Sunflower Butter

Remember a few months ago when I showed you guys how to make your own nut butter? Well, I decided to try sunflower seed butter last week, and it turned out great. The color is a little scary at first, but the taste is perfect, and a nice change since we usually eat fresh almond butter.

Sunflower seeds are very oily, but the good kind of oil (polyunsaturated). They also provide almost 100% of your daily vitamin E, 50% of your daily vitamin B1, and tons of manganese, tryptophan, selenium, folate, and vitamin B5.

The vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that works to eliminate free radicals throughout your body. It has an anti-inflammatory affect and is beneficial for people with conditions like arthritis, asthma and eczema. The vitamin E also keeps cholesterol under control by preventing it from oxidizing (cholesterol can only block arteries when it is oxidized). The phytosterols in the vitamin E help lower blood cholesterol as well.

Magnesium found in sunflower seeds can help lower blood pressure and alleviate migraine headaches. In addition, the selenium works to repair damaged DNA in cells, which helps prevent cancer from forming and spreading.The sunflower butter is good with almost anything – on sandwiches with some raw honey or bananas, used as a dip for apples, carrots or celery, or mixed into smoothies or yogurt. You could even try baking with it! Plus, it’s really fun to make, and since the seeds are so oily you get a really nice creamy texture pretty quickly.


Place sunflower seeds (preferably unsalted) into food processor. Process until very smooth and creamy.

As a sidenote, I tried to grow sunflowers in my garden last summer but didn't get much more than a sprout. It's tough in these little city gardens... but not impossible! I have a friend who did it, but she also is a Master Gardener and walking through her backyard is like walking through a tropical rainforest! Maybe I'll try again this summer though.

Kale, Sausage & Lentil Skillet Supper

Last month, one of PWN’s readers e-mailed me and mentioned EatingWell magazine. I hadn’t heard of it, but I happened to get an EatingWell 2010 daily calendar from Santa. It’s great because each week has a new recipe that is healthy and simple.

Since we try to eat a lot of kale at our house (it has quickly become one of my favorite veggies!), the recipe for Kale, Sausage & Lentil Skillet Supper caught my attention right away. Lentils are really easy to prepare and full of health benefits: they are full of fiber and help lower cholesterol; they help keep blood sugar under control; they contain many nutrients including iron, folate, manganese, tryptophan, protein and two different B-vitamins. So between the many health benefits of kale (read about it here) and lentils, this dinner will fill you up and provide you with loads of nutrients.

It was fairly easy to prepare but took longer than I expected, so do it when you have some time. It’s not active cooking the entire time, but requires some check in and stir every once in a while.


3 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 12-oz package cooked chicken or turkey sausage (I used Applegate Farms chicken sausage from Whole Foods)

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

2 ½ cups water

1 ½ cups red wine

1 cup lentils (I used French green and red, because we had a little of both at our house)

6-8 cups chopped kale leaves

1 tsp chopped fresh sage

¼ tsp sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

Heat 1 tsp olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add sausage and cook until browned on all sides (4-5 mins). Transfer to cutting board.

Add remaining 2 tsp olive oil and onion to pan and cook until browned (4-5 mins). Add garlic and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant (15 seconds). Add water and wine, increase heat to high and bring to a boil, scraping sides and bottom of pan. Add lentils, reduce heat to simmer, and cook partially covered for 40 minutes.

Add kale, sage and salt and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until lentils and kale are tender, about 10 minutes. Slice sausage and stir into pan along with pepper. Cover and cook until heated, another few minutes.

It says this only makes 4 servings, however Ed and I ate it for dinner two nights in a row, plus lunches. Also, I added some purple cabbage because we didn’t have quite enough kale. We ate it with some quinoa and it was delicious – very filling.



Smallstep.gov Ads

For the past three days, I’ve talked about our need to focus more on health and less on weight. The conference I attended last weekend opened my eyes to just how much we focus on weight, including in our advertisements. Five years ago, the government released ads aimed at overweight and obese people. These ads were produced by the same company who did the “Priceless” commercials for MasterCard. They were part of a big campaign to get people to lose weight (the website can be found here). Have you seen any of these?

Catching? Yes. Funny? Sometimes, yes. But the message is too off: Lose weight, and everything will be fixed. Not to mention they are singling out overweight people, and ignoring the fact that “thin” people can be just as unhealthy. Our genes are powerful! There is this belief that becoming thin will solve all of our problems, whether they be health, self-esteem, or other types of problems. However, this is just too simplistic.

From a March 2004 Boston Globe article:

The print ads show close-ups of unshapely hips, flabby stomachs, double chins, and very round derrieres. Superimposed are a series of dotted lines, showing that gradually increasing exercise could trim the fatties down to sleeker figures.

Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a health-advocacy group, said she was happy the Bush administration was drawing attention to obesity but called the ads "a half-measure" to address it. "What they should be doing is trying to get junk food out of the schools, requiring calorie-labeling on chain-restaurant menus, prohibiting junk-food marketing aimed at children, and funding every state program to promote physical activity."she said.

