Where we get fit and spin (wool)

Archive for January, 2012

“It’s for the Children”

I’m going to be doing a presentation to mothers of preschoolers later this month. This has caused me to spend time thinking about what kids eat. It has always bugged me that we create foods for our children that are absolutely the worst things they should be eating, then wonder why their eating habits are so bad. That article yesterday on the girl who would only eat chicken nuggets only exasperated me further. I will be publishing two entries on solutions, but I want to vent some more about the problem first.

To begin, we are starting to realized that highly processed foods are not good for us. I say “highly” because everything you do to food, from washing it to cutting and cooking it, is processing it. However, there is a huge difference between roasting a chicken and:

“Mechanically Separated Poultry is a paste-like poultry product produced by forcing crushed bone and tissue through a sieve or similar device to separate bone from tissue.”

What do we do with this paste of meat, gristle and bone? We add nitrites, salt, sugar and other ingredients, steam it into a paste, inside a skin and feed it to our children. If the disturbing nature of how it’s made don’t bother you, how about setting them up for the future? I have here a study result from Harvard School of Public Health that clearly links processed meat with greater risk for diabetes and heart disease.

Do I even have to go into the evils of trans fats? It is another, man made Franken-fat, made by hydrogenating unsaturated fats to make them act like saturated fats. Manufacturers love them, as they don’t get rancid like real fat does. However, we’ve found out that they are worse than saturated fats when it comes to our arteries and heart. If you’d like to read more, this article, again from the Harvard School of Public Health is a good, easy read.

So where is my set up leading? To our old friend Oscar Meyer, who has set himself up as a friend to mothers and children for decades now. I copied this off of their website, it is simply their nutrition label.

Serving Size 107g
Servings per Container about 1
Amount Per Serving
Calories 380
Calories from Fat 150
% Daily Value*
total Fat 16g 25 %
Saturated Fat 7g 35 %
Trans Fat 0.5g 0 %
Cholesterol 55mg 18 %
Sodium 740mg 31 %
Total Carbohydrate 47g 16 %
Dietary Fiber 1g 4 %
Sugars 26g
Protein 12g
Vitamin A 6 %
Calcium 25 %
Vitamin C 10 %
Iron 8 %


I italicized all the ingredients I would have a problem with. I skipped some that I wasn’t sure about, I leave it to you to decide. Do you want you children eating trans fats, mechanically separated chicken, four chemical food colors, artificial flavors that are chemicals, starch, salt, sugar, nitrites and high fructose corn syrup?

Why do we do this? We should be giving our children our best, not our worst! I dare you to walk around a supermarket. Pick up any product aimed at children. How much sugar is in it? How many food colors? Does it have artificial flavors? Hydrogenated oil? What real food products are in it? How far is it from something recognizable as food? Gogurt? Why aren’t we just feeding them yogurt? Plain, add your own real fruit yogurt.

Next week I’ll come up with some suggestions for alternatives to mass marketed children’s meals and snacks. In the meantime, read the labels. If you don’t know what the words in the ingredients mean, think twice about feeding it to your children. Avoid hydrogenated oils, make “crackers” out of flat bread or pita bread toasted in the oven. Make meatballs, bake them in the oven, freeze them individually so you can thaw and serve them as needed. Then you know what your child is getting in his meat. Remember, if you can leave a food on a shelf indefinitely without it spoiling, it is full of chemicals to make it so.

Manna From Heaven

bad, bad nuggets

no, you won't keel over dead the minute you eat them, but is that good enough?

I had no intentions of blogging today, but sometimes an article is just handed to you. Remember I said one of the problems with studying nutrition in people is that it is illegal to experiment on them? Well, sometimes they just go and do it to themselves. Just like my previous twinkie diet article, here is another case where a human being went and did the unthinkable, to their detriment and our enlightenment. This poor girl ate nothing but chicken nuggets since she was 2. No one would ever do that to someone on purpose, not even this girl’s mother, but she did it to herself. The article raises a number of talking points.

