When I Questioned the Feds and Why You Are Needed Now

This week, CongressDaily published some of my conversation with Secretary of Agriculture Vilsak. I hope someone in power will read it and understand that we can’t just talk about the health of our children and invent new programs to “help” them.  It is a question of where we are putting our money.  All the jumping jacks and walks to school must be supported by healthy food!!!  The love of a fresh spinach salad with a whole grain roll will last long after they leave school.  Yes, walk to school, but many children are greeted by donuts and Fruit Loops.

Good quality food costs money and it is worth it to spend it on our children!  Please, please make your voice heard right now!  The easiest way is to go here to send an email where it matters most or to telephone the Capitol Hill switchboard at 1-800-815-3740 and ask to speak to your U.S. House Representative.  Tell him or her that you want an additional dollar per lunch allotted in the reauthorization  of the Child Nutrition Act,   that, in addition to the extra dollar, you want the following:

  • Increased quality of meals served in the school meal program; including less use of highly processed foods which are high in fat and sodium, increased fresh and high quality fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, and reduced overall sodium content.
  • Strengthened nutrition standards for school meal programs and competitive foods.
  • At least $50 million mandatory funding for Farm to School programs. (Healthy Schools Campaign)
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My School Lunch Revolution

Click here to go to my recent post on Chicago Moms Blog about my three-year long battle with our school lunch program and what we can do about it now (write your representatives!).  Also, see this recent article here (not written by me) and one in the New York Times (also not by me).

Book Reviews: Annabel Karmel’s Top 100 Baby Purees and Top 100 Finger Foods

Participants at Chicago Moms Blog and our sister sites were fortunate to receive free copies of two of  Annabel Karmel’s books, Top 100 Baby Purees and Top 100 Finger Foods which, I believe, were originally published several years ago in the U.K..  These books contain beautiful photographs and the recipes are user-friendly because they clearly set out the ingredients and the time it will take to make the recipe.   The baby puree book, in particular, describes appropriate ages for particular foods, but I would suggest consulting your pediatrician on these matters.

In regard to the baby puree book, unfortunately. and maybe this is my own “thing,” but I simply can’t endorse any baby puree book that doesn’t stress the importance of using organic ingredients.  I scoured the book and could not find any mention of “organic” in any of the recipes.  Her “quick and easy meals for a healthy and happy baby,” will not, in my opinion, result in a healthy baby without explaining to mothers why using organic ingredients is so important.  Karmel discusses “nutritional needs,” allergies, and lactose intolerance in children quite a bit, why not discuss organic ingredients as well?  Furthermore, her recipes incorporate many purees with beef and chicken [we don’t eat this at all in our family], with no mention of the dangers of bovine growth hormone or the unhealthy amount of antibiotics found in non-organic beef and chicken.  I don’t think this is a problem in the U.K. as they don’t use bovine growth hormones there but since she has decided to bring her book here to the U.S. this issue, in my opinion, must be addressed  for new mothers.

I was ready for some new ideas for my children, so I was excited to receive the Top 100 Finger Foods book. There is not a lot in there for vegetarians like our family.  I did make one recipe that was almost a success.  I tried the Baked Parsnip and Sweet Potato Chips recipe.  Baking took a long time and although the edges got brown, those were the only crunchy parts.  This was the first time my husband ate parsnips so I will be making it again.  My children preferred the baked sweet potato I prepared in case it was a flop.

Overall, I was disappointed by the lack of creativity in some of the dishes.  I was hoping to add some new items to our tired repertoire.  However, some of the dishes featured were commonplace recipes for pancakes, french toast, pizza, and quiche.  I was surprised she included nachos as one of her “healthy” finger foods.  The recipe was not a revamped nutritious version.  Karmel uses real store-bought tortilla chips.  Indeed, the recipe is similar to the very same nachos we are desperately trying to get off the cafeteria menus of our public schools.   At one point, even she concedes that she can’t think of anything else to make the number of recipes add up to the 100 the title promises “for a healthy, happy child,” stating, “I have included recipes for brownies and mini jam tarts [not even whole wheat by the way!].  After all, you are only a child once.”   Her jam tart recipe has two “ingredients” which are jam and store-bought pie crust.

I’m sorry to say that I’ve been disappointed by these two books.  I expected something comparable to Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron.  No matter how many books Karmel has published and no matter how many beautiful photographs she includes, Yaron will, and still remains, my “go to girl” for all things food, babies and toddlers.