From a nutrition perspective, I encourage people to eat foods that provide their bodies with the nutrients they need. Try to eat food for health’s sake. This perspective may take time and some people may always have “weight” on the mind, but at the very least, when we do eat healthy, we should appreciate the balance we are bringing to our bodies.

Tomorrow I have a new recipe for you guys – simple but fun to make at home!


Feeding Your Kids: Focusing on the “How” (Part 2)

Yesterday I introduced you to some of the feeding methods and theories that Katja Rowell, MD, uses in her work with parents and others involved in feeding children. Today I will briefly explain how parents can support positive feeding experiences with their own kids.

Parents have the following responsibilities when it comes to feeding:

• Choose and prepare the food

• Provide regular meals and snacks

• Make eating times pleasant

• Teach children about certain foods and appropriate mealtime behavior

• Do not let children graze for food or beverages (except water) between meal and snack times

• Let children grow into their own bodies – do not put them on diets or try to overfeed them

And I’ll add one more item I think parents are responsible for – to choose foods that are healthy and support a child’s health, and to avoid giving children too many processed foods.

Atmosphere is very important. Eat with your kids, and carry on pleasant, easy-going conversations. Avoid watching television or reading the newspaper. Including kids in meal preparation can get them interested and increases likelihood that they'll want to try the foods. Eating out with kids gives them variety. Review the menu with them and let them think about what they want to order. Do not restrict them to the kid's menu. If they are eating "adult" foods at home, they should be able to eat "adult" foods at restaurants too.

Katja also emphasizes the importance of neutral presentation. With her own daughter, she will put everything on the table at once, including dessert if they are having it on a particular night. That way, her daughter is less likely to view sweets as “rewards” for eating healthier things, and more likely to just enjoy it as one of many foods she is being given that night. And, it works! I think in general it is a good idea to avoid using sweets as rewards for things like good behavior or potty training.

Katja emphasizes that parents should OFFER, not FORCE. And if a kid acts totally grossed out by a particular food, let them avoid it and include it in a meal a week or two later. Doctors tell parents it may take 5-10 tries before a kid decides to eat something, but according to Katja that number can be more like 100 tries. So continue to place a variety of foods on the table and maybe eventually your child will try something new.

Items to include at each meal include protein (meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, or nuts); two starches (rice, corn, potatoes, noodles, bread, etc.); fruit or veggie (or both); milk or substitute; fats (butter, peanut butter, nuts, etc.).

Katja’s website is a great resource for more information on family feeding:


Some other great resources include some of Ellyn Satter’s books. Ellyn is another expert on this subject.

Secrets to Feeding a Healthy Family

Child of Mine

Your Child’s Weight: Helping Without Harming

I own all three of these books and have read bits and pieces of each of them. They provide very useful information for parents.

Feeding Your Kids: Focusing on the “How”

Yesterday I gave a brief review of the conference I attended in St. Paul this past weekend called A New Paradigm for Weight: An Effective Model for Promoting Healthy Body Image, Eating, Fitness and Weight in Children, Teens and Adults. There were some great presenters, and I think Katja Rowell’s information is particularly important and relevant for PWN readers.

Katja was a family physician prior to founding Family Feeding Dynamics. While working as a physician, she was shocked at the number of feeding problems and children with disordered eating, and wanted to find an effective way to address this. FFD’s goal is to teach the importance of a healthy feeding relationship to health care providers, family therapists, parents and other childcare providers.

The foundation of Katja’s work lies in the Division of Responsibility:

When it comes to feeding, the child can decide IF, and HOW MUCH. The parent decides WHEN, WHAT, and WHERE. (Obviously infants decide “when,” but as they get older this responsibility transfers to the parents).

I like this because it’s simple and easy for parents to remember. Think about the “scenes” this type of division of responsibility can help families avoid: frustrated parents negotiating and bribing their kids at meals; tired kids left at an empty dinner table because they haven’t eaten all their veggies; parents using food as an afternoon “crutch,” only to result in a kid that is not hungry come dinnertime and therefore does not sit down for the family meal; kids consistently dictating what they want for meals and insisting on one of only a few foods, none of which are very nutritious; parents feeling defeated, tired and fed up with picky eaters; an overall association of stress and anxiety with mealtimes for kids.

On the flip side, think about what things COULD be like if the division of responsibility was adhered to: consistent family meals; relaxed meals during which families can talk about their days; kids are not eating too much (because their parents are restricting their food) or too little (because their parents are trying to force food) but rather just the right amount to keep them full; a consistent schedule so the child knows when he/she will eat again; eventual end of kids begging for unhealthy snacks, because they know they will not receive it; parents only have to prepare one meal, because the kids eat the same things as the adults; kids who associate food and eating with thinks like family, happiness, relaxation, and togetherness.

