Food for Families Archive


little girl eating cereal
Issue 138 September-October 2006
Power Up Your Diet
By Kimber Pasquali

Last week, I was lunching with a friend at a local bistro. “Mmmm… salad à la niçoise, or creamy asparagus soup with focaccia?” I mused. They sounded equally appealing. After a moment’s consideration, I opted for the salad because it contained two power foods: salmon and hard-boiled eggs. The soup, while a fine and tasty choice, offered none. That morning I’d had a scant breakfast also bereft of power foods, and I needed my lunch to really feed me. Ordering the salad was a natural, easy decision based on both the concept of the ten power foods and the context of what I’d recently eaten.

The Power Foods Concept: In the fall of 2005, Mothering and Whole Foods Market co-created an informational program and national lecture tour: Whole Baby. Our goal was to provide growing families with the best, most concise, helpful, and accessible information on nutrition and lifestyle topics ranging from prenatal care to baby’s first foods. We (Jody Villecco, a nutritionist and the national food and nutrition Quality Standards coordinator for Whole Foods Markets, and I) chose the ten power foods because they are rich in nutrients that we all need, especially in pregnancy and lactation. Organic versions are optimal. Vegetarians and vegans can accordingly customize their own ten power foods.

The Power Foods Context: There are no hard-and-fast rules for integrating power foods into your diet, but as Jody says, “Stress is worse for you than bad food.” Rather than forcing power foods into every meal, I find it more natural to include a few over the course of a day. As noted above, I consider what tempts me and often prioritize based on what else I’ve eaten recently. Using the tool of the ten power foods this way helps guide my food choices toward a well-rounded variety. Since natural color compounds in foods indicate the presence of valuable nutrients, another great tip is to strive for a variety of at least two or three vibrant hues in your bowl or on your plate. Mangia, mangia!

For more information, see www.wholefoodsmarket.com/healthinfo/wholebaby/index.html.

10 Power Foods

  1. avocados: mono-unsaturated (good) fats, potassium, vitamin C, folic acid, and lutein
  2. beans and legumes: fiber, plant source of zinc and protein
  3. berries: antioxidants, vitamins, and phytonutrients (if not in season, use frozen, and all-fruit juices or spreads)
  4. dark leafy greens: vitamins A and C, folic acid, fiber, antioxidants (eat with a bit of fat, such as oil or butter, for maximum synergy)
  5. eggs: vitamin A, protein, iron (DHA-enhanced eggs also offer essential fatty acids)
  6. fatty fish (salmon, black cod, sardines) or a fish-oil supplement: essential fatty acids, protein
  7. nuts: vitamin E, magnesium, mono-unsaturated fats
  8. organic, grass-fed, or hormone- and antibiotic-free lamb or beef: zinc, protein, iron
  9. sweet potatoes: vitamins A and E
  10. yogurt: beneficial probiotic bacteria, calcium, protein

 

July 2005
Cucumbers for the Family
By Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers

From traditional English cucumber tea sandwiches, to the Indian condiment raita to the Finnish salad kurkkusalaatti, and onto Japanese sushi, the cucumber has found a culinary home in most kitchens around the world. The cucumber is believed to be native to India, and evidence indicates that it has been cultivated in western Asia for 3,000 years. From India it spread to Greece and Italy, where the Romans were especially fond of the cucumber crop. As with many foods, the cucumber was introduced to the United States by Spanish explorers in the mid- 16th century.

Cucumbers have long been considered a great food to eat when trying to lose weight. They are low in calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Cucumbers are 96% water by weight which makes them a refreshing snack on a hot summer day. While cucumbers are not one of nature’s “Super Foods” in terms of nutrition, they do add a crisp, healthy snap to salads and sandwiches and contain some Vitamin A, C and K, and a few other trace minerals.

If you have wondered where they saying “cool as a cucumber” originated, it’s not just a catchy phrase. The inner temperature of a cucumber can be up to 20 degrees cooler than the outside air. No wonder these are such a summertime favorite!

Most cucumbers are long and skinny, these are best suited for slicing and are available year round. Cucumbers that are cultivated to make pickles are oftentimes much smaller. Gherkins are one variety of cucumbers cultivated for this purpose and are mostly available May through August.

Age to introduce: 2-3 years old (cucumbers are considered a choking hazard for babies and toddlers.)


Toddler Treat: Creamy Cukes for Kids
Our Grandmother made this delicious creamy cucumber salad, and it was a staple on her dinner table all summer long. This salad is a great childhood memory of times spent with grandma, and we are delighted to share it with you. We hope your children love it.

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium cucumbers, peeled
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. fresh dill, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Cut cucumbers in half longwise. With a small spoon, scrape out seeds and slice cucumbers about 1/4 inch thick slices. In medium size bowl, add sour cream, vinegar, sugar and fresh dill and mix together with a spoon until smooth. Add the cucumbers and toss gently to coat the cucumbers with dressing. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Makes 4-5 servings.

Variation: Add 1/2 cup of mango, watermelon or cantaloupe chunks to this recipe.

Cucumbers For The Family
At the market: Choose firm cucumbers without shrivels or soft spots. With the exception of lemon cucumbers, which are a light yellow-green and the Armenian cucumber which is ivory, they should have a solid green color without signs of yellowing or puffiness.

Most conventionally grown cucumbers are waxed to protect them from bruising and releasing water. The wax is edible, but many people prefer to peel cucumbers to avoid eating the wax. Peeling cucumbers reduces the nutrition content and makes them look bland. To avoid waxed cucumbers choose organically grown ones.

Storage: Store unwashed waxed cucumbers in the refrigerator crisper for up to one week. Unwaxed cucumbers should be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, stored in the refrigerator crisper for 2-3 days. Don’t freeze cucumbers–they get mushy.

Preparation: Many cooks remove the tips, peels and seeds, which may be tough and bitter in some varieties. To seed a cucumber, cut it lengthwise and scrape the seeds out with a spoon or knife. Some recipes call for cucumbers to be soaked in salt water. This step removes some of the naturally high water content which can dilute the flavor of the dish.

Here are some quick ideas to add cucumbers into your family meals:

Add cucumber slices to:

  • Tacos
  • Sandwiches
  • Green salads and veggie platters

Add chopped, diced cucumbers to:

  • Salsas
  • Gazpacho
  • Tuna, chicken, egg, or shrimp salad

Refreshing drinks: Add summer freshness to drinks with a cucumber slice. This tastes great with water and lemonade. Adults can also try a cucumber slice in cold sake or bloody mary’s.

Cucumber Cups: These nifty little cups are perfect for serving appetizer-sized portions of salads and creamy cheeses. Peel cucumber, and add a decorative touch by running the tines of a fork down the entire length of the cucumber on all sides to “stripe” it. Cut the cucumbers into ½ – ¾ inch rounds. With a melon baller scoop out the middle without going all the way through, so you have a small cucumber dish. Fill the cups with some of the fillings listed below, place on a serving tray, and garnish with fresh chopped herbs, such as dill, tarragon, or chives. Filling choices include:

  • Veggie salad
  • Seafood or shrimp salad
  • Tuna saladFlavored cream cheese such as chive, smoked salmon, or veggie
  • Port wine cheddar cheese spread
  • Mixture of ½ blue and ½ cream cheese

Cucumber Sandwiches
The traditional English cucumber tea-sandwiches consist of sliced cucumber on white bread spread with butter, with the crusts cut off. Here is a variation on this traditional sandwich, you’ll need:

  • Thinly sliced cucumber rounds
  • Thin slices of smoked salmon or deli turkey
  • Whipped cream cheese
  • Pumpernickel bread
  • Fresh chopped chives

For each sandwich: Spread 2 slices of bread with cream cheese. Put 1 layer of cucumber a top the cream cheese and add one thin layer of smoked salmon or turkey, and top with the second slice of bread. Press lightly with palm of hand. Cut all crusts off with a sharp knife. Cut sandwiches in half diagonally.

Parsley salad
This is a refreshing and interesting summer salad for parsley lovers.

Dressing:

  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Salad:

  • 4 cups washed curly parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 6-8 thinly sliced mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • Directions: In a large glass or stainless steel salad bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients. Add all of the salad ingredients to the bowl and toss to coat with dressing.


