Mother of invention

As media sources began brimming with articles about the rising rates of obesity in children and the rising rates of behavioral problems in children, Nancy, a stay at home mom and former social worker, was convinced that there had to be a connection. Her own kids were 10 and 14, so she set out to study her suspicions from her kitchen.

In Morgan Spurlock’s film Super Size Me, a portion of the film documents a school for adolescents with behavioral problems.

“This school had to have police officers in the building because the behavior was so bad,” Nancy said. “Then the school changed the food system to a system that was all natural, organic, and whole grain foods. As a result there was a complete turnaround in the behavior of the children at the school. The kids were calmer. They were learning. And the police were no longer involved.”

According to his case study, Nancy’s inklings had been correct. Food impacts more than one dimension of health. The systems of the body are all part of one body. If the body is starved from nutrients, it will fight back.

Hungry to learn more about this correlation, Nancy went to back to school to study holistic health and started implementing changes at home.

“We’ve always eaten pretty well at home, but my kids were more than happy to have junk food, sugary snacks and all of that,” said Nancy.

But as she started learning more about how a growing, changing body handles bad food, she started cutting out things like partially hydrogenated fats. This wasn’t easy.

“Partially hydrogenated fats are found in so many different foods,” she said. “It’s the ingredient that makes the food more shelf-stable, so we would find it in places that made no sense to me at all. Almost every baked good, every cookie, every cracker, every cake and basically anything and everything that is pre-packaged and put on a supermarket shelf had hydrogenated fats. This was not a good sign.”

Changing the way her kids consumed food took patience, innovation and a few sneaky tricks. Here’s what worked for Nancy:

1. Sneak vegetables into meals.

Insider tip: If Macaroni and cheese is a big favorite in your house, try cooking it from scratch and hiding zucchini in the cheese sauce! You can even peel off the skin first if your kids are vegetable detectives.

2. Keep experimenting.

Nancy said it takes almost 15 tries to get a new food into her kids, but she made that work to her advantage. “If they didn’t like it the first time, I still had 14 tries to go,” she said. “Not everything works. There have been spectacular failures and that’s fine. That’s the only way to learn.”

Let your imagination run wild! Nancy made Kale chips and to her surprise, her kids devoured the first batch in minutes… anything goes (especially if it’s salty and crunchy).

3. Get the junk out of the house!

The best way to stop eating junk food is to stop buying it. If it’s not in the house, it can’t be eaten. Nancy switched to healthier versions of her kids favorite junk foods, like organic mozzarella cheese sticks.

“I do understand they are kids,” she said. “They are going to be getting plenty of junk food when they’re not with me, but I’m not worried because they’re making a transformation in their thinking.”

4. Explain to your kids (or your husband!) why you are torturing them.

Kids respond much better to changes if you are honest with them. One of Nancy’s favorite examples of this is when she took a 12 ounce can of soda and asked her kids how much sugar they thought was in a single can.

“Then I showed them. After I poured 12 teaspoons of sugar into a glass bowl, they were amazed,” Nancy said. “It doesn’t mean that they’re going to go off to a party and not have soda. It means they’re aware that they are consuming that amount of sugar. They know it’s not just mom being nuts; it’s mom being concerned.”

5. Teach your kids to pay attention to their bodies.

Nutritional knowledge isn’t everything. What also matters is that you know about yourself. Some people can eat a pound of sugar and feel fine. Most people can’t. Have your kids try new things and note how their body responds to them.

“I think the kids have more energy. I think they feel better,” Nancy said. “My son was always bothered by eczema and allergies. Now the eczema is gone and his allergies are much better.”

6. Pick your battles.

The reality is people eat every day, all day. It’s a form of communication in a way. You have to find the right system for your family.

“When it comes to my kids, I don’t want to have to fight with them three times a day, every day,” said Nancy. “Despite all the times I shudder when I think about what they might be eating out there, it’s not something I want to fight with them about. We’re going to do it together. I decided it would be pleasant and it would be easy and, surprisingly, it’s worked out that way.”

The commitment to healthy eating that Nancy tries to instill on her kids has also brought them closer together, especially during the teen years. By starting the dialogue about nutrition, she opened up the lines of communication about other things, and her children came to respect that she is actually more knowledgeable than they are.

