“Mom Gets Fined Over School Lunch”

Canadian flagApparently a Mom in Canada was fined under the school’s new guidelines for a balanced lunch.  She sent her kids with a leftover meal consisting of beef, potatoes, a glass of milk and fruit for dessert.  The school then “supplemented” the home cooked meal with Ritz Crackers, that in their view represented a grain! And they fined the mother $5 for each child!

Let’s discuss this from a nutritional viewpoint.  Mom made a pretty balanced meal; PotatoesProtein=Beef, Veg=Carrots, Fruit=Unspecified fruit for dessert, Complex Carb=Potatoes.  Now it is true that potatoes are not a grain, but they are a starchy carb that is low in fat, preservatives, salt and low on the gylcemic index (no blood sugar spike.) Plus, they are high in seratonin, which boosts brain activity.  The only way it could’ve been better is if it were a sweet potato, which is listed as a top 10 super food.   You might not want to make every carb source at every meal be from Potatoes (did I mention I’m living in Ireland;) grains are needed too.   And I would like to see some green vegetables in there, but who are we kidding the kids probably won’t eat that without adult supervision. Good job mom – even if some dollar hungry bureaucrat says, “No.”Ritz

On the other side is the school’s “supplemental choice.”  Ritz Crackers?!  While it is true they are made from a grain! It’s made of highly processed, refined wheat flour. That means that the properties that make up whole grain foods/complex carbohydrates are null and void. In processed flours, the exterior fiber and shaft around the kernel have been stripped away and the kernel itself, ground down to fine powder.  So the advantages of a complex carbohydrate/grain: 1) when combined with a protein source makes a full branch chain amino acid for your body and 2) fiber for your digestive track are completely absent. Additionally, not to bash Ritz crackers, because they are yummy but they also contain: partially hydrogenated oils – a.k.a. sludge for your heart and arteries – and high fructose corn syrup – another refined, not so good ingredient for your system.  Plus they have very little nutritional value. But because they are tasty and small, you can consume a lot of them, way more than a serving size in record time.  That means you get “empty calories.” It’s like eating fried cardboard in terms of nutritional value.  You are full, but the body is not thanking you.

I am left scratching my head.  The idealist in me is excited that a school is trying to take juvenile obesity, juvenile diabetes and child mind/body development seriously;  and is trying to engage parents in a productive way.  However, the cynic in me believes that it is just a way to make money for the school and to force kids to enroll in the school lunch program, that means more money for the school.  The school’s lack of knowledge about what constitutes a “balanced meal” or a “complex carbohydrate” or a true “grain rich diet” makes me think it’s not about the kids at all.Wall E

The CDC and NIH predict juvenile diabetes rates will climb 70% by 2020! That is not just unhealthy, it’s unsustainable, from a health, an economic and a development of future generations standpoint!

Parents, please get in the habit of recognizing when you’re serving a balanced meal with appropriate portion sizes.  Every plate should have a Protein source: meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, legumes (beans/lentils) + Complex Carb/Starch source: long grain – “coloured/i.e. black,brown,red rice, cous cous, amaranth, cracked bulged, pasta, potatoes -sweet or otherwise, oats, etc. + Fruit + Veg.  As for proper portion sizes – look at the size of your hand. If you’re a mom, your hand is a different size than your husband’s or your child’s – so the amount of food that can fit in a person’s palm is roughly the right portion size!

Mom in Canada – I stand with you!cropped-vflogo-shdw-final.jpg


Chronicles of Rehab: Part Four “How Did You Not Gain Weight When You Were Stuck on the Couch?!”

View from the sofa

View from the sofa

“How did you not gain weight when you were stuck on the couch?!” I got asked this question over and over and over and the truth is it was pretty easy not to.  Just because you might not be able to exercise or work for that matter does not mean you need to throw all good principles aside. For myself I tried to keep close to my normal schedule. I went to bed around 11pm and woke up around 7am.  I ate breakfast when I woke up and it didn’t consist of cold pizza and Coco Puffs! Lunch came about 4-5 hours later, afternoon snack 4-5 hours after that and the dinner followed predictably in due course. This approach seems like a no-brainer to me.  The regular input of  balanced nutrient-rich foods spurred what some may call a miraculous, speedy and complete recovery.  I would argue that my recovery was “optimal” not miraculous.  That means that everyone’s body would respond in like fashion when you nourish it!

Additionally, from a mental health perspective being a prisoner of your couch can be depressing!  I was not without repeated bouts of tears of frustration.  But then I thought, “I am getting better every day.  I am in my own house from which I have a lovely, peaceful view.  I am able to eat foods that I love and are prepared with care and I have the support of my friends and family.  Some people are stuck in a hospital bed and are not getting out anytime soon.”  So after my epiphany and self pep-talk and realization of all the things I had to be grateful for, I got on with the healing process.  Great food choices chemically assist in the battle of the mood swings in your brain.  Again, keeping to a great diet, that was balanced in terms of portion sizes and nutrients helped my mental state to stay optimistic and thus, boosted my healing.

Perhaps the one thing I did do that might not seem so obvious was I did NOT leave the T.V. on all day long.  In fact, it was turned off most of the time as I chose instead to work on the computer, read a magazine, renew my certifications, build a website, write a book, etc.  The benefit to this was that I was not constantly bombarded by advertisements about fast food, salty foods, or any kind of food.  We as humans are very stimulated by visual mediums, so when you see food in front of you constantly, guess what happens…you want to eat…constantly. Plus, I think I got smarter from all the reading I did – so my body healed quickly and my brain was stimulated too.

So to recap here’s my suggestions to anyone facing enforced couch time, whether from a physical disability or work layoff or illness:

1) Stay rested and keep your sleep schedule in tact.  Don’t oversleep or under sleep. Try to get 7-8 hours/night and try to maintain your set routine.

2) Keep eating balanced, appropriately portioned, nutrient rich meals.  It promotes health (body and mind) from the inside out.

3) Turn off the TV!  I am certain there are 1000 things you can find to do to pass the time and give your brain some healthy fuel choices too!

4) Don’t decide that because one piece of the puzzle isn’t there that you can’t make out the beautiful view of the rest of the layout.  In other words, just because you can’t exercise doesn’t mean you have to give up every other basic tenant to healthy living!