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Hunger

Today, my kids and I spent two hours packing dried food packets to send to hungry children.  We were a few of many  volunteers.  Feed My Starving Children is an organization dedicated to helping hungry and starving children worldwide.  Our boxes will be sent to Haiti.

I’ve known that hunger is a problem our world faces.  We all hear of the poor starving kids in . . .  Parents of generations past used to shame their children into eating everything on the plate because, you know, there are starving children out there who would appreciate what was on their plate.  But now, here in the USA, we’re surrounded by such an over abundance of food, that true hunger and starvation seem distant.  That’s not to say there are no hungry or starving people here in our country.  There are, I’m sure.  And they face the same hunger as others, just in a different location.

So when the opportunity came up to volunteer, and in some small way affect the lives of these children, we came on board and signed up for our two hour shift.  It was amazing!  My kids and I worked alongside other children and adults to pack 179 boxes of food.  At 32 packs per box, each pack feeding a child for a day, well that’s a lot of food. And it’s specially formulated for starving children, to sustain them and help them improve nutritionally.

Did you know that about 17,000 people die each day from hunger and starvation?  It’s a staggering number.  I’ve read many blogs lately dealing with delicious food and recipes that we can try at home to enhance our diet or taste palette.  Yet while I sit here writing, or while I’m trying to decide what to make for supper from my well stocked pantry, there are children who don’t have enough to eat.  That’s sad, really sad.  While it seems like a far away problem that I can do little about, there are groups like Feed My Starving Children who get out there and do something about it.  I’m thankful they do and thankful my kids and I could be a small part of that today.  My 9-year-old said it best when he said “Mama, we helped some starving children today, didn’t we?”

If there’s a packing location near you, won’t you consider volunteering?  Two hours are all it took.  And the time flew by.  We had fun doing it together.  You can too.  Take a look at Feed My Starving Children.  You’ll be glad you did!

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Posted by on September 21, 2012 in Family, Health, Nutrition

 

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Monday Musings on a Wednesday – Balanced Eating

Balance . . . it’s about balance.  At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself the last day or so.  We spent the last weekend with family, attended a wedding and finished up at my mother-in-law’s house.  She is the best mother-in-law ever, but when we visit it’s kind of like a continuous food feast.  Add to that a wedding and travel time, and my quest for healthy eating seems to vanish. Do you have a place like that?  A place where your determination to eat healthy just disappears?  In its place is a ravenous appetite for the snacks and meals you normally don’t have at home.  You know, like wedding cake or kettle corn – two of the temptations I faced this weekend.

As I thought about it, and talked it through with my husband since he’s trying to maintain a healthy diet too, the word ‘balance’ came to mind.  Years ago, during my time as a wellness dietitian, I often encountered people who would totally avoid anything like, well, wedding cake or kettle corn . . . until they had a weekend like mine. Then they went overboard, eating everything in sight.  It was all or nothing, up or down, with no room for anything in between.  Sometimes they would come back from such a weekend and get back on track – but feeling guilty.  Many times, however, they felt like they failed and went right back to their old eating habits.  Two steps forward, three steps back – not a healthy way to eat.

So what can be done?  Is it possible to have a healthy diet when faced with temptations? Let’s think this through.  What options are there?  For our family it was important that we attend the wedding and visit my mother-in-law.  Those relationships are important, so not attending wasn’t an option.  That meant we’d be faced with all kinds of not-so-healthy, but appealing, choices.  Some we indulged in, like sharing a piece of wedding cake or having a  small brownie.  Others we didn’t, like going back for a second piece of cake.  We brought watermelon, bananas, and water for snacks during the drive – a good choice.  I also made use of the treadmill in the hotel’s workout room – another good choice.  At my mother-in-law’s we both had some of the kettle corn she offered, but didn’t go overboard.

So back to balance. While we made some choices that others would deem unhealthy, we also made some good choices.  And really, there’s much more to eating than the nutritional value of food. The food itself should be appealing to the eye and have good flavor.  The eating experience is important too, should be enjoyable, and includes the people we dine with, the conversations that occur during a meal, and celebrations that call for feasting.  And a wedding is a celebration.  Should we throw caution to the wind and eat everything in sight? No.  But we shouldn’t feel guilty either if we choose items we wouldn’t normally eat because of the sugar or fat or whatever.  The weekend was only a couple of days, not enough to throw us off our healthy lifestyle, just a curve in the road that adds a little interest to the daily drive.  If our everyday diet is a healthy one, then weekends like this won’t take us off-road.  We can turn right back, without feeling guilty, and continue our healthy lifestyle.

Now if I or my husband had to follow some type of therapeutic diet things would be a little different.  We would be more diligent in following the guidelines of the specific diet.  But that’s a post for another day.  For now, our goal is to take care of ourselves with a healthy, balanced, lifestyle.  And that sometimes includes a curve in the road.

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2012 in Family, General, Health, Nutrition

 

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Recipe Redo – Zucchini bread

We still have plenty of zucchini here, so I decided to try zucchini bread again.  Unfortunately it can be pretty high in added fat and sugar – not exactly what we’re looking for in a healthy diet.  I took a recipe I found in an old cookbook I had on the bookshelf called America’s Best Recipes – A 1989 Hometown Collection, and since I’d already made it as written I decided to try a few changes.  The original recipe had good flavor, but was a bit greasy and pretty high in sugar.  So I worked with it and reduced the amount of added sugar and oil, and substituted whole wheat flour for some of the all-purpose flour.  All in all these changes saved 40-60 calories, and 3-6 gm fat per slice – depending on how many slices you cut.  Changes in sugar and carbohydrate was small, only about 2-4 gm.  The resulting bread had good flavor and texture, and was much less greasy. I may change it further still to reduce the amount of sugar a little more, but here is the current recipe.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

3 eggs

3/4 c. granulated sugar

3/4 c. packed brown sugar

1/2 c.+ 2 Tbsp.  canola oil

1/2 c. applesauce

1 tsp. vanilla extract

6 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

3 c. shredded zucchini

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. whole wheat flour

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 c. almonds, chopped

Beat eggs in a large bowl until well beaten.  Add sugars, oil, applesauce and vanilla, beating well.  Combine cocoa, flours, soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a separate bowl.  Add flour mixture to egg batter, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.  Fold in zucchini and almonds.

