Archive for October, 2009

Breakfast Makeovers – You Really Can Rise and Shine!

www.mypicshares.com

Does this picture of breakfast food look healthy? It may look appealing and tasty, but it provides little to no nutritional value. If you are like many people, your morning time does not allow for the preparation of a healthy meal that will satisfy your hunger and provide the nutrients you need for starting your day.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because you are literally breaking a fast from not eating since the night before. Your body has not eaten in quite a few hours – perhaps 10 or more. So what you put in your body is of critical importance.

Many people start off their day with coffee and something processed with a lot of carbohydrates in it and little protein such as toast with jam, a cinnamon roll, pop tart, blueberry muffin, or bagel with cream cheese. Even fruit is of little help when it is produced from a conventional source and accompanies the likes of  such processed, sugary foods.

Sound familiar? A breakfast like this will fill your body with toxins and wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels. Over time, consuming this type of breakfast will cause weight gain, mood disorders, insulin resistance and eventually Diabetes and heart disease.

By contrast, traditional, whole foods are just what nature ordered. They contain the right amounts of fats, proteins, cholesterol, and other vital nutrients to help balance out our weight, mood, blood sugar, blood pressure, and organ system health. Fat soluble vitamins only found in whole foods with fat help the body to properly absorb and use nutrients for good health. If you are suffering from health problems, making a switch to whole, traditional foods can help you to eliminate sugar cravings, hunger, mood swings, weight problems, headaches, and other problems that lead to chronic disease and illnesses of all types. And the perfect place to start is breakfast!

Ask yourself this important question…what do you normally eat for breakfast in the morning, and does it satisfy your hunger and keep you going until lunch? Or, does it leave you hanging and feeling hungry in an hour or two…or even worse, sick and jittery?

Why I changed my breakfast habits

Years ago I used to eat garbage for breakfast. My typical eating choices were a cup of tea with a slice of processed bread and peanut butter. Sometimes I’d eat cereal and milk or a sugary yogurt (my favorite brand was Yoplait…one of *the* most unhealthy yogurt products you can eat) with my cup of tea. I never felt satisfied but I didn’t think I had time for anything else. By 9:30 or 10 a.m. I’d start feeling shaky and sick. I couldn’t understand what could possibly be the matter. Usually I was at work, so there was nothing else to eat until lunch unless I had brought something from home (which I hadn’t), or if someone happened to bring bagels or muffins into the break room to share. Invariably, I’d be starving and cranky by lunch. And most of the time my lunch wasn’t nutritious either. So by the time dinner came, I was starving again and hadn’t really eaten anything substantial all day.

When I discovered how different I could feel by preparing a nutritious breakfast, I finally made the connection that making those choices to eat garbage all those years had damaged my health and made me feel lousy. Now I eat a nutritious meal each morning.

What’s nutritious and what’s not? Here’s how to transform an unhealthy breakfast into a healthy one:

Breakfast 1: cold cereal and milk with orange juice and toast becomes:

  • organic grains (soaked overnight) such as oatmeal or millet, cooked the next morning with
  • real butter melted on the top and mixed into the cereal
  • organic whole milk (raw milk is a plus!) or organic, plain whole milk yogurt (home-made from raw milk is a plus!) poured over cereal
  • organic fruit of your choice (blueberries, blackberries, bananas, strawberries)
  • organic, freshly ground flax seeds (optional)
  • a bit of raw honey or real maple syrup

Breakfast 2: a bagel and cream cheese with coffee or orange juice becomes:

  • sprouted, organic whole grain bagel or bread (we use Ezekiel or sprouted grain bread from Silver Hills)
  • real organic butter (we use Kerrygold or Organic Valley Pasture Butter – grass-fed Irish butter)
  • raw organic melted cheese (we use Organic Valley raw cheeses from grass-fed cows) or spreadable fresh goat’s cheese and cow’s cheese mixture (we use Sno Frisk)
  • scrambled eggs from pasture-raised chickens (optional)
  • your choice of organic fruit

Breakfast 3: frozen breakfast sandwich from your freezer, local coffee house, or work kiosk becomes:

  • sprouted, organic whole grain bagel or bread with real organic butter
  • raw organic melted cheese
  • over-easy or scrambled eggs from pasture-raised chickens
  • real bacon, or ham, or sausage from pasture-raised hogs or grass-fed beef or game (we use Organic Prairie products)

Breakfast 4: pop tarts or toaster strudel, orange juice, and milk becomes:

  • Fancy French toast made on sprouted grain bread dipped in egg mixture from pasture-raised chickens, cooked with plenty of butter

Put on a plate and serve with:

  • plain, whole milk yogurt
  • your choice of organic fruit
  • freshly ground flax seeds (optional)
  • a drizzle of real maple syrup and a glass of organic, whole milk (raw is a plus)

Breakfast 5: scrambled eggs and toast becomes

  • omelet or scrambled eggs with real butter
  • chopped broccoli and avocado slices (vegetables for breakfast? Yes! Get used to the idea of incorporating these colorful, nutrient-dense foods in with your breakfast meals and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how good you feel!)
  • diced onions
  • garlic (optional)
  • shredded raw cheese
  • topped with salsa made from organic ingredients (home-made or store bought)
  • sprouted grain toast with real butter

So what’s the secret to making these breakfasts a success? Budgeting, planning, and a little research. Decide where you’d rather spend your money – on cheap, industrial food that is quick and convenient and then pay later with poor health, low energy, doctor bills, and missed time at work or school, or making an effort to prepare home-made versions of some of these foods or locate good, wholesome foods that are locally produced or sold at your health food store, farmer’s market, or from a local food grower or farmer.

Other ideas for healthy breakfasts items: Try plain, whole milk yogurt with organic fruit and freshly ground flax seeds, or hard-boiled pasture-raised eggs with sprouted grain toast spread with real butter and raw almond butter, or home-made pancakes with sprouted organic whole-grain flour spread with plenty of butter and organic fruit with plain whole milk yogurt and perhaps a bit of real maple syrup or raw honey. Left over grass-fed meats or poultry are fantastic with eggs or in omelets and hash-browned potatoes.

Don’t forget the vegetables in your egg creation – whatever you have around – zucchini, broccoli, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, garlic, or mushrooms. If you find that big breakfasts are just too much, limit your portions to smaller servings. You can still eat a healthy breakfast with good foods that isn’t too overwhelmingly large.

Don’t forget to cook with healthy oils such as real butter, extra-virgin olive, coconut, and palm oils. Good lard from pasture-raised hogs is amazingly healthy and tastes great, too.

With a little bit of planning and variation, in no time you can create a menu of delicious and nutritious breakfast choices to switch around so you are not becoming bored with meals and you are giving your body the best there is to offer for optimal health.

Once you have located the sources for your healthy food and worked into your personal routine, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without healthy food – especially when you discover a new sense of energy and well-being. Some of the foods you’ll have to spend extra money on up front; in general, healthy, organic food tends to cost more than processed, industrial food. But the money you’ll save on your health care costs later will be worth it. If you are diligent, you can save money on organic and local foods by clipping coupons, watching for sales, bartering, volunteering to work at farms or make deliveries in exchange for food, and supporting local agriculture by purchasing from your neighboring farmers. Local foods travel less distance so that part of the cost is normally reduced for selling the food (and it’s better for you and the environment).

Some of these foods can be made more healthy just by a few minutes of advance preparation such as soaking your organic grains overnight in filtered water and a bit of whey from real milk or yogurt, kefir, apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice. These substances help break down phytic acid activity in grains that renders them indigestible and damaging to the digestive tract (think IBS, Crohn’s disease, grain intolerance, and allergies). Many people who are allergic to grains find that they can consume soaked and sprouted grain products with no problem at all.

What’s the bottom line?

Budget your finances and make time for your health! These makeovers really pack a nutrition punch..not to mention, they are delicious! With a little bit of planning and variation, in no time you can create a menu of delicious and nutritious breakfast choices to switch around so you are not becoming bored with meals and you are giving your body the best there is to offer for great health. Next time you go into the kitchen to make breakfast, consider these alternatives to the boring, nutritionally-bankrupt foods you’ve been eating…and make healthy eating the new order of the day.

This article is part of Cheeseslave’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival. Please visit this site and read the other great real food articles there.

