Archive for March, 2008

Meals for Children – Restaurants and School Lunches are Lacking in Nutrition

What’s for lunch? We ask this question every day, and it becomes challenging at each and every meal to come up with something nutritious and interesting to eat. Think about what it must be like to serve meals to kids every day of the week and how difficult to come up with foods that help young bodies grow and appeal to their typical finicky tastes.

Children have become finicky eaters over the years because their diets have been reduced to junk foods in all their menu choices – s0 it is simply because they are not exposed to a wide variety of nutritious foods. Instead, they are offered the same things over and over again; and much of the choices for children’s meals in schools and restaurants alike is processed, chemically-loaded, nutritionally devoid items.

The only saving grace with restaurants is (hopefully) they are used more few-and-far between as people generally don’t eat out each day. School lunches present a much bigger problem since many children eat them daily or several times a week in their schedule of meals.

I’ve noticed that many parents and others assume children won’t eat vegetables. When children are not expected to eat healthy foods, they seldom ask for them and/or refuse to eat them if they are offered. A good example is restaurant menus. If you go into an eating establishment, you can see that mostly children’s menus are separate from everyone else’s, and the choices are less than nutritious: hot dogs/corn dogs, hamburgers and french fries, chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and spaghetti noodles with marinara sauce are common selections. Children are given a variety of deep-fried and processed foods with little to no vegetables or whole grains.

The only whole food I’ve consistently seen on menus is the occasional fruit or carrots, but kids are already getting so much sugar in the main course items, it’s just more of the same with a little fiber. Any type of bread or bread food served is often the processed, white variety and no real whole grains. Whole grains are those that are not ground up and are actually “whole”, something you will rarely see in most stores or restaurants that sell bread and bread products.

The school lunch program available in public schools is another example of poor choices offered to children. Kids can only eat what is available, and generally won’t make good choices for themselves if other unhealthy items are repeatedly served in the lunch line. Here is a sample lunch menu for one school week:

Monday – Corn dog or macaroni and cheese, breakfast pocket, build a salad, fruit

Tuesday – Pepperoni cheese bread or teriyaki chicken and rice or half bagel and yogurt, fortune cookie, build a salad, fruit, vegetable blend

Wednesday – Soft shell taco or fruit and yogurt plate or deli turkey sandwich, snickerdoodle, tortilla chips, lettuce, tomato, cheese, fruit

Thursday – Toasty cheese sandwich or Chef Boyardee Ravioli or deli ham and cheese sandwich, vegetable barley soup, fruit, variety crackers

Friday – New York Style Pretzel or burrito or baked potato, cheese sauce, chili beans, vegetable toss, fruit, flour tortilla

At a glance, many of these meals may seem fine. These do contain some vegetables and fruit. Aside from those few whole foods, the rest of the selections are processed and unnatural as can be. Foods like Chef Boyardee Raviolis are one of the most processed products you can find, and are enriched with synthetic vitamins and minerals to make up for their gross deficiency in nutrient content. The meat and dairy selections (which are pasteurized) are undoubtedly from factory farms, and there is nothing good to say about the quality of factory-farmed meats and dairy products which are laden with chemicals, steroids, antibiotics, hormones – without even mentioning the types of feed given to the animals who are slaughtered for food. Grain products (corn on corn dogs, bread on which pepperoni cheese sits, crackers, pretzels, tortillas, bagels, etc.) are also highly processed and enriched to make up for lack of nutrition. It is virtually impossible to take a food that is nutritionally empty and “enrich” it with vitamins and minerals it otherwise wouldn’t contain, and then label it as “healthy”. School lunches contain exorbitantly high amount of carbohydrates, so adding desserts is completely unnecessary.

Here are the ingredients for breaded popcorn chicken, a popular meal item served on  school lunch menus across the country:

Chicken Breast with Rib Meat CONTAINING: Up to 20% of a Solution of Water, Salt and Sodium

Phosphates.

BREADED WITH: Bleached Wheat Flour, Yellow Corn flour, Salt, Spices, Leavening

(Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate),

Nonfat Dry Milk, Dried Whey, Soy Flour, Dried Whole Eggs, Sodium Alginate, Partially Hydrogenated

Soybean Oil, Dextrose, Garlic Powder, Mono and Diglycerides and Dried Yeast.

