of effect at all. I replied, "Actually, it's the opposite: I know how good some foods are for me, and that encourages me to eat more of them." She smiled and nodded, but it was clear from her expression she didn't relate to my perspective.

In retrospect, I'd bet she's the product of permissive parenting. Permissive parents -- the parent who struggles with setting reasonable limits -- create just as much havoc in a child's life as a harsh, autocratic parent does.

One of the unexpected outcomes of permissive parenting is the effect it can have on eating habits. Permissive parents often allow their children to raid the refrigerator whenever they wish, serve only the food their children want to eat, and even go so far as to prepare a second or third meal if the child suddenly turns up their nose at what's on the table. I have an acquaintance who told me, "I only serve my boys chicken nugget dinosaurs and Jell-o, because that's all they'll eat!"

As is often the case in parenting, it can take years for the results to accumulate and become problematic. Young children are naturally active, and given the opportunity for movement, the lack of reasonable limits and education about healthy eating may not take a toll until the child becomes a teenager, or even an adult.

Nevertheless, the damage is done. The child who grows up with permissive eating habits fails to learn that some foods are healthier than others. On a deeper level, the child doesn't learn respect for their own body. That doesn't make some foods "good" and some foods "bad." It does mean that, if I respect and honor my body for all it does for me, I'll cheerfully choose foods that help rather than harm me. At the extreme, these children begin to associate healthy limit-setting with punishment, rather than seeing it as a loving, nurturing decision.

Even if you grew up with autocratic "Because I said so!" parents, you may have some permissive eating habits. Sometimes people allow themselves to be indulgent with food (or exercise, or other behaviors that affect weight), as a reward for their hard work and sacrifice elsewhere. Or, they swing back and forth between autocratic and permissive eating -- classic yo-yo dieting. When in autocratic mode, they eat their alloted 1,200 calories a day, and no more, regardless of how hungry they are. Eventually, they rebel, and eat whatever they want.

We'll take a look at authoritative parenting, and its impact on eating habits, next month. Until then, I encourage you to give thought to how you're parenting yourself when it comes to food. Are you the harsh autocratic parent we talked about here? Are you permissive? Or do you swing back and forth between these two extremes? The first step in change is identifying the challenge!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Does Calcium Help You Lose Weight?

I've been following this subject with great interest for years. The first studies to hit the mainstream were conducted or funded by organizations with a link to the dairy industry, which looked a bit suspicious. This study looks at seven different studies, and notes that the average weight loss seen with calcium supplementation is 1.5 kilograms, or about 3 pounds:

Calcium and weight loss: Effects are small but significant, says review

In short, calcium is no magic bullet. If you're not getting enough calcium (check out this link to see how you rate), I'd suggest you do so, whether you need to lose 3 pounds or not. It builds strong bones and teeth. Its role in weight management, however, is slight.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Recipe of the Month: Macaroni & Cheese

I'm hard at work on editing "Luscious, Low-Fat, Lightning-Quick Meals." Over the weekend, I spent some time on Lesson 3, in which we cover sauces. Several students have remarked that there's quite a bit of coverage given to Bechamel sauce...but no recipes provided that are based on Bechamel.

It's a valid point, so I spent some time tinkering with a recipe my kids have been bugging me about for years--macaroni and cheese. Mac & cheese uses Bechamel as base, so I figured I could feed two birds with one recipe, so to speak. I developed a recipe based on Bechamel, which I'm including in "Luscious," and I also developed the recipe I'm sharing today, which uses Mori-Nu aseptic-pack tofu as its base.

My daughters preferred the Bechamel base, but my son actually liked the tofu version better. They all agreed that either recipe is highly preferable to their beloved blue box of mac & cheese. Enjoy!

Macaroni & Cheese


1 pound macaroni
1 (12-ounce) package Mori-Nu tofu
1 cup milk or plain unsweetened soy milk
6 ounces finely shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground peppercorns
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 dashes ground cayenne


Prepare macaroni according to manufacturer's directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, puree tofu and milk in blender until smooth. Place pureed tofu in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add cheese, garlic powder, peppercorns, nutmeg, and cayenne, and heat until cheese melts, stirring often. Add macaroni and cook until macaroni is heated through, stirring well to combine.

Monday, June 6, 2011

No More Food Guide Pyramid...!

That's right--the Food Guide Pyramid is no more. I've done more presentations on the Pyramid than an Egyptian tour guide. However, I'm delighted with its replacement, MyPlate. From my very first Pyramid presentation, and ever since, I've been encouraging people to "imagine your plate is shaped like a triangle." Finally, you won't need any special spatial abilities to visualize what a healthy diet looks like. See for yourself:

It's beautiful. I love it! (Maybe that's in part because, if you've taken "Lose Weight," this image looks familiar--its content is very similar to the plate graphic in Lesson 3, isn't it?)

Naturally, at USDA's MyPlate home page there's plenty of information about MyPlate--details about each food group, recipes, interactive programs, and more. Enjoy!