by Michele Peterson
The author is a recovering addict who wishes to eliminate the stigma surrounding people who struggle with addiction.
Eating disorders affect each individual differently, but they all carry similar symptoms and consequences. Starvation, purging, and relentless exercise are just a few of the behaviors a person suffering with an eating disorder might engage in, and they can lead to substance abuse, catastrophic weight loss, organ failure, respiratory and digestive issues, and even death. These life-altering disorders are not just a matter of lifestyle; they are actually a mental health issue and can be affected by environment and other factors, as well. This means that a person living with an eating disorder cannot control their behavior on their own, even if they want to stop.
The stigmas surrounding eating disorders make it difficult for many people to talk about. Friends and family may not understand what lies behind these behaviors, and the revelation that a loved one has bulimia or anorexia may cause friction and misunderstandings. It is important to remember that an individual who lives with an eating disorder cannot change their behavior simply because a loved one wants them to. Therapy or counseling is necessary, and often the individual will need assistance in getting physically healthy again. It will not be easy and it will take time, so loved ones will need to be patient and understanding. It might even be helpful for them to attend a counseling session or to accompany the individual to the doctor in order to get a full understanding of the situation.
There are many different types of eating disorders, but the most commonly known are bulimia and anorexia. With bulimia, the individual will usually eat normally but will purge afterward. Anorexia often involves starving oneself or limiting calories severely. In both cases, the individual may engage in a brutal exercise regime and be obsessed with calorie intake; they may have dramatic mood swings or engage in substance abuse, either to cope with their behavior or the physical pain, or to curb their appetite. Some of the consequences of living with an eating disorder include:
It is important for individuals living with an eating disorder to receive help as soon as possible, because the longer a person lives with it, the harder it is to change the behavior. The same is true with a person who is simultaneously living with a substance abuse problem. If you suspect that a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, do not be afraid to reach out to them. Let them know they are not alone and that, while you may not understand their thought process, you do not want them to continue their harmful behavior. Help them find a counselor or therapist and offer to accompany them to a meeting or consultation, as going alone can be scary.
Finally, remember to be patient. You may not understand what your loved one is going through and that is okay; there is only so much you can do yourself. Let them know you will listen if they need to talk and try to keep an open mind.
Welcome back! Here are some more helpful recommendationson plant-based eating for your family from Nasira, our registered dietitian:
Model good behavior. By consuming plant foods in front of your family members, they will be more likely to follow your example. Let them see you eating a salad, throwing veggies in your breakfast omelet, snacking on veggies and hummus, or eating the same vegetable the child has on their plate.
Offer unfamiliar healthy foods at least 8 to 15 times. Experts say it often takes this much repetition before children accept new foods! Unfortunately, adults often give up after a child rejects a food the first few times. In some cases, it takes a while for the child’s taste buds to get used to a new plant food. It may help to prepare the food in a new way that may be more appealing.
Visit a local Farmer’s Market. Meeting the farmers and letting your family choose which produce they want to take home can make children excited to try new things.
Share in the decision-making. Encourage parents to decide where and when eating will occur and what foods are offered. During meal time, allow the child decide which vegetable(s) to eat from a variety offered and how much to eat. When the child feels that they have some control over the situation, they are more likely to eat the chosen vegetable, increasing their vegetable consumption.
Make popcorn. Don’t forget that this tasty snack is a whole grain! Make it from scratch for a fun activity kids love, using a popcorn popper or even a paper bag. To enhance flavor, try misting with water from a spray bottle before salting and seasoning, rather than using butter, or simply sprinkle with some cinnamon!
Microwave ready-made frozen packs of brown rice or quinoa. These whole-grains are ready in three minutes. Quick-cooking brown rice is another good option and can be ready in 10-15 minutes.
Purchase whole-wheat snacks. Look for the word “whole” in the first ingredient (e.g., whole wheat, whole grain flour, whole oats) or even brown rice. “Wheat flour” or “enriched flour” does not mean whole grain, nor does the phrase “made with whole grains” – this can be a marketing tactic. Aim to buy snacks with 2 grams of fiber or more per 1 ounce serving. Also look out for added sugar and trans-fat. A package can say “no trans-fat” if it has less than 0.5 grams per serving, but this can add up if you consume several servings. It’s best to avoid foods with partially-hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list.
Eat more beans. Use black and pinto whole beans as part of your own taco or burrito meal, along with your favorite veggies. Garbanzo and kidney beans can be tossed in a salad for a delicious protein boost. Lentils and navy beans are a great addition to any soup or stew, or can be used as a substitute for ground meat for a vegetarian version of your favorite recipe!
Consider tofu or tempeh. These soy-based products take on the flavors of what they’re cooked with, so a vegetable stir-fry made with tofu instead of meat can be a tasty dish!
Snack on nuts. Nuts can make their own tasty snack, be used as a salad topper, or be eaten as a nut butter on whole-grain toast.
