Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The system is broken

I don't usually get political, but I'm afraid that when it is in regard to issues of diet & nutrition, I will have to speak up. And you can agree or respectfully disagree with me. But here is my piece...

Several months ago I received a letter from my first grader's school asking if we were OK with them weighing and measuring our child. We were able to opt out by signing a piece of paper, but I didn't. No biggie, I thought. Well, I got a letter from the school food service director yesterday. It started out this way, "Recently, in compliance with the federally mandated School Wellness Program and Senate Bill 210, your child's height and weight measurements were taken at school. Those measurements were used to calculate your child's Body Mass Index." (I'm still trying to figure out why the government feels the need to be involved in this area of my life :-)

The result was that she was in the slightly overweight range and it followed with this recommendation..."It is recommended that you contact your family doctor for follow-up care if your child's BMI percentile is outside the average or typical range." Now, what bothered me the most about this "diagnosis" was not anything personal. My daughter is fine. She is not overweight and she is healthy. Are there improvements we can continue to make in our health? Yes. But is this measuring tool really getting to the root of the problem? No. First of all, BMI is measured by weight and heighth. It doesn't take into account someone's body density (however you would measure that). I have always, always weighed a ton more than I look like I weigh. Out of my four children, one of them is as light as a feather and the others are as dense as a brick when you go to pick them up. (Elizabeth, the first grader, is in the middle on the right of the family picture above.) Second, although they ARE going to find those children who are most obese (which is the problem they are trying to combat) by using this standard, in the meantime they will NOT find the children whose weight to height ratio is perfect, yet they are plagued with sicknesses and allergies and live on refined, processed foods. Being overweight is just one symptom of an unhealthy body. There are many children who aren't overweight who have many other symptoms of an unhealthy body.

In the government's noble quest to save all the school children of America from obesity - this truly is not the solution! The BMI test is not correctly pinpointing which children are healthy and which children are unhealthy.

Another thing I see happening, is that children who are my daughter's size and perfectly FINE and healthy, will have parents who hear the news that their child is overweight and actually believe it. They are the parents whose self-worth revolves around what happens to their child and what other people say about their child. So they will start to worry and then put an unnecessary fear or worry into the child. That is when the child's self-esteem starts to suffer and they start to have body image problems when their body is absolutely fine! I just wish I could yell from the rooftops - it is not about weight, people! And it's funny that I say that because it
was about weight for me for most of my life. Until I realized that, as I just mentioned, weight was just a symptom of the problem. Being overweight is just one of many of the symptoms of an unhealthy, unbalanced system. Just like fatigue or joint pain might be.

Obviously the recommendations for these government programs to fight obesity are good. Eating a healthy diet and exercising is the no-nonsense solution. But is there a reason why we have to take the time and pain to weigh and measure every school child in America? Can we simply put the recommendations for the program into place and suggest that every child and family implement the changes? Shouldn't we ALL strive to be healthy regardless of how much we weigh? Ultimately it IS up to each one of us to be responsible for our health and be good stewards of our bodies that God has blessed us with. Nobody else can do it for us or our children.

In the meantime, thank you, government, for being concerned about the health of our school children. Because you are right, it surely is in jeopardy. But please, please realize that your system for measuring who is healthy and who is not is faulty. And please, please, PLEASE realize that these "overweight" children (some of whom may or may not be really overweight or even unhealthy, for that matter) are not the only children out there who are unhealthy. More water, more fruits & veggies, more exercise = less sickness, more energy. It is a simple equation and everybody - regardless of the size of their body - could benefit from doing that math!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Green Symphony

Green Symphony was the name of the corner organic juice/smoothie shop where my husband and I stayed on a trip to New York City last week. I just love the name! The name said it all about the experience I had eating the delicious food there every morning. I had never been to New York City before and I just fell in love with it! The visit to Statue of Liberty and seeing "Wicked" on Broadway, as well as attending an opera at the Met and visiting our church's temple were all super amazing. The visits to 3 different Whole Foods stores were fun as usual (business for my husband) because I love to just gaze at the beautifully organized and colorful produce section and read about all the different fruits and vegetables. And, of course, there was the one-on-one time with my husband. It was bliss! Thanks, Mom, for taking on the 4 little ones!