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Shall We Gather at the River?

Don’t miss this important film! There are many diligent and brave filmmakers out there today willing to make sacrifices and take risks to bring you important information about our food industry, and this film is no exception. The American people have a right to know how their food is produced, and should be informed about what really goes on in the dealings and activities of corporate agribusiness – one of the most powerful and wealthy entities in existence. Considering how they make their money, there should be no question of their accountability for ours and other nation’s health issues – which are directly affected by what we eat and how that food is grown and produced.


If everyone really understood the impact and magnitude of what has been allowed to, by our own country’s laws, continue to occur – there would be a revolt the likes of which no one has ever seen. Let’s cause this revolt to happen…go see this film! Empower yourselves and educate others…and then stop purchasing factory farmed, industrial food! Buy organic, sustainable, and local!

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People for the Unethical Treatment of Animals AND Humans

The New York times printed a story on October 3rd, 2009 about a young dance instructor, Stephanie Smith (age 22) whose entire life was altered in 2007 when she went over to her parents’ house for a home-cooked hamburger one afternoon. Her illness started out like many others – she believed she had a stomach virus. She had the usual stomach cramps and discomfort that many individuals experience.

And then other symptoms appeared – bloody stool, failing kidneys, and violent convulsions. The convulsions were so severe doctors put Smith into a coma for 9 weeks. When she awoke from the coma, she found she was paralyzed from the waist down, had suffered brain damage, and was unable to walk.

This food-borne illness, non-other than the deadly E. coli bacteria, originated from ground beef which can trace its roots to slaughterhouses in Texas, South Dakota, Uraguay, and Nebraska. These slaughterhouses process meat for Cargill, one of the corporate giants of agribusiness.

Like most agribusiness companies, the meat is taken from a variety of sources and is not only lower-quality cuts but sourced from parts of the cow most likely to have contamination from feces. Feces from industrially-produced meat also normally contains the E. coli virus due both to the feed consumed by the cattle (soy, grains, corn) and the filthy, abhorrent living conditions of the animals.

Federal inspectors have continually found Cargill in violation of its own safety procedures. Even though the corporation was remiss in its handling of meat, they received no sanctions or fines for their breach from the government.  The Department of Agriculture did threaten to withhold their seal of approval stating  on the package “U.S. Inspected and Passed by the Department of Agriculture.”

The digestive tracts of grain-fed cattle are extremely high in acidity. This environment causes the E. coli bacteria to develop and thrive. On the other hand, grass-fed animals on sustainable lands generally do not have these virulent strains in their digestive tract, and are therefore much less likely to infect people who consume their meat. The grass-fed variety is also clean from another deadly pathogen – Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), or the infamous Mad Cow Disease (MCD).

According to federal inspectors and plant workers, the risk of contamination is likely along each step of meat processing in industrial processing facilities. Feces from the animals’ hide, smeared all over the outside of the animals’ bodies, can easily be spread onto meat being separated from the carcass during removal. The movement of carcasses along the assembly line goes at such a rate that employees are not always able to “keep up” with the pace, and as a consequence, many mistakes can be made. When the meat is completely removed, it is treated in a bath of ammonia to kill bacteria.

Cargill’s meat products amount to about seven million pounds of meat produced weekly. The company’s product can be found all over the country in grocery stores, fast-food restaurants, as well as in the federal school lunch program eaten daily by our children. In the breakdown, ten percent of the burger eaten by Ms. Smith came from Beef Products, who proudly state on the main page of their web site “The Use of Ammonia Compounds in Food Processing”. The price paid by Cargill? As shown by billing records, about $1 per pound, which according to industry experts is roughly 30 cents less than cuts made from whole meat. Would you eat meat that only cost an average of $1 per pound?

A study funded by Beef Products from Iowa State University determined that ammonia baths effectively reduce E. coli to levels that are virtually undetectable. This discovery was accepted by The Department of Agriculture as proof that the procedure was not only effective but safe. After the outbreak, Cargill declared to the federal agency that Beef Products was definitely not on the list as a possible source of contamination for the meat.

