Book review: Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family by Ellyn Satter

Ellyn Satter first beeped her way across my radar during pregnancy. At the time I was looking at a book called “Child of Mine – Feeding with Love and Good Sense” and the kindle sample was as cringe-worthy as the title suggests. Plus, she mentioned feeding babies purees and I was all “oh no, my baby is just going to do finger foods, why would I ever puree anything!”, so into the internet bin it went.

Around a year later I rediscovered her, not because I was concerned about my baby’s eating (he was ploughing his way through breastmilk, finger foods and purees in equal measure) but my own. Thanks to this brilliant book I’d gotten over the need to diet but it still felt like my eating patterns weren’t really normal. After working my way through her website I became convinced I needed to read more, so much that I bought an actual book (this is a big deal for this kindle convert…)

It was totally worth the hassle. First of all the the title is much more digestable: Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family. And the content is awesome. It not only addresses healthy adult eating habits but also how to transfer those habits to your children. Here’s what I love about her approach:

  1. She is realistic: one of her main tenents is that you need to have family meals but she emphasises that those meals must be doable. If you have pizza on a Friday, then make the family meal pizza on a Friday. Don’t stress yourself out by attempting a four-course organic vegan dinner.
  2. She is laid back: you won’t find rules regarding specific quantities or foods. Her focus is on eating a variety of foods that you like and she has plenty of evidence to back up her claims that this approach will lead to a healthy diet in adults and children alike.
  3. She reduces stress: her division of responsibility makes mealtimes very simple – you provide the food and your child decides whether and how much she wants to eat. There is no negotiating, coercing or cheerleading.
  4. She includes simple recipes: one of the first recipes in the book includes a can of mushroom soup. My inner poncy chef was shocked but I get it – if you’re eating takeaway every night, you need to start with simple recipes. Nobody is going to go from McDonalds to Fois Gras in a single step.

I would whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone interested in improving the way they eat, whether a parent, child or grandmother.  I love that it looks at eating as a family issue. One of the main reasons I got on this whole anti-diet, body-positive train was because I wanted to be a better role-model for my son. I worry that, try as I might, my weird attitude to food is going to be passed onto him. This book makes me feel like I have a shot at doing better.

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