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Vegan Son’s High Cholesterol After Switching to Omnivore Diet

30 May

The Art of Proper Eating

A few months ago after an allergy test cleared him for some animal proteins, my Vegan 7 year old son wanted to eat beef jerky, cheese and eggs, and drink goat’s milk. Although as a Vegan, I would naturally like my son to reap the benefits of a plant-based diet, I allowed him to decide for himself. Besides, he would still be eating a whole lot of vegetables and fruits in my kitchen.

My son relished the flavors of foods he had not tasted in years. He drank raw goat’s milk everyday, ate eggs once or twice a week, and ate a few strips of beef jerky on the weekend. Still pretty healthy. Not bad, right?

Fruits on the Counter

Well… recently his Pediatric Well Visit showed that his cholesterol was just too high. The blood tests were re-done after a few days on a Vegetarian diet and results were a bit better. The overall cholesterol decreased from 290’s to 250’s, but his LDL cholesterol levels were at 188mg/dL. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics,  “A total cholesterol level greater than 200 mg/dL and LDL-C greater than 130 mg/dL represent values above the 95th percentile for children and are designated as high.” Drug therapy is recommended when LDL cholesterol levels are at 190 mg/dL or higher.

How could this be? My son’s slim, we eat more fruit and vegetables than most, and he is an athlete. Unless, of course, his cholesterol problem is hereditary.

IMG_1668

The doctor suggested our son return to a Vegan Diet for 6 months. We can then figure out his base cholesterol levels, and go from there.

Here’s hoping that Vegan Food does its magic. I don’t want my young son on medication!

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Mama’s Now Cooking!

18 Feb

Logo

Yup, this Mama is cooking again! After a few years on a highly Raw Vegan diet, our family’s wants and needs have now changed.  

No More Tree Nuts

Our son has become highly allergic to cashews and pistachios, and we want to make sure there is no cross-reactivity, cross-contamination, nor cross-contact reactions to any other tree nuts. This change rules out many Raw Vegan recipes. We also discovered that his allergies to dairy and eggs have cleared. The test also showed a mild allergy to soy. I see no good reason to make my son feel we are controlling and restricting his diet further. We are now allowing him to make more food choices for himself. He is still trying new things and figuring out what he likes and what his body prefers. So far, he is enjoying his rediscovery of raw goat’s milk and cooked eggs. He’s also since tried store-bought beef and bison jerky, which he says he absolutely loves.

Raw vs Cooked, Vegan vs Vegetarian Foods

As for my husband, he is pretty tired of raw Vegan food, although he still enjoys our faves. It’s nice when he does request for them. He prefers cooked Vegan and Vegetarian foods.

Where do I fit in?  I’m the Vegan Mama who buys and prepares/cooks the Vegan and Vegetarian food for a son who loves goat’s milk, a hubby who prefers soy milk, and for myself who can live on raw foods. Cooking for three people with different food preferences is not admittedly such an easy task when our homeschool days are full.

Keeping Mama in the Kitchen and she ain’t cookin’

I have decided to keep this blog, along with the research and the recipes on Raw Vegan foods, in hopes that the information can continue to help more people out there. My future posts, however, will reflect the new changes in our family’s dietary choices.

Hoping you stick around to watch us on our journey!

30 Lessons this Raw Vegan Mama Learned from Traveling and Dining Out with Omnivore Loved Ones

4 Mar

In the last 6 months alone, it seems like my family and I have traveled non-stop to be with friends and extended family.  These days, I feel like I am a bit of a pro when traveling with and dining out with loved ones who happen to be non-Raw Omnivores. 

I wish I could tell you we did wonderfully: I ate 100% Raw Vegan Foods and my family kept up their 50% Raw Vegan diet. But we did not.

What we did a lot of instead was, what I call, nutritional compromising. Why?  Well, believe it or not, for harmony’s sake.  We love our friends and family dearly and being together with them means a lot to us.  We didn’t want to alienate anyone… or ourselves.

I cannot say I was very much OK with all the nutritional compromising in the past few months… but I met Perry the other day who made me feel a whole lot better.  He sold me a bottle of E3Live.  I asked him if he was Raw Vegan.  He said he used to be.  “Why?” I asked.  He said, his mother had cancer when he was growing up and foods were designated as BAD or GOOD, ALLOWED or NOT ALLOWED.  So Young Perry rebelled. He would go behind his mother’s back, steal her money and buy the foods that were verboten at their house.  Needless to say, he thought it was a good idea that I allow my son some slack. 

Here is what I learned while traveling with Omnivore loved ones:

Our Travel Food Bag

I always have fruit (bananas, oranges, apples) and salad for everyone. I also always have some cooked Vegan foods for the boys. Hopefully we can recycle the plastic containers.

1. I always pack my family’s meals for road trips and national/international flights. Unfortunately, the food lasts only about 8 hours and after that we have to make do with what we are given or find at the other end of our trip.

Vegan Meals up in the friendly skies: include preservatives, coloring and a bunch of other stuff we wouldn't normally eat. But - this is the best option we have when we run out of food.