    April 2005
    Cashews
    By Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers

    The cashew tree is related to the mango, pistachio and poison ivy plants. The tree is native to South America, mainly found in Brazil and Peru. In the sixteenth century, Portuguese traders introduced the tree to India where it was originally grown to prevent erosion. The flavor virtues of the cashew nut were realized quite late in history, because the nut contains a caustic oil, called cardol, which makes the nuts inedible. It was not until 1920′s, when the shelling process was perfected to remove the cardol from the nut with the result being the crunchy cashew we enjoy today.

    Cashews are produced in 32 countries, and the World’s consumption of cashews is a bout 4.1 billion lbs annually. The United States is the largest importer of cashew nuts. Cashews are the #1 nut crop in the world.

    Many people mistakenly avoid cashews because of their high fat content, though they are lower in total fat than almonds, peanuts, pecans, and walnuts. While 47 % of the total weight of the cashew is fat, it is what is often referred to as the “good” fat. In fact, approximately 75% of their fat is unsaturated, and most of that is oleic acid, the same heart-healthy fat found in olive oil. Studies show that oleic acid promotes good cardiovascular health.

    In addition to their healthful fats, cashews are very good sources of copper and magnesium. Copper is essential for energy production and maintenance of bones and blood vessels. Numerous health problems can develop when copper intake is inadequate, including iron deficiency anemia, osteoporosis, joint problems such as rheumatoid arthritis and many others.

    We hear a lot about the importance of calcium for healthy bones, but magnesium is also vital for healthy bones. About two-thirds of the magnesium in the human body is found in our bones. Magnesium, helps regulate nerve and muscle tone. Insufficient magnesium can contribute to high blood pressure, muscle spasms, and migraine headaches. Studies have shown magnesium helps reduce the frequency of migraine attacks, lowers blood pressure, helps prevent heart attacks, and reduces the severity of asthma.

    Besides tasting great, cashews can provide many nutrients to keep you and your family healthy. On your next visit to the supermarket, add some cashews to the shopping cart!

    Age to introduce: Over 12 months old, finely ground. Whole or pieces of cashews and cashew butter (similar to peanut butter) are choking hazards until a child is 2-3 years old. Cashews are a nut, and they are considered a high allergen.

    Toddler Treat: Maple Carrots and Cashews

    Baby carrots are very toddler-friendly and most children love cashews. We’ve teamed up these two great tastes in a simple side dish that will appeal to both the young and old.

     

    • 1 pound baby carrots
    • 1 cup chicken/vegetable broth
    • 2 Tbsp butter
    • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
    • 2 Tbsp chopped cashews

    In a saucepan bring the chicken (or vegetable) broth to a boil. Add the baby carrots and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and pour carrots and broth into a colander to drain. With the saucepan still hot, add butter and honey and stir unit melted. Add the carrots and toss gently. Transfer carrots to a serving dish and sprinkle the carrots with chopped cashews. Makes 5-6 servings.

    Cashews For The Family

    At the market: Cashews are not sold in the shell. They are available raw or roasted in the nut section or bulk food aisle of a supermarket. Cashews are sold whole (expensive) or in pieces (less expensive). They are highly perishable and can turn rancid quickly due to their high oil content. Choose vacuum-packed jars or cans over cellophane packaging. If you are buying in the bulk aisle, make sure there is a high turnover of foods in this section to ensure maximum freshness.

    Storage: Store cashews in an airtight container. At room temperature, they will not keep fresh long. It is best to refrigerate them, and they’ll last up to six months. Cashews may also be frozen up to one year.

    Cooking tips: For hot dishes, add cashews at the end of the cooking process (or just before serving) as they quickly become soft and will disintegrate when cooked. Cashews soften in baked goods and do not stay crunchy like other nuts.

    Here are a few ideas for adding cashews into your family meals: Sprinkle a handful on chopped cashews on: Green salads
    Pancakes or waffles with maple syrup
    Your favorite Chinese take out
    Breakfast cereals (hot or cold)
    Fresh fruit salads

    Quick Indian Rice: Just before serving, add 1/4 cup chopped cashews, 1/4 cup raisins, and 1 Tbsp chopped green onions to cooked basmati (or brown) rice.

    Curried Chicken Salad: Toss 1 Tbsp chopped cashews, A^1/4 cup diced mango or pineapple, 2-3 Tbsp mayonnaise, and 1 teaspoon of curry powder with 2 cups of diced, cooked chicken. Serve on toasted English muffins.

    Homemade Cashew Butter: Cashew butter is fun (and simple) to make with your children. Cashew butter is very similar to peanut butter – it just tastes much better. For best results, you will need a food processor with a standard metal shaped blade. A blender can also be used.

    2 cups roasted (unsalted) cashews pieces
    2 a^??g 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil or butter
    Pinch of salt

    Combine the cashews, 2 Tablespoons of oil (or butter), and salt in the food processor. Process for 30 seconds, stop the machine and scrape the sides down. Continue to process and scrape down the sides until the cashews butter is a smooth, creamy consistency. If the cashew butter is to pasty, it may be necessary to add a little more oil. Add oil, one teaspoon at time, down the spout while the machine in on until the texture turns smooth.

    Transfer the cashew butter to a jar that seals tightly. Refrigerate. Cashew butter is an unprocessed food, and the oil and solids sometimes separate in the jar. If this happens, simply stir together before using it. For a spreadable consistency, warm the cashew butter to room temperature.

    Banana Cashew Milk Shake

    1/2 banana, peeled
    2 Tbsp cashew butter
    1 scoop vanilla frozen yogurt
    1 cup milk (soy or dairy)

    Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Pour into glasses and enjoy. Make 2 servings.

     


    Food Allergies and Children

    In the past when we have profiled a nut, we’ve gotten quite a few write-in comments about nut allergies. Since we are covering the cashew this month, we thought this would be a perfect time to include some details on food allergies and children. Nuts are common allergen among children and they can cause one of the more severe, even life- threatening allergic reactions known as anaphylaxis. Only about six percent of all children have clinically diagnosed food allergies. This number is rather small, but food intolerance, which presents itself much like a food allergy, adds to the public perception that this is a major issue. While the medical difference is quite different, the solution to a food allergy and an intolerance is to remove the culprit food from your diet. Food allergies can be very dangerous, and early detection is critical to managing them and the health of your child. Any family history of food allergies should be discussed with your health care provider prior to introducing solid foods to your baby. Food allergies or food intolerances can occur even if there is no previous family history of such. As you introduce your child to new foods, you should introduce each new food one at a time, and watch for any changes in your child’s appearance or behavior. Some common symptoms of food allergies/intolerances include:

    Rashes or eczema, especially on the face
    Diaper Rash
    Hives
    Runny nose, watery eyes, or sneezing
    Diarrhea, gas, or vomiting
    Irritability
    Temperament changes
    Puffy eyes
    Nasal congestion

    One way to prevent food allergies is not to introduce commonly-known allergenic foods until later in your baby’s life, at 1, 2 or even 3 years old. This approach is referred to as a^?oedelayed introductiona^??. The foods that children react to are those foods they eat often. The most common food allergens that cause problems in children are eggs, milk, peanuts, soy, and wheat. A more complete list includes:

    Artificial colors and preservatives
    Berries
    Chocolate
    Citrus Fruits
    Cow’s milk
    Eggs
    Fish and shellfish
    Nuts
    Peanuts
    Soy
    Tomatoes
    Wheat
    Yeast

    Fortunately, most allergic reactions in babies are temporary and the culprit foods can usually be reintroduced when the child is older. Food allergies can be very serious, so it is important to follow the advice that is given to you by a healthcare professional.

    Help for the allergy sufferer: While there is no cure for food allergies, eliminating foods from your diet is often easier said than done. Reading ingredient labels of foods can be a daunting and confusing task. Eight major foods – milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans – account for 90 percent of food allergies. If you or your child suffers from one of these common food allergies, there is some good news that makes reading ingredient labels easier. As of January 1, 2006, food manufacturers must include a listing of the plain English name of these culprit foods just below the ingredient listing. These new standards provide a definite improvement for the food allergy sufferer.


