Jason Fagone, in Highline, with an incredible story about math, and the folks who used it to successfully game the lottery. Sophie Gilbert, in The Atlantic, with an inconvenient story about Nazi-looted art. Jon Michaud, in The New Yorker, tells the ...


(in this message: 5 new items)


Guest Post: RD Christine McPhail Reviews Greta Podleski's Terrific New Cookbook Yum and Yummer

Today's guest post comes from one of our office's wonderful RDs - Christine McPhail, who has been spending a bit of time with Greta Podleski's terrific new cookbook Yum and Yummer.
As a Dietitian, I see the difference it makes when families start cooking together and children begin to develop the important food skills that they will need as adults. I hear about children being more interested in trying new foods, helping in the kitchen, wanting to pick out recipes, and being proud of the foods they’ve made. These cooking experiences can help children learn about nutrition, balanced meals, and the importance of including a variety of foods. Our lives are busy and I do hear about food going on the back burner (see what I did there) but it shouldn’t have to. You can read Dr. Freedhoff’s past post Teaching Your Kids To Cook Is More Important Than Teaching Them To Play Soccer Or Hockey that provides strong rationale for families cooking together.

Adults in turn benefit from sharing their skills, having the opportunity to pass down their favourite recipes and traditions, and of course having more balanced and nutritious meals themselves. A great place to start is having your family go through cookbooks together and pick recipes they would be interested in making. One recipe book I can recommend is Yum & Yummer by Greta Podleski, a Canadian author and recipe developer, who you may know from her very popular Looneyspoons cookbooks, which she co-wrote with her sister Janet.

Here are a few reasons I liked Yum & Yummer:
  • The introduction is worth a read. I really appreciated that Greta addressed that healthy eating means different things to different people and that we all could try to be less judgemental. Unless there is a true risk with an eating behaviour, which as a dietitian, I am trained to look out for, I believe it’s important that we respect one another’s food preferences and choices.
  • There truly is a recipe for everyone in this book and Greta follows through with her mission to use common everyday ingredients and simple recipes. Recipes will signify if they are dairy-free, gluten-free, vegetarian etc. 60% of the recipes are vegetarian but she also has sections for fish, poultry, and red meat, soups and chilis, snacks, and desserts. Meatless meals are a great way to get your family to enjoy meat alternatives that not only provide protein but plenty of fiber as well. You’ll save some money in the process too!
  • For people who are new to cooking, are nervous to try recipes, or learn better with visuals, each recipe has a photograph and a “how to” video that you can access just by scanning the QR code on the page with your phone. They show you exactly what to expect step by step, so you can feel confident developing new skills (you can take a look at them here).
  • For those who like to know the nutrition information, each recipe shows calories, total fat, saturated fat, protein, carbohydrate (fiber and sugar included), cholesterol, and sodium. This way you can make an informed choice that works for you and your family’s needs.
  • The recipe descriptions don’t go into detail of the “nutritional benefits” or labels foods as “good” or “bad”. Greta does include some great food prep tips and food facts that are helpful. This is important because we don’t want to label recipes as “good” or “bad” and we don’t want weight to be the main motivation when trying a new recipe, especially if children are reading along. We want to hear about the fresh ingredients, flavour and texture as well as the nutrition information, when we are choosing to make a recipe or not. At the end of the day, if you don’t enjoy it you won’t continue to eat it anyways.
With some quality time in the kitchen and eating meals together, your family can appreciate the benefit and taste of whole foods, cooking from scratch, and eating together as a family. If you are interested, you can purchase the book via Amazon.ca (where 92% of the 148 reviews (and counting) are 5 star) or any other online Canadian book retailer.

Christine McPhail MSc, RD is one of our Registered Dietitians at the Bariatric Medical Institute. Christine has worked in academic, clinical and public health nutrition settings and has been fortunate to have worked on projects relating to food sustainability, food security, food policy and politics, childhood nutrition, body image, and school nutrition programs. She believes in the power of connecting with your food from farm to table. She feels fortunate to share this passion with her clients, as she helps them strengthen their relationship with food and learn more about nutrition.

Nothing Good Can Ever Come From Weighing Your Child

(This post was first published on US News and World Report in November 2013)
I'm not suggesting your child should never get weighed – certainly I'd encourage annual weigh-ins with your child's pediatrician or family doctor to track growth curves – I just don't want you weighing your child.