BATTERED WITH: Water, Wheat Flour, Yellow Corn Flour, Dried Whey, Dextrose, Spices, Salt, Leavening (Sodium

Bicarbonate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate), Sodium Alginate, Soy Flour, Oleoresin Paprika, Nonfat Dry

Milk, Dried Whole Eggs. Breading set in vegetable oil.

ALLERGENS: EGG, MILK, SOY, WHEAT

Do you really want your children eating this garbage?

One of the biggest problems with sources of food for school lunches is that the supplies for feeding children come from government subsidies which purchase mostly lowest quality foods from wherever they can be found. Foods are packaged and shipped all over the country, and little to no consideration is given to natural, organic, or local selections for children’s meals. The recent massive meat recall in February of this year, 2008, should be a wake-up call to parents and other consumers alike who believe this type of food is safe to consume. I hear a lot of rhetoric about how to reform school lunches, and most call for changes falls under one of the following:

  • To reduce fats and calories – low and non fat foods like reduced fat dairy and meats are not going to help children’s health because they are not whole foods and will only contribute to the rise in health issues our nation is currently experiencing such as obesity and Diabetes. Consumption of pasteurized and low or non-fat dairy causes malabsorption of nutrients and actually leeches calcium from the bones. Proteins and fats are denatured and rendered toxic for the human body. For more information, see Why The Consumption of Milk is Harmful to Your Health on this site.
  • To offer non-dairy solutions (I can only assume they mean soy, rice, or almond products which are no better than their chemical-filled counterparts because they are processed, and not whole foods)
  • Because everyone just wants to lie down and accept that “children won’t eat vegetables”, I have seen proposals that school lunches start to include more fruit, but don’t bother so much with vegetables. This is not a solution, it is just adding to the problem that children are not getting the nutrients in vegetables they desperately need, many of which cannot be provided in just fruits.
  • To replace menu items like hamburgers, pizza, and hot dogs with so-called “healthier alternatives” such as grilled cheese sandwiches (with processed, enriched bread), peanut butter and jam on “whole grain” breads (which couldn’t be farther from whole grain), and bagels with low-fat cream cheese. These foods are just as processed and empty of nutrients as the ones that have been on school lunch menus for 50 or more years. And they include NO vegetables. Come on people, wake up! Generally speaking these items contain not more than a little protein that can actually be absorbed, processed carbohydrates, and chemicals.

Why should our children be eating differently? Overwhelming amounts of research tell us that nutrition is the foundation of our children’s health, including brain function and cognitive abilities. Children need calories, protein, good carbohydrates, and fats — wholesome, unprocessed fats with which to perform in school and be physically active. But what they are getting in school lunches, and a great deal of other eating environments, is processed foods. How can a child be expected to behave and be successful in school when the food he or she eats is not wholesome or nutritious? Children who are ill-mannered, hyperactive, depressed, moody, or lethargic could well benefit from changes in diet.

In an ideal world, our children would be given the best available. So, here is my proposal for changes to the school lunch menu for a one week period:
Monday -Grass-fed beef stew with organic potatoes, carrots, onions, mushrooms, peas, and celery
Organic salad bar with at least seven different types of vegetables which could include the following: spinach and/or romaine lettuce, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, bell peppers,snow peas, and beets.
Two or three selections of seasonal fresh fruit such as organic apples, bananas, and pears
Whole-grain, sprouted (live grains) from Ezekiel bread with raw butter.
Tuesday – Free-range roasted organic chicken, organic mashed potatoes, squash, zucchini, onions, and carrots.
Organic salad bar as listed on Monday’s menu.
Two or three selections of seasonal fresh fruit such as berries, melon, or bananas
Whole grain, sprouted grain rolls
Wednesday – Spaghetti and meatballs (from grassfed animals) with meatsauce and sprouted whole-grain Ezekiel pasta. Alternatives provided for those with wheat allergies.
Organic salad bar
Two or three selections of seasonal fresh fruit such as organic grapefruit, pears, and apples
Thursday – Grass-fed, organic hot dogs on sprouted grain buns
Boiled pasture-raised chicken eggs
Hearty vegetable soup with organic vegetables and
Organic salad bar
Two or three selections of seasonal fresh fruit such as raspberries or blackberries and grapes
Friday – Fancy fried rice with brown rice, choice of free-range organic chicken or pork, organic carrots, peas, mushrooms, onions, organic free-range eggs, bell peppers, and bok choy.
Organic salad bar
Two or three selections of seasonal fresh fruit such as organic pineapple, oranges, and kiwi

What’s that, you say…we’d have to raise taxes substantially to accommodate this? Perhaps, perhaps not. It would really depend on how the program was set up. Local foods should cost less than those shipped all over the country. But if taxes were raised, I cannot think of a better cause than investing in the health of the people who will be running the world someday. This is an extreme problem contributing to the downfall of our health, and an extreme problem requires extreme action. A return to truly healthy, slow foods is at the epicenter of answers to our health crisis.

