Even though I grew up in a farm state, surrounded by cornfields, I had absolutely no concept of what real food is or where it comes from. And that’s because my food came from the cornfields that had been covered in asphalt and topped with super-sized big box stores. There were no sunrises or sunsets, just 24 hours of fluorescent light. And the only seasonal food seemed to be the next round of holiday candy.
I still remember when I was a kid, and I realized that hamburger didn’t come from a cow. It WAS the cow.
My mother had a garden, but I preferred green beans from the can. When she baked cookies, they were hearty “Wheels of Steel,” not the Pilsbury brand that came with smiles and love already in them. I watched commercials for Coke, Doritos, and Taco Bell, and I was jealous of my friends that lived with “normal” families.
Normal is relative, and really, it’s whatever you think it is. And the more advertising you are subjected to, the more you believe what you see. Slogans and tag lines are designed to attach positive emotions to whatever they are selling, and often, we are hooked before the first bite.
In America, “normal” food comes in brilliantly branded packages, that have been transported anywhere from 100 to several thousand miles, via boat, plane, train or truck. The products we buy are carefully designed to stimulate our appetite, quench our cravings and send us to the store for more.
But the packages, boxes, bags and cans that we carefully select from the acres of isles are simply not real food… only feel-good consumable products. The factory processing that is required to produce a profit destroys the micronutrients, antioxidants and living enzymes that only real food can deliver.
Skillfully crafted corporate commercials promise us that their artificially colored and flavored foods are a necessary part of a nutritious meal, and often dump in doctor-recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals. Labels guarantee that you can eat your cake and wake up healthy and skinny too…
But digestive processes and bioavailability (the bodies ability to use what we give it!) are far more complicated than once thought. You can’t just add synthetic ascorbic acid and expect to get the same benefits that come from eating a few oranges or a spinach salad chocked full of vitamin C.
Think about it. If vitamins, supplements and fortified foods did what the food labels claim, why are most of us overweight, on medication, and suffering from a host of chronic disorders and disease?
Food kills more people than all the pharmaceutical drugs combined. When you realize that artificial ingredients are just another laboratory-created chemical…designed to produce some sort of biological response, you can begin to understand how serious the problem is. Food is as powerful as any drug–and it can harm or it can heal.
Statistics show that 90-95% of people that go on a diet will be heavier 1 year later. But weight loss that is attained through calorie reduction or manipulation of macronutrients is temporary. And every time you force yourself to loose weight by dieting,you body will fight back against the perceived stress.
We assume that overweight people are lazy and/or ignorant–and we’re hardest on ourselves when it’s our weight that can’t be controlled. But no matter how hard you try, how disciplined you become, you are fighting an uphill battle against a full-on war! Brand name foods are designed to be addictive, because they need you to buy more. That’s Business Basics 101. Food producers need satisfied customers that want to buy what they are selling.
There are over 75,000 chemicals approved for use in our food supply. Our body’s full time focus isn’t to thrive, it’s to simply rid itself of the synthetic ingredients we consume at each meal. And whatever cannot be broken down in the kidneys, liver and lymph system will be stored in our fat cells. Any chemical that can’t be processed is encapsulated in fat and removed from circulation.
So when we attempt to loose weight, our body goes on the defense. Our bodies don’t want to break down the fat cells because that will unleash a lot of trash! And when we choose to fight fat with synthetic diet foods and plastic-wrapped products, the problem only gets bigger (along with our waistline…)
When you eat packaged and processed foods, you will constantly have to think, monitor and adjust. You live in fear. Because you are still dancing with the monster. If you think a picture of a beautiful bikini model taped to the fridge will keep you from eating the rest of the pizza, you’ll quickly tire from overexertion. Temptation is a rip current you cannot swim against. If you believe that the answer lies with secret ingredients or patented formulas, you are starving for the real truth.Your body will shed it’s layers of protection only when it is safe to do so… only when you stop eating chemicals and start eating real food that provides NOURISHMENT.