“I like to think that all of this knowledge has made me a better parent,” said Nancy. “Now I have the facts behind me, I have information I can use to show concrete examples. At the beginning of my schooling, they just were like, ‘Oh, great. What’s she going to try on us now?’ That’s gone away. Now we can talk. They may not like it if I bring some strange new food in, but they’re willing to talk about it, and that’s been great. We’re working together as a family and I feel closer to them.”

So, what’s Nancy’s best advice? Don’t start with taking things away from your kids.

You don’t have to make major changes. You don’t have to go and throw out every food. You start small and you just add things in. The easiest way to get kids to change their eating habits is to add new foods, offer them new choices. As you keep adding in the new foods eventually the old foods fall away, and you’re left with healthier, happier kids.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Supersize Me
Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, rejected five times by the USC film school, won the best director award at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival for this alarmingly personal investigation into the health hazards wreaked by our fast food nation. Under extensive medical supervision, Spurlock subjects himself to a steady diet of McDonald’s cuisine for 30 days just to see what happens.

Slow Food Nation
Slow Food Nation is a subsidiary non-profit of Slow Food USA and part of the international Slow Food movement. It was created to organize the first-ever American collaborative gathering to unite the growing sustainable food movement and introduce thousands of people to food that is good, clean and fair.

Local Harvest
The best organic food is what’s grown closest to you. Use the Local Harvest website to find farmers’ markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.

Kidnetic
The cool site for kids and their parents to learn more about health, fitness and nutrition through fun games, recipes and articles.

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How I cured myself with food

Every food that we eat impacts our bodies. Think about how different you feel after eating a huge piece of cold watermelon versus eating a doughnut… it effects your energy level, your digestion, even your creativity.

Understanding how food functions within your body can completely change your life. For Shira it started with an allergic reaction to medication… Her digestion was a mess, and no matter what she did, she couldn’t get back to normal again. Something wasn’t right.

“Doctors didn’t know what to do. They said they could put me on medication, but it was just going to remedy the symptoms, not fix the problem.”

Unsatisfied with her doctors’ suggestions, she decided to correct the health problem herself. A friend suggested seeing a naturopath, and pretty soon the answer to her problems was served up on a silver platter. Our bodies respond to what they are given. If they don’t get what they need to properly function, at some point they will protest.

Shira began to diversify her diet, hanging out at her favorite farmer’s markets and experimenting with new foods.

“A diverse diet is very important,” she said. “The more different types of fruits and vegetables you put in your diet, the healthier you are going to be. When you are eating the same things over and over, you are probably missing some important vitamins and nutrients.” Likewise, it is important to eat what is in season and local to your environment. What grows around you is there for a reason, most likely it can provide your body with nutrients that are specific to the climate and other environmental factors.

Shira loves shopping at the farmer’s market for this very reason, when you are “Eating what is growing that season, nature works inline with the body so what grows in the summer is best for you body to eat, and same in the winter.”

Today, Shira has successfully adapted to her new diet, but knows she cannot live without an occasional indulgence.

“Even when I cheat and go out and have French fries or ice cream, I know my body has gotten to a certain level of health and it doesn’t bother me like it would have before,” she said. “It takes consciousness and time to get well from food, but it also takes time to get sick from it. You just have to learn to make choices.”

As Shira learned the hard way, it’s important to make everyday colorful and incorporate your environment. Eating to nourish your body and soul is not just for special occasions or “being good.” Find a farmer’s market near you to put your money and your mind where your mouth is… there is no better time to start than today!

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Whole Grain Nation
Test your whole grain IQ and figure out how much more you should be eating at Whole Grain Nation.

The New Pyramid Plan
The food pyramid as we know it is forever gone. Check out My Pyramid, where you can customize a balanced diet of grains, fruits, veggies and proteins that works for you!

What’s Quinoa?
Learn all about this delicious, nutty superfood and all the creative ways to bring it into your diet.

Challenging the Diet Dictocrats
Sally Fallon and Mary Enig decided to take on traditional notions of food and dispel the myths of low-fat fads in their book, Nourishing Traditions. At the very least, it’s a tasty read.