Aside from determining whether or not your kid has outgrown their car seat, or what size uniform or sporting equipment they require, there are three main reasons for a parent to want to weigh them. The first would be a worry about a child not growing sufficiently – and herein I'd encourage you to defer to your child's doctor to determine whether or not worry is warranted.

But the second and third reasons are the ones that concern me. The second reason is a parent's belief that his or her child's weight is too high. The third reason is the second reason's corollary, where a parent might be weighing a child to see if the child has lost weight or to keep track of the rate of gain.

The thing is, scales don't measure anything other than weight. They don't measure the presence or absence of health; they don't measure whether a child is being fed a nutritious diet; they don't measure whether a child is regularly active; and they don't measure self-esteem. But they sure can take away self-esteem, can't they?

And while I haven't seen a study that proves it to be true, I'd be willing to wager that scale use in children has played a formative role in their development of mood disturbances and eating disorders over the years, as well as having had many negative impacts on their self-esteem, body images, and relationships with food.

Yes, childhood obesity is worrisome. And yes, if you're worried about your child's weight – especially if it's having a negative impact upon his or her health or quality of life – you might want to try to help. But weighing your child doesn't actually do anything. All weighing your child does is teach him or her that scales measure success, self-worth, and parental and personal pride – and that weight is all that matters.

You might think that tracking your child's weight loss on a scale may be motivating, but celebrating a loss on a scale is no less risky than shaming a gain; they're flip sides of the same coin – the coin that says scales measure success. And what happens if that child who is losing one day gains?

A child's actual weight doesn't really matter, at least not in any constructive, formative way. Ultimately, a child's weight is not something that is directly controllable. Weight's primary levers – eating behaviors and activity levels – have dozens, if not hundreds, of drivers and co-drivers, and many of them won't in fact be modifiable.

Genetics, peer groups, socio-economic status, coexisting medical conditions (both mental and physical and for both child and parent), food available at school and after-school activities, and many more factors all have a very real impact on weight, while none are particularly changeable. Moreover, weight management is a struggle for highly motivated, fully mature adults with various weight-related medical conditions. Should we really be expecting children to accomplish a task that eludes many grown-ups?

If you're worried about your child's weight, look to those weight-relatable behaviours that you might actually help to change instead of weighing your child. For example, consider the source, quality and quantity of their calories and of the meals you're providing them.

Look to your own examples for fitness, and cultivate active family outings. Review your home's screen-time rules, and certainly rid all bedrooms (again, including your own) of televisions (which has been shown to dramatically increase risk of obesity in children. Cut your cable (and hence, eliminate the constant food advertisements your children are exposed to), and ensure that your child's bedroom and habits are conducive to adequate sleep (as short sleep duration is also strongly associated with increased weight).

While it's true that there are things affecting your child's weight that you won't be able to change, it's also true that there are many things affecting their weight that fall within your parental discretion – and it's there where you should expend your energies. Importantly, do so without explicitly putting a focus on weight as the cause of your home's changes or the child as their sole target; instead, put the focus on improving the health of your family as a whole, with your changes affecting every member of the home, as the cultivation of healthy living behaviours provides benefits to everyone at every weight.

Bottom line: If you're concerned about your child's weight, don't rely on a number to tell you or your child how he or she is doing. Simply measuring their weight does nothing to helping you understand how it got there nor will it do anything to help it to go away, but it may make your children hate themselves just a little bit more each time you put them on that scale.

The Hunger Hormone Ghrelin May Be Another Reason To Eat Your Carbs Last

Preproghrelin: By own work - adapted from http://www.pdb.org/pdb/files/1p7x.pdb using PyMOL, Public Domain, Link
I've blogged in the past about how eating your carbs last may help reduce your blood sugar levels even 2 hours after your meal.

Well here's another reason why you might want to eat your carbs last - ghrelin.

Ghrelin is one of the body's primary hunger hormones. More ghrelin, more hunger (more on this though in a tiny bit).

Well, a small crossover study looking at the effect of food order on ghrelin levels found that eating carbs last led to a sustained suppression in ghrelin levels 3 hours later, while eating carbs first led to not only ghrelin levels returning to baseline at 3 hours, but also their slight rise (-11.45 ± 3.86% vs. +4.13 ± 4.38%; P = 0.003).

But that said, ghrelin is a surrogate end point for hunger and/or consumption.

Unfortunately, at least in this small study, subjective hunger wasn't different between conditions at any point, and consumption at later meals wasn't measured.

Looking forward to future research on this file, but given the ease of this intervention, I'd file it under maybe worth a try.