Book – First Bite, by Bee Wilson

Bee Wilson – First Bite: How We Learn to Eat

I’m only half way through the book, but it’s very thought-provoking and relevant to us right now, since our toddler is just nearing the age of 3. Chapter 4 on Feeding discusses several styles of feeding children that researchers have divided them into:

  • Uninvolved: low warmth and low demands
  • Authoritarian: low warmth and high demands
  • Indulgent: high warmth and low demands
  • Authoritative: high warmth and high demands

Where ‘warmth’ is described as being the level of sensitivity to the child’s needs. I think of myself as being somewhere between Indulgent and Authoritative. I tend to indulge our son in many of his wants but he tends to be quite good in his ability to accept small indulgences (one or two mini chocolate chips, for example) as sufficient, so it’s never a worry for me. At the dinner table; however, I tend to ask him several times if he wants to try a food, or if he wants to finish his soup or if he’ll have one more bite of something. Especially after he starts getting down from his chair to go play. The danger being that the high demands may skew his liking of certain foods that we serve. Regardless, the take-away is best stated by Wilson:

The art of feeding, it turns out, is not about pushing “one more bite” into someone’s mouth, however healthy the food. Nor is it about authoritarian demands to abstain from all treats. It’s about creating a mealtime environment where – as in Clara Davis’s feeding experiment – those who are eating are free to develop their own tastes, because all of the choices on the table are real, whole food.


Ontario fast food restaurants will soon require food labels

Laura Wright for the CBC – Ontario fast-food labels could cause women to gain weight, public health advocate says:

Along with the calorie information, chain restaurants will have to display a “context statement” meant to help consumers better understand the calorie count. The statement will say adults require 2,000 to 2,400 calories per day, but that individual calorie needs vary.

On deliciousness

David Chang at Wired – The Unified Theory of Deliciousness:

Joshua told me he wanted to make a version of a Bolognese, the Italian meat sauce. I told him that was fine, but he had to use only Korean ingredients. I often set these kinds of limitations, because I’m a big believer that creativity comes from working within constraints.

Anyway, that meant he would have to find a way of re-creating the sweetness, umami, and pungency of Bolognese without the onions, celery, carrot, tomato paste, or white wine. He ended up using scallions, red chiles, ground pork, and fermented bean paste. Instead of using milk to provide that silky mouthfeel, I encouraged him to add in some whipped tofu. And rather than pasta or gnocchi, he served it with rice cakes that looked like gnocchi. We called it Spicy Pork Sausage & Rice Cakes, and when most people taste it, it reminds them—even on a subconscious level—of a spicier version of Bolognese.

I often find that with our food constraints, much of what we cook tastes the same, and very familiar. This is good in one sense, since by now we know what our son likes and dislikes and can guess whether he’ll like the food or not. But it’s bad in another sense, where I feel that we’re limiting him and not presenting a wider range of flavours and textures the we want him to experience.

Chang’s attempts at recreating familiar foods with different ingredients shows that in some instances he can re-imagine familiar dishes using unfamiliar ingredients. We are trying to do that every time we make a new dish, having to replace ingredients with others that are safe. Unfortunately it’s only too easy to fall back on the tried and true recipes. Time is the overriding constraint.

Maybe carbohydrates aren’t that bad after all

Julia Belloz at Vox – We’ve long blamed carbs for making us fat. What if that’s wrong?

The main scientific model behind the low-carb approach is the “carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis,” which journalist Gary Taubes, Harvard professor David Ludwig, and others have extensively promoted. It suggests that a diet heavy in carbohydrates (especially refined grains and sugars) leads to weight gain because of a specific mechanism: Carbs drive up insulin in the body, causing the body to hold on to fat and suppress calorie burn.

But what’s often lost in all the boosterism around the low-carb approach is that it is still an unproven hypothesis in science.

So they did a study to show whether a low-carb diet can actually help to reduce weight. 17 overweight or obese men in a metabolic chamber for 4 weeks and fed either a high carbohydrate diet or ketogenic diet with the same number of calories. Results? No increased body fat loss with the ketogenic diet.