Here is one excerpt you have to read:

Aside from chicken and oil, those “stabilizers and preservatives” are said to include dimethylpolysiloxane, a form of silicone also used in cosmetics. Another additive is tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), a form of butane. According to one report, chicken is only about 50 percent of a McNugget; the remainder is a mixture of corn-derived ingredients, sugars and synthetic substances.

Yikes! This is why parents need to be informed. Much, maybe even most, of the the food being marketed to our kids is no good for them. We wonder at the rise of autism, learning disorders and A.D.D. disorders, and we are doing a grand experiment on ourselves and our kids feeding them a variety of chemicals that we have no clue are safe, and don’t even know what they are. We just blithely assume the the government has deemed them safe. This is the same government that has done such a wonderful job in economics and accounting. Even if the rat didn’t die when you fed him this stuff, what’s happened to his grand kids?

Next on the list of horrors is the mother who couldn’t get the kid to eat anything else, “including starving her”. I don’t buy it. No kid ever starved themselves to death. If it even got close, you get medical intervention. As a parent, there has to be tough love or there is no love. If you are that helpless in the face of a child’s refusal, GET HELP. We talk about the possibility of bad feeding habits being child abuse, this is definitely neglect.

This brings me to point three. Many, if not most of our eating problems start in our heads, not our stomachs. Just like sex, most of our choices have less to do with biology and more to do with emotions. Did you decide what to have for breakfast based on it’s nutritional content? Or was it what you were raised on, the color of the box, or the context of the meal? I have to think that there was some kind of mental issue going on here to have a one food obsession for years. Most of us crave variety of some sort.

Point four is even more simple. Don’t start. If you don’t want your kids to have bad eating habits, don’t take them to McDonalds. You’re too tired to cook? Get a precooked whole chicken from the store, bake a potato and some veggies in the microwave, done. That’s too much? A subway sub is a better choice, by far. Even the dreaded McDonalds now has a host of reasonable choices, including salads, yogurt, fruit and oatmeal. There’s another choice, don’t get locked into dinner has to be dinner food. Eggs, toast, fruit, oats, nuts, yogurt, and a host of other ideas fill you up just as easily at dinner as they do at breakfast. Plan ahead. Cook a big pot of soup, stew or chili on your day off. Dress it up with different garnishes and sides for the next couple of meals. A smoothy of banana, protein powder and even spinach is just as nutritious for a child as an adult. (and don’t worry about the green color, remember “Green Eggs and Ham”?) The deli counter at most large supermarkets have some amazing choices- but be careful, you do have to pay attention to what those choices are.

Lastly, eat your veggies, eat your veggies, eat your veggies. You need the other things, but your veggies are the powerhouse of low calories and high nutrition to keep you full and healthy.

Some thoughts on God.

I really don’t understand God. Now, this might be a Captain Obvious moment, but it is on my mind right now. Our church is reading through the bible, out loud, in marathon fashion. I signed up for Monday morning, and when I got there, the previous person was finishing up with Joshua, so I ended that and started Judges. A lot of bad stuff goes on in Judges. While there is a whole lot of “and the people did evil in the sight of the LORD”, there are also a lot of things God said and did that don’t fit my ideas of who He is. You can’t read it any other way than he ordered people killed, and even arranged things to teach the Israelites about war.

Jg 3:1 Now these are the nations which Jehovah left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan;
2 only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as beforetime knew nothing thereof:

We see God as dealing with us as individuals. That is how He is portrayed in many circumstances. In the old Testament, His relationship with humans is focused on nation building, so that the things that benefit that end get His blessing, even if men are killed for it. When you take into account that His view of things is eternal, so that even if we suffer and die, that is but a moment prior to eternal life, it does put things in a different perspective. However, we don’t have that perspective. No one has come back from the other side to say, “Here’s how things look from the other side.”

Now, I have heard people say “I can’t believe in a God who would let x happen.” Which I think is a very confused statement. Similar to, ” I can’t accept weather that has tornadoes in it.” Does your accepting or believing change what is? If I don’t believe that tornado is coming, will that make it not happen? Far better to say,” I can’t understand a God who lets “x” happen.”