You can only start making changes when you begin to understand that there’s a difference between real food and Real Food®. You can’t Eat Fresh® if you don’t know that The Fresh Alternative® is anything but. We’ve been brainwashed. The mouth-watering, freshly baked, 9-grain whole wheat bread at Subway actually has over 50 ingredients, including azodicarbonamide, which is used as a bleaching agent and to improve dough elasticity. By the way, it’s also used in the production of foamed plastics. The average Subway purchase has 784 calories and 2149 mg sodium, and is filled with preservatives, color enhancers, chemical flavoring, MSGs, nitrates and trans fat. Their non-organic meats and dairy are filled with growth hormones, which are given to livestock to make them really big and fat. Do you get that?
Think about it…And then notice that Real Food®, The Fresh Alternative® and Eat Fresh® are trademarks of Subway®.
PS. I get that Jared lost 245lbs on a Subway diet. And 15 years later, he’s still thin, AND he’s worth $15 million. Thats awesome. Good for him. But that’s not normal, and 42,000 stores in 105 countries make it their business to keep that story as simple as it sounds in a 30-second commercial….
Eating habits are really hard to change. We associate the foods we eat with comfort and normality, so anticipating withdrawal and detox symptoms is essential to success.
The faster you transition to a plant-based diet, the more likely it is that you will experience a detox symptoms. It can occur any time within the first month, and last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. Symptoms can include:
- Headache or nausea
- Feelings of stress
- Fatigue and weakness
- Mental confusion and irritability
- Abdominal or esophageal spasms
- Gastrointestinal issues ranging from cramping, bloating, constipation anddiarrhea.
- Compromised immunity that leaves you susceptible to colds and virusesIf you plan for a few days of downtime, more than likely you’ll be pleasantly surprised and through the worst before you even realize what’s happened. Most likely, it will just feel like you’re having a bad day. Have some herbal tea on hand, try to get some extra sleep, and trust that it will pass.
Put your experience in perspective, and you might find a new level of motivation with the “No Pain, No Gain” philosophy. Everyone’s met the smoker who selfishly demands his “right” to light a cigarette in public, despite everyone else’s right to breathe. On the surface, he may feel that being restricted from his habit is an issue of freedom. But if he “needs” to smoke, he’s actually surrendered his power of choice. He’s not free to smoke. He’s required. Failing to administer the drug will be painful, and his body will be punished with detox symptoms.
Cravings are not about hunger. They are symptomatic of a disruption in a toxic cycle that keeps us enslaved to addiction. Understanding why this process occurs can make coping with the temporary discomfort of detox symptoms more bearable.
Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals and living enzymes are what keep our cells functioning properly. A diet low in these micronutrients leaves our cells “understaffed”, affecting everything from DNA replication and repair, hormone function, immune response and waste removal. It’s analogous to a work force that goes on strike when they are not compensated fairly. We are oblivious to the people working in the background to keep our community systems running smoothly until our we can’t catch a cab or send our kids to school.
And when there aren’t enough “garbage men” to process all of the trash we ingest in junk food alley, it will be left indefinitely in our fat cells.
So when we need to break down fat cells for energy or weight loss, the excess waste products are released into our blood stream. This creates discomfort that we first identify as hunger or low blood sugar. Because if we eat, the breakdown of our fat cells stops, and our detox symptoms go away.
And if we eat processed foods that are chemically designed to stimulate our endorphins, we not only stop feeling bad, we start feeling good. Maybe even really good.
For about 5 minutes.
So when you feel nasty even though you’ve been eating whole foods filled with micronutrients, don’t be fooled into rationalizing that good foods don’t leave you satisfied and nourished. Actually, the presence of healthy food will boost your body’s ability to counteract withdrawal.
Detox symptoms are temporary. Good health will last a lifetime.
Don’t judge your day based on the harvest you reap, but on the seeds you plant.
After 40 years of life, I’ve decided on my answer to the life long question: What is the one thing I’d take to be stranded on an island? (The answer to WHO I would bring is a whole separate blog…)
I’d like to announce, for the record, that my official survival kit would only need to include… (drum roll please…)
A box of Heavy Duty Hefty Cinchsaks.
I’ve run various scenarios with sunscreen, a glue gun and a water filter. But I realize I’ll have far more staying power with plastic. I can use the garbage bags to make a poncho, a purse and even a pillow, and they will keep my food, iStuff and off-season clothing safe from the wind, water and wild animals.
I’m know! I’m soooo right!