    February 2005
    Yogurt
    By Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers

    Most people associate yogurt with cow’s milk, but it can also be made from goat, sheep, camel and soy milk. Yogurt originated in the Middle East, where the domestication of the cow occurred about 9,000 years ago. It’s likely that yogurt was eaten long before it was recorded in history in about 2000 BC. Modern interest in yogurt began in 1910, when Russian researcher Ilya Metchnikoff reported that Bulgarian peasants, whose diets included a great deal of yogurt, lived to extraordinary ages (Does anyone remember those yogurt commercials from the 70′s?).

    Yogurt is a cultured milk product, made by adding “good” bacteria to milk. These “friendly” cultures, L. bulgaricus (named after those long-living Bulgarian peasants) and S. thermophilus, are what give yogurt its special properties. Similar to the making of beer or cheese, yogurt is made by introducing a bacteria culture into milk and allowing time for it to ferment. The result of this process is the creamy texture and distinctive flavor we all know as yogurt.

    Many people eat yogurt for its health benefits, because yogurt is more than a delicious, nutritious food. Along with being a good source of protein, calcium, and potassium, yogurt with live, active cultures can help to overcome lactose intolerance, and help to prevent and combat digestive tract infections. Some recent research also indicates the possibility that yogurt can help boost the immune system, lower cholesterol, and has potential in the prevention of certain cancers.

    Other yogurt folklore remedies profess the benefits of yogurt for skin disorders from pimples to eczema and psoriasis. Additionally, yogurt has been mentioned in treatments for insomnia, hepatitis and jaundice. Bottom line – yogurt is good food!

    Age to introduce: About 10-12 months old

    Toddler Treat: Sweetheart Parfait

    A parfait is an old-fashioned layered dessert that looks pretty, and is fun to eat. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, we thought you would enjoy a nice sweet treat to serve for dessert to your special loved ones.

     

    Ingredients for each parfait:

    • 3 Tbsp. strawberry puree (made from 3-4 large strawberries)
    • 1 Tbsp. chocolate syrup
    • A^1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
    • Whipped cream and sprinkles (optional)
    • Parfait glasses, short stemmed wine glasses, or tall glasses

    Directions:
    Puree the strawberries in a blender. Make the parfaits by layering the ingredients in each glass in the following order:
    2-3 Tbsp yogurt
    1 Tbsp chocolate syrup
    2-3 Tbsp yogurt
    3 Tbsp strawberries
    2-3 Tbsp yogurt

    Chill. Just before serving, top with whipped cream and sprinkles. Grab your spoons and dig in – Happy Valentine’s Day!

    Yogurt For The Family

    At the market: Yogurt is as familiar as milk in the dairy cases of supermarkets everywhere. It is available fresh or frozen and in regular, low-fat, and nonfat varieties a^??g and talk about the choice in flavors! As with many processed foods, there are varying qualities of yogurt and even some a^?oesmoothiea^?? brands that you might assume are yogurt, but contain just milk, no yogurt.

    It is best to choose an organic brand of yogurt and to make sure the ingredients contain the two important live active cultures L. bulgaricus and S. Thermophilus.

    To remove some of the fat in your recipes and add the health benefits of yogurt to your food, you can use plain yogurt as an alternative to mayonnaise and sour cream in dips, sauces, dressings and more. The tangy flavor of yogurt is often too much for a full substitution, so half and half often works best. Here are few ideas:.

     

    • Substitute plain yogurt for 1/3 to 1/2 the mayonnaise normally used in tuna, chicken and potato salads.
    • Use equal parts sour cream and plain yogurt in your dip recipes to serve with vegetables, or try mixing plain yogurt with chili sauce for a simple shrimp dipping sauce.
    • Add a dash of garlic powder and some fresh chopped chives to plain yogurt and serve as a topping for baked potatoes. It’s a great substitute for sour cream.
    • Add yogurt to your favorite meat marinade. Yogurt is a natural tenderizer and meats cooked in yogurt tend to be juicier.
    • Instead of using milk in your pancake and waffles recipes, try half milk and half plain yogurt.
    • Switch from to full-fat ice cream to frozen yogurt for desserts. Fruit-flavored yogurt in tubes can be frozen and they make a yummy after-school or after- dinner treat.

    Try this homemade creamy dill yogurt dressing on cucumbers or serve it with fish (especially awesome with salmon). It can also be used instead of mayonnaise to make unforgettable deviled eggs.

    Creamy Dill Dressing

    • A^1/2 cup plain yogurt
    • A^1/2 cup mayonnaise
    • 1 Tbsp chopped chives or scallions
    • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
    • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
    • Salt and pepper, to taste

    Directions: Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well until smooth and creamy. Chill until ready to serve.


    November 2005
    Brainy Breakfast

    Your mom was right. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Yet there are plenty of sleepy kids and rushing parents who are likely to skip breakfast. Sending your child off for the day without breakfast is like driving your car without enough gas. A healthy breakfast not only fuels their bodies for the busy day ahead, it helps them think more clearly. Here are the three top reasons kids can benefit from a Brainy Breakfast:

    1. Breakfast helps build brighter brains.
      Eating breakfast starts up your metabolism, which can help deliver vital nutrients to your brain. Research has shown that children who begin the day with a Brainy Breakfast have a longer attention span and perform better in school throughout the day.
    2. Breakfast promotes better behavior.
      Schoolchildren are faced with the challenge of learning to control their behavior. It’s hard to do this if you’re hungry and your blood sugar level is dropping. A nutritious breakfast helps steady children’s blood sugar level throughout the morning. If a child doesn’t refuel with a healthy breakfast, she may become cranky and unable to concentrate.
    3. Breakfast promotes healthy body weight.
      You can’t stay lean by skipping breakfast. In fact, children who skip breakfasta^??hor who rarely eat breakfasta^??hare more likely to be overweight. When children eat a healthy breakfast, they are more likely to choose nutritious food throughout the rest of the day. Skipping breakfast will make children hungry later and they may overeat all day long to make up for what they missed in the morning.

    10 BRAINY BREAKFASTS

    An ideal, nutritious breakfast contains a balance of complex carbohydrates and protein. Think grains, plus dairy and fruits. Here are some ideas for a balanced breakfast:

    1. Whole grain cereal, with a blend of essential nutrients, with low-fat milk and fresh fruit.
    2. Scrambled eggs, whole-wheat toast, and a glass of calcium-fortified orange juice.
    3. Veggie omelet with whole-wheat toast and a glass of low-fat milk.
    4. Whole-grain pancakes or waffles topped with berries and yogurt, and low-fat milk.
    5. Whole-wheat zucchini pancakes topped with fruit and a glass of calcium-fortified orange juice.
    6. French toast topped with fresh fruit and a glass of low-fat milk.
    7. Low-fat cheese melted on whole-wheat toast with a piece of fresh fruit.
    8. Low-fat cream cheese on a whole-grain bagel, orange juice.
    9. Peanut butter and banana slices on a whole wheat English muffin with low-fat milk.
    10. Pressed for time? Try a quick and tasty breakfast smoothie.
      1. Limit the amount of time your child watches TV. Two to three hours per week is ample for an elementary-aged child. After a few days of whining, their dusty imagination kicks in and you will be surprised by what a bored child can think up to do.
      2. Parents need to make sure that their children get three wholesome meals a day. Parents are in charge of what food is offered to their child at home. Offer meals that include whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, fish and a limited amount of dairy products. Sugar is not a meal. Juice is not a meal. If you don’t want junk food to be a subject of contention, don’t buy it. If you do buy it, set limits – only so much, only so often.
      3. Talk to your children about food advertising on TV. Ask them what ads they remember. Find out if they can identify the message behind the ad. Do they believe that going to a fast-food restaurant is a guaranteed good time? What about the ad makes them want to eat that food? Go to that place?
      4. Talk to your children about good nutrition. Show them the USDA Food Pyramid. Teach them how to read labels. Take them shopping. Let them help you plan one or more meals per week. Grow a garden. Let them see what real food looks like growing.
      • Protects water quality of rivers, streams, and drinking water;
      • Prevents soil erosion;
      • Protects wildlife;
      • Supports sustainable farming practices, such as crop rotation, cover crop planting, beneficial insect release, and composting; and
      • Supports biodiversity at many levels.
      • Apples
      • Bell peppers
      • Celery
      • Cherries
      • Grapes (imported)
      • Nectarines
      • Peaches
      • Pears
      • Potatoes
      • Red Raspberries
      • Spinach
      • Strawberries
      • Asparagus
      • Avocados
      • Bananas
      • Broccoli
      • Cauliflower
      • Corn (sweet)
      • Kiwi
      • Mangos
      • Onions
      • Papayas
      • Pineapples
      • Peas (sweet)
      • “100% Organic” label means made with 100% organic ingredients;
      • “Organic” label means made with at least 95% organic ingredients;
      • “Made With Organic Ingredients” label means made with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients with strict restrictions on the remaining 30% including no GMOs (genetically modified organisms); and
      • Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may list organically produced ingredients on the side panel of the package, but may not make any organic claims on the front of the package.
      • Soak beans (see preparation instructions above) to leach out oligosaccharides. Soaking also helps to neutralize phytates so minerals are better absorbed by your body.
      • Change the soak water once or twice.
      • Drain and rinse soaked beans before cooking.
      • Cook beans with a strip of kombu sea vegetable to tenderize beans and improve digestibility.
      • Season beans with ginger, turmeric, fennel seeds, or asafetida. These spices add flavor and improve digestion.
      • Eat legumes with greens to neutralize the beans acidity and make them more digestible. I always add some chopped kale or collard greens to soups like minestrone and lentil.
      • Eat legumes with vitamin C foods (tomatoes, peppers, cabbage) to include mineral absorption. Another great way to get vitamin C is to sprinkle minced parsley over your finished bean dish.
      • Sift through legumes, picking out damaged beans, pebbles, and other debris. Rinse.
      • Place legumes in a bowl or pot with at least three times their volume of water. Soak for 8 to 24 hours. Change the soak water several times if possible. (Lentils, split peas, adzuki beans, and black-eyed peas don’t require soaking.)
      • When ready to cook, drain soak water and rinse legumes. Place legumes in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add water; use about 3 to 4 times the amount of dried legumes you started with (i.e. if you started with 1 cup dried legumes, use 3 to 4 cups water.)
      • Bring beans to a boil over high heat in the uncovered pot. Skim off any foam that rises to the top of the water. Turn heat to lowest setting. Cover the pot and simmer for 45 minutes to two hours, or until legumes are tender. Stir as little as possible so they do not become mushy.
      • Wait until beans are slightly tender to add salt and seasonings. Salt, sugar, fat, and acidic foods added at the beginning of cooking may prevent beans from softening.


    11. September 2005
      The Herb of Persia
      By Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers

      Spinach was first cultivated in Persia (now Iran) about 2,000 years ago. The earliest written record of spinach is Chinese, where it was referred to as the “Herb of Persia”. Interestingly, spinach was not eaten by the ancient Greeks and Romans, though today it serves as a staple vegetable in many traditional dishes in Greece. The Arab Moors introduced spinach into Spain in 1100 AD. By the 1300s, it had spread to Europe and Britain where it was popular in religious communities, particularly during Lent. It was being cultivated in North America by the early part of the 19th century.

      You may recall Popeye, the cartoon character that made himself super strong by eating spinach. While Popeye may not have appeared to be the smartest sailor on the seas, it may surprise you to learn that in addition to acquiring his amazing strength from spinach, he was also protecting himself against osteoporosis, heart disease, colon cancer, arthritis, and other diseases by eating spinach.

      Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, beta carotene, Folate (a B vitamin), and a very good source of magnesium. These nutrients are important for maintaining a healthy heart. Spinach is also high in dietary fiber and contains a substance known as Cartenoids, that help to keep eyes healthy in elderly people and to fight prostate cancer. The vitamin K provided by spinach – almost 200% of the Daily Value in one cup of fresh spinach leaves – is important for maintaining bone health. And of course, from Popeye we learn cooked spinach is an excellent source of iron. Boosting iron stores with spinach is a good idea, especially because, in comparison to red meat, a well known source of iron, spinach provides iron for a lot less calories and is totally fat-free.

      While spinach may not make you incredibly strong the minute you eat it, eating it regularly can improve your overall heath and help you avoid some very serious health conditions. It seems like Popeye was pretty smart after all. (Toot! Toot!).

      Age to introduce: 8-10 months. Fresh spinach is high in nitrates. In little babies, under 8 months old, nitrates can deplete iron stores causing anemia.

      Toddler Treat: Popeye’s Stuffed Eggs

      This recipe is a flavorful and interesting twist on deviled eggs. Serve them for lunch, snack or as a party appetizer. They are sure to be hit with kids (and adults too).

      Ingredients:

      3 oz frozen chopped spinach thawed
      6 hard-boiled eggs
      1/4 cup parmesan cheese
      2 Tbsp. milk (dairy or soy)
      2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
      Dash of nutmeg
      Dash of black pepper

      Directions:
      Cook spinach in the microwave for 3 minutes. Chop finely and set aside. Slice the eggs in half (lengthwise). Remove the yolks and place them in a small mixing bowl. Mash yolks with a fork. Add milk, mayo, cheese, spinach, nutmeg and pepper. Mix well.

      Using a spoon fill each egg white half with the yolk mixture, cover and refrigerate until serving time. Can be made up to a day ahead.

      At the market: Choose spinach that has vibrant deep green leaves, and appears to be fresh, not wilted. Chopped spinach, a common ingredient in recipes, can be found in the frozen food section.

      Storage: Fresh spinach will last for about 4 days when kept loosely packed in a plastic bag and placed in a refrigerator crisper compartment. Do not wash it before storing.

      Preparation: The leaves and stems of spinach tend to collect dirt and sand, so it needs to be washed well before using it. If the spinach is very dirty, try swishing it around a bowl of cold water to remove the dirt. Remove any thick stems. If you are using spinach for salad, dry the spinach using a salad spinner or simply roll it up in a clean kitchen towel. If you are cooking it, there is no need to dry it.

      Simple creamed spinach: Cook a 10 oz. package of frozen chopped spinach. Drain well. Blend in 1 (3 oz.) package of softened cream cheese with chives. Add a dash of salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Heat up in the microwave for 1- 2 minutes. Serve.

      Hearty creamed spinach: Make “Simple creamed spinach” (recipe above) and mix in 1 ½ cups of brown rice, and 1/4 cup chopped walnuts. Garnish with crumbled bacon (optional). Great for lunch or a side dish at dinner.

      Spinach and Sweet Potato Risotto: Prepare risotto according to package directions. In a separate pan, sauté a medium-sized, diced sweet potato in 3-4 Tbsp olive oil until soft and nicely browned (about 10 minutes), add 2 cups of fresh, washed spinach. Toss gently and let the spinach wilt in the pan. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix spinach mixture with risotto. Garnish with grated parmesan cheese.

      Spinach and blue cheese spaghetti: Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Sauté 2 cloves of minced garlic with 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large saucepan. Add 14-16 ounces of chopped, fresh spinach leaves. Toss until the spinach is wilted. Remove from heat and add 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts and ½ cup crumbled blue cheese. Combine well. Serve spinach mixture over pasta.

      Recommendations:

      Substituting fresh spinach for lettuce on deli style sandwiches.
      Adding fresh spinach to a quesadilla or grilled cheese sandwich.
      Adding layers of spinach to your lasagna.
      Adding fresh spinach to tacos or enchiladas.
      Tossing fresh spinach into your favorite soup in the final minute of cooking.
      Making salads with spinach instead of lettuce.


      July 2005
      Organic: For the Earth, For Your Family
      By Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers

      The organic market has experienced double digit growth for several years now, and it is showing no signs of a slowdown. Many people develop interest in organic foods at the birth of their first child (or during the pregnancy). It makes sense. It’s the perfect time to focus on what is healthy for the family and the environment.

      Organic For The Planet

      As you probably know, organic food is produced and transported completely free of chemicals – no pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, growth hormones, or irradiation, and only organic feed for animals. What you may not know is that organic food production is a highly regulated, closely monitored, and modern industry. Organic farmers and processing plants are certified by a regulatory agency, must keep detailed records, adhere to strict quality standards, and are subject to surprise inspections.

