Sugar vs Fat: Which is Less Healthy? By Gia Diakakis, RD

I grew up in the height of the “low-fat” craze, which was created in hopes of reducing coronary heart disease (CHD). Fat was targeted as the sole macronutrient that caused/contributed to heart disease. Fat was removed from everything possible. Non fat yogurt, Non fat ice cream, Non fat milk, non fat crackers, non fat salad dressing, even low fat cheese (cheese = fat!). After removing fat from these items, manufacturers quickly realized these foods became inedible and needed to be more appetizing. Enter sugar! Because sugar makes everything taste better!

Recently, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a shocking article titled, “Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease research. A historical analysis of internal industry documents.” To summarize, in the 1960’s, “two prominent physiologist were championing divergent casual hypotheses of CHD. John Yudkin identified added sugars as the primary agent, while Ancel Keys identified total fat, saturated fat, and dietary cholesterol.” Just to clarify, there were two simultaneous studies evaluating the impact that each sugar and fat had on heart health. It was not a study comparing which one was worse (between sugar and fat).

While the research on saturated fat went on to be publicized and shape the “low fat craze,” the research regarding sugar was quickly silenced by the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF). They paid “the equivalent of more than $48,000 in today’s dollars to three nutrition professors–at Harvard no less–to publish a research review that would refute evidence linking sugars to CHD.” In addition to having to “rework a section in rebuttal” to the research linking sugar to CHD, the SRF repeatedly thought of ways discredit the data. For example, they stated that the research wasn’t reliable because the studies used high doses of sucrose, and Americans don’t eat that much sugar. The truth, however, is that many Americans do eat a lot of sugar.

While it’s worrisome to know that experimental data can be skewed or “paid off” to prevent an industry from loosing money, the truth is actually not so complicated. Sugar and fat must be eaten in moderation, and a healthy diet should be rich in a variety of foods, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

How to Raise a Picky Eater And other tips for parents

Rare is the family that doesn’t have a child who goes through a phase of picky eating (or never grows out of one!). Speaking in Northbrook in October to a group of moms of young children with the Mighty Mom Spot, there was not one mom who didn’t have a picky eater on her hands.

There are three main causes to picky eating:

  1. Undiagnosed, underlying medical problem.
  2. Sensory disorder.
  3. Behavioral: either disrupted parent-child relationship or strong personality.

Causes #1 and #2 should be addressed by a doctor or dietitian. As for #3, this is the most common reason for picky eating and the easiest one to fix.

But first, let us address 10 sure-fire, simple steps to create a picky eater. With one in nearly every family, it’s clearly not a hard task.

Rule #1: Make sure to only serve foods that you know your child will eat! If you never (or rarely) expose your child to new foods, you can be sure he will continue to eat the same ones he enjoys.

Rule #2: Have your child eat alone. If that is not possible, make sure your child has a kid-friendly meal and isn’t expected to eat what everyone else is eating. Kids that don’t see adults eating interesting or new foods will never want to try them.

Rule #3: If you think your child hasn’t eaten enough, you are surely correct.

  • Give them verbal encouragement to eat more.
  • If not effective, use utensils or your hands to feed your child yourself because everyone who is full wants an adult trying to shove food in his mouth.

Rule #4: After serving a new food a couple of times, if your child refused to eat it or hates it, add it to the “DO NOT SERVE” list and quit wasting your money buying and throwing food away. Because who has time for the idea that it can take 20 exposures to a new food before a kid will like it?

Rule #5: Never let your child become hungry. Make sure your child has access to food and can graze all day long.

Rule #6: Make your child constipated by serving plenty of refined carbs – this will decrease your child’s appetite and help prevent obesity. Fill them up on some of the following and be sure she never wants to try anything new you make:

  • White bread/buns/bagels
  • Noodles, pasta and rice
  • Goldfish and Cheez-its
  • Pretzels
  • Breaded chicken products
  • Pizza

Rule #7: At mealtime, let your child leave the table, walk around, sit on the floor and eat wherever desired! Make sure the TV is on or the iPad is nearby so your child doesn’t get bored.

Rule #8: Prevent dehydration by allowing your child to drink whatever is desired between meals.