2. On planes, we request either the Raw (not always available and this tends to be fruit or cut carrot and celery sticks) or Vegan (although some are cooked with many processed Vegan ingredients) options for flights.

3. Clearly, our family’s highly raw/unprocessed Vegan diet tends to go down the drain pretty much from the get-go.

I love this old photo of my son snuggling with his step-grandmother. In the first 5 minutes after they met, it was clear they had already bonded so wonderfully.

4. We want to spend time and create strong bonds with our extended family and friends while traveling/visiting with them.

5. But, this means mealtimes more often than not emphasize non-raw and non-vegan foods.

6. We tend to eat out at mainstream restaurants a whole lot while traveling with others.

7. We have lengthy and careful discussions with servers about our family’s food preferences and allergies before ordering. It seems to us that waiters, on the whole, are not trained well on matters relating to Veganism or food allergies.  Neither are they made aware of the repercussions of food allergies. Sometimes, the problem may be that they don’t properly convey diner’s requests to chefs in their kitchens.  So, we like to take our time in our communication with them.

8. Raw Vegans are not the best for diners with nut and maple/agave allergies.  After talking very carefully to servers about our son’s allergies, my son has had very bad vomiting spells after eating/drinking something at Cafe Gratitude in San Francisco and Quintessence in NYC.  Needless to say, we are not going back to these 2 places to eat.  I can, however, recommend The Farm in the Philippines, Good Life Café in South Carolina and Pure Food and Wine in NYC.

9. We tend to eat what our host provides.  “When in Rome, do as the Roman’s do!” Right?  As guests, we are really at the mercy of our host, especially when they want to treat us all the time and/or we are in a foreign country.

10. I have discovered that food allergies are difficult for others to understand.

11. The concept of Raw Vegan foods are even harder for many to grasp.  I have had, many a time, cheese and bread on my “all Raw Vegan” salad or been offered regular hummus with cooked chickpeas.

12. Requests for Gluten- and Vegan-free food is akin to speaking a foreign language.

My son kept asking for the white bread served at most mainstream restaurants. Having said 'no' so many times (due to allergies), I finally ordered some wonderful Rice Bruschetta at a Vegan restaurant we visited towards the end of one of our trips. My son was extremely happy. So was I for having found a half-raw, half-cooked meal for him too!

13. My son will want to eat what others are eating: i.e. the cooked or processed refined foods.

14. A loved one recently baked 6 loaves of maple syrup white wheat bread while we visited her for 2 weeks – even after I asked her to please stop at the first loaf.  The breads just kept appearing though, which my son gladly ate and I tried to stop.  She was thrilled of course to watch my son devour her bread. On the other hand, I was focused on his rashes (c/o maple sugar).

15. This Mama will compromise only to a certain extent.

Using a handheld immersion blender in a plastic tub while traveling to make a lamb's lettuce smoothie for my family

16. If a kitchen and/or appliances are available, I supplement our family’s meals with fresh fruit for breakfast and fresh juices or green smoothies before a meal (that is if we have access to appliances and/or a kitchen).

Someone shared this on Facebook and made me LOL!

17. If a kitchen is available and if possible, we eat ‘in’ as much as we can and I end up a Mama in the Kitchen with no holiday.  But, I can’t complain!  We minimize allergies this way.

18. You cannot simply trust labels.  My son has even reacted to packaged Raw Vegan foods we have purchased while traveling to which, according to ingredients on labels, he isn’t allergic.

19. On every trip these past few months, my son has had some type of allergy, despite our efforts.  He has been very mucus-y on the plane home twice.

20. Raw Vegan food options are not always available when eating with family and friends…or they are harder to come by when traveling or sanitation is an issue in certain countries. When eating at mainstream restaurants or at people’s homes sometimes simply boiled, steamed or stir fried veggies are the best and only options.  In many health food stores in big cities, Raw Vegan Foods usually means a lot of packaged dehydrated foods… exactly the foods we try to avoid.

21. Raw Vegan food does not win over many people.  Some of my loved ones returned home to eat SPAM with white rice after a beautiful lunch at The Farm, Philippines.

22.  I, on the other hand, will have some type of food sensitivity after eating at a Raw Vegan restaurant: headaches, swelling or bloating from an excess of agave syrup, soy products, or nuts.

Juice Bars are worth it! Here in SAF London

23. To minimize allergies or sensitivities, we order simply at Raw Food Restaurants: an abundance of green juices (not smoothies) or simple Salads, and avoid other foods altogether (unless the server/chef can be 100% clear on the ingredients used).

The food was so delicious, I made sure I bought their cookbook as soon as we got home!

Food For Thought in Covent Garden will win over Omnivores anytime for taste and bang for buck! Just be prepared for small spaces and a communal-type feel.

24. Cooked Vegan foods, on the other hand, have been the best way for us to introduce family and friends to the Vegan diet. My mother gave us a cooked Vegan party when we visited her.  My friends thought they would have to lug their families to McDonald’s afterwards – but they admitted to loving the food by my Vegan Chef cousin!  They all had second helpings of the healthy mains and the desserts!  And no trip to McDonald’s afterwards!