If you think about it, the only invention that ranks even close to the wheel has only been around about 100 years. And plastic has been a game changer for both the planet and the human race. It certainly makes parenthood easier, and is probably why we are facing a population explosion. Wooden high chairs splinter and metal swing sets rust, but plastic pacifiers keep babies from being tossed with the bath toys.
But as demand for convenience has led to billions of bags, bottles, products and packaging being consumed every day by parents and non-breeders alike, our landfills and oceans are filling up with plastic, and there are daily updates on the concerns for not only marine life, but human health.
Disposable convenience is now an accepted and expected way of life. When my first child was born in 1997, cloth diapers were as extinct as the milk man. But when I realized that even generic urination costs $.25 a squirt, I attempted to manage my budget with the old-fashioned cloth supplies. And after a few weeks of diaper rash, toilet trash and poop in my washer, I decided that these were not the pennies to pinch.
Later, when my kids started school, I invested in metal water bottles. But at $30/each, and a 50% return rate, I decided that cases of disposable water bottles offered the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the logistics of recycling (cardboard in one bin, plastic #2 in the other…)
A few years ago, I made the switch to reusable shopping bags. The average family collects 60-100 of these cheap plastic bags a week. And as they can’t be profitably recycled like other plastics, they end up in landfills and make their way to the oceans, where currents have created huge mountains of trash. There is one in the Atlantic known as Garbage Patch Island, which is the same size as the state of Texas.As a concerned citizen of the planet, I dutifully use my bags (whenever I actually remember to bring them into the store.) If I forget (often), I punish myself (and the people behind me) by leaving the cashier to run back to the car.
I’m hoping that making a scene inspires others to do the same.
But the consequences of disposable karma might come full circle quicker than expected. My vegan diet has been on trial in the last two years as I’ve struggled with some health concerns that include hair loss, cavities and chronic bloating. And while the stress of moving, divorce, and 4 busy kids is not inconsequential, I have learned that, surprise! even high quality, organic foods can deliver contaminates if they are stored and especially cooked in plastic. Despite my clean diet, a recent hair analysis showed higher than zero levels of several toxins and heavy metals.
The problem with plastic is that it’s made from petroleum and not meant to be eaten. And while I don’t eat plastic, my food is often wrapped in it. There are many ingredients in plastic that are toxic, linked directly to cancers, birth defects, hormone and autoimmune disorders, and childhood developmental issues. To name the biggest offenders, Bisphenol-A (BPA), phthalates, dioxins, and heavy metals cadmium, mercury and lead can be found in many of our bottles and food packaging.
But since plastic isn’t a food product, manufacturers are not required to disclose the secret ingredients that strengthen, color and define their privately patented formulas. And as most of us use re-use plastic containers in creative “off-label” ways, we can inadvertently be exposed to toxins that create disease.
So in my attempts to go green, I’ve exposed myself and my family to even greater risk! I cringe to think of how many summers I refilled the disposable water bottles for my kids…storing them in the hot garage and leaving them in strollers and cars from season to season. I was on a budget and a mission to live sustainably.
But the problem with plastic is that they ALL can leach when exposed to heat and light of various degrees.
When plastic is exposed to the elements, especially sunlight, heat and water wave action, it degrades into smaller pieces. These toxic particles then contaminate our soil and water, and act as sponges for other organic poisons such as the pesticides and fertilizers that run off of farms.
Plastic pollution is breathed by marine life, and eaten by land animals, where it lodges in digestive tracts, circulates through blood streams and even mutates DNA, compromising not just one generation but future offspring as well. So eliminating fish and other meat from our diets, and drinking only the best filtered water might be pointless. Because we live in a plastic-wrapped world where today’s convenience is tomorrow’s garbage.
I guess that’s just one more reason why I’ll be a Survivor with my chosen Heavy Duty Hefty Cinchsaks….
Summer Garden Pizza
It’s fine if your kids don’t like veggies, just make them a pizza…
As the twilight of summer crescendos with beautiful blossoms on sun-ripened fruit, there is a fleeting hiatus amid the sweat of summer and the first frost of fall. The circle of life manifests with a symphony of colorful flavor and succulent scent, and every day meals become an exploration of divine expression.