What could be better than reducing the amount spent on pharmaceuticals, hospital fees, and doctor bills in this country – especially by starting at the ground level which is in our schools where the children are? Think of the savings in health and insurance costs alone due to a regularly consumed, healthy lunch. It may seem insignificant, but the effect would actually be enormous given the amount of children who eat school lunches and the frequency of which these meals are served.

Compare the first school lunch menu in this article to the one shown above with local, organic, and chemical-free alternatives. When you live a healthier lifestyle, you are not burdening health care and insurance systems as heavily, and therefore are not contributing to those rising costs. It is also very important to place children in an environment where they are offered and educated about real choices in health and healthy food. If everyone made the effort, we could institute healthier lunches for our children, a sound investment for the future.

For more information on how you can change the future of school lunches, visit the following sites:
The Food Museum – great discussions on slow food and school lunch reform
Lunch Lessons with Chef Ann Cooper – an activist who is definitely on the right track in altering the face of school lunch environments, one school at a time. Get on the bandwagon!
Suggested reading on this topic: The Crazy Makers: How the Food Industry is Destroying Our Brains and Harming Our Children by Carol Simmontachi, CCN (Certified Clinical Nutritionist)

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Why The Consumption of Milk is Harmful to Your Health

What’s better than a glass of milk and a chocolate chip cookie? Or how about your favorite cereal covered in refreshing, cold milk and a glass of juice? These types of meal and snack combinations have been revisited for decades by many well-intentioned people. The fact is, milk has been glorified and heralded by various so-called “health experts” for years. We are told by endless sources that milk is one of the best sources for calcium. But did you know that consumption of pasteurized milk and milk products can actually be harmful to your health?

Let us first make a distinction between the picture painted by the government and medical communities of tainted, disease-ridden milk that hasn’t been pasteurized and clean, wholesome raw milk from a reliable, organic source. When the raw milk you are drinking is obtained from a well-maintained facility following organic standards that allows its cows to graze only on certified organic grass and does not treat the animals with chemicals, hormones, or antibiotics, the result is an extremely healthful and beneficial substance that gives life.

www.mypicshares.com

As with anything else that is not produced in a sanitary environment, food products will reflect the quality of the facility from where they originate. One very good example of bacteria entering the food chain and making people sick is the products which come from commercial and factory farms. It’s no secret that thousands and thousands of meat products are currently being recalled off the shelves. ABC news reported on February 18, 2008 that, “the U.S. Department of Agriculture ordered a recall of 143 million pounds of beef”. If you watch the video on this news site, you can see that the animals from farms where the meat is raised are not living in healthy conditions. Would you consume anything that comes from an environment such as this? The fact is, this type of food product represents the bulk of what is available for consumption on the market.

That is why there is such a movement from concerned farmers, consumers, and specific organizations to change current farming methods and practices. This issue is a serious problem that threatens the health and well-being of everyone in our nation. Most farmers who sell raw milk do so with the intent to deliver a healthful, untainted product to those who consume it. Their efforts and practices are time consuming and expensive, but most farmers do it because they possess a passion for producing healthy products for their customers. Many of them are more than happy to let the public come in and learn about their processes and see how they work. Can commercial farmers say the same? Mounting evidence suggests otherwise.

Raw, unpasteurized, whole milk contains the right balance of fat, protein, and enzymes that nature intended for the body to use. Without fat, the body is unable to absorb calcium nor digest protein. You also need saturated fats be able to absorb calcium with which to build strong bones. Nina Planck says, “Milk fat also contains glycosphingolipids, which are fats that encourage cell metabolism and growth and fight gastrointestinal infections”. Did you also know that unadulterated raw milk remains one of the best sources of Vitamins A and D? Milk that has had the fat removed does not contain these vitamins, so they are added back in – synthetic versions of these vitamins that are not recognized by the body, and therefore, not absorbed. Do you really want to put something in your body that has the natural, life-giving substances removed and then artificially added back in? Eating whole fats and proteins does not make you fat, in fact, it’s vital to health. For more information, read The Importance of Dietary Fats.