Go meatless one day per week. Dropping meat one day a week in favor of a plant-based protein, such as beans, will increase your fiber and phytochemical intake, lowering your cancer risk, without requiring a huge lifestyle overhaul. As an additional benefit, the average ounce of meat costs $0.25, but an ounce of dry beans is only $0.08, which is one-third the cost of meat! A weekly meatless eating plan could improve your health and save you money!
Encouraging your family to eat more plant foods should not be a struggle. With fruits, vegetables, whole-grains and legumes, there are plenty of options to choose from and numerous ways to prepare them to suit your family member’s taste buds. To learn more strategies that will work with your lifestyle and to help your family live a healthier life, contact our registered dietitian.
It’s easy enough to know that your family should consume more plant foods, but how can you actually make it happen? Fortunately, there are strategies that make it easy for parents and even fun for kids to successfully adopt a healthier eating plan. Since lifestyles and preferences vary widely, below is a list you can use to find solutions that work best.
Shop with kids for healthful foods. Bring your kids to the grocery store with you and have them each pick out a fruit or a vegetable. When they choose the food themselves, they are more excited about eating it!
Involve kids in food preparation. Children are more excited to eat a food if they’ve helped to make it. An easy way to do this is to help kids make their own pizzas with whole-wheat pizza crust. Kids will love making their own food, and parents can provide their favorite healthful toppings such as mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, and spinach.
Buy frozen vegetables. Frozen vegetables are pre-cleaned and pre-cut, which reduces food prep and clean up time, and they are always available in a time crunch. Choose frozen vegetables without added salt to reduce sodium intake. It is a misconception that frozen produce is less nutritious than fresh. However, most frozen vegetables are flash frozen soon after they are picked, which helps retain most of the nutrients. Fresh vegetables can take a while to get from the farm, to the grocery store, to the table, during which time, light and air can degrade some of the nutrients. While fresh vegetables are always a great option, the frozen varieties are convenient and offer equal if not better nutrition.
Use hunger to your benefit. When kids are hungry, they are more likely to try something new, so introduce new, healthy foods at the beginning of mealtime. For example, serve fresh cut veggies as an appetizer before the main course.
Emphasize plant foods as time-savers. Eating more plant-based food can be easier to prepare since it doesn’t necessarily require cooking, and can offer fewer food safety concerns when cooking with kids. Uncooked meat or meat products have high levels of bacteria, so they are not ideal for children to handle, as they could get sick if they don’t wash their hands properly before touching their mouth or nose. While plant-foods can carry bacteria as well, the risk is lower, and there are more areas children can get involved in such as washing or tearing up leaves.
Visit us next week for more tips on how to include plant foods in your family's diet!
Eating fruits and vegetables at every meal (at least five, half-cup servings a day) helps you feel full without excess fat and sugar. Bite-for-bite, plant foods contain fewer calories than sugary snacks and many calorically dense, overly processed foods. Those kinds of heavily processed foods contribute to obesity and increase susceptibility for serious diseases, such as diabetes and cancer (Barclay et al., 2008).
Phytochemicals or phytonutrients are natural compounds in all plant foods that are believed to give the people who eat them protection from an array of diseases, such as various forms of cancer and cardiovascular disease (ADA, 2009) These compounds exist in plants to serve a function for the plant, such as UV protection or color. The benefits of consuming phytochemicals seem to be more prominent when consumed in whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, rather than in supplement form, as phytochemicals appear to have synergistic effects (AND, 2013).
There are several classes of phytochemicals and the different compounds provide different benefits. For example, certain phytochemicals in the carotenoid group, lutein and zeaxanthin, are found in the retina of the eye and are believed to play a role in preventing macular degeneration as we age (Linus Pauling Institute, 2013). In addition, foods containing polyphenols offer antioxidant properties, which can provide UV protection and protect cells from damage that can lead to cancer (Dinkova-Kostova, 2008). It’s never too early to reap the benefits of phytonutrients in order to prevent degenerative disease later in life.
Eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans gives our bodies fiber, a nutrient known to protect against colon cancer. Getting enough fiber, along with adequate hydration, also promotes regular bowel movements and prevents uncomfortable, sometimes painful, constipation.
Fiber also promotes satiety, which can prevent overeating and weight gain. For example, fiber-rich whole grains, such as oats, whole-wheat, brown rice, millet, and quinoa, are digested more slowly than refined foods, so you will feel full longer. In contrast, quickly digestible and highly-processed foods, such as white bread, potato chips, and candy are easy to overeat. Choosing fiber-rich whole grains rather than refined grains helps maintain blood sugar levels and provides the brain with a steady fuel source. This promotes satiety, mental focus, and physical performance (Kanaerek et al., 2005). Choosing whole grains also provides vitamins and minerals that are lost in the refining process.
Here are the daily requirements of fiber for different age groups of young children (USDA, 2013):
All plant foods, from apples to walnuts, have different vitamins and minerals. Here are just a few examples of some key vitamins and minerals found in plant foods and some of their food sources (Linus Pauling Institute, 2013):