My mother told me a very funny story at dinner last night- (by the way, happy 37th anniversary mom and dad). My mother has always made quarter pound hamburgers (of 93% fat-free ground beef, of course) for dinner and my father always eats two burgers on one bun. So last week, my mother simply made him one half pound burger. Well, my father went crazy. “One hamburger just isn’t enough for me!” he complained. “I am a grown man and I need to eat two burgers (at least).” My mother tried to explain that eating one half pound burger was the same as eating two quarter pound burgers, but my father would not be satisfied. He was used to seeing two hamburgers on his plate and so he needed that visual in order to feel full. It just goes to show that your appetite can so easily be misled. That is why I recommend eating on smaller plates because it tricks your mind into thinking you are eating more food. I also recommend cutting food into pieces so that you feel like you are eating more. My family all laughed at my father’s silliness but the truth is we all fall prey to those feelings. I told my mom that next she should try serving my dad two smaller hamburgers and see if he notices. It may just be that he needs to eat two burgers- regardless of the size.
Archive for May, 2008
I have many patients tell me that their children exercise every day for an hour or more each time. When I first started my practice, I was thrilled that I had such active patients. But upon closer exam, I realized that my definition of exercise is very different from most other people’s. You are truly exercising when your heart is racing, your face is bright red, you are sweating, and you are slightly uncomfortable. Standing in the outfield, waiting for a fly ball, is NOT exercise. Many of my patients tell me that they stop exercising when they feel slightly short of breath. But that is when real exercise usually begins. If you can have a conversation, you are not truly exercising. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends 60 minutes of active exercise most days of the week. Their definition of active exercise is the same as mine. While I would love my patients to exercise as much as official recommendations call for, I would be happy with 45 minutes of active exercise at least 4 days a week. So make sure that your child is truly exercising when they are “exercising”.
I thought I would share a healthy dinner option. My kids love chicken parmigiana but I don’t love all the calories and fat. So I make a healthier version. I take chicken breasts and bake them until mostly cooked. I then cover with a light tomato sauce and fat free cheese and continue baking until the chicken is cooked through and the cheese is melted. I call it “chicken pizza” and my kids think it is delicious. Another (slightly more fattening) version uses shake ‘n bake to coat the chicken before baking. Serve either version with a small side dish of whole wheat pasta and a vegetable. Delicious!
I hope you all enjoyed your Memorial Day weekend. Mine was wonderful… lots of fun with family and lots of barbeques. I had a another family over on Sunday night and my friend and I were in the kitchen, preparing the food, when she asked me, “Where do you keep the butter?”. I answered, “I don’t keep butter in the house”. She looked at me like I was crazy. “What do you mean you don’t keep butter in the house?” To me, it seemed perfectly reasonable. “Why would I keep something in the house that I don’t want my children to eat? If it isn’t in the house, there is no way my husband or nanny can give it to them. And butter is not something that is necessary. So I don’t buy it”. My friend looked at me and said, “Hmm. that’s smart”. And I thought, “Yes it is”. So I figured I would pass the tip along.
I received the following question from a reader:
My five year old son is a very picky eater. He will only eat chicken nuggets and french fries. His doctor told me he is overweight but I can’t get him to eat any healthy foods or vegetables. What can I do?
Thank you for sending in your question. I hear this all of the time. Parents of toddlers are often worried that their children aren’t eating enough. Few parents understand the normal eating patterns of a toddler. It is normal for a toddler to eat one good meal and then just pick for the rest of the day. It is also normal for a child to only want to eat a small number of different foods. As long as these are healthy choices, it doesn’t really matter. It is a problem, however, if a child will only eat unhealthy foods.
Your son is five years old so he can only eat the foods that you give him. This puts you at an advantage over parents of older picky eaters. Simply refuse to give him chicken nuggets and french fries. Tell him that he needs to eat something healthier. Then give him a healthy choice (that children usually like). Do not give in to his tantrums. As a parent, it is your responsibility to teach your child to eat healthy foods. Sometimes it takes ten tastes before a child will accept certain foods. Don’t give up. If your child refuses to eat, that is okay. But don’t give him unhealthy food instead. Your child won’t starve if he misses a meal or two. Eventually, when he is hungry enough, he will eat your healthy meal. As for vegetables, aim for a “two bite” rule. Your child must try two bites of a healthy food but does not have to eat the rest. After enough tries, he just may learn to enjoy it.
Please keep your questions coming. You can also let me know if you have any comments about my advice on this question.
I am a big fan of the 100 calorie pack. I mean, who doesn’t love them? I am the type of person who can eat one pack and be satisfied. Then again, I can often eat one small chocolate and be happy. The issue is when people eat more than one pack. Or when they eat one pack in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one at night. By the end of the day, they have eaten 300 calories of junk. In my opinion, 100 calorie packs should be limited to once a day. That way you can have your sweet treat without going overboard.