The food, though, added sooooo much to my experience. I actually felt some kinship, like there REALLY are other people out there who eat like I do! We have one organic cafe relatively close to where we live. New York, however, seemed to have an option on every corner. When we travel, we have always had to stay somewhere with a small kitchen and bring our Vitamix. I was a little worried because we weren't going to be doing either. No hotel with a kitchenette OR Vitamix. Yikes. But my husband assured me that I'd be able to find things to eat. I was amazed when I found out how right he was! Every morning I was able to enjoy my traditional green smoothie (not loaded with fruits or added sugars, very GREEN). I ordered a smoothie with spinach, kale, avocado, lemon & green apple every morning and had a couple of hard boiled eggs along with it. Wow, was I set for a long time! I think I'll go back to New York for our next vacation just to be able to so easily procure the food that works for my body - and not have to prepare it!!!! :-)

We also went to Pret A Manger (means "Just Ready") for two different lunches. Wowzers! It is a corner sandwich shop which makes their food fresh every day. The trucks come in the morning with all the ingredients and they hand make their sandwiches, soups and salads all day. In the evening, whatever is left over is donated to local organizations. Both days I had amazing salads and was surprisingly full.

For dinner we went to the hotel restaurant one night, but the other two nights we found great restaurants in the area. We went to Cafe Blossom (a vegan cafe) and a Cuban restaurant called Victor's Cafe. Even the Cuban restaurant had an organic chicken breast marinated in a citrus adobo sauce and topped with watercress. Mmmmmm-Mmmmmm! At the vegan cafe I enjoyed a glass of green juice with a twist of ginger and a black bean/quinoa salad. That salad had watercress in it too...I don't think I had ever had watercress before, or at least not that I recognized. In terms of nutrients, watercress rates at the top of the list. Right up there with kale, collard and mustard greens. It's a more delicate, mild tasting green and one of my new favorites!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Soup recipes and a small victory!

I have a wonderful 5 year old daughter who displays most of her stubbornness when it comes to trying new foods. My other three girls do this now and again, but not to the extent that Molly does. It is frustrating, especially when certain dishes come to the dinner table and she says "eeeeeeewwwww" without even as much as taking a bite, and everyone else follows suit. Then it's four against two (or four against one when my husband is out-of-town)!! I actually find it quite humorous when I sit down beside Molly with a salad and she moves. She absolutely refuses to stay next to me. Anything green is quite scary to her. Hmmmmm....as I'm writing this I am remembering that yours truly was pretty averse to vegetables most of my life :-) I don't know if I was quite so picky, but I do know that my mom used to worry at the lack of variety in my diet.

Anyhow, to the small victory. I made a new soup tonight (yes, it is freezing cold here in Ohio) and, as expected, Molly refused to try it before she even saw the soup. Upon just hearing the word "soup" she had her mind made up. (Even though she has never tried a bite of soup in her life.) But I braced myself for at least a couple of sisters to follow her lead. After all, on the nights I don't choose to make one of the top favorite kid dinners in our house, some of my kids are known to not eat until the next morning. Even an offer for a dessert that they like, pending having a few bites of dinner, doesn't work many times. But to my pleasant surprise, the other 3 tried it and liked it! It may seem like such a small thing, but I was just plain thrilled! I have been trying to offer more of a variety of foods in these past few months that I've been feeling better and more energetic. And it seems that lately the efforts are paying off!

I thought I would post the successful recipe. Below it is another soup recipe that, although my girls refused to try, my husband commented that it was "restaurant quality"! That was reason enough to share the winning recipe with you all. And I must mention that I shared the chicken curry soup recipe with a friend and it did get a thumbs up from her young children!

