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Remember grade school, and the one kid in the class who was overweight? He or she would get teased about it; the fat one really stood out. In the 1960s and early 1970s, according to the Centers for Disease Control, only 5 percent or 6 percent of kids between 6 and 17 years old were overweight.

Today, it's 10 percent to 20 percent, depending on your standards (more boys are fat than girls). The likely cause, of course, is more junk-food eating, TV viewing, video game playing and other non-calorie-burning activities.

Along comes nutritionist and talk show host Keith Klein with Weight Control for a Young America, a book designed for parents who want their children to have "a healthy relationship with food."

No magic solutions, unfortunately. Klein offers the same sound advice on eating and nutrition that most people read and reject. But there's a twist that makes his guidance harder to apply — the person seeking the advice is intending to impose it on a third party. That's a whole other layer of complication.

For example, Klein contends that the root of problems with food is deprivation. Deprive children of a certain food, and they focus on it and may binge when they get the chance.

Klein says putting kids on diets is the worst thing you can do. The whole idea is for children to feel in control of their own relationship with food. Don't use food as a bribe or a reward.

But a few pages further on, parents are told: If your child refuses to eat what you've made for dinner, send her to bed hungry. "Your child will learn very quickly that to get what she wants, she has to do what you want."

This inconsistency is just an indication of how difficult parenting is: You can lead a colt to water, but how do you get it to drink?

Still, Klein has excellent, readable sections on why dieting doesn't work, on sugar and caffeine, and the deceptive labeling of "low-fat" products. ("Lower than what?" is the question.)

Most of his advice is perfectly applicable to adults. In fact, one piece fits grown-ups and not kids: Put variety in your diet. The normal American eating pattern is to rotate through only a few different meals, day after day: Two different breakfasts, say oatmeal or Cheerios, five lunches, and seven dinners.

Klein says it's easier to eat healthy if you're not bored — but anyone who has kids knows that they fear innovation almost as much as letting two foods touch on the plate. Kids like to eat the same things every day. Klein is apparently not a parent.

Klein's recipe section, however, is very kid-oriented, with low-fat recipes for chicken fingers, nachos, mac and cheese, french fries, brownies, Rice Krispy treats and much more.

Lots of no-fat cheese is involved; kid-fave marshmallows are prominent. Most of these recipes don't sound very good, but then kids usually prefer cheap-tasting food to anything sophisticated. My 11-year-old made the brownies (18 percent of calories from fat), and reported they were better than our usual high-fat recipe! Maybe Klein is on to something ... —Jane Slaughter

Order the book for $16.95 plus $3.50 shipping from BookPartners, PO Box 922, Wilsonville, OR 97070. Call 503-682-9821, or e-mail [email protected].


Whole Foods Market, at Coolidge and Maple in Troy, offers a free lecture on nutrition and making learning easier for children, on Tuesday, Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. Call 248-649-9600 to sign up. … Sixty percent of Americans say chocolate chip is their favorite cookie flavor. Find the best recipe (or enter your own) on the Land O'Lakes Web site, which is hosting a contest for the best cookie recipes in the country.

About The Author

Jane Slaughter

When she's not reviewing restaurants, Jane Slaughter also writes about labor affairs, having co-founding the labor magazine Labor Notes. Her writing has also appeared in The Nation, The Progressive, Monthly Review, and In These Times.
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