I got an "That doesn't look very good at all!" comment for my salad here.

25. Prepare yourself for negative comments from loved ones about your food. Yes, even those who say they understand and would love to be Raw Vegan. I have had an ugly grimace directed at my food with a “I would NOT like to eat that!”, “is that all?”, “how do you get your protein?”, “yuck! how do you eat that!” And all in front of my son too, who takes it all in.

26. People somehow forget about your family’s diet and lifestyle choice, no matter how close they are to you.  I have had a platter of Steak placed under our noses blatantly at dinner with a smile and a “here, you will love this”; baked pastry treats full of syrup, butter and refined flour placed in front of my son while he, as most kids will, drools; salmon offered to us which they know was my son’s favourite fish before our kitchen turned Vegan.

27. The good outweigh the bad.  What is important is that we are surrounded by people we love and who love us back.

28. By the end of the trip, I am always itching to return to my own kitchen, I can’t wait to shop at my own local health food store and I can’t wait to eat healthier food.

29. After returning home, it is always just a little harder to get my son to eat as healthily as he used to.  And I am OK with this too because after traveling for the past 6 months, I know in a day or two, he’ll be asking for his fave smoothie and his fave kale salad!

30. And at the end of the day, I love what traveling does for our family.

Washington D.C. VegFest

22 Sep

According to VegNews, Washington, DC has the biggest Veggie eating population at 8.3 percent, the biggest percentage of any city in the United States. And this Saturday, the nation’s capital will be offering a FREE outdoor festival with the very best of everything VEGGIE in D.C.!

When: this Saturday, 24th September 2011, 11am to 6pm

Where: George Washington University at the Univ. Yard, 2000 blk of H St., NW, DC

Price: FREE

Organized by: Compassion Over Killing and the Vegetarian Society of D.C.

Scheduled Talks include: The Latest in Clinical Nutrition, The Meat Crisis and Gas Prices and The Meat of the Matter: how our diet impacts the planet (details here)

Exhibitors: food and commercial vendors, as well as non-profit organizations (details here)

For more information: http://dcvegfest.com/

A 4 Year Old Omnivore Loves Raw Vegan Foods

17 Aug

Lia requested Raw Pink Smoothie for her Fourth Birthday

My 4 year old niece Lia is allowed to eat everything (except dairy to which she is allergic), but what does she request for her birthday party?  RAW VEGAN FOOD!

Really? I was stunned because my own son requests baked cupcakes!

Lia is the same little girl who, when her preschool teacher rewarded her with candy, told her Mama they tasted ‘yucky’ and asked if her teacher could reward her with Raw Green Smoothies instead.  She also chows down Raw Kale Salad like a veteran Raw Foodie!

Yummy Kale Salad for Dinner!

Chomping away!

I don’t know what or how my Omnivore cousin teaches her daughter about nutrition, but Lia really loves Raw Vegan Foods.  So, I interviewed her amazing Mama for some tips.

An Omnivore Family

What does your family typically eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner? What does Lia typically eat?

Breakfast is Raw Green Smoothie and cooked eggs.  Lunch is apples, hummus and raw carrots/cauliflower, crackers (the organic version of triscuits) and peanut butter and jelly. She takes this lunch to school in her lunch box, but usually only eats the apples and crackers.  Dinner is usually another Raw Green Smoothie, spinach noodles with a little tomato sauce, Salad (sometimes with greens, sometimes just tomatoes), hummus with raw veggies, sometimes edamame, and some kind of Fruit. Noodles are her favorite but the other night we made a stir fry of beef, mushrooms and broccoli and brown rice. I also try to give her some kind of seafood once a week (she loves shrimp and salmon). We eat mostly Vegetarian, but we may eat meat 2 to 3 times per week.

An Omnivore Family Highlights Raw Vegan Food

Your family eats everything, yet your 4 year old daughter requested her birthday party foods be RAW.  How does that happen?

I think it has a lot to do with the running dialogue Lia and I have on what kinds of food we eat and how Raw Foods are so good for us. Lia loves the flavor and texture of many Raw Veggies and Greens much more so than cooked ones.

It also doesn’t hurt that she knows whenever she eats Raw, her Aunt Carissa and family are so proud!  She also loves the Raw Foods that Carissa makes for her and so requested a special Raw Green Smoothie for her birthday party.

An Omnivore Little Girl Loves Raw

What are Lia’s favorite Raw Vegan Foods?

She loves Raw Green Smoothies, Carrots (with homemade hummus) and her new fave is Raw Cauliflower (she saw it in the grocery store the other day and just had to have it!).

How much Raw does she eat?

We certainly do not eat as much Raw as I would like, but right now I think she’s at about 10-15% Raw. At lunch and dinner she asks for Raw – more so than at breakfast.

Encouraging Raw Vegan Foods @ Home

Do you/does Lia make ‘Raw Foods’ part of her play?