      In addition to remaining chemical-free, organic farmers must also seek to build healthy soils, treat animals humanely, and take special action to protect waterways. All the work that goes into organic food production is paid back to us in the form of a cleaner environment and reduced public health risks. Organic food production:

      Organic Site-ing

      The Organic Center: This is a great site for staying up-to-date on the science of organic. The Organic Center is positioned to be the Nation’s clearing house for hard-core science and studies highlighting why organic products are more unique, distinguished, and attractive.

      Visit The Organic Center’s Website and you will find a terrific resource for all aspects of organic research.


      Organic For Your Family’s Health

      Many ask, “Is organic food healthier?” This question is the source of much debate, study, and opinion.

      In terms of the health risks of pesticides residues in food, consider this, the EPA approved many pesticides and fertilizers long before extensive research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. Today, the EPA considers 60% of all herbicides, 90% of all fungicides, and 30% of all insecticides as potentially cancer- causing. The Organic Center reports that conventional produce is eight times more likely to contain pesticide residues than organic.

      In addition to producing foods without the use of chemicals, organic food producers are prohibited from using Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) ingredients too. GMO is a term that is used for products that are the result of genetic engineering. An example of GMO use in farming is the creation of pesticide resistant seeds or crops. The subject of GMOs is extremely controversial, and there is scientific evidence that GMOs have a public health risk of unidentified allergens and toxins.

      Another common question to ask is “Do organically-grown foods provide greater nutritional value?” Unfortunately, this question this is very difficult to answer, and no single study will ever offer a simple answer. Although nothing is conclusive at this time, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest a connection between organic farming practices and increased nutrient content of organically produced foods.

      And finally, there is the all-important question – “Do organic foods taste better?” To find out the answer to this question, you will have to be your own judge.


      Shopping For Organic

      When shopping for your family, you should consider that per pound of body weight, babies consume about 60 times more fruits and vegetables than adults. This fact combined with undeveloped digestive and immune systems, put young children at the greatest health risk for pesticide residues. To minimize the effects, you might consider buying organic for those foods that your children eat regularly.

      Produce: Pesticides levels vary in produce. Here is a list of common fruits and veggies that are high in pesticide residues. Because of the naturally high levels, you might consider buying organic for these foods:

      On the flip side, these fruits and veggies are commonly found to have the lowest levels of pesticide residues

      (Source: The Environmental Workers Union)

      Dairy, egg and meat products: While produce is often associated with organic food, there is a growing interest among consumers in dairy, egg, and meat products. The reason for increased interest is quite simple – consumers want to know their food is safe. The strict guidelines for producing organic foods are the answer to consumer concerns. Organic eggs and dairy products are ready available in supermarkets. Horizon, Stonyfield Farm and Eggland’s Best are just a few national brands. Organic meats may be harder to find. Look for them in natural products stores, farmer’s markets and through home delivery services.

      Processed foods: Many stores are stocking their shelves with organically processed foods too. In order to make it easier to shop for organic products, the USDA has defined special labeling:


      May 2005
      Legumes

      By Cathe Olson

       

      For centuries, legumes have been a dietary staple in many countries around the world. Legume dishes are still found in almost every culture. Chickpeas are featured in the Middle Eastern favorites: falafel and hummus. East India dal is made with lentils or mung beans, and pinto and black beans are a common side dish in Mexico. It’s no surprise that legumes are so popular. They are inexpensive, versatile, easy to store, and extremely nutritious.

      So what are legumes anyway? Legumes are the seeds of pod-bearing plants including beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts. Dried legumes are an excellent source of vegetarian protein. When cooked, they contain 21 to 35 percent protein. Legumes have lots of fiber. They are digested slowly, causing only a slight rise in blood sugar levels (making them a good choice for diabetics). Legumes contain high amo

      unts of B vitamins, including folate, which is essential for pregnant women because of its role in cell development. Legumes are also rich in minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc.

      When I was a kid, my mom made beans soups often. It was a great way to stretch a little bit of meat to feed six hungry children. My siblings and I liked to sing, “Beans, beans, good for your heart . . .” Well, it’s true, they are! A University of Kentucky study showed that increasing bean intake for only three weeks lowered men’s cholesterol an average of 19 percent, thereby reducing their risk of heart attack by almost 40 percent.

      A big advantage for busy parents is that legumes are easy to prepare. Most require soaking, however, so a little advance planning is necessary. Also, legumes take some time to cook but very little hands-on time is required.

      If you know the rest of that song “Beans, beans, good for your heart, the more you eat, the more you —-.” Well, unfortunately, that part is true as well. Beans are known to cause flatulence. The problem is that the human digestive system cannot break down the oligosaccharides in dried legumes so they end up intact in the large intestine where the bacterial action results in flatulence.

      There are ways to minimize the effects. First of all, certain legumes (like lentils and split peas) are less gas producing, so if you are not accustomed to eating legumes, those are good ones to start with. Here are some ways to make beans easier on your digestive system and increase the availability of nutrients:

      Following are general instructions for cooking legumes. Many cookbooks have legume cooking charts that specify exact measurements and cooking times. (The recommended cookbooks below all have that information.)

      I’ve talked mostly about preparing dried legumes from scratch, but what about canned beans? Canned beans are certainly convenient but they are processed using high temperature and pressures making them slightly less nutritious than beans from scratch. Canned beans also contain high amounts of sodium, so if you use them, be sure to drain and rinse them. As an alternative to canned beans, cook up big batches of legumes from scratch and freeze them in two-cup-size containers (about the same amount as a can). Then you’ll have convenience and a better product.

      So what’s your favorite bean dish? Split pea soup, bean and cheese burritos, chili, bean salad? The cookbooks below all have lots of yummy, family-friendly bean recipes. Enjoy!

      Cookbook Suggestions:

      Beans, by Aliza Green. (Running Press, 2004).
      The New Laurel’s Kitchen, by Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders, and Brian Ruppenthal. (Ten Speed Press, 1986).
      The Passionate Vegetarian, by Cresent Dragonwagon. (Workman Publishing, 2002).
      Rodale’s Basic Natural Foods Cookbook, edited by Charles Gerras. (Simon & Schuster, 1984).
      The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook, by Cathe Olson. (GOCO Publishing, 2005).


      April 2005
      Eating Eggs

      By Cynthia Lair

      Which came first? Eggs were around a good 250 million years before chickens were. The chicken, as we know it today, was a latecomer among domesticated animals and arrived on the scene a mere 4000-5000 years ago. Today we keep the females of the species busy producing eggs for human consumption. Folks in the United States eat about 235 eggs per person per year.

      Eggs are a very nutrient-dense food. One egg contains about 6.5 grams of highly usable, easily digestible protein. In fact, the amino acid complex in eggs is so well-proportioned that eggs are used as a reference point for judging the quality of protein in other foods. The white contains about 10% protein, the rest is water. The yolk has the goodies. There are 5 grams of fat in the yolk along with appreciable amounts of calcium, phosphorus and “heme” iron, a most absorbable form. Vitamins A, D and B-complex are also present. The fat in egg yolk is also rich in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids and yes, cholesterol.

      Cholesterol is a vital healing substance manufactured by the liver. A small portion of what we need is derived from dietary sources. One excellent source of cholesterol is mother’s milk. Another is egg yolks. The 213 milligrams of cholesterol per egg is balanced with sufficient lecithin to keep the cholesterol circulating in the blood, preventing it from depositing in the arteries. When our blood vessels are damaged by free radicals, which occur when we ingest unstable or rancid oils, the body sends a natural healing substance to repair the damage – cholesterol. Recent research shows that the cholesterol plays a role as an anti-oxidant. Blaming coronary heart disease on cholesterol is akin to blaming the Band-Aid for the cut.

      Like other fats, cholesterol can be damaged by exposure to heat and light. This oxidized cholesterol can promote injury to arterial cell walls as well as lead to a pathological build-up of plaque in the arteries. Damaged cholesterol can be found in powdered eggs and milk and in meats and fats that have been heated to high temperatures in frying or other high-temperature processes. When humans consume a diet of rancid or chemically altered fats combined with refined sugars and carbohydrates which offer no immune support, the stage is set for heart disease. Anytime the finger is pointed at a natural food which has supported human beings for thousands of years we must suspect the intention behind the research. There is much profit to be made from new food products and drugs that claim to protect our health. There are many cultures on the planet that have consumed fresh eggs for generations who also show a low incidence of heart disease.

