Posts Tagged With: Health

Getting Kids to Eat Their Veggies

This weekend our boys, once again, amazed friends by eating vegetables.  And it wasn’t even pizza. They ate winter squash, green beans, salad (with garlic, cilantro and cabbage), sliced kolhrabi, beets…

We always get comments on this, apparent, oddity.  Our five-year old and two-year old beg us for carrots and green beans.  I’ve been known to complain to my sister that H ate all  the carrots and now I don’t have enough for tonight’s dinner.  And I’ve had to hide tomatoes from them.

People always ask how we got them to be this way.  My number one rule is that I’m not a short order cook.  What I make for dinner is what we all eat together.  No exceptions.  Besides that, here are my tips on how to get your kids to eat their vegetables:

  1. Grow Veggies.  It is cool to see something go from seed to plant to fruit to table.  Let them plant.  Let them water.  Let them harvest.  I betcha they’ll eat it.  If I ask H which vegetables taste the best, the ones from the garden or those from the store, his answer is not surprising… the garden!
  2. Let Them Shop.  After the garden, H likes vegetables in this order:  “The Farm” (our CSA), the farmer’s market, then the store.  He loves knowing where his food comes from.  Our dinner conversation typically involves some, “where is this from” Q & A.  He is more invested in the farm vegetables, because he has seen the ground it was grown in.  The farm is fun.  He like the farmers market because we talk it up, and because he usually gets to pick something out to take home.  But even at the grocery store, he gets to weigh in on choices.  “Would you rather have kale or broccoli for dinner this week?”  Making a choice, gives them an investment in eating the vegetable later.
  3. Let them cook. Even little kids can pull up a step stool and wash carrots and potatoes.  Older kids can stir the onions as they sauté.  If they’ve helped make it, they are more likely to want to help eat it.  Putting work into it makes it more appealing.
  4. Eat YOUR Veggies.  Kids don’t buy the “do as I say, not as I do” garbage.  They will do what you do.  If I hear my kids saying something I don’t like, chances are they heard it from me first.  Same goes for food.  If you don’t like something, only eat a bite or two.  But eat some, and eat it with a happy face.  This applies to your partner too.  If Dad doesn’t want to eat the green stuff, you kids probably won’t either.
  5. Offer Veggies.  I know that I’ve already grown tired of hearing “Can we have a snack?”  But I know I can grab the bag of green beans from the ice box and they can go to town.  This is because I say, “Sure, would you guys like green beans or carrots?”  They usually say yes to both.  If I offered green beans or bunny crackers, they’re going to pick the crackers.  So I don’t offer the crackers.
  6. Remember, Tastes Change. Remind them of that too.  Just because they didn’t like it last time, doesn’t mean they won’t like it this time.  Babies and children need to try foods several times before they really know if they like them or not.  At every meal, they have to at least try every thing that is served.  This is good practice as adults too, and it’s great for teaching good manners as a dinner guest – just because you don’t like Mom’s potato salad, doesn’t mean you won’t like Mrs. Dickinson’s.  You need to at least try a bite.  It’s polite, and you might be surprised.
  7. Don’t Buy Junk.  Just don’t.  If potato chips aren’t available, they’ll eat an apple instead.  You will too.  ;)

The recurring theme here is investment.  The more work they put into their food, the more they will want to get out of it.  And you can’t argue with delicious results.  We don’t draw battle lines with food, but we do negotiate.  This summer, the only vegetable H really didn’t like was zucchini.  That was tough at first.  I still made lots of zucchini.  But at every meal, I told him, he didn’t have to eat all of it, but he had to try it.  By the end of the summer, he had no problem with it.  It still wasn’t his favorite.  I put one into a late ratatouille, and when he asked for seconds, he said, “but no zucchini, please.”  I’m ok with him picking it out, especially on seconds.   Especially because he ate some with his first serving.

It’s not automatic.  We still have to remind them to try things.  Sometimes although I offer two veggies, they ask for crackers.  But generally, it works.  You too can amaze your friends!  ;)

Moms, what are your tips for getting the greens into your kids?

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Categories: CSA, Food, Garden, Top 5 | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

Saying No to GMO

So we finally got our seeds ordered this week for the garden.  I’m excited, since it means spring is around the corner.  And, because it’s the first time we’ve ordered seeds.  We usually go to the local garden center, but their selection of organic, non-GMO seeds has been pretty limited in the last few years.  And beyond organic, non-GMO is very important to us.