Doesn’t this sound great? Everything Katja said made so much sense, yet I have never heard it presented this way. Katja, as a former doctor and now an eating consultant, stated that conflict over food is “the norm.” It is very typical for children to be picky eaters and for battles to ensue at the dinner table. However, she believes this can be changed with a little work.

Katja also believes that BMI is a false clinical marker as it does not take into account body composition, and therefore is not a reliable predictor of health. Parents may go to the doctor and be told their child is “overweight” or “underweight” based on the BMI charts, and this sets off a cycle of eating battles at home and increased stress at mealtimes. The real things to look for, according to Katja, are weight accelerations or decelerations on the BMI charts. But if your child has a healthy, steady increase as they age and grow, parents need not worry if they are not exactly in line with what doctors label as “healthy” or "ideal."

Tomorrow I will talk about some ways to enforce the Division of Responsibility in your home.

You can visit Katja's website here. Check out her blog too - she provides real examples of the Division of Responsibility used in her own home and that of others.


Conference Wrap-Up: Time to Value Health Over Weight

The conference I attended in St. Paul this past weekend was so interesting. It was called A New Paradigm for Weight: An Effective Model for Promoting Healthy Body Image, Eating, Fitness and Weight in Children, Teens and Adults. The four speakers provided some really useful information on how nutrition can be used to promote health, rather than weight. Too much emphasis is put on achieving a certain ideal look, often times at the expense of one’s health. Kids go to the doctor and hear that their BMI is in the “high” range, and immediately think they are fat. Moms are told to feed these kids less food, so they restrict portion sizes and meal times become a battle. From an early age, kids associate food and eating with stress, pressure and anxiety, and this can lead to things like emotional eating, low self-esteem, disordered eating, and other issues with food and weight.

I found a couple of speakers particularly interesting. One woman, Kathy Kater, is a licensed independent clinical social worker and focuses on people with eating disorders. She talked about our need for a new approach to health, since the current approach is too weight-focused and thus leads to the numerous eating-related problems we are seeing in today’s kids and adults.

Kathy identified four “toxic” myths that are at the root of almost all body image, eating, fitness and weight problems today:

1. Image is valued over substance: “How I look” is more important than “who I am.” Having the “right look” is essential to being acceptable.

2. Denial of biological diversity: Anyone can be slim if they work at it. Fatter people eat too much and/or are inactive. Fat is bad/wrong/unhealthy.

3. Denial of the effects of externally prescribed hunger regulation: Dieting is an effective weight loss strategy.

4. Discounting the value of health; complacency about lifestyle choices that do not result in the desired look: If I can’t be thin, what difference does it make what I eat? Healthy choices for health’s sake are too much work!

Some highlights of Kathy’s speech:

• Statistic that 80% of 3rd grade girls are very afraid of becoming fat (this shocked me – it’s awful)

• In the 1960s, 30% of females worried about their weight; today about 85% worry about their weight

• “The thinner we try to be, the fatter we have become” (proof that our current focus on weight, BMI, etc. is not healthy and is not working!)

• Body dissatisfaction does not motivate healthy behavior; rather, it leads to disordered eating

The genetic contribution to BMI is about 55% - 70%. Too many people are trying to “change” their bodies, and ignoring or in denial of their genes (I find this statistic very important for people to recognize; we need to STOP trying to be people we weren't meant to be!)

• We are too quick to make assumptions on one’s lifestyle based on their physical appearance. Weight is a result of many complex factors, many of which are out of one’s control. Overweight people are not necessarily unhealthy.

• There has been a significant rise in eating disorders in menopausal women in the past 10 years

• 95% of weight loss through dieting is regained

• Over 80% of people who lose weight with a low-calorie diet will regain it all (example: Oprah)

• Recently people are feeling a double-pressure to lose weight: for looks and also for health

• Overweight people who are physically active and fit are at less risk of disease than thin people who are not physically active and fit

Kathy’s bottom line: We need to value health, not size. We can do this by eating well, making fitness a priority, accepting the size and shape that is our natural predisposition, feeling good about who we are, and recognizing the harm we are doing to ourselves physically and emotionally when we continuously try new diets and lose and gain weight. I am not providing these statistics to scare or dishearten anyone; rather, I want to emphasize what I’ve always tried to focus on here at PWN: nutrition is important because it provides so many wonderful health benefits, and certain foods actually can make us feel good, while others can make us feel sick and lead to long-term health problems. If we focus on nutrition for health’s sake, we will ultimately be happier, healthier people.

When I consider how these items relate to my role as a nutritionist, I think about working with young children and their parents. I would love to help parents learn more about nutrition for their kids and how it can influence their behavior, learning and health. However, this conference reminded me that the method is just as important as the actual nutrition. Another speaker, Katja Rowell, MD, addressed how to approach feeding and eating with infants, toddlers and children. I found it extremely helpful and realized how important this process actually is. Tomorrow I will summarize what Katja spoke about.

Kathy’s website can be found here.