      Moving out of the mechanistic way of thinking and looking at eggs from an energetic point of view, we see other qualities. Most animal foods are pieces of a whole. The egg is an exception; truly a WHOLE food. According to Chinese medicine eggs move energy up and out, they have an ascending force. This is why eating them is thought to help secure the fetus or aid diarrhea. Eggs are a very yang or concentrated food; one that can help us build up our forces and actualize our potential. This profile also shows us that high-quality eggs may be just the right food for those who are growing at a rapid pace, working at physically strenuous jobs or rebuilding strength after an illness or stressful time.

      A chicken’s natural diet is seeds and insects. The fat in both enhance the essential fatty acids in the eggs they produce. Many natural foods stores offer eggs gathered from “free-range” hens. These are hens that are allowed outside where they can, hopefully, scratch for seeds and insects. Legally “free-range” only means that the chicken coop must have a door. No other criteria, such as vegetation, size of area, number of birds, or space per bird, are comprised in this term. Talk to your natural food store manager and learn more about who they buy their “free-range” eggs from and what the living conditions for the hens are actually like. Today’s cartons boast things like “vegetarian,” “Omega-3” or “Organic” which all refer to the hen’s diet. “Fertile eggs”, another option, come from hens who are allowed to fraternize with roosters. Their yolks may contain a microscopic embryo whose growth is halted by refrigeration. There is no nutritional advantage to fertile eggs, but the hens may be happier.

      Most eggs sold in supermarkets and prepared in restaurants come from “battery” hens. These birds are penned up in cages in a factory and fed grains, growth hormones and antibiotics so they will lay eggs at a much higher rate than normal. John Robbins, in his book Diet for a New America, reminds us of the horrific health of hens living under these conditions. According to Robbins’ sources they are packed in wire cages like sardines and their behavior is described as “hysterical.” Ninety percent of chickens kept this way have leukosis, a form of cancer found in chickens.

      If possible, buy eggs from a local farmer or neighbor that keeps laying hens. The difference in taste and quality will amaze you. One needs only to break open a supermarket egg and compare it to a freshly-laid egg from a happy hen to see the difference. The supermarket egg has a watery white with a flat, pale yellow yolk. The healthier egg will have a yolk with a striking golden color that sits up proudly in a thick, viscous white. Store eggs in their paper carton, in the refrigerator – not those silly egg holders. The shells of eggs are permeable and moist and the carton helps keep them from drying out.

      I like eggs. We sometimes get them fresh from a farm on Vashon Island where the fowl roam free. They keep several kinds of laying hens so there are a variety of beautiful shell colors – pale green, tan, light blue. The yolks in these eggs are a deep amber color and the taste is sweet.

      For me, choosing food is all about consciousness and knowing what is right for my body at a particular time. I want to know where my food came from and what’s been done to it since nature created it. I want the food I eat to have a long history of being food for humans, not just a century or so. Eggs from humanely-kept hens that have been fed well are a precious food. Purchased with care and eaten in modest amounts, eggs can help increase our potential.

      Book recommendation: Read Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon (ProMotion Publishing, 1995)


      March 2005
      Children Get Fat Watching TV

      One out of four children in the U. S. between the age of 5 and 18 is obese. Overweight is defined as weighing 110% of the desirable weight for your height. Obesity is defined as a condition that is marked by an excessive amount of body fat. For males this means someone whose body fat comprises 20% of their weight as compared to normal values of 15% to 18%. For females, obesity is marked by a body weight of 28% to 30% fat, compared to normal values of 18% to 24%. Obesity is also described as weighing 120% or more of the desired weight for height. Why are so many of our children so fat?

      Most studies blame obesity in children on our sedentary lifestyle. There has been a huge increase in the amount of time children spend watching television, playing video games and using computers. Concurrently there is a decrease in the amount of time children spend running, jumping, climbing, walking and playing outdoors. Forty percent of boys aged 6-12 can’t touch their toes. Studies show that there is a strong association between the number of hours of television watched and the degree of obesity. Those who watch more that five hours of TV a day can fall into the category of “extremely obese.” According to William H Dietz, pediatrician and prominent obesity expert at Tufts University, “The easiest way to reduce inactivity is to turn off the TV set. Almost anything else uses more energy than watching TV.”

      But what about the effect of what children watch during the 3-5 hours a day they spend in front of the tube? Most programming has only one purpose – to hold our attention until the next ad. Consumers International in the UK conducted an International Comparative Survey of TV Food Advertising Aimed at Children. The UK, US and Australia have the highest levels of TV advertising directed at children. The survey uncovered that over half of all food advertising on UK television was for sugary breakfast cereals and fast food restaurants. Over 95% of the commercials for food were for products high in fat, sugar and salt. Never mind that the products also contain refined grains, artificial coloring and flavoring and a vast array of chemicals and preservatives. Most foods advertised on TV are nothing but lifeless, processed, empty calories. Children are bombarded with TV ads telling them that bad food is good.

      Children are seduced into wanting these foods by savvy advertising schemes. They believe the message behind the ads. They are led to believe that eating the food in the ad will make you stronger, smarter or have more fun. Half of Australian 9 and 10 year olds believe that Ronald Mc Donald knows what is good for children to eat.

      In many households both parents are working. Often children are in school, day care and after school care for 10 of their 14 waking hours. When parents pick up kids after a long work day, the last thing the want to do during their short amount of time together is deny them their favorite food. Swing by Burger King. The kids get what they saw on TV, the parents don’t have to deal with the chore of cooking and everyone’s happy. But are they?

      Children who are overweight are more prone to medical diseases, low self-esteem, depression and rejection by their peers. That’s a big trade-off for a Big Mac habit. One-third of our children under the age of 18 suffer from one or more chronic health conditions including asthma and diabetes. This is a stunning reflection of what our current lifestyle is doing to our children.

      How to prevent these problems? By taking simple actions that are difficult to put into practice:

      Ultimately is up to us to decide what goes into our children’s mouths, eyes, ears and minds. Children need strong boundaries. Take charge. Protect your child’s health. Turn off the tube.


      February 2005
      Got Greens?

      I’ve been working in the field of nutrition, whole foods, and cooking since 1983. I get pretty excited when I teach about the nutritional advantages and culinary delights of whole foods, but when it comes to dark leafy greens, I become a cheerleader.

      Dark leafy greens are one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. They are richer in useable carotene (the precursor to Vitamin A) than are carrots. Low levels of folic acid have been related to poor fetal development, mental deterioration and anemia. The name of this nutrient comes from “folium” which means “leaf”, for it is found in abundance in bright green foliage. We all want to make sure that we get enough of the synergistic antioxidant Vitamin C in our diets. Besides citrus fruits, green leafy foods pack the most of this essential nutrient.

      The mineral calcium is a hot topic of conversation and media. Many of today’s children are displaying an allergy or sensitivity to milk products and parents become very concerned about where their kids will get the calcium they need to build strong bones without dairy. I have always advocated obtaining calcium from a wide variety of foods, not just milk. And, you guessed it, dark leafy greens are one of the richest non-dairy sources of calcium. Plus the Vitamin C and magnesium which are abundant in leafy greens enhance calcium absorption.

      Eating foods rich in chlorophyll helps provide the body with Vitamin K and oxygen-carrying red blood cells, and it has long been known that eating greens aids digestion. Greens are the perfect food if you are pregnant, nursing or simply looking for more energy. Want regular bowel movements? Extra protection against osteoporosis ? Clear, supple skin? Eat greens.

      So if this one food contains so many gifts, why aren’t greens served in every home, in every restaurant, at every meal? Probably the chief reason has to do with familiarity. Foods that aren’t familiar tend to be rejected at first. Also, shoppers sometimes pass by the greens because they’ve never eaten them before and don’t know how to prepare them.

      It takes at least fifteen exposures to something before the human being labels it as “familiar”. Yet parents all too willingly cross off food after food from their child’s list of what’s acceptable to eat after the first refusal. Pretty soon the frustrated parent feels painted in the corner with nothing to serve for dinner besides macaroni and cheese. Don’t give up and make separate meals! Serve foods that you know provide everyone in the family with nourishment. Have patience. Give your family time to cozy up to greens on the plate.