But as Bazinet points out, “The study … doesn’t see any [relationship between a decrease in insulin and an increase in fat loss]. Show me a better study that supports this.”

There isn’t any, he added.

Ah. Conclusions?

Tobias urged dieters not to lose sight of the bigger picture. “Low-carb versus low-fat should not be the focus for people selecting a weight loss diet.” The focus, she said, should be on improving the quality of food that people eat instead.

On Fat and Sugar

Jill Eisen for the CBC – Fat and Sugar, Part 1

First, fat was the dietary bad guy. We were warned back in the 1980s to cut back on eggs, meat and full-fat dairy to avoid heart disease. So we started eating more bread, rice and pasta and fat-free snacks. But we got sicker and fatter. Now sugar is the bad guy. Contributor Jill Eisen explores the complex, and sometimes contradictory, science of nutrition — and tries to find clarity amidst the thicket of studies and ambiguous research.

There’s also a great list of research references and a reading list at the link, for more information.

Part 2 airs on June 22, 2016.

Exercise times on food labels?

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health – Food should be labelled with the exercise needed to expend its calories:

The Royal Society for Public Health has called for the introduction of “activity equivalent” calorie labelling, with symbols showing how many minutes of several different physical activities are equivalent in the calories expended to those in the product. The aim is to prompt people to be more mindful of the energy they consume and how these calories relate to activities in their everyday lives, to encourage them to be more physically active.

As reported by the CBC, not everyone is a fan of this approach:

Not everybody is sold on the idea. Dr. Yoni Freedhoff is the medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa.

“People believe that exercise is the ticket to the weight loss express,” he said.

But, in fact, exercise doesn’t burn that many calories.

I believe Dr. Freedhoff is correct. Labelling foods with exercise equivalents is not the right message, and mixes up the idea of weight loss with exercise, when they are not well linked at all.

From what I’ve been reading, exercise is key for reducing your risk of dying early due to cadriovascular disease. With better fitness you also reduce your risk of physical injuries. However, the amount of exercise you do is not well correlated to your weight. Meaning that you cannot realistically exercise enough to reduce your weight if you are consuming the same amount of calories.

– More exercise => better fitness and live longer
– Fewer calories => lose weight

See Dr. Freedhoff’s talk on the issue:

On the culture of meat

Karen Coates at The Human Palate blog – Meat Culture:

“Do you eat meat every day?” I asked.

“No!” the kids shouted, and their teacher elaborated: A few times each year their communities have traditional cultural ceremonies that serve large quantities of meat. But it’s not a common part of the diet—although some children live in an orphanage, where they are fed meat two or three times a week.

We in the western world consume a lot of meat, and it’s the centrepiece of most meals – just take a look at the vegetables found in many restaurants’ menu items and compare it to the meats. In other parts of the world, meat is very scarce and eaten on rare occasions. While many  nutrients are more readily absorbed from meat sources than vegetable sources we certainly don’t need to eat as much meat as we currently do for health reasons.

More data on how eating meat helped to grow our brains

Sujata Gupta for Nature – Brain food: Clever eating:

Our ancestors’ consumption of meat is what made us who we are.

Moreover, what the animal eats also matters. Livestock and poultry in Western nations are often raised in large facilities and fed diets that consist mainly of maize and soya, whereas animals from poor villages are typically farmed on a much smaller scale and forage for a greater variety of foods, which increases the nutrient content of their meat. Given these sorts of variations, Hosking says, “we have to be very cautious about making dietary recommendations … for people who have access to large quantities of food.”

Meat is good food. But only certain meat.

So the key question becomes how much meat should a cognitive-health-conscious person eat. Too little can delay development and cognition. But too much, particularly if it is low quality and mass produced, is associated with other health concerns, such as heart disease and cancer, along with memory problems later in life. A person’s life stage matters: pregnant women need more iron, as do babies and children. Genetics also play a part, but we don’t yet know all the particulars. All these caveats make for a murky takeaway.

But a lot of other animals eat meat. The article doesn’t talk about our cooking of meat, which I think is the key to how we’ve evolved.