There has been a lot of buzz recently about GMOs.  President Obama approved Monsanto’s GMO alfalfa, Round Up Ready sugar beets and a new biotech corn for ethanol production.  This is sad and scary news for all of us. Many of my readers know about GMOs and why they would want to avoid them, but I know there are quite a few people who don’t know anything about this issue.  So I thought I’d shed some light and share my knowledge of the subject, which contributes to the reasons for many of our own food choices.

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism, and companies like Monsanto have produced and patented these organisms, mainly seeds.  The seeds have been genetically modified to be able to withstand harsh herbicides like Round Up, so that fields can be sprayed with the chemicals which will then kill the weeds but not the crop.  Sounds like a plan, right.  Except they are seeds.

Let’s set aside the health effects of eating foods and food products made with these GMOs for just a minute and look at the idea of patented seeds.   Currently there are patents on certain GMO grain crops like corn, canola, and soy.  Think for a minute what that means – when these crops grow up, mother nature does to these seeds what she does to all seeds – throws them to the wind, feeds them to the birds, and mice, and squirrels.  She doesn’t know these seeds are patented.

So Farmer A is growing patented GMO corn.  And when his corn is ripe, a few birds come and pick at his corn, eating some.  And they fly a few miles away, and poop out the seeds.  Seeds that have been genetically modified, and those modification carry through the generation of seeds.  But they poop on Farmer B’s land, he doesn’t know, and he hasn’t paid for GMO seeds.

The next spring, Farmer B tills his land and plants his non-GMO crop of corn from seeds he saved for generations.  But those seeds the birds pooped out spring up too.  The company that Farmer A uses to get his corn from, knows Farmer B is down the road.  So they send out someone to take a sample of  Farmer B’s crop (without his permission) and sure enough, his crop turns up as GM positive – their genetically modified corn is growing right there, in his field.  He didn’t buy it from them – he must have stolen it.  And then they sue the pants off Farmer B and win because they own the rights to that seed – to that genetic strain- and he literally loses the farm.  Farmer A is not allowed to save seed, and Farmer B can’t steal it.  The company owns all rights to that seed and it’s future generations.

This is not far-fetched.  It’s happening today, in America.  The problem with patented seeds is that we humans can’t control everything.  Wind and birds and all of nature happens.  For more info on this check out fooddemocracynow.org or watch the documentary, The Future of Food.

So back to health, and how this affects you, the consumer, the eater.  Well, you can just read labels, right?  No.  Sorry.  The USDA and FDA doesn’t require that foods containing GMOs be labeled as such.  You’ve probably been eating GMOs for a long time now.  But it’s not like you sit around munching nothing but corn all day, right?  Well maybe, or maybe not.  In this case, you can check the label – corn and soy are in everything these days.  Really.

According to the USDA, in 2009, 93% of soy, 93% of cotton, and 86% of corn grown in the U.S. were GMO. It is estimated that over 90% of canola grown is GMO, and there are also commercially produced GM varieties of sugar beets, squash and Hawaiian Papaya. As a result, it is estimated that GMOs are now present in more than 80% of packaged products in the average U.S. or Canadian grocery store.*

GMOs are used to feed cattle, to make soda, in your cereal, your bread… you name it.  If it has high fructose corn syrup (and many other ingredients I can’t type or pronounce) it’s made from corn.  So a fast food meal – the burger, the coke, the fries cooked in canola oil, all corn and probably all GMO at that.

With Obama’s recent approval of alfalfa and sugar beets, two crops along with corn, that feed the majority of America’s commercially produced meat animals, we are in for more trouble.  And try keeping alfalfa seeds contained in a Kansas windstorm.  Yikes!

Ok, ok, they are hard to avoid, right.  But are GMOs safe?  Well the Non-GMO Project web site states:

In 30 other countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production of GMOs, because they are not considered proven safe. In the U.S. on the other hand, the FDA approved commercial production of GMOs based on studies conducted by the companies who created them and profit from their sale.

A few independent studies have been done on the subject.  Generally independent studies have been blocked by Monsanto and other producers of GMOs, but what has been found leads to questions over GMO safety.  Here’s a link studying  The Effects of Diets containing GM potatoes on Rats done in 1999, as well as an article siting many more recent studies that have been done.

It is possible to avoid GMOs, but it takes some research and planning and sometimes giving up a favorite snack.  Especially helpful is the True Food Shoppers Guide (a download-able iPhone app or printable guide).

Here is an article that I found very helpful as well, concerning ways to avoid GMO foods.  “Making My Family GO GMO Free”.  One of the simplest steps is to buy organic, or direct from a local farmer, whom you can ask what he’s growing.  You can also look for labels certifying that products are GMO free.