Much of these milk products also contain antibiotics to keep away illness due to poor sanitation practices, and steroids and hormones which are intended to artificially boost cattle growth rates (which means they turn a profit faster). Hormones in food have been repeatedly linked to the early onset of puberty in children and diseases that are becoming more and more resistant to antibiotic treatment. Nutritional experts have connected other health problems related to the consumption of pasteurized milk. The list is long and varied but includes allergies, asthma, auto-immune disorders, cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, and osteoporosis. When milk is pasteurized, the heating process effectively kills all bacteria. The only kind of bacteria you are drinking in pasteurized milk, then, is dead bacteria. Pasteurized milk has been denatured or altered such that the human body is unable to process it. Raw milk contains natural friendly bacteria and probiotics that aid in digestion and many other processes in the body such as immune system support. If you compare the two types of milk, raw will sour naturally and develop even more beneficial bacteria, while pasteurized variety will simply rot and is then completely unfit for consumption.

Is Raw Milk Safe?

Since the beginning of the use of pasteurization (late 1800s), dairies have had to comply with federal government regulations stating the that the sale of raw milk is illegal in most places. Pasteurization originally came about due to the growing size of dairy farms and the “inability” of staff to keep the premises clean enough to sell the milk raw. Since the advent of Agribusiness and industrial farming, organizations and groups following the “bigger is better” or “profits translate into justification for anything” philosophy, farms have not been required to be as accountable for conditions of sanitation on the premises. To make up for their lack of accountability, they simply use liberal dosing of antibiotics, hormones, steroids, and other medications which have contributed greatly to the downfall in our health as a nation.

Raw milk produced from reputable, organic, grass-fed facilities is absolutely safe and healthy to drink. These facilities guarantee proper herd management practices, high standards of milk management, and employ methods which preserve the wholesome qualities of pure, raw milk. If you are still in doubt, read Why Nature Intended Milk to be Raw and Organic.

From the 1930s to the forties, an amazing experiment was conducted by Francis Pottenger, a medical doctor who set out to discover the benefits of raw milk on health. Using four groups of cats, all received one-third raw meat and the other two-thirds of the diet raw milk or various heat-treated milks. The cats who consumed pasteurized milk showed degenerative diseases as well as infertility issues and skeletal changes. Those who consumed a raw diet lived long and healthy lives largely free from disease and illness.

I won’t lie to you, I am a raw milk advocate in every sense of the word. People think I’m crazy when I tell them our family drinks raw milk and eats raw dairy. That’s fine with me. Most revolutionaries encounter this type of thing, and I believe I’m no exception. But just think about it. People used to drink raw milk without a backward glance. Why? Because it was a pure and wholesome food that delivered superior taste and health benefits. Well guess what? The only thing that has changed is the laws governing the sale of milk because dairies and large corporations don’t want to take responsibility for selling a healthy, quality product to the public. Instead, they’d rather be lax about sanitation and ensuring of a quality, natural product which will keep people well instead of making them sick. It’s really that simple, but yet utterly complicated at the same time by politicians, physicians, lobbyists, the dairy industry, and other groups who want control over this domain which used to be governed only by the farmers, their humble cows, and the fields.

In what type of environment should cows who produce milk for human consumption be allowed to live? Dairy and beef cattle alike, should not be confined in barns and feedlots, but rather allowed to graze on hay and grass, as nature intended. They should not be fed grains, soy, or corn. These feeds artificially alter many aspects of milk and meat. What you are eating and drinking, with raw milk and meat from grass-fed animals contains the perfect combination of enzymes, vitamins, proteins, and fats, just as nature intended.

There is a whole, active movement advocating the availability of raw milk out there. Become part of it, and start a revolution! Don’t take my word for it, read the research and see what you’ve been missing! Visit the Campaign for Raw Milk site and see what’s going on in the world of intelligent and safe food production and management.

For more information on purchasing healthy, raw, organic milk, visit Organic Pastures in Fresno, California. My family and I drink their milk and eat their butter, and it is fabulous!

A modified version of this article is featured in the September 2008 issue of Healthy Beginnings Magazine.

Update! New endorsements by the Michigan Fresh Unprocessed Whole Raw Milk Workgroup about raw milk! This group is comprised of members from dairy officials from the Michigan State Department of Agriculture the dean from Michigan State University.

