Programming Kids For Bad
American children watch
1,500 hours of TV per year. What are they learning about nutrition and
Each year we shatter previous records for the number of obese people and the
average weight of individuals. We're getting fatter and fatter. The
healthcare costs are skyrocketing into the many billions, and the
personal costs are immeasurable.
Expanding waistlines result from a convergence of factors, including the
environmental, cultural, personal and genetic.
It's no secret, however, that becoming overweight or obese most often
results from poor lifestyle choices. Which leads to yet another
question: Why do we make such damaging choices?
It all starts with television. A recent study headed by Kristen Harrison
at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, which appeared in the
American Journal of Public Health, suggests a link between obesity and
Some 83 percent of the foods
advertised during children's programming exceeds the recommended daily maximums of total fat, saturated fat and
sodium, while falling short of the recommended minimum nutrients.
Huge corporations, including
grocery store chains, fast food restaurants, processed-food
manufacturers, television networks and marketing agencies
their vast resources (food and beverage manufacturers spend about $12
billion per year on marketing) to create powerful messages that shape
our children's perceptions of the world. This unrelenting campaign has
just one goal: To maximize demand for their products.
We allow our children to sit
in front of television sets while their young minds are programmed
to strongly desire heavily processed foods laden with sugar or fat,
year after year. Some advertisers even blatantly depict junk food as
"healthy," which further complicates proper
education about health.
Kids are the perfect target because they haven't developed skepticism
about advertising, yet they have a major impact on parents' shopping
decisions. Junk food companies spend billions to create strong desire
for junk food in the minds of kids, the kids pester their parents, and
the parents buy the products.
The consumption and
enjoyment of that junk food completes the early-education process. Kids
learn every day that they like, love, and need brightly colored food
that comes individually packaged with a greasy "mouth-feel" or loaded
We tend to think that kids
are learning when they're in school, and not learning when they're out
of school. In reality, kids are
learning whenever they're paying attention to something. Which do you
think commands more attention in the mind of a child: A teacher in
health class, or a TV commercial?
Ask any child between the
ages of 6 and 12 about commercial brands - McDonald's, Mountain Dew,
Doritos -- and you'll discover that most are walking encyclopedias about
junk food. They know what they want and can ask for it by (brand) name.
Many can recite the menu at McDonald's.
But when it comes to the
important knowledge -- which foods will make them lose in sports and
which will help them win, how diet affects bad grades, what's causing
their hyperactivity or depression -- most kids don't know much at all.
What is saturated fat? Which popular drinks have caffeine? Why are fried
foods bad for you? What is artificial maple syrup made of? How much
sugar is in a Big Mac? Kids don't know and don't care because this
information isn't part of their daily education about food.
It's up to all of us to keep kids away from TV commercials whenever possible. When it's not possible, use TV commercials as an opportunity
to educate. When the TV is advertising soda, for example, point out that
soda is just "liquid candy" that may contain a drug (caffeine) and other
toxic substances and in excess can ruin teeth, cause damage to vital
organs, weaken the muscles, "displace" nutritional foods and make people
gain weight and get sick.
TV marketing is influential, but not as influential as parents and
Let's give kids the best gift we can give anyone: The gift of knowledge
that empowers them to make choices for a lifetime of good health.
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Good Things In Store
The Happy Farmer Kitchen Composter is an interesting product my husband
discovered on the Web. It's designed to recycle food waste, which usually makes
up about 33% of household garbage. Food waste contributes to the
depletion of the ozone layer with the methane gases it emits, takes up
more landfill space and pollutes our water system. The composter
converts food waste into an organic fertilizer good for your lawn or
garden. I'm still considering it and wouldn't hesitate to use it if I
had more space to keep it, though I must confess that I'm afraid it
might attract flies, which I have no tolerance for.
Words of Wisdom
"If you want to achieve excellence, you can get there today. As of this
second, quit doing less-than-excellent work".
- Thomas J. Watson
Researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center have found that extra
virgin olive oil (in addition to tasting yummy and being good for you!)
contains pain-relieving properties. The compound, oleocanthal, which is
found in olives, acts as a painkiller similar to the anti-inflammatory
drug ibuprofen, but on a much smaller scale. A quarter cup of
cold-pressed, high-quality extra virgin olive oil provides 50g of
oleocanthal, which is equivalent to 10 percent of the recommended dose of
ibuprofen for treating pain in adults. Freshness is the operative word
in newly pressed oil made from the first harvested olives, if you want a
higher concentration of oleocanthal.
Obesity causes not only ill health, but also unhappiness and misery for those who
must live with it. The remarkable story
of Steve Vaught (The Fat
for instance, highlights the hardships
and despair many people endure every day. In Vaught's case, he is
taking action to regain control of his life and improve his self-image.
He has decided to lose weight by walking across America. It's a drastic
decision, but also brave and admirable.
Vaught's story is important because it brings light to the
emotional and psychological aspects of the disease. We always hear about
obesity as the underlying cause of serious illnesses such as
diabetes, heart disease and cancer. But we often neglect to talk about obesity
as a painful source of depression and low self-esteem that disrupts the
well being of entire families.
At least Steve preserves an
image of when he used to be fit. Unfortunately, for children who are
becoming obese as toddlers, their health and emotional problems will
be even more difficult to overcome. They will never know what it's like
to have a healthy weight. Prevention -- and permanent lifestyle changes,
rather than fad diets or dramatic-but-temporary exercise -- is always
Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the
Click on the picture for a closer look!
Anytime Tofu and Chickpeas (vegan)
Serves 4 to 6
I love this combination of tofu and garbanzo beans because it's great
eaten hot or cold. It has lots of turmeric in it, which not only gives a
bright yellow color but also a savory flavor that is perfect for enjoying an "eggless
To learn all about tofu read previous articles I've written:
Ahead of time:
Garbanzo beans (or substitute with organic canned garbanzo beans)
Preparation time: 7 minutes Cooking time: 25 minutes
Get ingredients ready (use organic ingredients if possible)
2 tablespoons oil (safflower or canola oil) Read the Q&A section of
4 fresh garlic cloves, crushed or minced
½ small onion, finely chopped
1 small leek, sliced (or about ¼ cup of diced green onions)
1 medium poblano pepper, seeded and finely chopped (or green bell
2 cups cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained (garbanzo beans)
1 pound firm tofu, drained and finely cubed
2 tablespoons turmeric
¼ teaspoon curry powder
2 tablespoons yellow mustard spread
½ cup regular soymilk
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
1. In large pan, heat oil on low heat. Add garlic, onions, leeks
sautéing for 5 minutes. Add peppers and chickpeas stirring and sautéing
another 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine turmeric, curry powder, yellow
mustard, soy milk and soy sauce mixing well. Add tofu and liquid mix
stirring well and cook for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to
taste and serve.
Cook's tip: Use cold leftovers to make sandwiches on whole grain bread.
For best results add finely chopped fresh celery, onions and carrots to
the mixture. Then add your favorite garnishes such as lettuce and
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