A while back I was told that the PLU codes on produce were used to indicate organic, conventional and GMO foods, however this is not exactly true, since using the five digit codes are optional.  (see PLU Codes Don’t Indicate GMO Produce and The Myth of PLU Codes and GMO Foods).

If you grow your own garden, like us, please be aware that Monsanto recently purchased a number of seed companies, so you’ll want to know what to look for when buying the seeds you’ll use this spring.  I found this resource most helpful: http://inspirationgreen.com/

I know this post is a bit preachy for me – but it’s a subject that I’ve been very concerned about for a while, and I couldn’t think how to share this info another way.  I hope you look further into this subject and take action (write a letter or sign a petition to help ban GMOs in America).

For more ways to take action go to:

http://www.fooddemocracynow.org/  and
http://www.nongmoproject.org/
Also check out http://truefoodnow.org/

*from http://www.nongmoproject.org/
Categories: Community, Food, Garden, Recommended Reading, Sustainability, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Impact of Eating Organic

A sustainable dinner - organic beans and squash, bakery made bread with organic butter, organic meat raised on pasture and wild brush - all local within 100 miles.

This past Tuesday, I came across a video interview of Michael Pollan with MSNBC, talking about eating organically as an investment (you can watch the video here).  He included some great tips for getting affordable sustainable meat, keeping hormones out of your diet and reasons to eat organically/sustainably.  Additionally he talked about the difference between animal products from grass-fed or pastured animals, and ones that are fed on a feed lot, even an organic feed lot.

Then, this morning, I noticed on the side of my Organic Valley half and half a note stating that by “using a quart of organic half and half [in lieu of conventional], every week for a year, you help to keep 6.2 lbs. of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and 1.3 oz. of toxic pesticides from being used.”  They said they offered a calculator on their website so you could see the impact you are having by consuming their organic dairy products.

I don’t eat strictly from this brand, but I wanted to see what impact my dairy dollars are having on the environment each year.  In a typical week our family consumes two gallons of milk, one quart of half and half, one and a half pounds of butter and one pound of cheese.  They calculate that buying these items organically instead of conventionally saves the environment from 65.9 lbs. of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and 14.3 ounces toxic pesticides and herbicides per year. That’s just our family’s dairy purchases, let alone meat and produce!

Additionally, the Organic Valley site states that  “public health costs associated with pesticide-related acute poisonings and cancer alone add up to an estimated $1.1 billion dollars per year.*”  Below are listed some of the other impacts of pesticides on children.

“Impacts on Children

Pesticide exposure poses special concerns for children because of their high metabolisms and low body weights.

  • More than 1 million children between the ages of 1 and 5 ingest at least 15 pesticides every day from fruits and vegetables.
  • More than 600,000 of these children eat a dose of organophosphate insecticides that the federal government considers unsafe.
  • 61,000 eat doses that exceed “unsafe” levels by a factor of 10 or more.5

“Prenatal Exposure

Most babies today are born with persistent pesticides and other chemicals already in their bodies, passed from mother to child during fetal development. 21 different pesticides have been found in umbilical cord blood, suggesting tremendous potential damage at a critical developmental time. Since a baby’s organs and systems are rapidly developing, they are often more vulnerable to damage from chemical exposure.  The immature, porous blood-brain barrier allows greater chemical exposures to the developing brain.6″

Wow – that’s pretty huge motivation to eat organic foods!  But they can be a bit more expensive.  Which brings me back to the Michael Pollan interview.

Organic foods are more expensive because there is a greater demand for them than there is supply.  In America, we vote with our dollars.  The more we demand organically grown and produced foods, the more farmers and companies out there will be motivated to switch to using organic practices, adding more organic foods to the supply chain.  the more food suppliers producing organic products, the more competition.  The more competition, the lower the prices.  the way we demand products is to buy them.  So, if you want organic food at competitive prices, start buying it and watch the price drop.

There are a lot of options out there.  Buying locally will be the least expensive and have the biggest impact on protecting the environment and the local economy.  Check out http://www.localharvest.org/ for local farmers, markets and CSAs near you.  There you can find not only produce, but local meat processors and restaurants who use local and organic products (you are still effecting the supply and demand of how food is produced when you eat out).

To read more about the impacts of synthetic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, GMOs, hormones and antibiotics, check out Organic Valley’s website.

* “Promoting Sustainable Food Systems through Organic Agriculture: Past, Present and Future,” Christine McCullum-Gomez, C., and Riddle, J. HEN Post: Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Practice Group of the American Dietetic Association, Spring 2009. www.hendpg.org

Categories: CSA, Food, Sustainability | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

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