      One of my favorite dishes is kasha and potatoes. I like to eat it with a side of sautéed greens. As a 3-year old my child was not the least bit interested in buckwheat but 8 years later (that’s right EIGHT years) at the age of 11, she decided it’s pretty good stuff; even asks for it! The trick was that I continued to serve it and enjoy it myself during her eight year hiatus with little to no pressure on her to eat a big helping. When a side dish of greens is offered as medicine the child must swallow so they can have dessert, it gives a negative message. Regularly serving, eating and enjoying greens yourself is the best advertisement.

      There are many wonderful edible plants that fall into the category of dark leafy greens. The list includes arugula, beet greens, bok choy, collard greens, dandelion greens, kale, lamb’s quarters, mustard greens, spinach, Swiss chard, and watercress. Freshly chopped leafy green herbs like basil, cilantro, Italian parsley and mint also add nutrients to any meal. Most tender greens like arugula, spinach, watercress and fresh herbs need little or no cooking. They can be added to salads or tossed into a cooked dish just before serving. The more mature greens like bok choy, collards, dandelion greens, and kale need more attention. If they’re cooked until they are grayish green you’ve lost most of the nutritional value, but if they are steamed or served raw they have a bitter flavor and a tough texture. There are three methods of cooking these more assertive greens that work for me in preserving both flavor and nutrients: quick-boiling, simmering and sautéing. I’ve used all three techniques in the recipes in my books. When applying all three cooking techniques, look for the outcome described next..

      Use your senses when cooking greens. Visually the leaves should begin to lose their perkiness and wilt but retain the bright green color. Taste the greens every minute or so as you cook them. Tear off or pull out a small piece and chew it. If the texture is still tough or the juices in your mouth taste bitter, the greens need more cooking time. If the green has very little taste, you’ve cooked it too long. There is balance point where when you taste the green, it has a tender texture and chewing releases sweet juices in your mouth. Pull the greens off the heat at this point and finish the dish.

      I recently worked on a middle school musical with a very lively, enthusiastic young woman who was nursing her third child. With baby at the breast, Molly played show tunes with gusto on the piano at every rehearsal. When she invited us to her home for a cast party, where she had prepared a lovely banquet, someone asked, “How do you do all this? I was sleepwalking when I was nursing. And you seem so cheerful!” While dishing up a beautiful salad she replied, “My naturopath told me to eat more greens. If I just eat greens and meditate each day, I do fine.” I couldn’t dream up better testimony.


      January 2005
      FOOD FOR BREASTFEEDING MOTHERS

      We have only begun to discover the myriad ways in which breast milk nourishes and protects both mother and child. One of the awesome things we know about breast milk is that it is alive. While formula is static, breast milk is constantly changing. There is a biological communication established between mother and baby during nursing and the milk responds to the needs of the baby. For example, the milk produced for a premature baby is different than the milk that comes in for a full-term infant. Breast milk even changes within a single feeding. The milk that comes out of the breast at the beginning of the feeding is more watery and satisfies thirst quickly. Toward the end of the feeding, the milk (called the hind milk) becomes richer in fat. Both are vital for baby. The mother’s body can increase the bioavailability of certain nutrients in the milk or restrict substances that appear dangerous. In other words, the mother’s body adapts the chemical composition of her milk to meet the unique needs of her baby! That is amazing!

      We also know that the diet of the breastfeeding mother affects the quality of her milk. For instance, the alcohol from a single drink consumed by a nursing mother appears in the breast milk in the same concentration as the mother’s blood within 30 minutes. Women who eat foods that are heavily laden in pesticides will pass traces of those substances into their milk. Nicotine ingested by a nursing mother who smokes cigarettes passes into the breast milk as well. Foods eaten by mom can sometimes disagree with the breast-fed child; especially high-dosage vitamins, supplements high in iron, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, heavily spiced foods, and occasionally dairy products. Colicky or fussy babies may improve by changing the nursing mother’s diet.

      Okay so we know there is a relationship between what moms eat and the quality of their milk. By avoiding harmful substances women can produce “cleaner” milk. But instead of focusing on what nursing mother’s should avoid in their diet, let’s explore what to include. What are foods that help produce rich, nourishing milk?

      To find answers about the best diet for breastfeeding mothers we can look at the post-natal diet of tribal women throughout the world described in Judith Goldsmith’s book Childbirth Wisdom (East West Books, 1990). An amazing consistency of custom emerges. Tribal diets for nursing mothers focus on grain-vegetable soups, soft-cooked grains and vegetables, greens, and fish soups. Warm water and tea are drunk in large quantities to encourage the flow of milk. Excess fats, sweets, and cold liquids are specifically avoided. At one time a grain called “linga-linga” was used in Africa for nursing moms. The same grain used in Peru was called “quinoa.” Quinoa rediscovered in the 1980’s and is now grown and sold in this country. The grain is celebrated for its unusually high protein and mineral content; plus it cooks in fifteen minutes! Another grain purported to aid in producing a good milk supply is sweet brown rice, a cousin of brown rice that has a higher fat content. This grain is often eaten in the form of mochi or amasake. Foods that are thought to produce rich breast milk include whole grains, vegetables (especially dark green and orange ones), legumes, fish, and warm herbal teas – whole foods prepared in simple satisfying ways. Fish caught in the wild contain less PCBs than farm-raised fish. Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium site to find out which fish are safest to eat www.mbayaq.org/cr/seafoodwatch. Animal foods like meat, poultry, eggs and dairy give the extra protein needed. The antibiotics and pesticides used in raising animals for food get concentrated in the fat. Buying animals products that are organic or that come from companies that raise their animals in a healthful way, without antibiotics or pesticides, is worth the extra nickels.

      The Recommended Dietary Allowances from the National Academy of Sciences proposes that lactating women need an extra 1300 calories a day. Extra protein, calcium, folic acid, vitamin C and zinc are also recommended during lactation. Fulfilling those extra requirements with organic, nutrient-dense whole foods gives strong, Mother-Earth support to breastfeeding moms and their growing babies. When you go to meet your friend’s newborn, skip the stuffed animals and knitted booties. Bring a bowl of quinoa, arugula and feta salad. Everyone will benefit.

      Great Foods For Breastfeeding Moms

      These are foods that have above average levels of one or more of the following nutrients: protein, calcium, iron, folic acid, Vitamin A and Vitamin C. The RDA recommendations for these nutrients are elevated during lactation

      GRAINS – quinoa, millet, brown rice, sweet brown rice

      BEANS – chickpeas, pinto and navy beans, lentils, split peas, soyfoods

      VEGETABLES – anything dark green or orange

      FRUITS – oranges, lemons, berries, grapes, grapefruit, apricots, peaches, melon

      NUTS AND SEEDS – almonds, pine nuts, sesame and pumpkin seeds

      SEA VEGETABLES – dulse, hiziki, arame

      DAIRY – organic yogurts and cheeses, fresh goat milks and cheeses

      FISH – wild fish (as opposed to farmed fish)

      MEAT, POULTRY, EGGS – free-range, organic or raised without antibiotics or hormones


      December 2004
      Attracting Your Child to Healthier Food

      There are some very simple steps that parents can take to assure their child of better nutrition. Much of what we want for our children – healthy bodies with less illness, ability to concentrate, better study skills, adept physical ability – can be aided with a wholesome diet. The first step is to remind ourselves that we are role models. If we are eating vital, wholesome foods – whole grains, beans, fresh vegetables and fruit, healthy animal products – our children will be more likely to follow suit. Sometimes this requires parents to negotiate a united purpose. If one parent offers celery stalks for snacks and the other scoots out to the ice cream store, the children get mixed messages and will lean toward the more stimulating food.

      Parents not only need to be in sync, they have to be willing to set boundaries around food and eating habits. Just as you would not let a 5-year-old choose when to go to bed, it is inappropriate to expect a young child to make a nutritious decision about what to eat for lunch. Children are affected by happy-looking packaging, entertaining advertisements and even addictive ingredients in commercial foods. They do not have the knowledge or wisdom to overcome marketing ploys and make healthful choices. Parents need to make the decisions or offer simple, limited choices like offering an apple or an orange.

      Assuming you want your child to eat well, what can you do to pave the path toward good eating habits?