Join the Slow Food Movement!
The Slow Food Movement was established to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.

Understanding My Food Issues

Micaela could remember going to a dietitian as early as 5-years-old. “My eating really got out of control, because it was when my mom was diagnosed with Lupus. And so it was a really fearful time for me, and I found a way to sort of numb out with food.”

“I can remember my mom bringing in like, Tab and skim milk and diet anything, and things being really restrictive. I was the only child and my mom was trying to teach me how to live healthily.”

After high school Micaela found her weight beginning to become more of an issue. “When I went to college, my diet got a lot worse because I could eat whatever I wanted—I wasn’t living with my mom anymore.”

By the time she graduated from college, Micaela was 40 lbs overweight, partying heavily, smoking and eating unhealthily. At the age of 23, she couldn’t run two city blocks with her boyfriend. “I was unhealthy and was using unhealthy behaviors to avoid dealing with my feelings. At that point, I realized I was very depressed.”

Micaela used partying and unhealthy behaviors to stuff down her feelings instead of dealing with them. It wasn’t until she was able to address the depression that she was able to then deal with the eating.

“And a lot of my story is binging and not throwing up. It hasn’t been really diagnosed yet, binge eating disorder, but it’s not considered a medical condition yet, but it’s definitely an eating disorder, where you binge. Things are fine for a while and then you do crazy things where you eat everything in sight and can’t really stop.”

She was at the point where she’d made changes and started working out, but her eating was still completely out of control.

Sometimes Micaela is afraid that she’ll wake up and be the same person she was 50 pounds ago. “Because it’s so challenging, there’s this fear that I’m going to get sick of doing it and quit. But then I realize that the reason I stick to it is that I feel better. I sleep better. I have more energy than ever. And I feel good about myself. That’s my motivation to keep making healthy choices for the rest of my life.”

If you are interested in learning more about the world’s healthiest foods, their benefits, and the best ways to prepare them, check out this nonprofit organization dedicated to educating people on the best foods for your body and the best ways to prepare them.

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Get Physical
Featuring personalized programs and support, Women Fitness shares healthy recipes and gives you access to the weight loss experts.

Hand It Over
Here you go, the secrets on how to do the “Heavy Hands” workout and how quickly you can expect results.

Breaking the Tape
A mom of three transforms herself into a triathlete. Read about her trials and tribulations at 21st Century Mom.

The DIY Diet
The DIY Diet’s Philosophy: You must eat the foods that you like and are accustomed to eating in order for a diet to be successful. Learn how!

Sweeten them up… with cupcakes!

Cupcakes have long been a source of birthday enjoyment for second graders, but in the last couple years, this simple treat has earned a top spot in the hearts of grownups as well.

Maybe it’s a nostalgia for declaring something entirely “mine” or maybe it’s how sophisticated flavors and decorations have become, but whatever it is, cupcakes are it. And Cupcakes Take the Cake is here to celebrate that.

“It’s fascinating the things I learn about cupcakes,” said Rachel Kramer Bussel, one of the three gals behind Cupcakes. “I’ve found bakeries in Kuwait and Dubai in the last couple of months. I barely even know where Dubai is, but it’s really cool that through the internet I can connect with these bakers and have something in common with them.”

Rachel, with her fellow cupcake connoisseurs Allison Bojarski and Nichelle Stephens, has also ventured off the web to connect with people. With meetups around the United States, the movement of people around this simple pleasure is quite incredible.

“Pretty much everyone has a good feeling about cupcakes,” said Rachel. “They’re just a happy food.”

If you want to see for yourself the delight that comes in this pint-sized dessert or share the happiness with someone else, check out the mail order cupcakes available for everyone, everywhere.

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Looking for a recipe?
Check out cupcakeblog.com where each post features a unique cupcake recipe created by Cheryl Porro and accompanied by her own photography – think slow food meets sweets.

Bake & Destroy!
Home of the baking punk rock mom Natalie. Ever experimenting, she lives up to her philosophy: “The world is your cupcake, dudes! So make it rad.”

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World
Changing the world one cupcake at a time.