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Wednesday
Nov282012

Feeding Our Kids with Love: Unlearning and Learning the Truth About Our Food


by Joli Forbes

Photos by Planet Swan

 

“I bought banana bread, a juice box, muffin and milk,” she excitedly admitted. “On her first day of public school, this is what my daughter chose from the federally-funded school lunch program in her school’s cafeteria.

My daughter is five years old and healthy. However, if she ate everyday the way she did on her first day of school she could become obese or even diabetic. She did not become ill, thank goodness. Instead she was wired and without the ability to focus for the rest of the day.

Lured in by flashy colors and sugary, chemical-filled fare, she made her decisions out of “I never get to eat like this,” instead of “this would help me learn and play better.”  While a stereotypical reaction for her age, it showed me, the mother, how vitally important it is that I stay on top of these things and teach her about good health myself. 

Science has proven that proper diet and exercise have a direct affect on cognitive learning. As an example for proper diet, Professor of Neurosurgery at UCLA, Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, states in a UCLA Magazine article that optimal nutrition for brain power means consuming higher levels of Iron, Omega-3s, Zinc, Folic Acid, and lower levels of trans fats and saturated fats (which negatively affect cognition). I wonder if optimal nutrition is found in a processed, pre-packaged, cafeteria muffin shipped from who-knows-where? I’m thinking not so much! 

In 2010 the Obama administration and the USDA set into motion the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act which did several things. It brought breakfasts into school cafeterias, after-school snacks for low-income kids, suggested that schools begin teaching nutrition and good health habits, and, finally, that schools up their game with regard to cafeteria offerings. For the first time in 30 years the American government admitted there was a problem. I’m glad they did. It’s a great start. But is it sufficient? David Katz, M.D. answers this question beautifully in his recent Huffington Post blog: 

“…We can, and should, update love -- so that helping one another be healthy is an honored and prevailing means of expressing it. Health is for living. We want our kids to eat well because we want them to be healthy, and we want them to be healthy because we love them. They need to know that -- and that job resides with families, not government.”

 

 


An Apple a Day


Ruby is five years old and her mother works at Café Gratitude in San Francisco. Jumping excitedly on her bed she announces, “Eating healthy means that you eat your fruits and vegetables every day so you can be strong and healthy.” 

According to the adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” she is right. Translated into today’s world, this pre-Lunchables saying reminds us that simple, organic, whole foods (which used to be considered “fast” food because they were available quickly from the kitchen counter) are good for the body and should be consumed every day. 

So let’s get specific. Based on Professor Gomez-Pinilla’s research, for optimal learning at school what we should be packing our kids for lunch (or teaching our kids to eat from the cafeteria) are foods high in Iron, Omega-3s, Zinc and Folic Acid.

These elements have been proven to affect attention, memory, cellular and physical growth, immune system regeneration and performance, ward off germs, viruses and mental disorders, and enhance mood. School-aged children need all of these within their bodies everyday for concentration, listening and absorbing information, optimal health and to have a great time while doing it all! 

Foods rich in these elements are (but not limited to) red meat; egg yolks; dark leafy greens; dried fruits such as raisins and dates; mollusks, nuts, beans and legumes; liver and artichokes, blackstrap molasses, quinoa, tofu and tempeh, cabbage, seeds, cauliflower, fish, seaweed, blackberries, kiwi, supplements such as Udo’s Oil, peas, ricotta cheese, yogurt, kelp, dulse, avocados, broccoli, asparagus and citrus fruits.

If we expose our kids to these organic, whole foods early on we will inspire them, and somewhat condition them, to choose these foods on their own when given the opportunity. I found this happening in nature!

"I like spinach, and kale and I think fruits," said 3 ½ -year old Andrik. His mommy is Tangee Veloso-Pueblos, mama-preneur, Mila seed distributor, and founder of Family Love Village -- a holistic parenting support system and information dispensary for conscious parenting.

“Eating healthy is a way of choosing to live,” Tangee boldly and knowingly states. “So to me - eating healthy means educating yourself on your choices.  It means eating more organic, whole foods and less processed foods.  It means reading through labels and feeling what resonates with your body and what doesn't.”


