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School Lunches versus Packing a Lunch: How to Keep Both Healthy

23 May

We homeschool, but we are out and about a lot.  Here’s an example of our packed lunch.

How do we keep our children’s lunches healthy?  According to the World Health Organization“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”   So, we can rephrase our question as: how can we ensure our children’s lunches contribute to their physical, mental and social well-being and, by consuming them, they will not be afflicted by disease or sickness?

I recently watched a short documentary called Lunch, a film based on interviews about ‘Green School’ lunch programs, instilling healthy habits in kids and organic gardening in a school setting.  It seems to me that most people talk about kid’s lunches from a single viewpoint: the food. They say: let’s improve food quality, organic is better, no more GMOs, add more fruits and vegetables, no more fried foods, add healthier options, grow a school garden, add nutrition to the curriculum…  While I think these are all wonderful and much needed, the most important thing we can do is to empower children themselves to make the right food choices.  

At the end of the day, the children are the only ones who can control what they eat, therefore it is not enough to simply create a healthy nutrition environment for them. Children need to be taught that any kind of food can keep us alive, but it is the nutritious food that helps maintain our body, mind and social capacities well. We need to teach children about a whole lifestyle that emphasizes not only nutritional choices, but also how the choices they make affect their own physical, mental and social well-being.   When children are educated, when they understand, when they are given proper role models and when they are given tools to help them choose health, then the responsibility for parents and guardians to create a healthy nutrition environment for them becomes easier – simply because children will WANT it for themselves.  

Proper Nutrition is integral to maintaining our physical, mental and social health and well-being.

We can teach children the value of eating to live, not living to eat. We can teach them the value of maintaining physical, mental and social well-being (these are a few examples):

    • show them what happens to their bodies when they consume junk versus nutritious foods, for example:
      • what happens to teeth when they eat processed sugar (place a tooth in Coca Cola and see what happens)
      • what happens to bones when people eat too much animal protein and cow’s milk (show rates of osteoporosis in different communities)
      • teach them to look at their own poop and explain what healthy poop should look like
      • teach them how different foods create different energy levels (discuss athletes and their diet)
      • watch Wall-E and discuss why the humans are obese (foods they eat, exercise)
      • show videos like Supersize Me and Forks over Knives to older children
    • show them what happens to their minds depending on the food consumed, for example:
      • discuss how mental performance suffers/improves due to diet (i.e. Food For the Brain study)
      • show them that learning challenges and problem behaviors may decrease/increase according to diet
      • discuss how exercising the brain is just as important as sports is for the body
      • discuss how quality foods help the nerves in the brain function properly (memory, problem solving, etc)
    • show them that their nutritional choices have social implications, for example
      • discuss what “social well-being” means vis-à-vis proper nutrition within the community, the nation and the world (according to the United States Institute of Peace: “Social well-being is an end state in which basic human needs are met and people are able to coexist peacefully in communities with opportunities for advancement. This end state is characterized by equal access to and delivery of basic needs services (water, food, shelter, and health services), the provision of primary and secondary education, the return or resettlement of those displaced by violent conflict, and the restoration of social fabric and community life.)
      • discuss composting, recycling, reusing and reducing in the community and at home
      • discuss pollution and toxicity
      • discuss what stress does to us
      • discuss how the quality of food we eat affects our emotions and therefore our social well-being.
As we teach them to grow their own food and to prepare their own meals from scratch… we can sit back and see what happens.

Other ideas here too: Top 10 Tips to Get Your Kids to Eat More Fruits and Veggies

Part of Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Blog Hop! Click on the image for more links to Gifted/2E Health and Wellness Issues!

Why Not Meatless Weekdays Instead?

23 Jul

The Environmental Working Group recently released their “Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health” report.  It is clear that the food choices we Americans make are negatively impacting our health, animal welfare and our planet’s environment and climate.

1. Americans eat more meat per capita than Europeans or people in developing countries.

2009 Per Capita Meat* Production Copyright @ Environmental Working Group,

2. Production of meat and dairy for consumption in America use the most pesticides, chemical fertilizers, fuel, feed and water that cause the most greenhouse gases, toxins, manure and other pollutants that are currently in our air and water.  Lamb, Beef and Cheese are the chief culprits. Tomatoes and Lentils produce the least emissions.

Full Lifecycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Common Proteins and Vegetables Copyright @ Environmental Working Group,

3. The EWG states that we can make simple choices that affect our environment and climate big time:

“If you eat one less burger a week, it’s like taking your car off the road for 320 miles or line-drying your clothes half the time.

