Review of Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family:
How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook
*Disclaimer: I wrote this review as a volunteer assignment for Annette Adams RDN, check out her website to see the original post.
Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family is beyond what I expected from a book about family eating. Immediately with the first sentence, Satter informs the reader that “eating should be enjoyable.” Simple, albeit a bit surprising coming from a registered dietitian. However, this one phrase could also describe the general premise of the book. Throughout Secrets, there is little mention of specific nutrients or healthy foods. Instead, Satter provides the foundation for becoming and raising “competent eaters”. A competent eater will have the skills to enjoy a wide variety of foods, skills which will ensure nutritional adequacy in the long-run.
For families, Secrets can help parents understand normal childhood eating behaviors and how to best approach family meals. Satter makes it abundantly clear that regular family meals have more social, emotional, nutritional, and academic impact on children than other activities. For adolescents, family meals are correlated with resistance to: eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, early sexual behavior, and more. As a nutrition student, I have learned this in lifecycle nutrition courses, but as I read I wondered how many parents know such important statistics.
There are so many factors that can influence the quality of family mealtimes. Some child behavior can be seen as difficult at mealtime, when it is actually normal if the feeding developmental patterns are known. But even normal behavior can grow and evolve into damaging food habits. Secrets can help a parent understand their children’s behavior and the role they have in family meals. Because yes, children have a key role in their eating. As Satter explains, they are responsible for how much and whether to eat or not. To develop a positive feeding relationship, the parent does the what, when and where of feeding. Understanding normal childhood behavior and the division of responsibility can help a parent raise a child who knows how to eat well. Additionally, having a positive feeding relationship can nurture the relationship as a whole.
One of my favorite aspects of Secrets is its level of accessibility. Satter is non-judgmental and thoroughly understanding of just how HARD planning and getting meals on the table can be. Her compassion and understanding of human behavior shine through in the stories she shares of past patients. The stories shared also help to provide further insight of just how vital is it to create a lasting joyful relationship with food. The book rounds out with easy, adaptable recipes and food knowledge that would be helpful to even the most seasoned home-cooks.
Secrets is not a dieting book nor does it teach nutrition. It is so much greater and better than that. Anyone can benefit from reading Secrets, from single people (Satter says if you feed yourself, you are a family) living on their own to mothers who already have grown children but would still like to help them have a positive relationship with food. What Secrets accomplishes is endowing the reader with a completely new and enjoyably refreshing outlook on food and how we eat. This eating competence view could potentially help improve struggling eating habits but more significantly can help someone live a content life of wellness, all while genuinely enjoying the food they eat.
*Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook Second edition; Written By Ellyn Satter, MS, RD, LCSW, BCD; Published by Kelcy Press, 2008