Yes absolutely, when Lia is playing kitchen with me, her Dad or her imaginary friends she always makes them a Raw Smoothie and she usually tells her Dad “you can only have Raw Foods!” Since he is the least likely member in our family to eat Raw or drink a Smoothie, I think she is trying to help him be healthier.

What other things do you do that encourages her to eat more Raw Foods?

1. We talk a lot about what kinds of food we eat and why they may be healthy (or not as healthy as others).

2. Lia always comes to the grocery store with me and helps me pick out our fruits and veggies.

3. Of course having family that is so close to us be Raw, Lia just naturally gravitates to what they eat and loves showing off to them when she does eat Raw Greens.  It has really been seeing the example of your family eating Raw that moved us to include Raw in our diet. I am so much more aware of what we are putting into our bodies now and even if it isn’t Raw, I have worked hard to cut out processed food and eat as much local and organic as possible. Lia has a natural curiosity when it comes to foods, so we just explore together, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t (I have heard many times “I like Carissa’s -enter food name here- better than yours Mommy”) but at least we try! She does not feel deprived or upset when kids around her are eating corn dogs etc. She says “That’s yuck” and we find her something else to eat. But I really have to attribute her attitude towards eating healthy (whether its totally Raw or not) to the example that your family has set for her.  Seeing the people you love most living a healthy lifestyle makes it so much easier to do it yourself!

Thank you Cris for taking time for the interview! 

WOW.  I didn’t know our family impacted my cousin’s family’s nutrition so strongly!  

It’s amazing what constant dialogue, exposure to what is healthy and leading by example and support can do for the young ones!  Little Lia is an example! Adding Raw Vegan Foods to our children’s diet is possible.  It’s not just for the Vegans or Vegetarians.  Lia shows how Omnivore Families can join in the Raw Vegan Health Craze too!

Peace @ the Healthy Table: What Does It Take?

28 Jul

What happens when a Veggie marries an Omni? Peace or Burn-Out?

What Happens When A Veggie Marries An Omni?

I recently have met quite a few Vegan and Vegetarian women married to men who love their meat and processed foods.  The women joke that their hubbies eat these ‘on the side’.

Then Kids Come Along… and the dynamics drastically change…

Joy recently wrote to me: “how much I relate to so much of what you say. I am a raw foodie at heart stuck with a husband who loves soda, processed foods, pizza, candy, etc. He thinks he knows about healthy eating and argues with me on a regular basis regarding what we feed our kids 2 and 4. They are great eaters but definitely influenced by him and after almost five years, I’ve found myself exhausted and close to burn out.”

Exhausted and Burned Out Trying To Get The Family To Eat Healthy?

Yes, I’ve been there too!

I love nurturing the people I love through CLEAN, unprocessed food.  But, frankly, I sometimes want to quit and give up on days when my efforts are not appreciated or fail on the home front.  Sometimes I imagine just giving my family the typical SAD (Standard American Diet) Foods they would love to get their hands on. Wouldn’t I be more popular around here at meal times!?  Wouldn’t I have so much more time on my hands!?

But then I am reminded of why I do what I do in the first place and I look at how far we’ve come in the past 5 years.

Take Just One Step At A Time, Slowly Does It

Just 3 years ago, my husband and son were sick with a cough or cold every month.  This year alone, my husband has been sick only once.  My son twice (after choosing to eat overly processed foods).

3 years ago, my husband would have thought nothing about sharing a Krispy Kreme doughnut, corn syrup filled soda or dairy ice cream with our son with allergiesA few weeks ago, my husband and son sat down with me to write up and agree on a month’s worth of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack menus for them that are 50% raw vegan and 50% home cooked foods, which are mainly Vegan or Vegetarian!

5 years ago, I used to buy 7 gallons of bottled juices, the biggest package of hubby’s fave breakfast cereal, a few packages of junk food and about 14 pounds of animal products each week… for my husband alone! And not to even mention all the other refined foods: white flour, white sugar and some candy!  Today, I am buying my husband and son a cart full of fresh produce, whole grains to mill or sprout at home and about 3 pounds of animal products for them to share each week.  That is basically it.

Even When You Don’t Think You Are Making Progress… You Are!

Finding and creating balance is difficult when a health-conscious family wants to interact and be a part of the community obsessed with fast foods, meats and processed junk.

After a 4th of July celebration this year, I realized that in in promoting fruits, greens, unrefined and un-processed foods at home, I had inadvertently created a little processed food junkie who, when away from home, craves his white sugar/corn syrup rush and his fat high.  Admittedly, children will ‘test’ and want what they cannot always have. But there needs to be a balance so that depravity does not lead to such intense craving. So, at the request of my son, I baked Zucchini Bread almost every week since that party with the least refined Vegan ingredients.  My son exclaims almost every time he eats it, “Mama, I love this more than the cupcake at the party!”  Sure it isn’t raw, but the bread is full of zucchini – and that in itself has created my son’s new love for squash!