If your four-person family skips meat and cheese one day a week, it’s like taking your car off the road for five weeks – or reducing everyone’s daily showers by 3 minutes.

If your four-person family skips steak once a week, it’s like taking your car off the road for nearly three months. 1

If everyone in the U.S. ate no meat or cheese just one day a week, it would be like not driving 91 billion miles – or taking 7.6 million cars off the road.”

So, my question is:

why not make it Meatless Weekdays instead of just Meatless Mondays???

Food = Power

29 Jan
While I am a vegan, my husband and son are not – but I try to cook 2 vegan or vegetarian meals  for them out of 3 each day.  I make sure we enjoy green smoothies each morning and a delicious vegetable dish at each meal.  Most of our meals are cooked fresh from scratch and while I work in the kitchen – sometimes happily, sometimes hurriedly – my only wish for all my trouble is for my family’s health.  But as I read more about changing diets in our world today, I realise that there are other bonuses: a more vegetarian diet does a lot of good for the health of the earth and for the health of others.

Our Son’s Favourite Salad (click here for recipe)
We love that our son has a favourite salad!  
We use grapeseed oil, maple syrup and no added salt or pepper in this simple and quick Japanese dressing.
Others Use Food To Control Us
We were on a long haul plane trip and a stewardess stops by our row, smiles at my 3 year old son, looks at the banana and grapes on his table and whispers secretively to him but loud enough for me to hear:  “Don’t tell your mum, but I’m bringing you 2 bags of crisps and a big fat cheese roll.  It will be our little secret, ok?”
In my mind I was shouting: “Excuse me!”  (It almost reminded me of the time my grandmother served us cake for breakfast because CAKE IS HEALTHY!)  There were 4 big problems with this stewardess and this scenario: 1. her underhanded manner, 2. this is exactly why so many children are unhealthy these days, 3. she was assuming it was OK by my son, and 4. she was assuming it was OK by his parents.  But instead of reacting to her, in a rare Zen moment I just let it go.  
The stewardess returned and playfully displayed the 2 bags of crisps and 2 cheese rolls in front of my son’s face: “Which one would you like, sweetie?  Mmmmm… yummy!”.  I grit my teeth.  My young son looked at the junk food and then looked at her in the eye and shook his head. He firmly said, “No.  Do you have some grapes?”  The stewardess was taken aback and really looked quite hurt.  She left with the crisps but placed the cheese rolls on the table.  My son continued to eat all the bananas and grapes on his table and left the cheese rolls untouched.  Needless to say, I was ecstatic! This ‘food challenge’ experience made me realise that our son can hold his own.  It also affirmed the importance of education at home.
We All Can Control Our Own Food Intake To Help Others and The Earth in A Big Way
I usually sift through Forbes magazine quickly, but last November an article called Drop That Burger caught my eye.  The article gave reasons why Patrick O. Brown, a Stanford University Biochemist, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a vegan, wants to eliminate animal farming on planet earth.  He “notes that while livestock accounts for only 9% of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions, it accounts for 37% of human-caused methane (most of it emanating from the animals’ digestive systems) and 65% of human-caused nitrous oxide, according to the Food  and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Both are far better at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, meaning that cows, chickens and their ilk have a larger greenhouse effect than all the cars, trucks and planes in the world.”   In addition, a well-known economist and professor at London School Economics, Lord Stern, suggests we could fight global warming by changing our diet into a more vegetarian one.
A few months later, I picked up The Futurist magazine (click here for subscription) and was engrossed by the article called How To Feed 8 Billion People. It discusses record global grain shortages and how we can all manage these now limited resources: “Shifting to less grain-intensive forms of animal protein such as poultry or certain types of fish can also reduce pressure on the earth’s land and water resources… When considering how much animal protein to consume, it is useful to distinguish between grass-fed and grain-fed products… If we cannot quickly cut carbon emissions, the world will face crop-shrinking heat waves that can massively and unpredictably reduce harvests. A hotter world will mean melting ice sheets, rising sea levels, and the inundation of the highly productive rice-growing river deltas of Asia. The loss of glaciers in the Himalayas and on the Tibetan Plateau will shrink wheat and rice harvests in both India and China, the world’s most populous countries. Both are already facing water shortages driven by aquifer depletion and melting glaciers…Since hunger is almost always the result of poverty, eradicating hunger depends on eradicating poverty… If we are living high on the food-consumption chain, we can move down, improving our health while helping to stabilize climate.  Food security is something in which we all have a stake — and a responsibility.”

I hope in my small way I am really improving my family’s health and thereby helping others too.