Which sounds SUPER awesome if you are a gardener at heart. But my kids are typical, and suffer from the modern malaise of the ADD/ OCD hybrid. The excitement of planting and cultivating our own food was lost to the daily weeding and watering back in June. They don’t want to pick, pluck or pull the peas, potatoes or peppers. And FOR SURE, they don’t want to eat them.
So when they notice that I’m preparing a vegetable stir fry with the proceeds of my daily harvest, they begin to whine. They just want pizza. And as gardening has taught me that you must leave room for nature to take it’s course, I consent.
No problem. Kids don’t like vegetables, and I don’t want a fight. Pizza it is!
They fail to notice the smirk on my face as I continue chopping and they run off to play. Really, darlings. Have we met? Do you think my evil vegan plot to save the planet with vegetables is going to be undone with a simple request for pizza?
Not a chance.
I use low heat to simmer the kale, green and white onion, red pepper and yellow tomatoes, adding a few cloves of garlic, a pinch of sea salt and a drizzle of butter infused olive oil from the Olive Twist. I always cook in a cast iron skillet to boost the iron content of the meal. I sauté until the veggies are bright, and transfer it to the Vitamix. For authentic pizza flavor, I add sprigs of fresh thyme, basil and oregano, as well as 1/2 cup of yeast flakes and a few tablespoons of maple syrup.
After I give it a whirl, I see the color is too green to escape suspicion, so a can of bright red pizza sauce is added to the mix. It would be better to use half of a small red beet, as they cover green better than anything, but I have none on hand.
I make two pizzas, one crust is rolled from homemade dough by Lotsa Pasta, and the other is Udi’s Gluten Free. The vegan cheese is mozzerrella by Follow Your Heart. I order all of these through Green B.E.A.N. Delivery.
As the sun sets and hunger brings the kids to the table, a harmless looking, gooey cheese pizza is cooling on the oven. I’ve also blanched fresh green beans and flavored with a balsamic glaze.
Because the kids know their mother would never serve pizza without forcing an obligatory side of vegetables.
For sure, they are right about that.
Just because kids don’t like veggies, doesn’t mean they won’t eat them.
This Native American proverb speaks to the essence of sustainable living. In modern times, we are endowed with a birthright, taught that the accomplishments of our parents may be used as collateral in pursuit of our own dreams. Each generation is promised that their own lives will be fuller, richer and easier than ever before.
And while automated industries, medical advances and educational opportunities offer great improvement in our quality of life, the real cost of the development and use of these technologies is not something that can be paid for with money. Land and energy utilization, as well as soil, water, air quality are complicated commodities that must be protected through sustainable living.
Our lives are part of a delicate system. Our planet is designed as a web; each species has a purpose. Our ability to live independently of nature gives us a false sense of power. But the rules are very elemental. Call it yin/yang, give/take, or ebb and flow, the universe is a system that must be in balance.
Balance is the essence of sustainability, which requires us to meet our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same. It is analogous to a credit card. If we buy things we cannot afford, debt will mount, polluting our happiness and sense of freedom. Eventually, a bill we cannot pay will come due, and we will be held accountable for our careless actions.
The future is not a far-off event over which we have no control; rather it’s a moment by moment manifestation of every decision we make. We can create a legacy, or we can leave a burden.
Everything that we purchase has a lifecycle much longer than the season or two that we have it in our possession. Raw materials must be harvested and delivered to factories for manufacture. Merchandise is placed in boxes, wrapped in plastic, and transported via diesel engine to warehouses for storage. After we buy it, use it, and decide we’re bored, we throw it away…because out of sight is out of mind.
But nothing disappears. And some things will never decompose! If we truly appreciate the technology behind modern convenience, then we must exercise discretion in it’s use. For example, consider the 24-pack case of single-use plastic water bottles…set in cardboard and wrapped in more plastic. And all the un-recycleable plastic bags we acquire with each trip to the store. Consider the environmental impact just one person can make in a year by carrying a metal water bottle and reusable shopping bags.
It’s breathtaking to consider that every single choice, made on any given day, has both consequence and potential. Recognize your own personal power, and use it wisely. You complete the circle of life when you choose sustainable living.
The Darling Divas Loved the Green Birthday Party
As all the giggly girls who attended my daughter’s 8th birthday party were leaving, Kate-the-Great-who-Just-Turned-Eight began doing what any normal lil’ diva does.