Vegetarian Taco Soup

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 (28 oz.) cans chopped organic tomatoes
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
1 (15 oz.) can pinto beans or black beans
1 tbsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 medium avocados, chopped
3-4 sprouted corn tortillas, cut into triangles and baked until crisp (I used the organic blue corn chips)
3 tbsp. fresh cilantro, finely chopped
sour cream (optional)
fresh cilantro (optional)

In a large saucepan, saute garlic, onion, and bell pepper until tender. Add tomatoes, corn, beans, chili powder, cumin and sea salt. Heat thoroughly, and add avocado, tortilla chips, and cilantro last. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and fresh cilantro.

Curry Chicken Soup

2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 red potatoes, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups chicken broth
1 can coconut milk
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1-2 tbsp. curry
1 cup cooked, shredded chicken

Cook carrots, celery, potatoes, peppers, onion, and garlic in chicken broth for 20 minutes or until tender. Add coconut milk, butter, salt, curry and chicken. Heat thoroughly and serve.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Making butter, yogurt & kefir

For the past couple of months we have been ordering dairy products from an Amish farmer and we get cream and milk straight from the cow, eggs straight from the roaming chickens. A friend, Nickie, who I met through this buying co-op, noticed that I was buying kefir (cultured milk) and offered to show me how to make it, as well as butter and yogurt. I was excited, yet a little overwhelmed by the possibility. But as I learn more and more in my studies through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition I become more clear about the many, many benefits of knowing exactly where your food comes from. I know that buying organic butter is OK and that it is a better choice than non-organic butter, but making my own from the cream that I bought straight from the cow that is eating green grass? Wow, how amazing. My older girls get so excited that we can so easily pretend to play Little House on the Prairie these days! :-) Mary & Laura churning their butter, only it is Elizabeth & Molly hand-mixing the butter. Hours of fun. I should have snapped a picture today when we were making it. I will make a mental note to take some pictures to add to the blog next time!

So our first batch of butter turned out wonderfully. And the yogurt we made last week is still in the refrigerator, being consumed every now and then with fruit on top, or in a smoothie. I was amazed at how easy it was to make these dairy products from scratch. I haven't yet attempted to make the kefir, but I've heard that will be just as easy. I will be doing that next week after I procure the kefir grains, so stay tuned! (And I will post recipes too, I just don't have them written down yet because I made the recipes through watching Nickie make them.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fresh, local food

This past Saturday we visited our local Farmer's Market and we worked on our garden. It was a beautiful experience. Since the Farmer's Market is just getting started for the season, there wasn't a lot of fresh produce available yet. But, regardless of what is being sold there, it's just about knowing that what is being sold is fresh, local food. You can depend on the food being "clean and green"! It didn't travel thousands of miles to get here and it wasn't sprayed on with chemicals or pumped with antibiotics. I did buy some salad greens and splurged on seasoned kale chips so I could keep the long list of seasonings and make my own next time. We also bought some chicken burger patties produced locally. They sure were YUMMY!

But my excitement for the Farmer's Market cannot surpass the excitement of a fellow blogger - I LOVED her post about going to the Farmer's Market!

In the afternoon we took advantage of the nice weather and got the garden ready for planting. I will have to say that my dear husband did all of the hard work. I was busy planting my starter seeds that I should have planted a couple of weeks before. I had our little preschoolers help me start planting one week, and then just never got back to it! But now the task is done and I'm excited for everything to start growing. Here is a picture of our unfinished garden plots from last year...we only used one. But this year we are taking the plunge and using both! Admittedly - just ask my mom - I do NOT have a green thumb and had never really had an an interest in gardening. But a couple of years ago I knew it was time to start growing a garden (our church really encourages being self-reliant through growing a garden) and I am pleasantly surprised that I have really enjoyed it! I'm not so fond of doing the work to get the desired results. But I absolutely love harvesting the food and bringing it in the house to wash it and get it ready for consumption. And knowing that it came fresh from my backyard is just one of the greatest feelings ever known to man. It makes my heart sing!!!