Archive for July, 2011

We Can Cook, a great new book by Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RD, CDN, and Maja Pitamic, is filled with recipes and food-related activities designed for young children and their parents or caregivers to do together. We all know that involving kids in the kitchen is a great way to introduce children to new foods and help them gain a positive understanding of food and cooking. The book's recipes are not only nutritious, but they're tasty as well--many are favorites like Mac 'n' Cheese and Chicken Fingers (and of course there are some sweet treats). Every recipe includes step-by-step instructions directed at parents and includes tasks that are appropriate for 3 to 6 year-olds (and of course, older children can also help create the culinary, child-friendly masterpieces). Overall, We Can Cook makes cooking and eating fun for both children and their parents.

Below you'll find a sweet, nutritious fruit-filled recipe that makes a great mid-day snack or dessert.

Grilled Plums with Yogurt Dip

4 Servings

Grilling fruit is a great way to make it more interesting. Plums are an excellent source of the antioxidants anthocyanins, which are commonly found in red and purple fruits and vegetables, and vitamin C.


4 plums

Olive oil

Nonstick cooking spray

1 cup nonfat Greek or plain yogurt

4 tsp honey


A knife

A grill or grill pan

A spatula

A small to medium bowl

A fork

4 plates

A spoon

1.     Cut the plums in half by cutting along the seam to the pit, then show your child how to twist each half in opposite directions to separate them. Remove the pits.

2.     Help him to lightly brush the plums with olive oil, using his fingers, and set them aside.

3.     Spray the grill with cooking spray and heat it to medium-high. When it is hot, add the plums to the grill and cook for about 5 minutes. Flip the plums and cook on the other side for another 5 minutes.

4.     While the plums are grilling, ask your child to add the yogurt and honey to a bowl and mix them together using a fork until they are well combined.

5.     When the plums are finished cooking, remove them from the grill and set one plum on each plate. Help your child spoon approximately 1⁄4-cup of the yogurt-honey dip on each plate (next to or on top of the plums—he can decide).

Source: We Can Cook: Introduce Your Child to the Joy of Cooking with 75 Simple Recipes and Activities.

What simple favorite sweet treat do you like to prepare with your kids?

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Is Michelle Obama really more like the Hamburgler in disguise? Or is she simply an American woman who, according to a Washington Post reporter, had a craving for, and subsequently ordered some of her favorite comfort foods—a burger and fries, a chocolate shake, and a diet coke®—at a Shake Shack location in Washington, D.C. this past Monday? Should we even care?

Many seem to care because Mrs. Obama is no simple American woman; she’s the face of Let’s Move!, a comprehensive anti-obesity initiative launched in February, 2010. This national effort aims to create a healthy start for children, empower parents and caregivers, provide healthy food in schools, improve access to healthy, affordable foods, and increase physical activity.

Just after this ‘news story’ went to print, several nutrition experts weighed in with their opinions on ABC news. Many defended (or at the very least, were not outright mortified by) Mrs. Obama’s lunch selection, saying we're not sure how much she actually ate and that fast food can be an occasional indulgence—not something to have often as many Americans unfortunately tend to do.

Personally, I can understand why some feel that Mrs. Obama’s reported behavior at Shake Shake was shaky--and flies in the face of what she stands for (and what she wants America to stand for) as we wage war against obesity and overweight. After all, doesn’t heavily advertised, highly palatable, high calorie, high fat fast food contribute to overeating and subsequent debilitating health problems like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes? We Americans know that we eat too much nutrient-poor food and not enough of the healthful foods recommended by MyPlate (which reflects current Dietary Guidelines for Americans). But does judging Mrs. Obama’s food choices and expecting her to eat and live perfectly really help the rest of us get healthy and fit? Wouldn’t that set the healthy eating bar too high for most Americans to achieve?

Lauren Slayton, MS, RD, a New York City-based registered dietitian in private practice, says "Having a burger, fries, a shake, and a soda all at once is not the best example to set when you’re encouraging Americans to be more healthy." One expert takes a different view. "It's like we live in the land of scooped out bagels and no fat allowed," says Rebecca Scritchfield, a Washington, D.C.-based dietitian and the founder of "The Me Movement." And while we don’t know if Mrs. Obama ate all that she ordered (or if she even ordered it all for herself), Scritchfield points out that "Let's Move! is about wellness—it's not about 'perfect' food rules." She adds "All or nothing doesn't work, and health should not be equated with perfection."