Planning her next event.
And it’s a good thing we’ve got 364 days, because this momma needs to put her feet up. But truth be told, the party was actually enjoyable, for me too!
With four kids, I’ve hosted my fair share of birthday parties. And usually, those 2-3 chaotic hours are almost as much work as the original day of birth; personally, I’d prefer to commemorate the blessed event face down on a massage table with only nature sounds and the scent of lavender to keep me awake.
But I can’t deny my child an essential right of passage. Even so, I just can’t throw a standard soiree anymore; mounds of paper and plastic trash destined for the landfill, and fake foods filled with unnatural colors, flavors and fats.
Because it doesn’t have to be that way. Our kids deserve better. So I decided to host a green birthday party that would highlight the importance of sustainable living.
My daughter loves to make crafts, and wants her guests to take home something they will use. She has a budding eco-friendly conscious, and wanted to paint reusable shopping bags, make bird houses, and serve a vegan taco bar with gluten free cake. Can I say I’m proud?
Each girl decorated her own jute bag, and then they autographed each others. They each created a one-of-a-kind designer bag not available in stores!
The girls now have their own reusable shopping bag that carries a delightful memory along with a sense of personal empowerment that they can make a difference. I challenged the girls to count how many disposable bags they don’t need to take from the store each time they take it shopping. They can keep a tally right on the bag!
There are some lucky birds that will have bright, new and custom housing. Notice the camouflage decor in the back. Good thinking. I think that one’s equipped with WIFI too….
I included Michaels and the grocery store on my weekly errand run so that I could get the supplies and ingredients that I needed. Check your own art supplies before you purchase more, and make a list before you go. Combine as many errands in one trip as you can, and take reusable shopping bags!
The Vegan Taco Bar was LightLife crumbles, sauteed in cumin and chili powder, with chopped organic veggies, refried black beans, homemade guacamole and corn shells.
The party was scheduled for 1 p.m. I began food preparations at noon. The taco bar and cupcakes were ready by 12:45 p.m. This spread required no more effort than any other party; picking up store-bought versions is still time consuming! (But don’t let me fool you…I have two teenage boys who were “happy” to help…)
I substituted orange juice for the water in Pamela’s Gluten Free Vanilla Cake mix, and made a simple icing with powdered sugar and more orange juice. Fresh organic strawberries served as the “edible decoration”.
If you’ve never played with the orange flavor, you’re missing out. It’s easy to substitute freshly squeezed organic orange juice for liquid in any vanilla recipe. Finely grate a little zest (orange rind) into the batter and prepare to be impressed with yourself. Check out my recipe for orange cookies.
Each cake was baked in a silicon baking cup shaped like a flower. The color and shape offered a reusable accent that will be enjoyed again.
This delicious orange cupcake is gluten free and vegan, made with whole and organic ingredients. It’s FAR better than anything you’d find in a plastic package at the grocery store.
Hosting a green birthday party is less expensive, simple to plan and far more rewarding than the typical alternative. Showing our children that their future is not disposable is the best gift we can give.
Waking up our children to the importance of mindful and sustainable living is an act of love that will pay dividends in their futures…
Vegetables and kids often go cuff-n-hand…
Anyone who has ever fed a child knows that no matter what you feed them, they are going to resist. From the first taste of a new formula or milk, to the first jar of peas or peaches, each new smell, flavor and texture is a process, and the first step always include spitting and maybe even vomit.
So we create routines and comfort, even songs and rewards, around eating– overselling our efforts like cheap car salesmen. And one day, apple oatmeal in the Dora bowl with the Superman spoon on the Mickey Mouse placemat is the only acceptable option for all three meals. But a week later, the same magical combination invokes a temper tantrum worthy of YouTube, and we’re back to playing airplane with strained bananas.
So many factors play into a child’s bipolar appetite. Growth spurts, siblings, millions of marketing images, teeth (or lack thereof), taste buds, texture, hot and cold, interested dogs and curious cats, attention span, energy levels, parental reaction and past experiences. The very least of these factors is probably the actual compatibility of the food with the child’s palate.