Some people think that God changed between the old and new testament, or that the God of the old and new are not the same one. Outside of the fact that most mainstream Christian denominations don’t believe that, it doesn’t make sense. If you read the new, Christ is clearly talking about the God who created all, and that is the God of Genesis.

Some people just shrug and say, “we live in a Genesis three world.” Which is true. The third chapter of Genesis is when the fall happens, and once that occurred, everything changed. That statement seems to gloss over the mind numbing depth of evil that occurs here on a daily basis. Reading the old Testament shows you God is no stranger to what is going on here. He is also strangely silent when it comes to commenting on it. Read chapter 19 of Judges. Did the woman pray as she lay on the doorstep dying? Did she curse her husband, safe on the other side? I’m sure there are those who would say she deserved it, since she was a concubine and “played the harlot”. I think that is a pathetic argument in light of her fate. And how about all the men who raped her? If you read on, they die too, but when I think of an omnipotent God, none of this needed to happen. I know, I know, “free will”. Is it any wonder that he just wiped most of the people out in the flood? And before you start the argument, “he created us, so how can he get mad at us”, look at us as parents. We create our kids, and we still expect them to behave, because we know they are capable of doing so. We are capable of being good, extraordinarily so, yet we hurt each other in ways big and small, on a daily basis.
It is obvious that Christ’s coming changed the world. If it were not for him, we might still be doing things like what goes on in that chapter of Judges. By that I mean thinking it is ok to sacrifice your wife to save yourself.  I truly believe it is his influence that changed the world. I just heard on the news last night that Turkey has taken a strongly Islamic turn, and the murder rate of women has risen 1400%. Obviously, through Christ, God has changed the hearts of men. And it is Christ. Our world did not become the place where caring for others, protecting the vulnerable and defending women and children was common until Christ’s influence was felt. Even if you didn’t believe, once His principles became the norm, you risked public censure and criminal proceedings if you violated His standards. This doesn’t mean that there is no violent crime in Christian nations. Far from it. However, there is the common social pact that agrees that such things are wrong and need to be punished. The change that Christ wrought in the world is not a black and white one, but rather a matter of degree.

If you feel this blog article is rambling and disjointed, well, I guess that means I did a good job of outlining my thoughts on God. Like I said, I don’t understand Him.  There are many times when I wish he created us without the violent streak. It wouldn’t have stopped us from having free will. And maybe he didn’t put it there, but if you want to argue the devil, well, God allowed him his sway over us, so in essence it all comes back around to God.

Before you say “see, we need to eliminate all religious belief, that’s the source of all the killing and hate”, we tried that with fascism, communism, totalitarianism, etc. You can see how peaceful those non-religious belief systems were. (That’s sarcasm for those who don’t know their history, look up Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Pol Pot, Khmer Rouge, etc, etc.) “We have met the enemy, and it is us.” It really doesn’t seem to matter what the prevailing belief system is, we, as  a group, are violent and nasty.

Do I have a point to this? No. I was hoping that as I wrote, my thoughts would become more coherent, that things would make more sense. In the end, it is up to each of us to keep our noses clean, and to follow after God as individuals. That is expected of us, that much is clear in the Bible. The rest, well, maybe it will make sense someday.

To Vegan or Not to Vegan, That is the Question.

On top of a friend of mine going vegan, Venus Williams is too.  Vegan means nothing from an animal or fish, no eggs or dairy, on top of no meat. If you don’t care to read the article, here is a synopsis: Venus has Sjogren’s syndrome (pronounced show-grins), and this is an attempt to treat it. According to the article, vegan diets have shown some effect on fibromyalgia patients.  I don’t dispute that, but let me quote one sentence from the article:

In a show of sisterly solidarity, Serena has also chosen to follow Venus’ raw, vegan diet. That means both Williams sisters will be dining on whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains — nothing bottled, boxed or canned. And the raw distinction means nothing can be heated above 116 degrees or the nutritional value is believed to be compromised.