      1. Honor mealtimes.
      Studies show that children who sit down to regular shared family meals have more emotional stability, do better in school, and eat a wider variety of foods. With busy schedules you may not be able to get everyone together more than once a day, or even twice a week. Whatever you can manage, find times that work and keep them sacred.

      2. Provide excellent choices.
      Remember that you pay for the groceries. They’ll eat what you buy. If you don’t want your child to eat something, don’t buy it. Keep the cupboards and frig stocked with things you can feel good about your child eating.

      3. Announce that what’s served is served.
      Make only one meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Don’t fall into being a short-order cook. If every dish of the meal you’ve prepared is rejected, allow the child to be excused from the table until the next meal.

      4. Include a winner with every meal.
      Most kids like things like fresh fruit, applesauce, bread and butter, or potatoes. Whatever you choose for the meal, try to make sure there is something on the table that your child will like, even if it is just a side dish.

      5. Refrain from bribing, rewarding or punishing with food.
      This sets up hard-to-reverse messages – like desserts and sweets are something you get if you’ve been good or cooperated. Messages like this can eventually lead to eating disorders.

      6. Set clear rules about special treats and favorite “less-nutritious” meals.
      Say you have a child that loves macaroni and cheese. Will only eat macaroni and cheese. Don’t deny total access, just set up when and how often you think it’s healthy and reasonable to have it. Make it clear – we have macaroni and cheese on Friday nights. After awhile the standard will be set and the pleading will stop.

      7. Create appealing presentations.
      Some kids don’t like their food mixed up or touching. They might try a sauce if it was on the side to dip into rather than smothering the dish. Salad might get an “ugh” but some cut up carrots, cucumbers and radish will get eaten. Pay attention to how foods are put on the plate. Usually the simpler, the better.

      Resources:
      Lair, Cynthia, Feeding the Whole Family. Seattle:Moon Smile Press, 1998.
      McLaughlin, A. T. Family Dinners Provide Food for Thought as Well. The Christian Science Monitor March 14, 1996.
      Pope, Sharon, “Good Nutrition for the Very Young”, PCC (Puget Consumer’s Co-op) Sound Consumer, No. 181, April 1988.
      Smith, Lendon, Dr., Feed Your Kids Right. New York, NY: Mc Graw-Hill, 1979.


      November 2004
      Well-Balanced Meals

      What constitutes a well-balanced meal? While there is a wealth of information available it can be overwhelming, confusing and contradictory to sort through fads or advice published by companies that have a vested interest. But there are some simple, time-honored guidelines that have nothing to do with buying special products or counting calories, fats and grams.

      When I am teaching I recommend that my students consider the following when planning a well-balanced meal:

      1. Tradition
      To find a sound method for balancing meals we must look beyond nutritional data and government recommendations. History must be considered. Many traditional meals are based on the culture’s staple grain combined with a bean/legume dish and a variety of vegetables – some cooked and some raw. Meat, dairy and nuts, the more expensive food items, are generally used as flavorings, toppings or side dishes. They can be costly to our pocketbook and to our health if overused. Examples of how this simple way of balancing meals can be seen in a variety of ethnic cuisine are:

      Rice, miso soup, pickled vegetables and sea vegetables, small pieces of fish (Japan)

      Tabouli, pita bread (wheat), hummus, cucumbers and tomatoes, feta cheese or yogurt topping (Middle Eastern)

      Cornbread, black-eyed peas cooked w/ ham hocks, sweet potatoes, collard greens (American South)

      You may notice that in many ethnic cuisines there is a something raw, pickled or fermented included as a topping or side dish. Small salads, slaws, chutneys, salsas, yogurt toppings and pickles are examples. These foods are rich in enzymes and, in some cases, live cultures which aid in the digestion of your meal.

      2. Season
      Choosing produce that is in season has important benefits. Because the fruit or vegetable is at its peak, the flavor and nutrients are richer. Seasonal produce is usually available from local farmers so our grocery dollars go toward supporting them rather than into the pockets of shippers. It’s also easier to eat organically when you are eating seasonally. And when you eat local, seasonal produce, it helps our bodies adapt to our climate. For example, cucumbers and melons are water-rich fruits that are in season in summer when hydration is important. Choosing foods that are lighter and cooler for warm weather and foods that are denser and more warming for cold weather is helpful. Pastas, salads, steamed vegetables, and raw fruit are examples of warm weather food. Stews, baked casseroles, roasted vegetables and dried fruit are examples of cold weather food.

      3. Color
      Make sure each meal has a wide variety of color. There is nothing more unappealing than an all brown or all white meal. When your meals contain green, orange, red, and yellow, you not only create a meal that is visually appealing but one that contains an abundance of vitamins and minerals.

      4. Cooking Techniques
      Use a variety of cooking techniques when planning a well-balanced meal. A meal where all of the dishes are baked, for example, can sit very heavy in the stomach. When serving a simmered lentil-vegetable stew, you might choose pasta which is boiled, greens served raw in a salad and baked apples to go with it.

      Above all, make your meals delicious and appealing. Eating daily meals of freshly-prepared food can be an enjoyable, sensuous experience that simultaneously nourishes your body.

      Adapted from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair (Moon Smile Press, 1998) www.feedingfamily.com.


      October 2004
      Whole Foods Nutrition for the Family

      The Bastyr University School of Nutrition, where I have been teaching nutrition and cooking since 1994, requires all of its matriculated students to take a course called “Whole Foods Production.” The 11-week course meets once a week for 4 ½ hours. During the first hour plus we talk about the journey of food from the field to the grocery store. The following three hours are spent learning how to prepare food using a variety of cooking techniques. The teaching kitchen is in the basement of the building, which is apropos. The food we choose each day gives us the foundation for physical, emotional and mental well-being.

      It is also notable that the course is called “Whole Foods Production.” When I first began teaching it, I thought this was an industrial-sounding title and longed for something a bit more colorful. But the name has grown on me and it does describe exactly what the course offers. Naturally, in the first class each quarter I ask students to define what a whole food is. It can be a rather nebulous term. Since it is the basis for what I believe in and what I will be writing about in this column, I thought it best to offer my own definition.

      When I want to find out if a food is whole or not, I ask myself these questions:

      Can I imagine it growing?
      It is easy to picture a wheat field or an apple on a tree. It is tough to picture a field of marshmallows or a stream where diet coke runs wild.

      How many ingredients does it have?
      A whole food has only one ingredient – itself.

      What’s been done to the food since it was harvested?
      The less, the better. Many foods we eat no longer resemble anything found in nature. Stripped, refined, bleached, injected, hydrogenated, chemically treated, irradiated, and gassed; modern foods have literally had the life taken out of them. Read the list of ingredients on the labels; if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.

      Is this product “part” of a food or the “whole” entity?
      Juice is only a part of a fruit. Oil is only part of the olive. When you eat a lot of partial foods, your body in its natural wisdom will crave the parts it didn’t get.

      Whole foods tend to have some of all of the macronutrients – carbohydrate, fat, protein, vitamins and minerals. Food found in nature is made up of different proportions of many nutrients, as opposed to something manufactured and processed like white sugar which has only one nutrient, carbohydrate.

      Whole foods also tend to have some history. In other words, they are foods that have been known to nourish human beings for thousands of years, like eggs, nuts, beans, berries, fish, and whole grains.

      Experience teaches me that parents who have an understanding of high-quality whole foods are able to offer their children sound fuel for creating healthy bodies and minds. There are so many obstacles that can get in the way of our child’s potential, why allow the food we serve each day to be one of them? Why not let our daily bread help us achieve our dreams?

      Many small, practical dilemmas can get in the way – like what to put in the lunch box, how to deal with a picky eater and deciding whether to buy tofu or chicken. I will use this column to give parents some information and ideas on how to incorporate whole foods into their lifestyle. Topics like the ones mentioned above plus other family food issues will be covered. Hopefully we can sort out which current recommendations are based on common sense and which are simply advertising ploys.

      And I promise never to forget that eating food is not a just a way to insert so-many milligrams of whatever into the digestive system, but an enjoyable, delicious, family experience. Yesterday my teenage daughter showed me how to make vegetable samosas. They were beautiful. Full of whole foods like sweet potatoes, currants, peas, cauliflower and curry and full of the joy we shared in making something together. Eating healthfully can be all that.