One safe meat producer, U.S. Wellness Meats (Missouri-based) guarantees their meat due to the following:

Hamburger meat comes from from whole muscles which are  completely safe. Meat is removed from the carcass with machinery that leaves intact much of the meat from the spinal area, unlike practices used only in industrial meat processing plants that move through thousands of animals on a daily basis. U.S. Wellness Meats also uses a procedure which removes the spinal fluid sack from the backbone immediately following slaughter, thus eliminating the risk before processing the meat.

Animals are raised on sustainable lands with grass as feed, and are not consuming grain which is a direct cause why E. coli and other virulent bacteria form in the first place. The animals are raised in a clean environment from the first day of life to ensure they are exposed to neither animal contaminants nor chemicals such as pesticides.

We’ve seen this time and time again over the last two decades with news reports of meat recalls and illnesses occurring from people who have consumed the meat. The tainted meat clearly shows flaws in a system rooted well beyond the inspections process. I’d like to pose the point that this entire situation is really what’s working against the ethical treatment of animals (and humans). What additional proof do government officials, health experts, food industry regulatory personnel, and the general public need that the problem isn’t going to be solved with stepped up food safety protocols – and that the real issue lies in the growth, production, and processing of the meat from the animals in the first place? In general, if you aren’t supporting the growth, sale, and distribution of real, sustainable food operations, you are in effect supporting this abominable, multi-billion dollar industry that seeks only to produce more food faster for profit – all at the expense of the environment and human and animal.

Some individuals might automatically assume this is yet one more reason to stop eating meat; and this is not an uncommon sentiment as vegetarian and vegan diets are becoming more en vogue. Last week I posed the point about supporting sustainable farming and consuming meat from sustainable sources to PETA, whose reply was that eating meat sustainable-raised was just not realistic because there are simply too many people to feed. We’ve already gone over the fact that when people produce and consume sustainable meat, they not only eat less meat but they take care of the environment.  But by maintaining the belief that “we just can’t feed every person sustainable meat”, and by not supporting those who are raising real, sustainable food, groups like PETA are granting power to and supporting agribusiness giants like Cargill. This whole way of thinking is really a large part of what is responsible for allowing the horror of factory farming to continue at all.

If people truly desired the ethical treatment of animals and humans, they would jump in and support the real sustainable community and food growers who are seeking to treat our lands, people, and animals with the utmost respect and stewardship. Of course PETA supporters are going to protest factory farming and its treatment of animals. But they also discount what people who want to support a truly sustainable way of life are trying to advocate as well. So when you hear someone claiming solidarity with PETA who says that sustainable meats just won’t cut it, remember the way that the meat you eat is processed and relay this story to him or her. You just might save someone’s life.

This article is part of Cheeseslave’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival – please visit this site and read the other great real food articles listed there.

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Letter to PETA and Their Response

A little over a month ago, I happened upon a web site affiliated with PETA (they have multiple sites) containing an article detailing the many benefits of living a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. I left a comment discussing why vegetarian and vegan diets can be damaging both to the planet and our health. Karen Dickerson, Correspondence Assistant for PETA, personally sent me a response and I wanted to share it with my readers.

I’d like to point out that I fully supported each argument against vegetarian/vegan diets, and some of the responses that were given make it seem as though I had not provided a logical explanation behind the argument.  For instance, I stated that those who eat humanely-raised, sustainable meat will consume less meat because their nutritional requirements would be met from eating real, healthy meat replete with nutrients. Her response was that realistically, this is just not possible with our current meat consumption rates – overlooking completely my statement about the fact that meat consumption would decrease if we were all eating sustainable meat.

Another point that came up is the “free range” phrase that gets thrown around a lot in packaging and marketing of food. I actually never used the term “free range” in my commentary to PETA, and here’s the reason why:  “Free range” is a marketing term used to lead the consumer to believe the animals or birds of whose meat or eggs you are consuming have been living a humane existence, and are able to roam around freely most of the time. In reality, “free range” might only mean the animals or birds receive access to outside installments for as little as 5 minutes a day!

It is also interesting to note that at least twice I mention the environmental destruction occurring due to the pesticides, chemicals, and genetically-modified seeds used in growing many legumes, grains, and vegetables that vegetarians eat. But nary a response to this argument can be found in Karen’s reply! One of the most aggravating points about vegetarian and vegan foods that seems to rarely sink in to those who consume them is the fact that all these soy, fake “meat”, and processed grain products (just to name a few) are some of the most unhealthy, incredibly environmentally-unfriendly items you can purchase and eat!