Pour batter into two well-greased and floured 9x5x3 inch loaf pans.  Let sit for 10 minutes while oven preheats.  Bake at 350° for 50 to 60 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of each loaf comes out clean.  Let bread cool 10 minutes and then remove from pans and cool completely on a wire rack.  Yields 2 loaves.

Nutritional info per slice (cut into 1/2 inch slices – 18 per loaf for a 9 inch pan): 118 calories, 5 gm fat (5.2), 17 gm carbohydrate

Nutrition analysis determined using the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2012 in Cooking, Health, Nutrition, Recipes

 

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But They Just Won’t Eat those Fruits and Veggies

How do I get my kids to eat fruits and vegetables?  Usually the question deals with toddlers and preschoolers.  But this question came from a friend whose child is in the “tween stage.”  And at this stage, toddler tactics don’t work.  After all, her child might just complain if she straps that child into a high chair with a five point harness.  No, at this age there is an amount of freedom with food choices that weren’t always there before.  But I believe there are still things you can do to encourage a healthy intake of fruits and vegetables for your child.  Here are a few that I suggested to my friend:

1.  Make sure you and your spouse are on the same page when it comes to feeding your family.  If you believe fruits and vegetables are important, but your spouse doesn’t, your children will notice. And if they are inclined to refuse those good-for-you rainbow colored food items – well, all the more reason to not even try.  After all, if dad or mom won’t eat them, why should I?

2.  Take stock of your refrigerator.  Have a good variety of fruits and vegetables ready to eat.  Convenience goes a long way.  If the carrots are cleaned and cut, the grapes washed, and the peppers sliced, it’s one less step for your child to prepare a snack; and the odds of them choosing one of those items over an easily accessible bag of chips increases.

3.  Provide a variety of fruits and vegetable at meals, but don’t push or force them on your child.  Nagging never works, and you will never win a food battle.  Your job is to provide.  Their job is to eat.  For more on this see Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility.

4.  Don’t be sneaky.  It just adds an air of suspicion to your child’s dislike of these foods.  Certainly don’t be afraid to put these things in foods, i.e. shredded carrots in muffins, pureed vegetables in soups, etc., but be open about it and comment on how it makes the food item a little healthier – don’t hide it.

5.  Make it interesting.  Try celery with peanut butter and raisins, frozen chocolate-dipped bananas, frozen grapes, apple slices with caramel, or strawberries dipped in chocolate.  Some may say doing that adds excess sugar or fat.  But let’s think of the goal – getting our kids to eat some of these fruits and vegetables.  Eating strawberries with chocolate is better than eating no fruits at all and may just replace a snack that lacked any resemblance to a healthy food item.

6.  Let them choose.  Take your child to a farmer’s market or local grocery store that allows you to sample some of the produce they have a available.  They may find something they like that they’ve never tried before.

7.  Educate them.  Talk about the benefits of eating healthy, and the possible consequences of an unhealthy diet.  Why is it important?

8.  Enlist other adults.  If your child has a favorite teacher, coach, or other mentor, explain your goal and ask if they could reinforce it in their own teaching.  For example, if your child is on a swimming team the coach could encourage a healthy intake of fruits and vegetables and relate it to performance.

9.  Be a good example.  Take a look at your own eating habits.  Do you eat the foods (fruits and vegetables) that you’re encouraging your kids to eat?  Or maybe you have a fruit or vegetable that you don’t like.  Why not try eating it while your child tries something they don’t like.  You may both be pleasantly surprised and find they’re not as bad as you thought.

Those are just a few ideas I had for my friend.  How about you?  If you have or know of a child who dislikes fruit and vegetables, how do you get them to try and eat these healthy food items?

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2012 in Family, Health, Nutrition, Parenting

 

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Keeping it Cool with Mint Water

It’s midsummer and hot outside – really hot. Keeping cool and staying hydrated on these hot days is important.  And that can be challenging if you’re not inclined to drink water regularly during the day. A refreshing way to add interest to your water is to flavor it. One of my favorites is mint water. It’s healthy. It’s refreshing. And best of all, it’s easy to make!

Chocolate Mint

Apple Mint

I usually grow several different kinds of mint each year and combine them to make a mint infused water.  Here’s how:

1.  Select a large handful of leaves from your favorite mint plant. I used a combination of chocolate mint, apple mint, and mint mojito. Wash thoroughly. Slightly bruise or tear the leaves and place on clean square of cheesecloth.

2.  Tie with a clean length of kitchen string.

3.  Place in a clean glass pitcher or jar and fill with cold water. Cover tightly and place in the fridge overnight or place outside in the sun in a safe location. I usually place mine on the front porch and let it sit for a couple of hours in the hot sun.

4.  Bring inside and serve immediately over ice, or chill in the fridge untill ready to serve. Plan to use it within a day or two.

5.  Sit back, relax, and enjoy!

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2012 in Nutrition, Recipes

 

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