A few months ago, my son also announced: “No more Salads for me!  No more leafy greens!  Just smoothies!”  Instead of making it a big deal, I just served up green smoothies breakfast, lunch and dinner.  One day for lunch, I decided to make a big bowl of his old fave Kale Salad for dinner.  I was surprised when my son finished a big bowl quickly and quietly and said aloud, not to anyone in particular: “This was yummy!  This is the best salad!” Although technically, my son is still in his “no salad” stage, when I don’t make it a big deal, he will finish his fave bowl of greens.

As for my husband, he really loves his meat. I don’t want to deprive him. Nor do I want the topic of meals and food to be a thorn between us, when it should be something to enjoy together.  Considering he used to eat some animal product at every meal, a few times a week is such a positive change.  Processed foods, on the other hand, are foods I don’t wish to have at home.  If he chooses to eat some, he can do so elsewhere or I can try to create a better substitute.

What Does It Take To Make Peace @ My Table?

Perseverance.  Balance.  Determination.  Education.  Motivation.  Empowerment.  Compromise.  And, knowing that true permanent change comes slowly, one step at a time.

Are you a Veggie Lover married to an Omnivore Junkie?  What do you do to make peace at your table?

Similar Posts/Resources

Do We Have To Love What We Eat?

Free APP Gets Kids Excited About Eating Fruits and Veggies

How To Transition The Family Into More Raw Vegan Foods

Let’s Un-Process Our Children’s Food

Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health

Top 10 Tips To Get Your Kids To Eat More Fruits And Veggies

Why Is The Sugar Always Sweeter On The Other Side?

5 Jul

MAMA: "Yes, that's seaweed! And it is green!"

The Problem

I hardly hear of other health conscious Mamas discuss how their children behave in community settings that serve Standard American Diet (SAD) Foods.  Many claim their children only want the perfectly healthy foods they are used to and avoid any junk altogether.  Let me tell you – this simply cannot be true!

It’s human isn’t it: to want what you don’t have?  The grass is always greener on the other side. And for kids, at least mine, the sugar is always sweeter on the other side!

And this is something I struggle with.  Can I sleep at night knowing I have served my son foods with dioxins, GMO products, allergens and other toxins that negatively affect his future health?

What Happens

At our neighbor’s Fourth of July Celebration, my son made a B line for the store-bought lemonade and the processed cupcakes.  Forget about lunch, he just wanted the sweets!  After a full glass of high fructose corn syrup sweet lemonade, he kept asking for more.  And before lunch was even served, he kept eyeing the cupcakes and asked at least 5 times when he could have his cupcake (can I have it now?  can I have it now? now? now? NOW?).

My Realization

In my quest for my family’s health, the last thing I want to do is to create an environment in my home that pushes my son to choose unhealthy foods or lead him to gravitate towards an unhealthy lifestyle. Yet, as I watched my son demand for MORE and MORE, one word kept popping into my mind: DEPRIVED. In promoting fruits, greens, unrefined and un-processed foods at home, I have inadvertently created a little processed food junkie who, when away from home, craves his white sugar/corn syrup rush and his fat high.  Admittedly, children will ‘test’ and want what they cannot always have.  But there needs to be a balance so that depravity does not lead to such intense craving. 

It’s sad, isn’t it? And it makes me angry because it is so difficult and challenging for a Mama to educate the family about health and nutrition, when we are all living in a culture that supports disease.

The Solution

Yesterday, we sat down as a family to go over 1 month’s worth of menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, drinks, sweets and other miscellaneous fave foods – and we agreed on every item on each menu.  We agreed on the Raw Vegan Foods, the Cooked Vegetarian Foods and the handful Cooked Animal Products.  We also agreed that I will make the healthiest and freshest Vegan versions of some of the verboten Standard American Diet (SAD) foods my son so craves so that he doesn’t feel so deprived. 

In discussing these menus with them, I have made my husband and son more a part of the process of being a Mama in the Kitchen and I have allowed them to have more responsibility for their own nutrition.

I hope it works!

Robyn O’Brien’s Patriotism on a Plate

5 Jun

As I watch Robyn O’Brien, I am impressed by her work, how many people she’s reaching out to and how many diets she may be changing for the better.  Listen to her TED video full of real facts and figures about what’s happening to the American Plate.  These are all the reasons to Un-Process Our Children’s Food!

Let’s Un-Process Our Children’s Food

26 May

Let’s Un-Process Our Children’s Food:

prepare everything from scratch and

eliminate processed foods as much as possible.

Organic Candy without High Fructose Corn Syrup... Is it better? (answer below)

Can a Vegetarian Diet be BAD?

I ‘got’ it. I was vegetarian in high school and college because I learned that a plant-based diet was better for my health and for the planet.  But on a vegetarian diet, I was sluggish and gained at least 20 pounds in my first semester of college.  Even my own mother didn’t recognize me at the airport when she came to pick me up for Christmas break.  I had to stand right in front of her, wave my hands before her eyes and say “Hi!”  It is definitely not a fond homecoming memory.