Packing a Lunch that Packs a Punch


If you don’t want your kids to eat from the cafeteria, or even if you want to supplement what they get from the cafeteria, it’s important to make them their lunch. As they grow and become independent they will learn how to make their own… and sometimes they teach us. 

“Ooohhh the ideal lunch for my son,” says Veloso-Pueblos, “includes a whole grain, perhaps quinoa, with kale … along with fruit … and a side of homemade hummus with carrots.” She adds a second suggestion: “a healthy wrap with spinach, hummus, goat cheese, avocado, tomatoes and sprouts would be amazing!  Add hummus, carrots, fruit and even some Nori … and that is a lunch packed full of goodness! 

“Oh and can’t forget the beverage,” she adds. “I’d either choose coconut water or filtered water flavored with powdered electrolytes.  That way it keeps the kiddo fueled with hydration.” 

Shayne Newman is a college student now. As a junior in high school she became vegetarian and after attending a PETA event in her senior year, instantly changed her life by becoming vegan. Her mother is a nurse and has always taught Shayne about nutrition and how to have a solid relationship with exercise and food. She taught her small portions throughout the day means healthy digestion and a happy body.

As a high school-aged vegan, Shayne learned how to make substitutions from a meat-eaters lunch to her new consciousness. Though most of her friends were not following the same path, she created new habits for herself and helped her parents learn what to buy and what to leave alone! For instance, her ideal school lunch would be a Tofurky sandwich (made with spinach and Vegannaise); nectarines or mango; vegan trail mix that includes dark chocolate chips, baked chips or veggie sticks; hummus and either pita chips or organic baby carrots.


Transforming Our Schools: Seeing the Tomatoes for the Garden


Some schools are taking matters into their own hands by breaking ground and building gardens on campus and including them into the curriculum. Lisa Linde says that’s true at her kids’ school. “[My kids] go to the Country School [in Valley Village, CA] and they have a great "green" program where the kids tend a raised bed, edible garden.” 

Famed Northern California restaurateur and chef, Alice Waters, took this to the next level. She created the Edible Schoolyard Project that has taken off exponentially in schools around the country. It is a multifaceted program where teachers, volunteers and students build and tend to a garden and feed the cafeteria from the garden. Also, lesson plans are written, implemented and openly shared free of charge, for easy incorporation into classrooms around the world regardless of socioeconomic positioning or means. 

Veloso-Pueblos sums it all up quite clearly:

“Ahhh…to be able to live in a time and place where we step away from the addiction of the fast-paced, fast-food era and actually come back to our roots where we can fully enjoy a more relaxed and peaceful way of living where slow cooking (or uncooking for those raw foodists) is not only the “norm” but it is savored by all.  What a wonderful gift we’d be modeling to our children how they get to pay it forward for generations to come!  Now THAT is the ultimate vision right there!”

Amen Sister. 

What I’ve learned is it’s up to me; it’s up to all the families and teachers. I am willing to tell the truth, change my ways to create a better example, and openly expose my kids to teaching and learning the truth together.

  

Healthy School Lunch Ideas & Recipes

 


Asphalt to Ecosystems 

 

Veggie Kids Blog

Vegan Lunchbox Blog

 

Momables

Simply subscribe to their service and they send you weekly shopping lists and menu plans that are packed with nutrition and uncomplicated, yummy foods.

 

Edible Schoolyard

 

Center for Ecoliteracy

 

Going Vegan: A Veggie Starter Kit for Teens

 

Revolution Foods

 An organization that will teach kids about food and nutrition as well as supply healthy lunches to schools

 

Post Punk Kitchen 

Ridiculously delicious plant-based recipes

Joli Selten Forbes is a freelance writer, photographer and poet based in Valley Village, CA. She is a mother, dancer, gardener and foodie who instigates change in her home and community for what she calls the “Revolution of Consciousness” currently underway. She holds a degree in Journalism from the University of Oregon who's professional bylines can be found at  yourdailythread.com, Flaunt, Shape, Bon Appétit, the LA Times, Press Democrat, Orange Coast Magazine, Minnesota Law & Politics, URB, and many other magazines and newspapers. She is also a regular volunteer for local organizations like Food Not Bombs and music/art festivals like Lightning in a Bottle.

 

 

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