Okay- so maybe that title is a little sensationalizing- is that even a word? But I am always surprised when people assume vegetables are healthy no matter how they are prepared. One of the nurses in my office told me that a pharmaceutical rep had brought lunch to the office. I never eat at those lunches because they are always insanely unhealthy. But the nurse said to me, “You are going to like it today because it’s healthy. There is broccoli.” That sounded good to me so I went into the lunch room and saw a tray of chicken with broccoli from a Chinese takeout place. You could see the pools of oil in the tray. I had to laugh- in no way was this dish healthy. In fact, Chinese food is one of the most fattening foods to eat because of all the oil used to cook it. But it just highlighted the fact that many intelligent people don’t think about how their food is prepared; they solely look at the nutritional value of the food in the uncooked state. You have to think about what was used to make the food. Was it fried in oil? Is it covered in cheese sauce? Is it topped with butter? If so, it isn’t healthy.
Please feel free to ask me questions via the comments. I know you guys are all reading this because I get the numbers reported to me. So ask away. I would love to answer.
Studies show that the more television a child watches, the more likely that child is to be heavy. Each additional hour of TV watching (on a consistent basis) directly increases the likelihood of that child being overweight. Having a TV in the bedroom raises this risk even further. Children who have TVs in the bedroom watch an extra hour of TV each day (and their parents don’t even know about it). It is not clear if watching a lot of TV causes a child to be overweight or if overweight children tend to watch a lot of TV (because perhaps they don’t feel as comfortable playing sports or doing other more active activities). One study lowered the weight of the children involved simply by decreasing their TV time. Practically any other activity burns more calories. An interesting finding is that a child’s resting metabolic rate might be LOWER while watching TV than when staring blankly at a wall. This may be due to the fact that people fidget less when watching TV or that they get into an almost trance-like state while watching TV. Eating in front of the TV also leads to weight gain. Who among us hasn’t been engrossed in a show, only to realize that suddenly half a bag of chips have disappeared! People eat many more calories while watching TV because they aren’t paying attention to their food or to their body’s response to the food. Commercials also prompt children to crave unhealthy foods. The average child sees 40,000 commercials each year- mostly for high fat, high calorie foods. Just watching a food commercial can cause a child to be hungry. So- what can a parent do? LIMIT TV TIME! The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends less than one or two hours of TV each day. If you are not home to monitor, you can buy a TV device that limits children’s TV time. The parent programs how much time each child is allowed to watch TV; a child must enter their code to turn the TV on. Once the maximum allottment is reached, the TV is turned off and cannot be turned on again until the next day (or until the parent resets it). Also, never let your children eat in front of the TV. And do not put a TV in your child’s bedroom. Parents must monitor their children’s TV watching- both in terms of time and content. A TV should never be a babysitter!
A new study states that exposure in the womb to some common chemicals may cause a person to become obese. These chemicals include those used to make many products, such as plastic bottles and pizza box liners. Scientists exposed mice to tiny amounts of these chemicals during development and found that these mice were heavier than mice not exposed to these chemicals.
“One of the problems we are finding is we don’t know where all these chemicals are,” said Suzanne Fenton, a research biologist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, whose research focused on perfluorooctanoic acid. “The chemicals appear to disrupt the endocrine system by altering gene and metabolic function involved in weight gain”, said Bruce Blumberg, a University of California biologist. “The result is the offspring store fat cells more efficiently, which makes them gain weight.”
It is important to note that this study has not been done in humans and therefore may not be applicable. It is interesting, however. This may be why some children are heavy, despite seeming to eat similar foods to thinner kids and despite having a normal metabolism. Are some people programmed to become obese even before birth? It is possible.
If true, it does not mean that such individuals are destined to a lifetime of obesity. They just may have a more difficult time losing weight, although weight loss would still be possible. We cannot and should not simply “give up” in light of these new findings. It may be helpful to gain some understanding as to why our children are heavy, but it doesn’t change the treatment options. These children should be taught healthy nutrition and exercise from an early age to prevent the further accumulation of fat cells.
It is a fact that healthy food is more expensive than junk food. In fact, a study from the University of Washington looked at the price of eating a 2,000 calorie diet if it consisted solely of junk (~$3.50) versus if it consisted solely of healthful food (~$36.30). What a difference! The disparity is likely because healthy food is perishable whereas junk food can lasts years. But when it comes down to it, there are plenty of other ways to save money. We should not scrimp on the foods we serve our children (or the foods we ourselves eat). I was guilty of this today. I went to a local shop (Kitchen Cabaret). I saw an energy bar for $2.00 and some fresh pineapple for $6.00. I thought to myself, “I am not spending that much on a quick snack” and so I bought the energy bar. But later in the day, as I was talking to a patient about this very subject, I realized that I had broken one of my own rules. Don’t look to save money at the expense of your health. It’s not worth it. And now the 200 calories of the energy bar are weighing heavily on me- ha, ha!