If you want my two cents, I think we should leave it up to Mrs. Obama herself to decide what and how to eat. Only she knows her usual eating habits and overall health status, and how occasional—or even daily—indulgences fit into her life. Only she can decide the messages (such as moderation and balance) she wants her daughters to learn about making food decisions and living a healthy lifestyle. And if that means fast food on occasion—or even more often (in small portions of course)—so be it.

And what about all of us healthy eating advocates and experts—including myself—should we, too, be subjected to scrutiny about what, how much, when and where we eat? At the moment (knock on wood), I’m in very good health, maintain a very active lifestyle, and have lost and kept off more than 30 pounds for years. Although some foodie friends and health experts may not condone my usuals—a hot dog with catsup and mustard at each Yankee game, bread and butter (or sometimes olive oil) at meals eaten out, or my daily chocolate indulgence (usually peanut M & Ms)—I have no problem being honest about my eating habits. I’m not a food cop and don’t expect others to eat exactly as I do, nor do I claim to be a perfect eater. And just like with Mrs. Obama, I don’t feel that I should be judged for having some of the less-than-healthful foods I have enjoyed since I was a child. (Perhaps those who feel this admission means I should have my registered dietitian license revoked should take it up with my mother.)

I take my own kids to fast food once in a while, much like my parents took me, and both of my boys are (knock on wood, again) healthy, active, and have a pretty healthful diet rich in fruits, veggies, low fat dairy, beans, and whole grains.

I truly hope Mrs. Obama will continue to promote healthy eating, do the best she can to eat healthfully and encourage that in her children, and at the same time not be shamed into eating indulgences only in secret. And as my colleague and friend, registered dietitian Constance Brown-Riggs, often says, life—and food choices—are about progress, not perfection. And to that I’ll take another bite of my own burger!

Your thoughts?

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The following review is written by the wonderful Erika Breitfeller who interned for me in late June, 2011.

The Slender Trap: A Food and Body Workbook is an interactive manual that addresses both eating disorders and body-image issues. Written by author Lauren Lazar Stern, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, a board-certified art therapist and a licensed professional counselor, the book is interactive and extremely well written. The format of the book and its layout are easy to follow and convey a strong sense of support for readers throughout each section.

The book is broken down into an introduction followed by chapters on different topics with titles such as “Why I think I’m Fat,” and “The Diet and Exercise Traps.” The introduction is informative and factual and gives the reader an idea of the purpose of the workbook, and the workings and defining elements of expressive arts used to help readers who suffer from an eating disorder. I appreciate the sequence of chapters and how they’re broken down; they start with some basics and slowly upgrade to more difficult topics readers can reflect on. Each chapter includes clever exercises that appropriately pertain to the topic being discussed. The author also includes a section after each exercise titled ‘Process with Me,’ which enables readers to reflect on how she feels while doing the exercise. The only criticism I have about this processing section was categorizing feelings using a thermometer analogy.  The author utilized a temperature scale to process readers’ moods after doing the exercise that to me could be misleading or confusing to some. I really enjoyed the personal testimonials from real women who were willing to share their experiences with eating disorders and body image issues. These testimonials make it that much more apparent that readers are not alone.

The author suggests The Slender Trap to those who are overwhelmed by what to eat or not to eat, or by how they look. I whole-heartedly agree with Ms. Stern that this book is a great read for any woman at any age who suffers from an eating disorder or some form of disordered eating or who has a distorted self-image. Reading this workbook can surely be an eye-opening experience, especially for those who may not have seen their eating habits and obsessions as a concern. The book reassures readers that many women feel the same way they do, and guides them towards confronting issues appropriately. At the very least, reading The Slender Trap can open doors for women and hopefully help them begin to tackle their issues and start the healing process.

Are you stuck in the slender trap? Or what has helped you get out of one?

About the author: Erika Breitfeller earned a Bachelors in Health Science –Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Delaware. She's also a recent  graduate of the North Shore Long Island Jewish Dietetic Internship Program. Her email is

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