Secretary of Agriculture Vilsak Not Serious Enough about Child Nutrition Reform

I just got off the phone on a conference call with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak and my “sisters” at the Silicon Valley Moms Group where I blog for Chicago Moms Blog.  He claimed to be seriously concerned about childhood obesity, confiding that he was overweight as a child.  However,  when he was asked whether high fructose corn syrup (“HFCS”) will be eliminated as an acceptable ingredient in child school lunches under the soon to be revised Child Nutrition Act, he said, “I honestly don’t know if we would be as prescriptive as eliminating this . . .” and suggested that there would be a “push back” from Congress or a “push back politically.”    I had the opportunity to ask him why government surplus food with high fructose corn syrup and dairy with artificial hormones and antibiotics are being “dumped” on our schools.  I also asked him why it is more expensive to buy an organic apple than a cheeseburger at a fast food restaurant.  His response showed me that he is not really serious about reducing the obesity rates and that it is more important to support and subsidize powerful corporate groups like the Corn Refiners Association, the American Corn Grower’s Association, the National Corn Grower’s Association and the like.     He said that we will always be growing corn in our country and “we won’t stop providing resources to those who grow corn”.  He said nothing about the dairy industry (perhaps my question was too long anyway).  I wish I had a chance to follow up on his praise of corn and corn farmers.  I would have suggested that we turn to a much better, much more nutritious and hardier crop — hemp.  Yes, hemp oil contains wonderful omega 3s to feed our brain, while corn is a grain to bulk up in our tummies and feed to cattle which should be fed grass anyway.  Growing hemp (which is illegal in our country)  can also  help with our deforestation of the globe as it is a hardy fast growing  plant (no need for pesticides!) to use for making paper products and many many other useful things.  Indeed, the Declaration of Independence is written on hemp. Vilsak had some promising things to say about the USDA’s plans to help to improve school lunches, but it all comes down to business as usual in politics.  Those who have the money (corn lobbies) will always win over those who don’t (children receiving free lunches).  Who will pay the cost?  All of us.  If any of these politicians will just look to the bigger picture here.  What cost should we bear?  The cost of losing the money from the corn growers or the cost of losing human lives to obesity and diabetes?  There is no middle ground here.  We need a Secretary of Agriculture who is committed to the people of the United States of America not to the corporations of America.  Mr. Secretary, I implore you, stop the U.S. tradition of catering to our corn industry.  Give our children healthier food and give our farmers a better crop to grow!

Mercury in High Fructose Corn Syrup?

poisonRecently, the medical community has been so quick to say, “Oh, we’ve eliminated mercury in most of the vaccines, yet autism is still going strong, so it couldn’t have been the mercury.” Oh yeah? Well it has just been discovered that there is mercury in High Fructose Corn Syrup. This stuff is in everything and has been blamed (though some deny it) for America’s obesity problem. Perhaps mercury is still to blame for America’s high rate of autism, but not only was it in our vaccines, it has been in our food all along! (David Sloane does a good job of explaining why many, many more foods have HFCS in them here in the U.S. than in any other nation).

In our household, we try to avoid it altogether. It is so difficult! Take salad dressing, for instance. HFCS is in almost all of the dressings. If you stick to buying organic, you will never have to put that stuff in your mouth. However, if you like soda pop or salad dressing (not organic) good luck! Thank G-d I can always count on Paul Newman’s dressings. They NEVER have HFCS. Parents, if we unite against this stuff, maybe it will go away! Insist that your food be free of HFCS and soon it won’t be manufactured here anymore. This IS a political matter people! The Corn Refiners Association is very powerful in the U.S.A. No one will help us but ourselves.

Muffin Top! What Happened to Love Handles?

Sometimes, I’m a little bit behind the times,especially when it comes to fashion. I JUST heard the phrase “muffin top,” and it wasn’t in reference to the Seinfeld episode. You know, the one where Elaine only enjoyed eating the tops of the muffins, so she tried to donate a bunch of muffin bottoms to a soup kitchen. A “muffin top, ” occurs when flabby tummy flesh rolls out over the tops of pants. I have been keenly aware of my muffin top, ever since I gained ten pounds seemingly overnight. None of my pants fit me right now. It is even worse today, since I’m on day two of my period.

What happened to those endearing “love handles?” I have always had a couple of love handles and they weren’t my best asset, but they didn’t bother me as much as my “muffin top.” I have temporarily solved the problem with two new pairs of pants. (I refuse to buy a whole new wardrobe since I am determined to fit into my old clothes again). I can’t buy any new t-shirts because all of the t-shirts in the stores are tissue-thin and merely enhance the outline of my muffin top. Of course, I know that buying new clothes is not the answer. I think we should all just go back to calling them “love handles.”