C is for Cookie: November 2006

Thursday, November 30, 2006

How to Trick Kids into Eating Veggies

I'm of the opinion that sometimes it makes sense to trick people into doing something that's good for them, even if they say they don't like it. No, I'm not talking about putting chicken broth into a vegetarian's soup as my grandmother once did to my cousin, claiming "it's good for her." I'm talking about sneaking veggies into children's food in an attempt to get some real nutrients into their unsuspecting little white bread and sugar-loving mouths.

Any parent out there knows what I'm talking about. It's a fact that kids tend not to like the bitter taste that is associated with certain leafy green veggies. However, there are many mild-tasting, highly nutritious vegetables that kids would choose if those poor veggies had PR machines promoting them everywhere the way that candy and breakfast cereals do. Where's my beloved Green Giant when we need him? Boo hoo hoo.

I find that most people abhor change, especially to their routine. When it comes to food, it's important to work with what folks say they like, and simply make these things more nutritious. This certainly applies to the adult nutrition clients I work with and kids, too, prefer the familiar. So while we still want to encourage kids to try new things, it's often easier to get them to eat new vegetables by sneaking a veggie or two into their favourite foods. I call it Stealth Feeding. We all need a variety of foods to give our diets a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals, so it's especially important for growing children to eat more than just their 8 or 10 familiar foods. Here are some suggestions for how you can slip veggies and legumes into your child's meal today! He won't know and it will be painless for both of you.

  • Steam and puree cauliflower and add it to milk, butter and some parmesan cheese to make "cheese sauce"
  • Steam and puree veggies like carrots, onions, zucchini, tomatoes, red peppers and add them to your favourite spaghetti sauce.
  • Do the above and add it to your chilis and stews
  • Puree beans and add them to soup to thicken it (chick peas a.k.a. garbanzo beans are good for this)
  • Use veggie ground round instead of ground beef in tacos, lasagna or spaghetti sauce (this is a good way to get organic tofu into your kids, which is a nice alternative to conventional meats)

    Other tricks:
  • I also find that you can serve kids Campbell's vegetable alphabet soup, because the kids look at the letters not the veggies! And Campbell's is one of the lowest in sodium.
  • If you can find a "low-in-fat" dip your kids like, you can serve it to them with their favourite veggies using the "gosh we're all out of crackers" excuse. Mild veggies to try are of course carrot sticks, light green bell peppers, yellow bell peppers, sugar snap peas, snow peas, celery sticks for older kids.
  • Have a make-your-own-pizza night and cut up a variety of meats, cheeses and veggies such as peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, broccoli, artichoke hearts, etc. Have your child make his own pizza and encourage him to add vegetables. If they make the food, they will be happy to eat it.

    Let me know your suggestions, too, please!

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  • Monday, November 27, 2006

    A Cheese by another name tastes great and is low-cal too!

    For all you cheese and dip lovers, I have a healthy new suggestion. I tried a new dip by the TreStelle company made with low-fat ricotta and it's a winner! I've been cooking with ricotta cheese for a few years now and it's a good, creamy, low-fat substitute for cottage or cream cheese, and an excellent ingredient in cheesecakes, lasagna, and other creamy dishes.

    TreStelle's new ricotta cheese spreads come in 1 savoury flavour and 3 sweet ones: spinach and garlic, strawberry, blueberry, and tropical fruit. I bought the Spinach one and I'll admit I added about 2/3 tsp of garlic salt to it because I found it a bit mild on the garlic side. Kudos to them for making a low-sodium product, too, and shame on me for wanting to add more salt. The best news of all though is that 4 whopping tablespoons of this dip amounts to only 100 calories and 6 g of fat*. That's incredibly low compared, for example, to cream cheese which has 8 times the calories and 4 times as much fat.

    I would recommend sticking to the savoury dip because it's easy to pair with cut up veggies like bell peppers, cucumber, celery, carrots, snow or sugar-snap peas and steamed broccoli, green beans or cauliflower. Fruit flavoured versions will keep up the sugar cravings because naturally they're sweet and they beg to be spread on bagels or have sweet fruits like strawberries or pinneapple dipped into them. The other benefit of the spinach spread is that it's a great alternative to butter or margarine as a low-fat spread for whole-grain crackers or healthy sandwiches.

    The more we support companies by purchasing their healthy products, the more we tell these manufacturers that we want them to produce foods that support our heath, not endanger it.

    *NOTE: the actual serving size says 5 Tbsp is 70g and contains 6g fat and 100 calories but that entire container only holds 270 g. There did not appear to be 15 or more Tablespoons in that small container so I was skeptical. I did my own measuring using my own scale and found that 70g was approximately 4 Tbsp of the spread. Still a great nutritional value though!