Please take a few minutes to read my commentary and the response that follows. Then leave your own comment at the bottom and let your voice be heard about this important issue!

I’d like to pose a slightly different view of sustainable living, which is that eating meat is not only perfectly acceptable, but a healthy part of being human – but only as long as you are eating organically-produced, sustainable meats from healthy animals where the farmers are treating them humanely.

As long as people support industrial farming, on any level (and that includes conventional farming of fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, and nuts eaten by vegans and vegetarians), we will never get the message across about sustainability on our planet. If you are purchasing vegetarian and vegan products, a great deal of these are not produced in accordance with safety nor sustainability. Just consider many of the packaged, processed products marketed toward vegetarians and vegans – they are produced with pesticides, chemicals, and genetically-modified materials.

Until we educate and inform by pulling together to support truly sustainable, clean, ethical, humane farming, we will not make a drop of difference in our habits, health, nor future on planet earth.

Humane, sustainable animal farming uses less resources and maintains the principles of stewardship toward the land (some people argue that grains and vegetable farming uses less water and other resources than animal farming). By its very nature, sustainable animal farming helps to complete the circle of life – animals graze on grass instead of being fed corn, soy, or wheat which requires a great amount of resources to maintain and is usually grown with artificial methods. The land is tended to from the animals grazing on and living as nature intended, and there is no need for chemicals, fertilizers, or pesticides (just ask Joel Salatin, well-known farmer living in Virginia who runs sustainable Polyface farm).

People who consume sustainable meats eat less meat because the meat is in balance with nature and provides the body the proper nutrients and nutrition – unlike factory farmed meat which is unhealthy all around. Those eating industrial meat (or any other industrially-produced product for that matter) are getting an imbalance of nutrients (not intended by nature) and are receiving toxic substances in the body as well. Please visit Agriculture Society for more information on truly sustainable living. Find out how you can make a difference!

Raine Saunders

The response:

Dear Raine,

Thank you for your comment posted on PETA Living regarding animal products that are considered “free range” or “humane.” While we understand your argument for compassionate, sustainable farming, we do not believe that it is realistic.

It is impossible to humanely raise and kill the billions of animals slaughtered each year in the U.S. to satisfy this country’s enormous appetite for food from animals. Even if workers on factory farms were willing to give each individual animal the time and attention necessary to promote humane conditions―and concern for animals’ wants and needs on factory farms is notoriously rare―they could not possibly attend to the countless animals who are enslaved and exploited to feed our current meat habit. As for animals’ chances for a peaceful death, euthanasia by painless injection―the only true form of humane killing―is impracticable in the case of animals raised for food because it renders their flesh inedible.

Unfortunately, animals raised on many “organic” or “free-range” farms suffer the same conditions that characterize factory farms. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which defines “free-range” and “free-roaming” for labeling purposes, relies “upon producer testimonials to support the accuracy of these claims,” which are, needless to say, highly biased and, for that reason, unreliable. Most eggs labeled “free range” come from hens who are raised in dark, overcrowded sheds, much like those used to confine “broiler” chickens. Even on “humane” farms, male chicks—of no use in egg “production”—are killed upon hatching, often by suffocation or being ground up alive. When they have outlived their “usefulness,” hens are killed since farmers’ need for high profits prevents them from continuing to feed and care for animals who no longer contribute to the bottom line.

Conditions on small dairy farms are similarly cruel. Male calves, considered useless because they can’t produce milk, are usually sold to the veal industry or to larger dairy farms and eventually slaughtered. Pigs, steers, and other animals raised for meat on “humane” farms are butchered in the same terrifying slaughterhouses as animals raised on factory farms. The intense fear and pain suffered by farmed animals are among the many reasons why we at PETA advocate a vegan diet. For more information on “free range” animal products, please visit http://www.GoVeg.com/organic.asp.