I’ve heard that a food has to be introduced SEVEN times before a child accepts it. And according to the anectdotal evidence that I’ve been collecting for the last 14 years, this is a ridiculously inaccurate underestimate. You ask me how I get my kids to eat kale and beans? Well, the same way every other parent feeds their child. I do and I don’t. Go to the Burger King playground and listen to all the parents insisting that a child “finish that hamburger and fries before playtime”, and check out all of the food thrown on the floor, stuffed in wrappers and thrown away.
Getting kids to eat ANYTHING requires Nobel Peace Prize-worthy ingenuity and patience, SWAT team-level negotiation skills, and government intelligence training in manipulation and subterfuge. At any given meal, whoever is smarter, richer and more stubborn has the best shot at winning the game, but there are no sure bets. The taste of defeat is bitter, and goes best coupled with a nice Merlot.
My first approach was to transition the children gradually…limiting their animal products, processed foods and snacks and asking them to just try my meals. And that completely DID NOT WORK.They had no interest (i.e. motivation) to eat the food I was cooking because they would just hold out and sneak a PB&J sandwich, eat a freezer pizza or blow through a box of cereal when I wasn’t looking. There became a flourishing black market for contraband in my upstairs…hidden food, secret codes, barters for favors, cash and candy. Strange, unmarked packages came from UPS addressed to my 13 year old. I was actually quite impressed with the little mobsters. They weren’t arguing with me or each other, and they were happily supportive of my new vegan efforts. But there was too much eye contact, weird hand-signals and positive team spirit at the table….Big Red Flags. So, phase 2 was complete immersion. I bought nothing that wasn’t vegan, and I stopped buying unlimited amounts of bread and peanut butter. There were no chips, cereal or frozen pizzas. The kitchen landscape was barren and my children began to look….thin and hungry. Aghhhh…I was finally getting somewhere. Next, I attempted to indoctrinate them emotionally, and had them view Food Inc, SuperSize Me, and some horrific documentaries showing slaughter houses and chicken farms so that they could glimpse a little of the reality that was fueling my passion. But emotions fade as appetite rises, so their childish convictions rightfully and expectedly wain with the tide.
For the next few months, I put unbelievable stress on myself to make three vegan meals a day for each member of my family, no matter how many different directions we were running. No matter who was going where, I cooked in advance and filled coolers and baskets with appropriate fare. I sent lunch boxes, brown bags, and trays of separately made pizza, soy dogs, shamburgers and snacks to school, parties and friends. There was no eating out, no stopping for something quick and no compromises. Within six months, I needed a vacation in the psychiatric ward.
But it was all part of the process. It’s been four years, and my kids have not starved or developed any malnourishment diseases. In fact, they are thriving. They will tell you “Our mom is vegan, so we are too at home”….Which is GREAT! (But stay out of their way at the Pizza Hut Buffet line!) The foods and flavors I’ve introduced my kids to are not the usual American cuisine….But who wants to be normal? I’ve learned how to camouflage the massive amounts of vegetables I include in my dishes (BLENDER!), and they’ve learned that beans do not mean daddy lost his job. And ketchup still goes a long way to disguise nutritious substances. They’ve learned to text their dad a wish list if he’s stopping at the grocery, and though I hear the rustling of bags and the whispered exchange of goods and services, I don’t mind as long as they come to the table hungry and act appropriately grateful for my efforts. I don’t buy snacks and extras on a regular basis, but a Friday night party is just that, and I try to create vegan treats that qualify as junk food.
So how do you get your kids to eat what you cook? First you cook it. Then you serve it, and sit with them while they investigate it. Give them your opinion on it. (I don’t like everything I make!) Let them explore the tastes and texture. I often tell my kids they can ‘pick out’ one or two things…and then take pride in all the good stuff they are still eating. And a little hunger goes a long way. No one is going to starve. Kids in third world countries stand in line for hours just to receive a small portion of bland rice or mush or ANYTHING. I’m just saying. Picky is directly proportional to choice.
And then you may negotiate a certain number of bites. You might get angry and throw the dish in the sink, and you may quietly surrender to their opposition and eat it all yourself. They may go to bed hungry, and they may find mercy in a PB&J sandwich.
It’s all part of the process, and it’s the same in every home, regardless of the type of food you cook or how picky you think your kids are. It’s a comedy of errors, an exercise in futility and a journey of love. And it is SO worth it!