I confess I did go a little food crazy in college. Sugar-coated cereal for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Countless dining hall visits for Ranch dressing, Honey Mustard dressing, Mayonnaise, American cheese melts, Pesto Pasta, cookies, ice cream with sprinkles galore at the dining hall. I also got a job at the Student Center Cafe, thinking I would learn how to cook for myself.  Well, I didn’t learn a thing.  The only thing I did learn was how to use the griddle and fryer, slap flat foods together to make sandwiches and slice tomatoes.  Everything else was pre-packaged and pre-made somewhere else. Looking back, I realize that most of the food I bought or ate or touched were highly processed foods – not whole foods.

A Processed Culture

I understand why we are attracted to ready-made convenience foods: they do not require much work or energy.  We want food NOW without having to work for it.  We want to be healthy but we don’t want to put the effort into actually preparing our meals directly from whole foods.  We want things EASY.

The thing is though, like most things, it requires work on our part to get something really worth anything.  Nutrition is no exception – plant-based or not.

The Difference

Consider this: When a fruit or vegetable is 5 days old, it will contain only 40% of it’s original nutrients.  How about processed foods with long shelf-lives?

Plant-based whole-foods are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds.  They are in their natural state and are not packaged, canned, bottled or boxed.  Most of the time, you can eat them fresh (washed or not) or they may require some time and attention (cleaning, prepping, dressing/marinating, cooking).

Processed foods, on the other hand, require little time and attention.  Most are ready to eat as is (junk food) or require some cooking (frozen dinners).  They are foods that have been so drastically altered from their natural state.  They are anything canned, boxed, bottled and packaged.  They are foods that are full of preservatives, artificial flavors and artificial coloring. They include anything refined (like white flours and sugars), any hydrogenated fats, any processed meats, anything with soy fillers, artificial food grade chemicals and additives.  

Plant-based processed foods are a whole niche market dedicated to serving ready made Veggie Meats and Veggie Dairy to vegans and vegetarians.  Unfortunately, these are highly processed foods too, containing especially high amounts of soy (most of which is genetically modified).

What’s The Big Deal?

Although we call them ‘food’, processed foods are not readily recognized by the bodyThey are seen as alien matter and our white blood cells will be on attack mode as soon as they enter our system.  Processed foods create toxins in our systems and cause degenerative diseases.  For our planet, processed foods require more energy and packing material.  Most of all, processed foods create more waste.

What’s more? 75% of all processed foods contain genetically modified ingredients – even foods labeled organic!  Of all seeds planted in the US, 93% of all soy, 86% of all corn and 93% of all canola seeds are genetically modified. According to Monica Eng of the Los Angeles Times, their bi-products “have become such common ingredients in processed foods that even one of the nation’s top organic food retailers says it hasn’t been able to avoid stocking some products that contain them.” People are generally unaware of foods containing GMOs: only 26% of Americans think they have eaten anything genetically modified and only 28% believed genetically modified ingredients were sold in stores.

The Ills of GMO

There has not been a long-term human study conducted to prove genetically modified organisms are safe.  A peer-reviewed paper GM Crops – Just The Science by The Non-GMO Project states that genetically modified ingredients:

  • “can be toxic, allergenic or less nutritious than their natural counterparts
  • can disrupt the ecosystem, damage vulnerable wild plant and animal populations and harm biodiversity
  • increase chemical inputs (pesticides, herbicides) over the long term
  • deliver yields that are no better, and often worse, than conventional crops
  • cause or exacerbate a range of social and economic problems
  • are laboratory-made and, once released, harmful GMOs cannot be recalled from the environment.”

Repercussions: Our Children’s Health

Studies have shown that processed foods are contributing to our children’s emotional and/or health disorders.  Recently, processed foods have been shown to adversely affect our children’s intelligence.  And yet, processed foods are still everywhere: in home kitchens, restaurants, cafeterias, and worse of all, they are used as gifts and rewards for children.

A few months ago, my friend Christina told me her children’s teacher at school was still giving Potato Chip parties every Friday for the best performing student of the week.  The kids also received daily Candy Rewards for good behavior.  My niece Lia is only in preschool and candy rewards are there too.  And it doesn’t end at school.  There are always boxed juices, frosted cupcakes and pinatas full of more candy at birthday parties. Doctors visits end with lollipops. People who want to do good, like Cookies for Cancer, raise money for cancer research by selling cookies with vegetable shortening, white sugar, sweetened condensed milk, packaged refrigerated cookie dough and Angel Coconut Flakes. Then there is Easter Bunnies, then Halloween Trick or Treating, then Holiday Sweets…  These are all occasions for highly processed foods with genetically modified soy, corn and canola products no doubt.

What adults are essentially saying to children is “You are so good!  Here’s some junk food that causes disease!” Why does our culture encourage this shameful and imbalanced exchange? Is it correct to reward our good children with processed foods containing empty calories and zero nutrients?  Is it right that we give them foods that negatively affect their future health?  Is it acceptable that by rewarding with these processed foods that children will be more resistant to eating whole foods?  Is it suitable that we are allowing children to crave junk foods by using them as rewards? According to Joanne Ikeda, a nutrition education specialist highly regarded for her work on childhood obesity, these are all the factors why foods (especially candy) must not be used as rewards for good behavior.

What’s A Mama To Do?