Not only do we not need to eat animals’ flesh; we’re healthier if we don’t. We can help ourselves as well as animals by switching to a vegan diet. By eliminating animal products, we can also help reduce our risk of countless diseases and other health problems, including strokes, osteoporosis, kidney stones, many cancers, diabetes, hypoglycemia, kidney disease, peptic ulcers, hernias, obesity, gallstones, hypertension, and asthma, among many others.

We have so many choices as consumers today that there’s simply no reason―or excuse―to continue to raise and slaughter animals for food. The only truly humane alternative to making animals suffer is to stop buying and consuming animal products―and it’s not as hard as you may think. For a free vegetarian starter kit packed with nutrition information, shopping tips, and recipes, please visit http://www.VegStarterKit.com.

Thanks again for your inquiry.

Sincerely,

Karen Dickerson

Correspondence Assistant

The PETA Foundation

I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it again:

It is much cheaper putting forth the effort to prevent disease in the first place than spending your money to pay to “find a cure”.

I’d love to hear everyone’s comments, thoughts, and rebuttals.

For a great article on the finer points of the unhealthy aspects of vegetarian and vegan diets, visit Nourished Kitchen’s “49 Reasons to be a Vegetarian – A Rebuttal“.

It is also important to note that the commentary I left on the PETA Living web site was not included in the list with other comments –  it was removed. Please visit the PETA Living web site and read some of their posts, including the one linked above (incidentally, there is another article which talks about support from the American Dietetic Association. And we all know how healthy their viewpoints are!).

This article is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays Carnival. Please visit this site and read the other real food articles listed there.

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Public Schools, Home School, Health Care Reform, and the Food Industry

www.mypicshares.com

Some of you may have noticed the slow down in new articles on this site. The reason for this is that school has started and we are home-schooling this year.

We have four years of home-schooling experience under our belts, but things are different this year because we are using a publicly-funded home-education program which has a specific set of assignments and standards that must be met. The time we spend each day on these tasks is very consuming, unlike the more free-structured, independent home-schooling we’ve done in the past. It may sound like we were slacking off before, but the reality is, my son was far ahead of his class both in his first and second grade years at regular, public school. First grade we were dual-enrolled which means that half our day was spent at home and the other half he was in the classroom.

My motivation to home-school stemmed from my own dissatisfaction with school as I was growing up. I often felt either isolated or unhappy – a sentiment felt by many people. I felt unchallenged by my classes. When I finally had a child of my own, I looked back at my experience and wished there was something better for him to look forward to. I hoped to foster a love of learning at a much earlier age than what appeared in me during my childhood.

When second grade came around, I thought a change might be good to allow him to make friends in the neighborhood and become accustomed to being in an environment that was essentially away from home without ever really being too far away (the school is only one block from our house). I hoped he’d make friends, gain independence, and have a good “at-school” experience that would enrich his life. The school is a small, neighborhood school with an intimate, close-knit group of people. I wanted him to be a part of this and have the benefits of  knowing children from around the neighborhood so that he’d have kids to play with and grow up with.

In his first grade year, he became close friends with a little girl in his class. They were inseparable and shared the same love of creativity and imagination. My son often commented that the activities and games the other children played at recess were dull and uninspiring to him – dodge ball, tag, and soccer. He and the little girl had a special connection. I began to understand that while he intensely disliked organized sports, he loved being active and moving around. His favorite physical activities are climbing, bicycling, and swimming. I made efforts to cultivate those interests and skills by enrolling him in gymnastics and swimming outside of school and taking advantage of our close location to the Boise foothills, by hiking and biking frequently.

During the entire year spent home-schooling half time, it became apparent that my son and I were butting heads a little too often.  I wondered if it was time to enroll him in public school full-time, just to see what would happen. I assumed this would be a positive change for him, and that maybe he and I were spending a little too much time together – we were arguing about school work a lot. He had at least one good friend at school as a foundation, and he would have the opportunity to become close with other children as well.

But what happened over the course of the year was really quite disappointing. Most days I had to drag him out the door to go to school. Often we’d spend more time arguing about being late, and he’d end up in tears (sometimes me as well), and he wasn’t making the friends I’d hoped he would. As with most of the kids at school, the little girl he’d spent all his time with during first grade was starting to play only with other girls. I observed the boys and girls to separate out into groups, which left my son alone with no one to play with since he had not formed any type of connection with any of the boys in his class. Children were not seeking him out to be their friend on the playground or in the classroom. Instead, my son was spending most of his time wandering around at recess trying to find children to play with (he claimed that no one would play with him).

