Four workshops in 8 days all focusing on building the “Healthy Lunchbox.” What a fantastic opportunity it has been for me to reach out to the community (both in Hoboken and in Fairfield, NJ) to talk to expectant parents and new parents about the importance of a nutritious diet. How do I have the energy to do this with a rambunctious 2.8 year old and a 4 week old at home? First, pure luck! In that I was born with an insatiable hunger to help others. Second, my diet, one rich in phytonutrients (fruits and veggies), lots of healthy fats, whole grains, plant based proteins and essentially zero processed or fried foods. And third, a tremendous amount of support from my husband, my parents, my sisters and my neighbors (shout out to Dee Bernstein for entertaining Maya while I cook, do the laundry, write blogs and shower for the week!)
So let’s dive right in.
Crowding out. Yup! Let’s not focus (today) on what you should REMOVE from your diet; rather, let’s focus on what you should add into your diet (and those of your kids). I’m going to try to make this easy. Give you stats that will creep back up on you when shopping, cooking and packing those lunch boxes.
65, 35, 5. These numbers are representative of the breakdown of the average American diet. 65% of the all the calories we take in come from refined grains & sweets (cereal, bread, bagels, pasta, crackers, granola bars, pretzels, chips, cookies, cakes, protein bars), 35% comes from animal protein (ham, bacon, cheese, meat, chicken, beef), 5% comes from fruits/vegetables… Okay, now remember these numbers 2, 11, 100.
When looking at the Nutrient Density Line (thank you Joel Fuhrman, MD for creating this visual for us) you can see that the MAJORITY of our diet rests on the BOTTOM of the nutrient density line! In other words, 65% of what we eat throughout the day has a value of “0” or “2” if we’re being generous on how nutritious it actually is. And what provides our cells with the greatest amount of energy, immunity, strength, endurance, etc, (leafy greens, green veggies, non-starchy veggies) is only eaten 5% of the time!! The problem? Food absolutely dictates how we function in society – physically, emotionally and mentally. So is it any wonder we live on coffee (you know who you are) to get us through the day or that at 3pm without fail, that bar of chocolate is calling our name? Or that 25% of our children take Rx regularly? Or that this may be the first generation of children to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents (David Katz. MD.) because of the rise of diabetes and obesity.
- Food will give us lasting energy or create highs and lows
- Food will keep our mood stable or it will wreak havoc on our emotional and mental state
- Food will keep our heads clear or create headaches and withdrawl
- Food will stave off the disease that lingers deep in our cells or will lead to the expression of symptoms that become chronic disease
And it’s not for lack of caring that we as parents are caught up in this conundrum. Rather, or at least I believe, it stems from our lack of time, lack of patience, lack of sleep and our kids’ lack of desire to eat the foods we’ve slaved over preparing for them! I mean, what kid would naturally chose to eat a kale and quinoa salad over a creamy delicious mac and cheese lunch or a salty, greasy hot dog for dinner over a tofu and arugula salad? And that’s where we come in as parents whose job it is to at least try. Try and try again to offer more variety, more healthy, more whole foods. And where do I suggest we start? Not in yanking their mac and cheese, or hot dogs for dinner rather by adding in new foods and offering choices for our kids. It’s not negotiable in other words. Would they rather have an apple or banana with their breakfast? Would they rather the sliced cucumbers or the cherry tomatoes before they eat their chicken fingers? Would they rather the turkey meatballs (with hidden zucchini and carrots) or the lentil and barley soup for dinner? Eventually, they’ll pick one of the two options you give them.
- Give them choices (between healthy option #1 and healthy option #2)
- Give them more veggies and fruits at every meal or at every snack
- Experiment with a new WHOLE grain every week (brown or wild rice, barley, bulgar, couscous, spelt, oats, polenta, quinoa)
- SNEAK a veggie or two into your typical burger, meatball, mac&cheese or sandwich
- Find a friend (or a health coach – hint, hint) to lean on for support
Eat this way yourselves before expecting to see a change in them – we need to model behavior first and become convinced ourselves that food actually does change the way we feel. We have to trust at first that food will fuel us or will act as a toxin, and then use our experience to drive our behavior. I guarantee you, if you stick to this plan, you will see and feel a difference in yourselves and in your children.
Below are some of the creative ways I used whole foods this week: whole grains, real fruit, natural sweeteners, hidden veggies.
Apple Cinnamon Drops & Peach-Coconut Rounds in place of fruit rollups or fruit snacks!
Veggie Mac & Cheese (sneaking in cauliflower & butternut squash) vs. Kraft Mac & Cheese.
If you’d like to learn how to make recipes like this one, or you’re ready for a change in your own self, reach out @ firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s never too late to Revitalize & Nourish YOU!