After a whole year of my son pestering me for the same lollipops he’s seen other kids eating (“Mama, REAL lollipops not my Banana Lollipops“), I finally ran out of distraction tactics or maybe he just wore me down.  So the other day, this Raw Vegan Mama succumbed to buying organic processed lollies for her son.  He’s only allowed 1 a week, which he rarely remembers and hubby and I conveniently forget to remind him.  The top 3 ingredients are: organic evaporated cane juice, organic tapioca syrup and organic rice syrup.  Not bad, no high-fructose corn syrup at least.  But all 3 ingredients are still processed foods. I sigh – almost defeated.  If you’ve read Is Sugar Toxic? you wouldn’t want your children to consume any kind of processed sugars either.

Resources on Plant-Based Whole Foods Diet

Blue Vinyl, The China Study, The Cove, Diet For A New AmericaFood Matters, Forks Over Knives, Mad Cowboy

How To Market Fruits and Veggies to Your Kids: Tip #7

21 Jan

Big bucks are being spent on marketing unhealthy foods directly to children.  What are parents to do?  Learn how and what is being done, find ways to counter the commercials that make kids want to eat unhealthy foods and in the process market fruits and veggies to kids.  We may not have more money than big food corporations, but we have the advantage of time with, love for and commitment to the health of our children.

Tip #7:

Build Entertainment Value

Through Raw Food

Morimono: Edible Art Arrangements

The premise behind this tip is that children will gravitate towards anything that is ‘fun’.

The week we were learning about Japan in our preschool homeschool co-op, my mother, an Ikebana teacher, happened to visit.  We all thought it would be a wonderful occassion for the children to learn about the art of Japanese flower arrangement.  But my mother had an even better idea: for the kids to create Morimono or fruit and veggie arrangements and eat everything afterwards.  As you can see from the photo above, it was a hit with children.  Not only did they enjoy creating 3D art with raw foods (and toothpicks), but most kids ate their creations as soon as or while building it.

Food art doesn’t have to be as complicated as Morimono. A child can create images (face, flower, car) using fruits and veggies or a child’s meal can be served in the same fun way.

Other simple ideas:

– make shopping at the produce department or farmer’s market fun with games

–  for older kids

– see who can spot or grab the most on their section of the produce list the quickest

– who can calculate the price of the groceries of the day

– for younger kids

– a match-as-you-shop game using a list of images of produce

– count how many apples you are buying

– name a fruit or vegetable that starts with ‘A’, etc.

– at home prepare meals together – participation is key

– allow kids to choose fresh produce and create their own dish after watching a video of other children doing so

experiment with different fruits and vegetables to make smoothies or soups or puddings or popsicles (let kids guess what colour the mix will be)

– go to the zoo and study fruit and veggie loving animals

– we recently saw a Tortoise that was illegally owned for years and given hamburgers to eat, its back is now deformed as a result (its fave food is now bananas!)

 

Tip #8: Find Support or Give Support

Marketing Fruits and Veggies to Kids

12 Jan

Everyday, our children are bombarded with marketing directed at them through various media that costs companies over $15 billion annually according to New American Dream.  The effect is disastrous with research showing direct links to childhood obesity, harm to children’s emotional well-being, self-image and sexual behavior, and to their financial self-control.

As parents, we need help in bringing up healthy children. We need to be supported. We do not want our role to be diminished.  We do not want our voices taken away by companies that directly market unhealthy products to our children.  So what can we do?

Having recently conducted my own unintended marketing ploy and seeing it work, I am ready to examine what works for big food corporations and how parents can use these tools to market healthy foods to their children.  So, I took a look at what The Center of Science for Public Interest wrote up in the Guidelines for Responsible Food Marketing to Children.  These were the biggest influential factors in marketing to children:

– advertise during TV, videos, cartoon shows
– product and brand placements in movies, shows, games, websites, books
– giving out premiums and incentives for consuming certain foods
– promote foods using cartoon or fictional characters or celebrities and the same placed on children’s merchandise and games
– build entertainment value through food: food shapes like a character, or use of colors to surprise the eater…
– create education incentive programs using food
– place a banner or wall paper of product on computer
– eye level shelves of grocery stores
– showing emotional, social or health benefits of food (i.e. someone loves you more by buying a food/ someone is very popular for eating a food/ someone is more physically fit for eating a food)

After looking at this list, I have decided to start using the same tactics at home… but to market raw fruits and vegetables to my son.   Although I have successfully transitioned my family from 100% cooked to about 50% raw in a year (read How To Transition The Family Into More Raw Foods), I would like to do more.  I want to make a long-term impact on my son’s health through nutrition.  So, I’ve come up with my own Marketing Fruits and Veggies to Kids list.

Let’s start with Tip #1: Model Healthy Nutrition

Teach Young Kids to Love Greens – It’s All in the Marketing!

7 Jan

Kale Salad

 

I closed my eyes as I tasted the garlic, thyme, sunflower and sea salt dressing and as I slowly enjoyed each bite of my kale salad.

“Mmmmmm…” I sighed as I savored it all. I was hungry and nothing could satisfy more than this kale salad.