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    Thursday, November 16, 2006

    Harmful Drugs or Healing Mushrooms: It's Your Choice

    I've been very frustrated by the reports I'm seeing in the past two days. Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche got FDA approval for their drug Tamiflu, which is a potent chemical formulation made from a Chinese herb known as star anise. An aside - it's also a pretty tasty herb used in high-end cooking. The FDA approved this drug in December 2005 for treatment of influenza and possibly the avian flu which health officials fear could create a pandemic should it mutate into a form easily passed from human to human. If you look on the FDA's website, just one month prior to approval they released a report stating that Tamiflu was one of eight drugs to be examined by a Pediatrics panel. The reason: "...a number of adverse event reports were identified associated with the use of Tamiflu in children 16 years of age or younger. These adverse event reports were primarily related to unusual neurologic or psychiatric events such as delirium, hallucinations, confusion, abnormal behavior, convulsions, and encephalitis." Now medical reporting can be a bit detached in its descriptions. More recent reports of "adverse effects" of children taking Tamiflu includes two separate cases of children aged 12 and 13 throwing themselves out of the window of their apartment buildings and plummeting to their death. Nevertheless, in December of 2005 the FDA approved Tamiflu.

    Tamiflu has also been in the news because Roche claimed that it was a good contender to fight the potential avian flu epidemic that we've been warned about. A flurry of news stories centred around governments keen on stockpiling drugs that might fight the avian flu virus alternately ordering millions of bottles of the drug and berating Roche for not allowing other drug companies to make the drug as well. In the meanwhile, Roche's revenues rocketed skyward and by September 2005 their revenues for the year were already up 263%. And yet, there has been no definitive answer as to whether the avian flu virus can be stopped in its tracks by Tamiflu. Tamiflu has proved effective against H5N1 in mice in laboratory tests. But a look on the US Department of State website reveals this statement:
    "Based upon limited data, the DHHS/CDC (Centre for Disease Control) has suggested that the anti-viral medication Oseltamivir (brand name- Tamiflu) may be effective in treating avian influenza A (H5N1)."

    Now we learn about more than 100 new cases of children taking Tamiflu who are experiencing delirium, hallucinations and convulsions, so health officials must warn parents to watch children taking Tamiflu for signs of "bizarre behaviour".

    Let's step back from this situation for a minute. A drug company has come up with a drug to treat influenza. The accepted medical treatment for influenza is to drink lots of liquids and get plenty of rest. Why is there a need for a drug for this? Why does the FDA approve a drug that may only shorten the effects of influenza, that may or may not be effective against H5N1, and which causes harmful effects when given to children? Why do governments spend millions of dollars on such a drug? Why are parents giving drugs to their children when water and bed rest is recommended?

    There are safe and natural methods of combatting viruses that have none of these harmful effects, come from a number of companies, are not expensive and therefore accessible to most people? Case in point: New Chapter's Life Shield Throat Spray (a blend of 3 potent mushrooms) has been tested to actively fight 5 strains of the avian flu, West Nile, Yellow Fever and other viruses. Since the product is made from organic mushrooms processed at low temperatures and left mainly intact, they cannot produce harmful side effects and are safe even for young children over the age of two.

    New Chapter's Paul Stamets is a mycologist who has developed the LifeShield and other mushroom products and is currently involved in two National Institutes of Health-funded clinical studies on cancer and HIV treatments using mushrooms. His patent-pending low-processing technologies and high-quality organic mushroom sources are being tested in animal clinical trials and are successfully fighting powerful pox viruses. His products quite simply work. And some actually clean up the environment while they are growing, too in a process called bioremediation. That might help the contaminants produced by pharmaceutical companies. . But that's another story....

    I suspect that ignorance could be the only thing standing in the way of everyone choosing proven natural remedies for health concerns, rather than pharmaceutical ones which often come with a handful of risks and complications. When a disease is not life-threatening there is also the option to do nothing, to take no remedy and let the body fight the infection on its own. Of course, we always have the skeptics. A common skeptic response to alternative health claims is: "one should question whether or not these remedies, which tend to be pricey, actually work." I agree with the first part, and noone should take a product that has not been proven to work, unless taking it poses little risk. For example I might take a common herb to help me treat a headache and if it's ineffective, so what? But I wouldn't use it to "cure" cancerous cell-growth. But addressing the question of cost, is $25 for a bottle that can last a family of 4 an entire flu season pricey? How many pharmaceutical remedies are that inexpensive? I've never heard of prescription drugs for four people costing as little as $25.

    This $25 bottle of LifeShield Throat Spray is just one product that I know about because I've been doing product demos for New Chapter for years, and am now a vendor. New Chapter is quiet about their products' successes and seem to spend their extra dollars on manufacturing instead of marketing. But the point is, there are likely other high-quality non-pharmaceutical solutions out there. Why else would the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) be examining medicinal mushrooms in their joint biodefense antiviral screening program with the NIH unless they believed the non-pharma route was a viable option? This is the USAMRIID after all whose vision is "to be the Nation's preeminent research laboratory providing cutting-edge medical research for the warfighter against biological threats". These folks would not waste time investigating ineffective methods.

    We all owe it to our health, our pocketbooks and our peace of mind to investigate ways of treating health problems without pharmaceuticals, especially for common, generally low-risk health problems such as the cold and flu. Learn about better safer alternatives to drugs because they are out there. And don't forget that we choose where to put our money and that's how we show our support for businesses. I'd rather support a mushroom farmer who's trying to save the world through fungi than throw a few more dollars at a faceless, polluting big corporation billion-dollar revenues.

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