I’d ask him if he ever made attempts to ask the other children to play or join him in one of his favorite games. His response was always that everyone else was already engaged in some activity and wouldn’t break away to play with him – that no one wanted to do anything besides an organized sport or a game he didn’t like. I explained that sometimes in order to find friends you have to compromise and play something you are not especially fond of, but then later you could suggest a game or activity that you like to your new friend.  Another problem was that he was being bullied by a girl in his class, who from my own observations was always nasty and negative to everyone she came into contact with – and the teacher never seemed to notice nor do anything about it, even when I brought up the subject.

I thought for certain this episode would pass.  His persistence in the idea that no one wanted to play with him did not wane over the course of the whole year. I continually reminded him he needed to stay in school for the rest of the year to see if anything changed, and then at that time we’d assess the situation and decide what to do. Many times I had conversations with the teacher and the counselor to try and remedy the problem. The responses I received were mostly that he was doing just fine whenever I was not around, and that a great deal of his problems were likely due to the fact that I was basically around too much and not allowing him to gain badly needed independence.

Finally at the end of second grade, it became evident to me that we needed to do something different. My husband maintained that our son should just go back to school and deal with the hardships, and that it was just part of life. I reminded him that he did not have to deal with our son’s bad mood and negative attitude everyday as I was the one taking him to school, picking him up, and delivering his lunch. Each and every day our son was developing a more negative attitude toward school and school lessons. It was evident that what was occurring was detrimental to his outlook about education.

Choosing to home school

For several weeks we discussed available options. Enrolling in another school away from our neighborhood didn’t seem to be a good solution. In the end, I decided to return to home-schooling because I wanted to give our son something to look forward to again – to not feel left out everyday, isolated, and bullied by those who weren’t being policed for their bad behavior at school. I wanted him to love learning and be in a loving environment where he felt valued and cared for. I knew he did not feel the way he should in the public school where he had spent his first and second grade year because he was inherently unhappy about all the experiences he’d had since his first day of school. As an added bonus, two of his dearest friends (two sisters) were already enrolled in the state program we wanted to become involved with – and we could spend time with them doing activities and lessons.

I had some feelings of ambivalence about starting to home school again – for one, I knew this time around it wouldn’t be as easy as he was older and the curriculum would be more challenging both for him and me. I also had  resentment about the negative experience my son had gone through at school. Why couldn’t my son have friends and fit in like the other children? After all, he is bright, has a good sense of humor, and is very social. So what was the problem? What was happening was essentially this – a child that was once fearless, gregarious, and willing to take chances in social situations had now had his spirit squashed by other children to the point that he was beginning to develop issues of self-confidence and doubt – emotions he had not been acquainted with at all at the start of his first grade year.

What’s going on in public schools?

Some years ago my mother used to talk about the children at the school across the street from her house and how they’d run around and scream like animals on the playground all during their recess period. I figured my mother, being retired, was bored and just had too much time on her hands. But one day as I was out in the yard watering the plants, I listened to the sounds of the kids at the school one block away as I had often done so many times before. In the past I had heard those sounds and thought nothing of it. But this time it occurred to me as I stood there remembering all those times my son had cried and lamented about how much he disliked school that maybe there was a reason for the screaming and tearing around at such speed.

From being a food-conscious parent I know first-hand how under-nourished and poorly fed most children are. At one time, my own son was in that category because I was ignorant and didn’t know any better. I now know that many behavioral, social, emotional, and physical problems occur as a result of poor nutrition, and that this factor is one of the most overlooked in our culture. I realize that children like to run and play and have fun; that’s just part of being a kid. But it dawned on me that maybe the reason the kids are so hyped-up on the playground and exhibit some of these outwardly aggressive and malicious behaviors was due to the fact that they are going into the lunchroom and getting loaded up on industrial food –  high in refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats, and then are being sent out to play. Let’s not forget that in general, the food they consume outside of school probably isn’t much better.