Rule #9: Never let your child go to bed hungry.

  • If your child does not eat a good meal, especially dinner, give them a good, hearty bedtime snack.
  • Make sure it’s something they like this time.

Rule #10: Most importantly, coerce, bribe and argue with your child about eating. Make sure your child knows how important it is to you that he/she eats well. Get upset, cry, threaten with consequences and raise your voice. Kids love this and always respond by deciding the parent is right and permanently changing their behavior.


Normal Kids Nutrition How much food does your child need

What does a healthy child need?

Age 1-3 yrs 4-5 yrs 6-11 yrs
Calories 1,000-1,400 1,200-1,600 1,600-2,000
Fruits 1 – 1 ½ cups 1 – 1 ½ cups 1 ½ cups
Vegetables 1 – 1 ½ cups 1 ½ – 2 cups 2 – 2 ½ cups
Grains 3-5 oz or servings 4-5 oz or servings 5-6 oz servings
Meat and Beans 2 -4 oz 3-5 oz 4-6 oz
Milk 2 cups 2-3 cups 3 -4 cups
Oils and Fats 3-4 tsp 4-5 tsp 5-6 tsp

Plus, don’t forget water!

How much milk do kids need

Milk, It Does Do a Body Good Myths about milk and more

Of all the misconceptions we encounter as pediatric dietitians, one of the most common is that kids don’t need to drink milk. As a result, fewer than 50 percent of children ages 2-8, and only 25 percent of kids ages 9-19, drink the recommended amount of milk each day, according the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).

We hear parents advise that humans shouldn’t be drinking milk from other mammals or that other milk substitutes, like rice or soy milk, are healthier than cow’s milk. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

What’s so healthy about milk?

Calcium is, of course, essential for building kids’ bones and teeth, but it also supports a healthy nervous system and muscles. And, when it comes to milk, calcium is only the beginning, according to the AND. Milk is a top source of high quality protein, with each cup delivering more protein than a large egg. Plus it provides eight other essential nutrients; including several kids don’t get enough of, like vitamin D and potassium. Studies have shown that milk reduces blood pressure and that kids who drink enough milk are less likely to be obese.

Can’t kids get most of milk’s nutrition in milk substitutes?

What was once conventional wisdom—cows’ milk is healthy—has in recent years become confusing to many parents. The truth is, though, that the answer is clear. Our bodies absorb calcium, nutrients and vitamins best in their natural form. In this case, cows’ milk is the most natural form of getting protein, calcium and all of milk’s goodness. Substitute forms of milk, such as coconut or soy milk, can be highly processed, and our bodies don’t absorb added nutrients as well as natural nutrients. Why would we prefer to squeeze milk from an almond or soy bean when we can get it from a whole natural source?

How much milk do kids need?

Most kids need 1,000-1,300 milligrams of milk each day. That amounts to about three cups a day for children ages 4-8 and 4 cups for ages 9-19.

Milk is more important than ever during the teenage years, when many parents stop being vigilant about what their kids are eating and teens are less likely to guzzle milk. This is because the growing bones absorb more calcium from the blood than at any other time of life. By early adulthood, our bones stop accepting deposits, and then the gradual loss of calcium begins after that.

What do I do for my child who can’t have milk?

There are other dairy foods that contain the same natural benefits of milk, such as hard cheeses, kefir, yogurt, and even some fish and dark, leafy greens. Children who are lactose intolerant can still typically drink lactose-free milk. This has all the benefits of milk without the stomach aches.

For children who are allergic to dairy, we recommend milk alternatives. Soy milk is the best choice because of its protein content, followed by coconut and oat milk that both have some protein. Surprisingly, almond milk has no protein, but we prefer it over rice milk, which is basically starchy water with additives.

We also recommend fortified dairy products and products with added calcium citrate (commonly found in orange juice) and calcium carbonate.

Thanksgiving Roundup

Thanksgiving cooking can be overwhelming, only if you lose sight of what’s truly important.

So here’s my best advice: relax. There will be enough food. And enough of it will taste good. Unless you’re a gourmet chef, no one expects you to be one for this one day of the year. And most of all, remember to be thankful for your blessings. That’s the point of it all, right?