“Yum,” I said as I opened my eyes.  I was about to shovel more food into my mouth when I found my 4 year old staring at me.

“Mama,” he said with a big wide grin, “What are you eating?”

“Greens,” I said showing him my bowl and assuming he didn’t want some because he hasn’t wanted salads, veggie chips or anything solid green in the past 6 months.

“I want some!” he said in that you’re-not-going-to-enjoy-that-alone look.

“OK,” I say nonchalantly. “I don’t know if you’ll like it.”

My son ate half of my salad.

WOW.

I didn’t mean to entice my son to eat my salad – but my sheer enjoyment of it made him want some.

My Lesson of the Day: Marketing does work!

How I Inspire My Family In My Pursuit of Health

26 Oct
 My son picking blueberries towards the end of summer
My cousin sent me this message today and it made me smile:
“I was just thinking how you may not realize it but your example has changed/influenced a lot of people in our family. I mean my mom headed a wellness retreat (of all people*) and your brother and I always end up talking about raw diets and being healthy.  All that from your roost. Think what you can do if you were full force into it. Don’t underestimate the power of the wings of a butterfly fluttering in Costa Rica :)”
* My aunt loves Velveeta, Spam and canned corned beef hash.

My Grandmother's Love For Food

26 Oct
This article was featured in the Holistic Moms Network Magazine, 

 
As a young girl, I would look forward to seeing the look on my Chinese grandmother’s face at meal times.  I could eat seven bowls of salted fish fried rice and one whole order of sweet and sour pork (yes, including the last bits of peppers and pineapples) in one sitting.  ‘Mama’ would beam at me.  That look she gave me made me feel proud because it was the one thing I did that pleased her.  My older cousin Snow White was her favourite, with her white complexion, dark thick hair and red lips.  Her second favourite was my younger brother because he too was fair and well… he is a boy, the favoured gender for the Chinese.  Snow White’s younger sister, Tomboy, and I were at the bottom of Mama’s fave list – probably because we were the darker ones of the brood.  Still, I did make Mama proud when I ate a meal for three!  And I loved to please her.

Then I went off the college.  I gained my freshman 30, turned vegetarian and while trying to lose weight, I started dreading meal times with Mama.  I dreaded sitting next to her the most because that meant having to eat everything she put on my plate, non-vegetarian items included. She would pile my plate high with food.  And when dessert came and I declined, she would say: “Why?  It’s good for you!”   My college I-know-it-all attitude would speak up “THAT is good for me? Are you kidding? I don’t think so!  I need to lose weight! Besides, I don’t eat meat or fish.” Mama wouldn’t beam at me anymore.  Her looks across the table (I’d choose to sit far away) would be a contorted grimace my way.  Sigh.  I was definitely at the bottom of her list now.

Recently, my husband, son and I visited my grandmother.  She is quieter and more timid these days, but food still is the most important part of her day.  Food brings her closer to others.  It is during mealtimes that she takes pleasure in sharing experiences and thoughts and feelings with friends and family.  It also pleases her to watch others enjoy food.  During our first dinner together while visiting Mama, my son was sound asleep.  Mama fretted that he wouldn’t have enough food to eat afterward.  Then, just as we were about to leave the restaurant, my 3 year old son woke up and devoured the leftover pineapple slices on the table and quickly asked “More please!”  From  the corner of my eye, I saw Mama’s body suddenly come alive.  I glanced at her and saw her face transform into that familiar beam.  Was it to me?  Or was that beam for my son?  I’m not sure.  I watched as Mama’s smile seemed to grow wider every second as she watched my son eat four more orders of pineapple slices.  She was obviously so proud of watching her great grandson enjoy his food.

Mama and I may have very different views on nutrition.  Although she has accepted that I am a raw foodie, I don’t think she would ever agree with my diet choice.  She loves canned Vienna Sausage, candy and fried pork rinds too much.  But when I see my grandmother’s eyes sparkle, her cheeks glowing full of pride and her whole body bursting with energy and delight at watching my son eat pineapple, I realize we are more alike than I thought.

(Hmmm, now I wonder if having a son who loves to eat increases my ranking power with Mama?)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Recently, our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) gave us a pound of peanuts.  I don’t like raw peanuts, so I cooked them – just the way Mama used to eat peanuts when I was growing up.  She would  sometimes sit at the table in the late afternoon, shelling and eating boiled peanuts.

Although boiled peanuts are clearly not raw, they are a local, in-season, unprocessed and unrefined cooked food.  Yesterday, my son asked to eat cake for breakfast instead of the usual raw fare (we were at a sugar filled birthday party the night before).  He stopped asking for cake as soon as I brought out these boiled peanuts.  I don’t know about you, but I would prefer my son to eat this than a piece of  processed cake!  This recipe is simple, easy and truly addictive.  Enjoy!

Place in the slow cooker on high for at least 8 hours until tender:
1 pound raw unshelled peanuts, clean well
1/4 cup sea salt
4 cups water
Keep checking water level to make sure there is enough to just cover the peanuts.  Serve hot or cold.