Sunday, February 27, 2011

Confessions of a Picky Eater

I have always been a picky eater.  I have never loved veggies (ironic, huh?) and I don't like to try new foods.  For a year when I was little, it seemed like I ate nothing but waffles.  You know, the frozen kind that you pop in the toaster.  It wasn't entirely my fault.  My mom and dad didn't know better. That was before we knew anything about food, back when my parents still took us to McDonald's and drank Diet Coke every day.

When we moved to North Carolina about three years ago, we changed our eating habits.  We cut out HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), trans fats and white flour.  We started shopping at the farmers' markets, too.  My parents liked knowing who was growing our food, and getting produce that was picked that morning.  We started going to regular grocery stores less and less.  Eventually, we only shopped at the Farmers' Markets, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods.  I hated it.  No more dessert every night?  No more Honey Nut O's for breakfast?

For a while, I sulked and pouted.  Then, my mom gave me a library book to read called Chew on This.  It's the kids' version of Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser.  Chew on This was a huge eye-opener for me.  The book describes how they really make fast food.  I was shocked.  I mean, they put crushed bugs in candy?  Was that really how they slaughtered chickens for McDonald's?  I started to research fast food, and eventually nutrition in general.  I read books like The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Micheal Pollan, The Sheer Ecstacy of Being a Lunatic Farmer, by Joel Salatin, and The Vegetarian Myth, by Lierre Keith.  I watched documentaries: Food, Inc. and Fat Head come to mind.  I wanted to see the whole picture, not just one viewpoint.

Now, I eat what my mom gives me.  I don't do it because I like it.  I'm still picky.  I eat almost everything because I know that it's good for me.  However, I still grumble about things like cauliflower and chili (too spicy!).  I know that veggies are good, and waffles (at least the frozen, processed kind) are bad.  My advice to picky eaters: try everything once.  You never know if you're going to like something, or if it will become your new favorite food.  My advice to everybody: educate yourselves.  Don't just take my word for it.  Do your own research and see for yourselves.  Once you know all the facts, you can make your own decision.


The Mystery Vegetable. The Diet Chronicles for Veggies Go Crunch. Guest post by Tom Callos


So the nice fellow who had this one vine grown vegetable at his veggie stand (in Hilo, Hawaii) called this a Portuguese Potato, but a google search didn't bring up anything that looked at all like it. Cooked up it was delicious. Do you know what it is? 

The MYSTERY Vegetable Chronicles! 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Beyond Carrot Sticks What do you snack on when you're eating healthy, besides carrot sticks?  (Don't get me wrong, I love carrot sticks, but....)  Well, you can also eat celery sticks, right?  OK, we won't count that one, but there are actually a lot of good snacks.

  • Popcorn.  No, I don't mean microwave popcorn.  I mean popcorn that you pop yourself on the stove.  Add some salt and butter (if you want) and ta-da!  Delicious popcorn.
  • Fruit.  Fresh or dried, fruit is yummy.  I like apples the best, especially with some peanut butter or my latest discovery: cinnamon creamed honey.  It's made with crystallized honey and cinnamon.  That's it.  Spread on apples, it's one of the best things in the world.  Of course, you don't have to be limited to apples.  Citrus, tropical fruits, melons, raisins, and berries are all great.  (Did you know a banana is technically a berry?)
  • Smoothies.  Made with fruit and homemade yogurt, or yoghurt if you like that spelling, smoothies are perfect snack foods, especially before exercising or running errands all day.  We use half a banana, some berries, yogurt and honey in our smoothies.  Blend it, pour into a glass, and you've got an excellent snack, or breakfast, or lunch.
  • Yogurt.  As you can tell from my previous yogurt post, I am a huge yogurt fan.  The yogurt maker is currently running as I type, and hopefully I'll be able to have some as a snack later.  Eat it plain, eat it with honey, eat it with berries.  However you eat it, yogurt is a delicious, nutritious food.
  • Cheese.  With so many kinds of cheese, you'll definitely find at least one you love.  As the saying goes, "Everything's better with cheddar!"
  • Nuts.  Nuts are great.  They are tasty, from what people say.  (I'm allergic to all nuts, except for peanuts, which aren't actually nuts.)  They're good for you.  They're portable.
  • Hard-boiled Eggs.  Very filling and super-easy to take along with you.
  • Doritos.  Just kidding!
  • Homemade Baked Goods. There are so many variations of breads and muffins.  We make banana bread, cornbread, coconut bread, and pumpkin bread, to name a few.  By making it ourselves, we can control the ingredients and avoid things we don't want to eat.  It's also great to make two loaves at a time and freeze one for later.
  • Spoonful of....  Not sugar, but peanut butter.  Or any nut butter, really.  Any kind will do as long as it's all-natural.  Watch out for added sugar and partially hydrogenated oils.
As you can see, there are many smart choices beyond carrot and celery sticks.  Keep these snacks in the pantry or fridge.  Grab some nuts if you're going out shopping, or gulp down a smoothie before TaeKwonDo (or swim practice, or baseball). The idea is to plan ahead so you don't have to resort to processed convenience snacks.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Nutrition Matters

There are a lot of different diets.  There's vegetarian, Paleo, gluten-free and traditional, to name a few.  They all claim their own benefits.
  • Vegetarian:  Vegetarians do not eat any meat.  They eat lots of veggies, fruits, and whole grains.  One great part of a vegetarian diet is all the antioxidants you eat.  Antioxidants prevent free radicals from harming healthy tissues in your body.  Free radicals are unstable molecules.  They bond with stable molecules, but end up destroying them.  This breaks down tissues and ages you.  Antioxidants attach to the free radicals and save your healthy molecules from being killed.  Yay!
  • Paleo:  People on a Paleo diet eat the way our ancestors did.  The idea is that we evolved eating these foods, our genes are expecting these foods, so we should eat these foods.  They eat meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, fruits and veggies.  They eliminate all dairy, grains, beans, and potatoes.  The Paleo diet helps you lose weight and stay healthy.
  • Gluten-free:  Gluten is a protein found in some grains, including wheat, rye, and barley.  A gluten-free diet eliminates these grains (and all products containing them) and is essential for people who are gluten intolerant.  Some experts say that gluten-free diets are good for everybody because gluten is inflammatory.  This inflammation can cause problems anywhere in the body, even if you are not diagnosed with gluten intolerance.  Many people on this type of diet claim to have fewer aches and pains in their joints, more energy, and just feel better overall.
  • Traditional Foods:  Traditional, or real food, is what my family eats.  We eat natural food that is minimally processed and prepared in ways to maximize nutrition.  This includes naturally probiotic foods such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut.  We eat meat from pasture-raised animals, farm-fresh eggs, and fresh local produce.  These foods provide the vitamins, minerals, protein, and essential fatty acids that are necessary for optimal health.
One thing all healthy diets seem to have in common is veggies, which are important in every eating plan.  Mom is right; you should eat your broccoli.  (And carrots, and Brussels sprouts, and green beans.)  The other thing they have in common is that people on healthy diets often say that they feel great.  They pay attention to what's on their plate.  That's why different people can feel good, even if they don't eat the same way.  There is no one right way to eat.  Maybe I eat this way, and you eat that way.  That's OK, as long as I don't force my diet on you, or vice versa.  All I'm trying to do is to get people to notice what they eat and how it makes them feel.  I want nutrition to matter.  And maybe the most important thing isn't what you do eat, but what you don't.