Saturday, April 19, 2008

Why Family Meals?

Whether you have family together always, sometimes, or never, there is something here you need to hear. Family meals are important for so many obvious and some not so obvious reasons. I could rant about all the research to support family meals, but what speaks just as loud to me is my experience in nutrition counseling. A couple of my favourite meal time don’ts: I’m sorry, a new pool table is not reason for a throwing out a kitchen table or no or your 7 year-old daughter cannot prepare dinner for herself while you eat in your bedroom.

Meals support food regulation and appropriate growth, make you a family, support good parenting, provide children with social and emotional support, connect us to our history, reassure children they will be fed, teach children to behave well in polite company, and teach children to like a variety of food.

To make meal times rewarding: parents must choose food they find rewarding to plan, prepare, provide, and eat, offer everyone in the family the same meal, put four or five foods and let everyone pick and choose from what is on the table, match familiar with unfamiliar food, favorite with not-so-favorite, teach and expect your children to behave nicely, and understand enough about children’s normal eating behaviour to feel successful with feeding. Include infants at the table (even if they are not eating all the food), put meals before nutrition, control the food supply while allowing choices, and accept slow progress if you are starting family meals for the first time.
Once family meals are occuring, the next logical step is making the meals nutritious. The meal should provide four to five foods (protein source, grains or starchy foods, 1 or 2 fruits or a vegetables or broth, milk, and butter, margarine, salad dressing or other fatty foods. The key principle here is to be considerate without catering. Parents can do this by following these guidelines: don’t make (or expect) anybody to eat – even yourself, let children (and other people) pick and choose from what is on the table, and include enough fat. For example, “3 more bites and then you can have dessert”, encouraging certain foods for nutrition “eat all your brocolli”, or having forbidden foods ie. no chips, cookies. Goal is to have structure but the child still decides. If you would like more info on family meals, check out the book Your Child’s Weight Helping Without Harming Birth Through Adolescence by Ellyn Satter. What tips do you have that you’ve used with your kids?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Children's sleep important to prevent obesity

You probably have enough reasons why you want your baby/toddler to sleep, but you probably did not think of preventing obesity in your child. Research has been done in children making a link between infant sleep and overweight. Elsie M. Taveras, M.D., of Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care in Boston tracked the sleep habits of children from birth to age three. She and her colleagues found that even after taking into account the mothers' BMI (Body Mass Index), infants who slept less than 12 hours a day had a higher BMI for their age and sex, higher skinfold thickness, and were more likely to be overweight at age three than children who slept 12 hours or more as infants.
The authors note the amount of TV watching had a minimal effect on the associations between sleep and overweight, although the combination of not enough sleep and more time in front of the TV caused the highest risk weight problems.
The researchers conclude clinicians and parents would benefit from using their research to find ways to improve quality and length of sleep for infants. Goodnight.
SOURCE: Short Sleep Duration in Infancy and Risk of Childhood Overweight Elsie M. Taveras; Sheryl L. Rifas-Shiman; Emily Oken; Erica P. Gunderson; Matthew W. Gillman Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2008;162(4):305-311.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

How to Stop Your Mindless Eating

By following this exercise, you can control your mindless eating. I recently listened to a talk on emotional eating by Colleen Cannon PhD, R Psych and Wendy Shah, RD, and you can change your eating behaviours by changing your thoughts and emotions.

Step 1: First grab a pen and paper. Consider what thoughts and emotions (feelings) influence our eating behaviours. Make a list of 20 reasons of why you eat.

Step 2: Now, divide each of reasons into one of 3 categories: 1. Stomach - this would be physiological reasons for eating ie. hunger. 2. Mouth - this is when your craving a specific food or texture ie. eating ice cream on a hot day. 3. Heart - this is all the emotional reasons (probably what most of your list is) ie. bored, angry, celebration with friends, etc.

Step 3: List 6 things you do to comfort or nuture yourself.

Step 4: Cross out all items that include any food, are in the distant future (ie. vacation you have in 2 months), and anything that takes a significant amount of time or money. Hopefully, you have something left on your list. These items should be something you can do to comfort/nuture yourself quickly instead of eating. For example, after a difficult work day instead going for your favourite comfort food, use something off your list like going for walk.

Step 5: Write down the intials of 3 people that mean a lot to you.

Step 6: Write down their birthday or phone number as quickly as possible. What did you think about as you writing? Getting that number down, right? Hence, any type of mind game can be a perfect distraction.

Step 7: If your list of 6 items is all crossed out or even if its not, brainstorm again for some distractions. Your list may include talking to a friend, listening to music, reading a book, some sort of activity, being outdoors, crosswords, or other mindgames.
Now you the tools to turn your mindless eating into mind full eating by using distractions to change your behaviours, thoughts, and emotions. For more information, check out Craving Change's upcoming website at

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

8 Reason YOU need to take a daily multivitamin

8. Perfect way to get your vitamin D throughout the year. Forget taking a supplement solely for vitamin, you can get the same amount from a multivitamin. Supplementation with vitamin D may help prevent cancer, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's Disease, aid in treatment of autoimmune disease such as Diabetes mellitus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis and high blood pressure, and may boost your immunity.
7. Reduce neural tube defects like spina bifida by as much as 70%. Whether your planning or not, all women of childbearing age should take a multivitamin with folic acid.
6. A mulitvit costs less than most other dietary supplements. All those fancy 'organic' and 'natural' vitamin products and often contain similar contents to any brand of multivitamin.
5. Get Smart! Improved eye health and brain function have been linked with multivitamin.
4. Take a chill pill. Daily multivitamin helps to alleviate stress.
3. Improve immune function and reduce infectious disease. Potentially, cutting your sick days in half.
2. Taking a multivitamin may aid in weight loss. Studies have higher multivitamin in lower BMI. As well, daily use may help you lose weight in conjunction with calorie controlled diet, and control your appetite.
1. Consider it insurance for your diet. Too many studies have shown that most diets -- even fairly healthy ones fall well below Recommended Dietary Allowance for many nutrients. Supplements are a proven bridge between what we should eat and what we actually eat.