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Entries in nutrition (3)

Monday
Oct182010

Hide the spinach with a Vitamix

My eldest son will not eat green foods, except for M&Ms, and there are only so many battles a mom can have with her son.  He's in good shape and very healthy, so I stopped fighting this problem. And that's when a solution popped up. 

As we traversed Costco last weekend, he stopped me by a demonstration of a Vitamix blender. I was skeptical - we have a blender and it didn't cost half of what this blender costs. The first sample was a strawberry-banana smoothie similar to Jamba Juice (in fact, Jamba Juice apparently uses Vitamixes). Then the demonstrator pulled out all the stops and made a drink that had oranges, pineapple, carrots and...spinach. 

My son watched him put every ingredient in the blender. Vitamix is known for liquifying foods - so every food, including the spinach, was in full view. The mix was made and the green sludge was poured into Dixie Cups for the tasting. His green aversion was mounting but so was his curiosity. And then I had a stroke of brilliance... 

It's ZOMBIE JUICE.

For a boy who loves playing plants vs. zombies whenever I'll let him have access to my iphone, this was the most incredible possibility. He had to taste it.  He wanted to like it.  And like it he did. A lot.  And that's how I wound up with a Vitamix 5200 in my kitchen.

At the farmer's market the next day, my son trotted to the farmer with bags of fresh, organic spinach and briskly purchased two bags. And after a few tries, I am now a highly successful smoothie barrista making bright green zombie juice virtually every day.  Sometimes we make pink smoothies (strawberries, pomegranite, orange).  Or green smoothies (yellow fruits plus spinach).  Even made fresh butternut squash soup (pretty good). Nothing quite as fabulous as zombie juice, but hey, he's drinking his vegetables.

Monday
Aug092010

Slowing down puberty in little girls

I'm in no rush for my kids to enter puberty - and neither are they - but the Wall Street Journal, MSNBC and countless other news outlets are sharing the news that more and more children, specifically girls, are entering puberty really early - at age 7 - based on three new studies of over 1200 girls. Early puberty correlates to high probability of breast cancer, potentially stunting growth and possibly lowering self-esteem. Plus, who wants to deal with those mood swings any sooner than needed.

 

Boy Running with Soccer Ball on Beach

The University of Michigan Health System offers a wealth of information about "precocious puberty" including its signs and treatment, if desired. The studies and UM both show that the vast majority of precocious puberty cases have no medical origin meaning that the girl's endocrine system is functioning normally. And precocious puberty impacts minorities worse than white (I really dislike these words) girls -

 

Among 7-year-olds, about 10% of whites, 15% of Hispanics and 23% of blacks have some breast tissue. Among 8-year-olds, the numbers grew to 18% of whites, almost a third of Hispanics and half of blacks. - Shirley S. Wang, Wall Street Journal, August 9, 2010

18% of white girls, 33% Hispanic girls and 50% of black girls and NO ONE KNOWS WHY.

Nutrition and Obesity

There is no study proving any causality. The scientists theorize that it could be better nutrition as in the 1700s, puberty onset, on average, around 17 years of age - mostly due to malnutrition.  Another theory is that obesity contributes to precocious puberty.

Fat cells produce hormones, and once a critical mass of fat tissue is reached, the hormone leptin is released to trigger puberty, according to JoAnn Manson, an endocrinologist and chief of preventive medication at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who wasn't involved in the study. - Shirley S. Wang, IBID

Environmental Factors

Other theories are that we've introduced more toxins into our environment - some of which have been tested initially to show correlation to precocious puberty. There haven't been wide-scale, scientifically reviewed long-term studies to prove or disprove this theory, but many are trying. And the FDA is reconsidering regulating BPA. Our Stolen Future, a book and advocacy group, has been advocating the environmental toxins for some time and has a list of the studies to date.

The problem with food

Obesity, nutrition and environmental factors all come together in the food supply. It's daunting to consider that you are what your food eats. It's hard enough to be what YOU eat. Now I need to know what my food is fed because it impacts what we're putting in our body. And encourage (and model) a healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise because there is no question that obesity is linked to precocious puberty as well as a host of other issues. I've been on an 18 month journey questioning a lot of my assumptions about what's good for me. 

Soy - in particular unfermented soy - mimics estrogen. Estrogen is the key ingredient for puberty and foods can impact it.  And soy is in EVERYTHING. So much so that my family has minimized eating soy (even getting rid of soy sauce in favor of the almost identical tasting amino acid sauce) because I want to limit the amount in our system.  Soy is fed to chickens, cows and used in many processed foods (check labels for fun and see how much soybean oil you find - its scary).  I'm not saying soy is bad.  I'm saying too much, of anything, is bad and we have so much soy in our diet that we don't need to add any.

My approach, started a year ago when my son was only 7, was to eliminate soy products, stop using soybean oil and pay attention to what our food is fed. Recently, I've extended to organic kosher chicken (would prefer pastured, but it's hard to find) and grass fed beef. 

I hope I can keep my kids safe from precocious puberty. There are treatments if your daughter is showing signs of puberty and she's 7-8-9 years old. As part of a breast cancer family, I know that I would act to intervene because my family doesn't need more risk for breast cancer. Hopefully studies that prove correlation and causality will be published in the near future and lead to changes that can reverse this trend. 

 

 

 

 

Thursday
Jul162009

Food Fight

My eldest, Benjamin, is a proud, picky eater who traces his pickiness lineage right to his maternal grandpa. The doctor isn't worried, but that doesn't stop us from trying to instill healthy eating habits. It's the right thing to do, but it's led to some nasty food fights - which might just be over.

My mother always said she wasn't a short-order cook and I've adopted this philosophy. Benjamin learned how to cook SmartDogs in order to feed himself - which was fine until I read Better Safe than Soy about the impact of how much soy is in the American diet (think cows and chicken feed). With our family cancer tendencies, I knew I had to reduce the daily consumption of SmartDogs.

Thus began the family food fight - the battle of wills. I don't want to fight with my son every night. Long term, I cannot win this fight because he has to make healthy food choices himself. And frankly, I was stumped until yesterday.

After taking Taylor to the track yesterday, I wasn't sure if running a mile is a good thing for a 5 year old to do - so I looked at CrossFit Kids for the kids WOD. Suffice to say - a lot less than one mile.

CrossFit kids has a section called "sane nutrition for kids in 150 words". I read it out loud to Taylor. Benjamin heard it. And this morning, Benjamin went running with me (only let him do 800M). After running, he told me that he needs to start eating healthier if he wants to run faster and further. The 150 words made sense to him!

Here is Sane nutrition for kids in 150 words" from CrossFit Kids (emphasis mine) -

 

Our goal with kids isn't to get them on the zone, but to get them to think and make good choices about what they eat. Our goal is to teach them very basic concepts, sugar is bad, protein is good and you need to eat some in every meal. Nuts and seeds are good fats. Eat them, don't avoid them. Pasta, white bread, and white rice are not that good for you, stuff that's red, yellow, green and found in the fruit and vegetable aisle is good for you. Eat a lot of it.

 

 

Look at your plate, make a fist, eat that much meat every meal; turn your hand over and fill it with nuts and seeds, eat that much good fat, fill the rest of your plate with stuff you found in the fruit and vegetable aisle. Fill your plate this way at every meal, don't eat more.

 

Try reading it out loud with your kids sometime you aren't fighting about food. Let me know if it works for you. I'll let you know if Benjamin follows through.