My son actually doesn’t display much of the kind of behavior I see in these other kids. He is very sensitive and emotional, but he also has a very highly-developed sense of justice and fairness, and has a low tolerance for other children not playing fairly or nicely. I’ve also noticed another startling difference – my son doesn’t really get hungry between meals. He likes snacks here and there, but mostly he eats his breakfast, lunch, or dinner and gets full. I believe it’s because the meals he’s eating are nutrient dense and satisfy his hunger and nutritional needs.

You’ve heard parents complain that their kids are eating the house down and are always hungry, right? Maybe it’s because they are not making every meal count with nutritious food, and are eating nutritionally-empty foods that don’t satisfy or satiate hunger. Once again, we are reminded that food has an enormous impact on our well-being, emotionally and physically. It’s something that simply cannot go without affecting all facets of our lives.

How does all this affect health and health care?

Which leads me to the next subject of health care reform and the food industry. I can’t help but think how greatly impacted our children will be by the decisions made in Congress and the local legislatures about health care reform and its intrinsic connection to the food industry.  When law-makers leave out the critical components of health care reform:

1) preventative measures

2) education about prevention

3) insurance coverage of preventative health services, and most importantly

4) changes in the way our food industry is allowed to grow, manufacture, distribute, and sell food

they are overlooking the most significant issues that are affecting health care and our health – and any changes made to the system that don’t include these will be for naught.

The way our food is grown and processed and the food we eat makes an impact – socially, physically, spiritually, and

environmentally. Ask yourself, would you make a conscious choice to eat meat from a facility like the one in the picture?

Or would you rather know the food you are eating and feeding your children is raised in a healthy, wholesome environment? What are the repercussions of eating food raised from industrial sources?

So, I urge everyone reading this article to contact your local legislature and congressperson be contacted and communicated with about these issues. They are so important! Even if you don’t have children, please consider the impact a health care reform plan without these critical components will have on our future. It starts with the lifestyle people maintain and the foods they eat – plain and simple.

If children are eating garbage at school every day and then going home and eating more garbage, what possible chance do they have of looking forward to reasonable health as they grow up and continue on into adult life? The answer is, our health care system will continue to favor surgery, drugs, and expensive procedures all because it is not actually geared toward preventative measures that work and actually change the condition of health of the individual. The way we do things now lines the pockets of the drug and industrial food industry – and they are making billions upon billions of dollars off our ignorance and lack of education.

To the current system, preventative measures include things like screening for breast or colon cancer with a mammogram or colonoscopy – two dangerous procedures that can actually be harmful to your health. If cancer is found – what’s the solution? Normally it’s toxic drugs and invasive surgery. If the cancer is removed and the person survives, what’s to say it won’t recur?

Ultimately, cancer can return again and again unless something fundamental is altered – lifestyle habits. But how often do you hear of someone’s doctor telling he or she to eat a truly healthy diet replete with traditional, nutrient-dense foods or to be certain to get enough sunshine and outdoor exercise? All the advice I hear about is usually involves some artificial replacement for real health maintenance – taking synthetic vitamins, going to a health club, eating low-fat foods, or being remiss about emphasizing real, sustainable-produced foods.

If you really want to make changes in our health care and food systems, for ourselves and our children, it all starts with us as individuals – spreading the word, maintaining web sites, contacting our decision-makers in the government and letting them know how we feel and that we won’t accept a health care reform plan that doesn’t tackle the real issues and make an impact on what’s been going on for so many years.

Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, Green Party, or to whatever affiliation you belong, it’s your duty as an American Citizen to stand up for what’s ethical and moral – make a difference and help to change our health care and foods systems – which go hand in hand, on the basic levels. As with many other things, it starts in local communities and in our schools. Make your voice heard!

For more information about health care reform and preventative measures, read Is Reactive Medicine Cheaper than Preventative? and ACTION NOW! An Open Letter to the President and Other Decision Makers Regarding Preventative Health Care.

For more information about school lunch initiatives, read Changing the Face of School Lunches and Your Voice can Make a Difference in the Way Children Eat School Lunch.

For more information about the food industry, visit the Food Inc. web site.

This article is part of Food Renegades’ Fight Back Fridays Carnival. Please visit this wonderful site and read all of the real food posts there.

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