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Nutritional Wellness for Families

It’s tough to come up with new ideas for healthy eating each and every day. People’s schedules are busy from the moment they awake until the end of the day. By the time we arrive home from work or school, most of us are too tired and worn out to want to prepare a good, healthy meal.  But there are ways to eat healthy – even with time constraints and budgets.

The following are some simple ideas to help families bring together their desire to live healthier lifestyles through eating:

Ideas to involve the whole family in nutrition:

  • Shop for food together.
  • Cook together.
  • Eat meals as often as possible together and make meal time a social time where no television is involved.
  • Make snacks healthy with natural, whole, unprocessed foods.
  • Encourage children to eat a variety of raw and cooked foods every day.
  • As often as possible, eat meals at home or pack out meals from home. You will save money and eat healthier.
  • Plant a garden with your child, and let he or she be involved in the process from planting to harvest
  • Serve a vegetable at each meal. Studies show children are lacking most in vegetables in their daily intake.
  • Avoid arguments about “junk foods” and desserts by not bringing them into the house.
  • When you do have treats, use recipes and ingredients that are healthy to eat – use sweeteners that are healthy, avoid refined flours and grains, use healthy oils like extra virgin coconut, palm, and olive oil , and learn about ways to prepare foods that maintain nutritional integrity of all the foods you prepare (sprouting, soaking, and fermenting grains, rice, legumes) – snacks and desserts included.
  • Support local farmers and merchants of local food – go to these places with your children and see where your food comes from. Food is healthier and fresh when it does not travel long distances; try farmer’s markets and look online. You will also be supporting your local communities and economy.
  • Live “slower” by taking time to consider, prepare, and savor foods with your family.
  • Set aside time each week to make something delicious and healthy for your family with your children. When you involve children in what you want them to eat, they are more likely to want to eat what is being served.

Snack ideas:

  • Raw, whole-fat milk and cheeses with sprouted, whole grain toast (try Ezekiel breads)
  • Apples or bananas and almond butter
  • Carrots and celery with almond butter or hummus
  • Raw, sprouted or soaked nuts and raisins
  • Applesauce or other fruit sauce with homemade yogurt or kefir
  • Cucumbers and bell pepper slices with homemade salsa
  • Broccoli and cauliflower florets with balsamic vinegar and olive oil
  • Fruit kabobs (different fruits cut up and skewered)
  • Soft or hard-boiled eggs with sprouted, whole grain toast
  • Organic turkey or ham rollups from pasture-raised poultry and hogs with favorite fillings – organic, homemade cream cheese, vegetables, homemade mustard, etc.

Reinforce that healthy foods are (as much as possible):

  • Foods that you make from your home, and avoid processed, pre-made items (packages, cans, or boxes).
  • Whole, raw, natural (organic), and do not contain artificial ingredients or chemicals. If in doubt, read labels.
  • Real or whole fats (dairy and meats) actually allow the body to arrive at normal weight and metabolic levels, and can help prevent illness and disease.
  • Consider raw dairy products (such as butter, cheese, cream, and milk). These are excellent for health and make great snacks because they are not heat-treated (pasteurized) and contain healthy, active enzymes and probiotics your body needs. Visit Organic Pastures for more information about probiotics.
  • Rethink your breakfast meals – the most important meal of the day! Read our article about great breakfast makeovers.

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live cultural organisms present in your digestive tract that help the immune system by suppressing harmful bacteria that can make you sick and cause health problems. The best places to obtain these friendly bacteria are from reliable raw dairy foods like yogurt, lacto-fermented vegetables and sauerkraut, salsa, and good-quality products you can purchase in the store (Zukay is great!). Avoid packaged, yogurt products. See the Agriculture Society article on this site for more details titled, “All Probiotics are not Created Equal”.

What are Essential Fatty Acids?

These are fatty acids essential to your body and cannot be made within the body itself. In other words, these fatty acids (Omegas 3, 6, 7, and 9) must be obtained from foods and fat sources such as:

  • Safe-source fish like wild-caught salmon, mackerel, and anchovies
  • Healthy oils like coconut, olive, palm, and flaxseed oil
  • Raw, sprouted nuts and seeds such as almonds and walnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds
  • Grass-fed meats, game meats, pork, lamb, and poultry
  • Pasture-raised eggs
  • Raw dairy foods like milk, cheese, butter, and cream

For more information on nutritional wellness, visit the blog of a person I admire very much, Nina Planck, who tells it like it is.

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