This is much more than a vegan diet. A raw diet is a very extreme diet by anyone’s standards. If it causes her relief, great. I don’t think most people would be able to stick with that for very long. Remember, the best diet is the one you can stick to. Also, notice one more distinction- nothing bottled, boxed or canned. There is where I think everyone could benefit from.  I’m not an absolutist, it’s winter, I can food myself and eat some canned food from the store. I eat mostly frozen, but there are some boxes in my cupboard.  Think of your diet as a continuum- from terrible- a night of pop, Doritoes, and Ding Dongs,-to great- a spinach salad, grilled salmon with almonds and an olive oil vinegrette, lightly roasted veggies with rosemary…mmmmm. But I digress. You get dozens food choices a day, from shopping, meal planning, preparation, eating out, snacking, etc. Plans or philosophies make it easier to make those choices for a lot of people. All of them cause us to make better choices, so they all work. Low carb, Paleo, Low fat, Atkins,  Vegetarian, Vegan and Raw are all diets that ban some foods, they all work for some people.

Go vegan if you want, but I would suggest that rather than ban or exclude food groups, you start thinking about what you eat, shrinking the portions, and banning sweets and deserts, rather than milk or eggs. You can make vegan muffins, which, in my opinion, is defeating the purpose.The great thing about a vegan or vegetarian diet is it makes you eat lots of vegetable, which is never a mistake. The best diets are made up of large quantities of veggies, no matter what else they change.

Most foods are a trade off, almonds have a lot of benefits, but are packed with calories. The dreaded meat and dairy- what the vegans are avoiding- are loaded with vitamins, protein, calcium and other benefits. However, they do have saturated fat and can trigger allergies. While you could avoid them completely, it may be better to treat them as condiments. A serving of meat should only be the size of your palm anyway. Think of that when you get that 1/2 a chicken at your next barbecue. Cheese? should only be the size of the last knuckle on your thumb. Think 1-2 squares from those premade cheese platters.

So I throw it out there- what are you going to do to improve your diet? Can you cut back on the harmful things, or is it easier to just ban them? Is it just easier to follow a premade diet, rather than think about all your choices? Does it make it easier to resist temptation to say  “I can’t have that, it has milk in it”, rather than just not having it since you don’t need the calories?

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.

The Hand That Rocks The Cradle Is The Hand That Rules The World” is a poem by William Ross Wallace that praises motherhood as the preeminent force for change in the world.

-Quoted from Wikipedia

That was a belief that shaped our country. It is was led to the education of women, and the idea of universal education. Only an educated nation could support a healthy democracy. The founders of the country realized the mothers of the nation shaped the future leaders.

 The exact same truth applies to health. Georgia has a media campaign to reduce childhood obesity. It has aroused major controversy since it is not narrowly focused at the parents, but seems to target the kids too. This is a mistake. Until adolescence, children’s food intake is almost completely controlled by the parents, both in quantity and quality. This puts the full burden on the parents shoulders. If you are a parent, you are transmitting everything you feel, think and believe about eating and exercise. It isn’t hard to see this, heavy parents often have heavy kids. It would be easy to blame this on genetics, but it is easy to see where daily choices make all the difference. For example, if it were only genetics, obesity wouldn’t be on the rise so quickly.

One of the most crucial things you, the parent, are doing, is creating favorite foods and comfort foods. Our deep psychological relationship with food is created in childhood. If you serve healthy food most of the time, you are training your children’s palates to prefer those foods. If you serve high fat and sugar food, that is what your child will prefer, making weight loss in later life that much harder.How often do you serve pizza, cake, hot dogs, french fries and pop? What is a treat in your house? Is a desert one cookie or three? Are you terrified to let your kid go to bed hungry? ( Children will not starve themselves.) If you are heavy, if your children are heavy, get educated and make changes as fast as possible, for their future. It is very, very hard to lose weight. Why put that on your kids? Help them not gain it in the first place.

If you hate to exercise, chances are your children will to. If you won’t take a walk, how can they? If you won’t ride a bike, how are you going to teach them? Trying to find work arounds, without changing yourself, may mitigate some effects, like enrolling them in sports, but they will largely be modeling themselves after you. If you are afraid to try something new, for fear of making a fool of yourself, how can your kids see courage modeled?

Hopefully this will encourage you to make changes in your life now. If you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for the children.

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