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Family Meals Focus

The Ellyn Satter Institute Newsletter

Eat what you like and be healthy!

by Ellyn Satter, Registered Dietitian and Family Therapist

You don’t have to count, measure, restrict, and avoid in order to be healthy. Instead, manage your eating in a kinder, gentler way. Respect your physical need for filling and sustaining food, honor your emotional need for pleasure, and celebrate your social need for sharing favorite foods with those you love.   

Dietary Guidelines outlines dietary rules

The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans for Americans tell us to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and less sugar, salt, and saturated fat. Before this publication sends you packing for still another guilt trip, consider becoming eating competent (EC). Evidence shows that you can enjoy your eating and feel good about it at the same time as you work toward the Dietary Guidelines outcomes of achieving and maintaining good health and reducing the risk of chronic disease. 

Emphasize the joy of eating

Following the Satter Eating Competence Model, you can achieve and maintain good health and reduce the risk of chronic disease without making yourself miserable! As illustrated by the table, ecSatter accomplishes US Dietary Guidelines, it is all in your strategy. Instead of following a formulaic meal plan where you count, measure, restrict, and avoid, follow a biospychosocial strategy, where you respect and consciously honor your physical, emotional and social needs. In short, ecSatter retains the joy of eating. Feed yourself faithfully; give yourself permission to eat. Take time to eat, pay attention, and eat as much as you want of food you enjoy. As you combine structure with food enjoyment, you will find your eating falls into place.

Five steps to wellness based on eating competence

  1. Take time to eat. Have family meals and snacks between times made up of foods you enjoy and give yourself permission to eat. You will gradually get bored with the same-old and seek additional foods to enjoy. 
  2. Eat food you enjoy. Use fat, sugar, and salt to make your meals and snacks tasty and rewarding. You will eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein foods because you enjoy them, not because you have to. You will also eat less sugar, salt, and fat.
  3. Include your sugary beverages and “forbidden foods” at meals and snacks. Compared with munching and sipping along, you will consume less fat and sugar (and be kind to your teeth).
  4. Address saturated fat by using a variety of fats: Butter, cream and gravy; margarine and mayonnaise; olive, canola oil, corn, or soybean oil.
  5. Let your body weigh what it wants to weigh. Evidence shows that weight stability supports health; Weight yo-yoing doesn’t.

Explore


Part one, “How to Eat,” in Ellyn Satter’s Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family tells you how to feel good about your eating at the same time as you achieve your health goals.

Family Meals Focus ~ No. 19


Related issues of Family Meals Focus

 

ecSatter accomplishes US Dietary Guidelines

Achieve and maintain good health; reduce the risk of chronic disease
  • Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan
  • Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount
  • Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake
  • Shift to healthier food and beverage choices

 

Satter Eating Competence Model

Dietary Guidelines meal plans

Guidelines↓  Strategy→

Biopsychosocial

Food selection formula

Follow a healthy eating pattern

Support moderation by emphasizing regular, reliable, and rewarding meals and sit-down snacks made up of familiar and enjoyable food. Be considerate without catering with meal planning, working toward meals including basic food groups. 

Give calorie-based guides on what to eat, daily food plan, portion sizes, numbers. No emphasis on meals.   

Emphasize nutritious foods and beverages

Encourage no-strings-attached food enjoyment. Expect natural tendencies to gradually increase dietary variety as outlined in Satter’s Hierarchy of Food Needs. Food security and monotony and stimulate increased dietary variety.

Say what to eat, give a daily food plan, give portion sizes, numbers of servings. Enjoyment as part of an agenda: Enjoy healthy food; enjoy a healthy diet. 

Increase vegetables

Emphasize pleasure. Introduce the possibilities. Find practical and enjoyable ways to include vegetables in family meals; let family members eat or not eat. 

Say what to eat, give portion sizes, numbers of servings.

Increase fruit

Emphasize pleasure. Introduce the possibilities. Find practical and enjoyable ways to include fruit in family meals; let family members eat or not eat. 

Outline what to eat, give portion sizes, numbers of servings.

Consume appropriate calorie level

Eat as much as desired based on hunger, appetite and satiety.

Prescribed number of calories outlined in daily food plan: what to eat, portion sizes, numbers.

Achieve and maintain healthy weight

Support the individual’s own natural weight as it grows out of eating competence in combination with positive and sustainable activity.  

Strive for a BMI of 25 or less. Avoid overweight and obesity.

Limit fat and sugar

Support moderation by emphasizing enjoyable, structured meals and snacks. Encourage using fat and sugar to make food taste good and as a low-cost way to satisfy calorie needs.  

Avoid fatty and sugary foods. Avoid extra fat and sugar. Emphasize restriction and avoidance: portion sizes, numbers of servings.

Increase oils; Limit saturated fat

Encourage using a variety of fat sources to make meals taste good and to satisfy calorie needs.  

Impose a limit on saturated fat.

Limit sodium

Support moderation by emphasizing enjoyable, structured meals and snacks. Encourage using sodium as a condiment to make meals, including nutritious foods, taste good.  

Impose a limit on sodium.

Sustainability

Enjoyment and food-seeking are sustainable. 

Food avoidance and restriction are not sustainable.

Eating competence

High. Individual supported in retaining internal regulation of food intake, developing food acceptance capabilities, and stabilizing weight. Eats nutritious food for enjoyment. Attitudes about food and eating are likely to be positive.

Low. Dietary prescriptions tend to deny or overrule hunger, appetite, and satiety, cause cycles of restriction and overindulgence. Attitudes about food and eating likely to be negative.

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