Fresh Pick - Tip Of The Day

September 30, 2010

Kids who dine with the folks are healthier and happier.

Just because we eat together does not mean we eat right: Domino's alone delivers a million pizzas on an average day. Just because we are sitting together doesn't mean we have anything to say: children bicker and fidget and daydream; parents stew over the remains of the day. Often the richest conversations, the moments of genuine intimacy, take place somewhere else, in the car, say, on the way back from soccer at dusk, when the low light and lack of eye contact allow secrets to surface.

Yet for all that, there is something about a shared meal--not some holiday blowout, not once in a while but regularly, reliably--that anchors a family even on nights when the food is fast and the talk cheap and everyone has someplace else they'd rather be. And on those evenings when the mood is right and the family lingers, caught up in an idea or an argument explored in a shared safe place where no one is stupid or shy or ashamed, you get a glimpse of the power of this habit and why social scientists say such communion acts as a kind of vaccine, protecting kids from all manner of harm.

In fact, it's the experts in adolescent development who wax most emphatic about the value of family meals, for it's in the teenage years that this daily investment pays some of its biggest dividends. Studies show that the more often families eat together, the less likely kids are to smoke, drink, do drugs, get depressed, develop eating disorders and consider suicide, and the more likely they are to do well in school, delay having sex, eat their vegetables, learn big words and know which fork to use. "If it were just about food, we would squirt it into their mouths with a tube," says Robin Fox, an anthropologist who teaches at Rutgers University in New Jersey, about the mysterious way that family dinner engraves our souls. "A meal is about civilizing children. It's about teaching them to be a member of their culture."

Kids need schedules and routine. They need thing to be in order and to know ahead of time what is going to happen. It helps them feel loved and secure in a crazy world. Having a regular mealtime, same time each evening, can be very important. Even if your main course is pizza, try and eat at the same time as often as possible. If it just isn’t possible every night – try for at least three to four nights a week. If you can’t do dinner everyday try for breakfast or lunch, whatever time frame gets all the gang there at the same time.

Sources: Belinda Mooney (Suite 101) and Nancy Gibbs (Times)

September 23, 2010

Homemade Baby Food: A Fresh Start to Healthy Eating
Processed baby food is developed for the mass market and, as a result, is limited in variety. Variety is key to a balanced diet and healthy living. Today’s grocery stores offer a tremendous variety of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables. There is no reason why your baby should be limited by what food manufacturers consider the most popular foods. What’s more, preparing baby food at home enables you to add herbs, combine flavors, and easily introduce new textures, making your baby’s mealtime a pleasurable, gourmet experience.
Enhanced control
As a parent, you want to understand and trust the ingredients in your baby’s diet. Similarly, you want assurance concerning the purity, safety, quality and consistency of such ingredients. Preparing baby food at home provides you with control of your baby’s diet and knowledge of exactly what goes into your baby’s food. The more involvement you have with what you are feeding your baby, the more likely you are to nurture healthy eating habits.

Lower costs
Processed baby foods are expensive. The average baby in the United States will consume 600 jars of baby food. Parents who use processed baby food spend an average of $300 or more on baby food during their infant's first year of life. Making baby food at home is extremely cost-effective, as foods may be purchased either in season or on sale. On average, baby food prepared at home can cost as little as $55 in the first year.

Source:Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers

September 22, 2010

September is Organic Harvest Month. Designated each September by the Organic Trade Association (OTA), Organic Harvest Month is designed to encourage people to buy and/or consume more certified organic products. As the group says on its website “the objective of Organic Harvest Month is to highlight organic agriculture and the growing organic products industry. September is also an ideal time for consumers and retailers to celebrate the bounty of the organic harvest.”Make the shift to organic gradually so it fits easily into both your lifestyle and your budget. 

If you are worried about the cost of organic products, then be selective in which products you buy. To start with, focus on organic produce, and choose those foods that make the most impact when they are grown organically. You can find these on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list. These are high pesticide laden produce like strawberries, apples, celery, and spinach

Shop at a local farmers’ market. There are more organic vendors in one location, so you get the biggest selection and the freshest produce. Price is often negotiable, and although many farmers might not be “certified” organic, they do grow organically, ask them about their growing methods, and see if they do grow organically.

Source: Planet Green
Judi Gerber is a University of California Master Gardener with a certificate in Horticultural Therapy. She writes about sustainable farming, local foods, and organic gardening for multiple magazines. Her book Farming in Torrance and the South Bay was released in September 2008.

September 21, 2010

Health Halloween
You can eat candy — just choose wisely
Try organic chocolate. Several studies show real chocolate has health benefits, but most commercial candy bars are so highly processed many of the healthy flavonoids are lost. Pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene gives out small organic dark chocolate squares from Trader Joe’s and other sources. An added bonus during cold and flu season — dark chocolate may help treat coughs, according to one study. And if you want to hand out a social studies lesson with your candy, give Fair Trade chocolates, which you can often find at health food stores or on the Web.....

Skip the candy. This doesn’t mean turning off the lights and refusing to answer the door. Instead of candy, hand out stickers, tattoos and other non-candy items. One year I gave mini Play-Doh containers. This year, I’m giving glow-necklaces. Non-candy treats are a lot more expensive, but to me it’s worth the extra cost to help lighten the Halloween calorie load.

Finally, some simple strategies can keep kids from indulging for weeks on leftover Halloween candy. Sift through the Halloween haul with your kids and get rid of candies that aren’t their favorites. Dr. Roberts says that when her daughter was young, she managed to dispose of about half the candy her child collected before they got home. Older kids add their stash to a community bowl for the family. (Dr. Roberts notes that she also made sure some of that disappeared overnight, too.)

“After all this behind-the-scenes discouragement, she still loves Halloween but looks on it primarily as a night when you enjoy being out in the dark with your friends,” said Dr. Roberts. “The candy isn’t a particularly important part of the whole evening.”

Source: New York Times.

September 18, 2010

When Clean is not Green - Chlorine Bleach can cause a host of problems including immune disorders. Bleach mixed with other common household cleaner releases a highly toxic gas. Ban the Bleach and use hydrogen peroxide, baking soda or vinegar instead.

September 17, 2010

Food for Thought - It's always best to choose organic. Organic produce is grown without harmful pesticides and sewage sludge. Some people say that if you're peeling the food, it doesn't matter whether you buy organic. Yes, the peel gets thrown away, after the pesticides applied to the crops have already drifted into neighbors' yards and homes. -Janelle Hope Robbins