Below are some tried and true (and easy!) recipes that are pretty foolproof–even if you’ve never made them before. Happy Turkey Day!

2 c mixed baby greens
1 cup torn kale
1 cup shaved Brussels sprouts
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 Bosc pear sliced thin
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup canola oil
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

This dish is SO easy and always looks festive

This dish is SO easy and always looks festive

1 cup of wild rice
T olive oil or Earth Balance

For the chestnuts:
1 package of chestnuts, already peeled
T olive oil
t salt
freshly ground pepper
t chili pepper
t cocoa powder
t paprika
t garlic

Prepare the rice according to the package and mix in a T of olive oil or Earth Balance and salt and pepper when it’s done. Crush the chestnuts into smaller pieces. Mix the spices, olive oil and chestnuts together in a bowl. Roast at 350 for 20 minutes and stir them into the rice. (Note: You can use fresh chestnuts in the shell. They’ll taste better if you do it right, but it’s easy to overcook them. Here are instructions.)



It just looks like fall, right?

It just looks like fall, right?

Peel and dice any of the following root vegetables:
sweet potatoes
whole crushed garlic
red onion
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary and any other herbs you like

Toss them all into a large pan and drizzle with olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Add some sprigs of rosemary too, if you like. Roast, stirring once or twice, at 375 for at least 45 minutes. (If you’re using rutabaga, start roasting that first, as it needs extra time to soften.)



3/4 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup almond flour
1/2 cup whole wheat or spelt flour
1/4 cup sugar
2t baking powder
1/2t salt
2T oil
1 cup milk or milk substitute (I used coconut milk)
1/4 cup apple sauce
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 400. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix the oil, milk, apple sauce and egg in another bowl. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Bake in a greased 8×8 pan for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out dry.


Stale cornbread and at least 1/2 a loaf of bread diced into 1-in.-square pieces
2T oil
1 egg
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
a handful of fresh herbs (rosemary, basil, oregano, thyme, or whatever you like)
diced onion
3 cloves minced garlic
3 stalks celery
1 diced carrot
sliced mushrooms

Preheat oven to 400. Soak the bread and cornbread in water for a few seconds and drain. Stir in the egg, oil, salt and pepper. Set aside. Saute the onion in oil over medium heat until lightly browned. Add the garlic and other vegetables and saute until soft.

Mix vegetables into the bread mixture. Pour mixture into a baking pan and bake for 30 minutes or until stuffing reaches desired crispiness.





1/2 a stalk of brussels sprouts
sea salt
2T olive oil
1T real maple syrup OR balsamic vinegar

Turn oven onto 375 degrees. Cut the sprouts off the stalk and cut off the bottom. Cut them in half. Check them according to the instructions below. Heat oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Lay all the sprouts face down in the pan and let them sit, stirring occasionally, until the bottoms turn light brown (3-5 minutes). Transfer the sprouts to a baking dish and sprinkle with salt and drizzle maple syrup, if you’re using it. Roast sprouts in the oven until the outside gets crispy, about 20 minutes. Drizzle with balsamic, if you’re using it. Serve immediately.





Insanely Good Granola Bars

Granola bars are a go-to snack for lunches and sports, but the good ones are expensive and the cheap ones are full of processed ingredients. All of them are full of sugar. These homemade bars will be sure to get eaten and only take 10 minutes to prepare.

The only problem is your family will eat these so fast that you’ll be lucky if there are any left for lunches.

Granola bars are a great after school snack

Granola bars are a great after school snack

2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (can use spelt instead)
1t baking powder
1/2t salt
1t cinnamon
1 egg
1/2 cup honey, agave nectar or maple syrup
1/2 cup peanut or almond butter
1/4 cup coconut/soy/or rice milk
1/2 cup of a combination of the following: raisins, craisins, dried fruit, chocolate chips or chopped nuts

Combine the oats, flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a bowl. Mix the egg, syrup, milk and nut butter in a separate bowl. Combine wet ingredients with dry ingredients. Add combo of fruit and nuts and stir. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Store up to a week in an airtight container…if they last that long.