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I know that junk food is bad for me. So why can’t I say NO?

It seems elementary.

 If something is bad for you, how can it be difficult to say “no”.

Most kids are taught and understand the consequences of imbibing dangerous substances such as tobacco, alcohol and drugs and most do steer clear. So how do we explain the inability to abstain from junk food which is clearly linked to obesity, diabetes, circulatory problems and even cancer.

Every article I read explains the tricks that food companies use to make this stuff attractive, appealing, delicious and cool. Yes, I like to call it `stuff’. It is tasty, relatively cheap and convenient to consume. They tell you that the ‘stuff’ is designed to please the pleasure centers of the brain and is loaded with sugar, salt and copious quantities of fat so that we keep consuming more.

This is all well and true. But the problem is that we keep calling this stuff ‘FOOD’.

Why call something that is so dangerous and disease causing ‘food’.  Why not call it something else?

Food is supposed to sustain our bodies and promote good health. Junk food is not food. It is junk. It does the opposite. It is an addictive & dangerous concoction of salt, sugar, fat, preservatives, additives and God knows what packaged to deceive the innocent and uninformed.

We need to change how kids perceive Junk Food. We must stop calling it food and use the appropriate terms to describe it. Addictive, Disease causing Junk. They may get the message.

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Love Your Bugs

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Become the kitchen goddess

In many cultures healing, spirituality and food (nourishment) have always been intertwined. Food was a divine gift capable of nourishing and prolonging a productive human life. As such, the persons responsible for the preparation of life-giving meals was respected as the embodiment of the kitchen goddess.  She represented invaluable knowledge that contributed the well being and health of her family and community.

The goddess of food symbolizes the divine aspect of nourishing care. In many cultures it is believed that when food is cooked with reverence, intelligence and care it becomes alchemy. An intelligent and enlightened attitude towards nourishment will result in Amruta which is the Sanskrit word for delicious and healthy food giving immortality.  

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Feed that Brain

How many times have you decided to fix up sandwich for your child and reached for luncheon meat because boiling an egg or opening a tin of tuna seemed too much effort? Why waste time fixing an omelet and fruit when peanut butter and jelly would do just as well?

Parents worry about the amount of time kids spend online. Too much online time is resulting in lost creativity, poor interpersonal skills, inability to think independently and excel in academics. The tsunami of online internet junk is overwhelming young minds with devastating effect. All very true. Yet how much time do we spend worrying about what our children put into the very bodies that house these brains. The link between nutrition, academic success and brain health is not in dispute and has been known a lot longer than impact of online addictions.

It is said, “you are what you eat and become what you think”

The is a definite correlation between poor nutrition and poor academic performance and behavioral issues. There are also many studies that link the exacerbation of certain developmental disabilities like Autism to overconsumption of preservative laden processed foods. Our resting brain consumes 20% of our body’s energy mainly in the form of glucose. According to Doug Boyer, Professor of Anthropology (Duke University), this amounts to about 350-450 calories for an adult and far more for a child. He says that a 5–6-year old’s brain can use in excess of 60% of the body’s energy output.  The brain’s demand for energy continues even when we are sleeping and resting. A child’s brain demands more energy during development because there is a great deal of learning, storage as well as routine maintenance of bodily functions that requires neural activity. The brain is indubitably a hungry machine that needs to be fed regularly and FED HIGH QUALITY FUEL

Many studies over the years suggest that academic performance and brain health are negatively impacted due to malnutrition amongst school children. Students who receive balanced nutrition and sleep, learn better and are more focused in the classroom. Furthermore, there is evidence that improvements in nutrient intake can influence the cognitive ability and intelligence levels of school-aged children. Cutting out refined sugar, processed foods and foods low in nutritional value result in fewer behavioral problems and better physical and mental health in children.

So, make it a priority to find time to fix that wholesome sandwich. Cut up some fruit and veggies throw in some nuts and encourage your kids to eat better and do tell them why. 

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Back to Your Roots

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Is It All About the Food?

I sit and observe while my mom or dad top up the gasoline in the car. The attendant yells do you want 92, 93 or 95? The latter being the most premium in the local market. The owners of expensive cars all most always opt for premium. They would opt to run the risk of an empty tank than pump the vile regular variety onto their beloved car. 

I wonder, do they care as much about what they put into their bodies. 

My own experience and observations of my family (parents, grandparents and great grandmothers) suggests that eating healthy and eating frugally keeps disease at bay and ensures a long life. When we say food is medicine, we approach it with the idea that certain foods can cure diseases or control symptoms. While this is true, eating a plant rich, simple diet cooked at home seems to reduce the occurrence of disease and promotes longevity. So, what we eat is more a choice of prevention over cure. 

My great grandmothers (all four of them) lived into their 90s with one being a centenarian. None suffered from coronary disease, cancer or diabetes (blood sugar and hypertension became an issue in their mid to late eighties). Two of my G. Grandmothers almost never visited a doctor as adults. I have gathered as much information as I could about their dietary habits and can summarize the following.

They almost always ate at home. Eating out/take out were concepts almost alien to them. It just wasn’t done. The only exceptions were holidays away from home, a family affair or party.

The diet was rich in vegetables with small quantities of protein. 

They consumed a variety of vegetables, pulses and grains

The preparations were simple and straight forward. Alas no contenders for “master chef kitchen”. Sauteing and frying was kept to a minimum. Local, seasonal produce was used in the preparation of mostly traditional dishes. Preparations often involved the substantial use of Turmeric, coriander, pepper, chilies, curry powder, curry leaf and coconut milk

Fruits were consumed in moderation. Fresh fruit was almost always preferred over prepared sweet desserts with the exception of buffalo curd and honey once a week. Sweet desserts were consumed once in blue moon. Not because they were watching their waistlines. It just wasn’t part of the food culture at home

Portion size was always small. The most common complaint about my great grandmothers was that they ate so little

Water/tea was drunk to quench their thirst. They did not subscribe to the notion of keeping count of how may liters of liquid was consumed during the day. One drank when one was thirsty. It was that simple 

They maintained a healthy weight, but none of them were slim. None owned a bathroom scale and would have found our modern obsession of weighing oneself regularly quite hilarious.

They ate 3 meals a day. Breakfast at about 8 am, lunch at 1 pm and dinner was almost always consumed by 8 pm. Like clockwork. When I scrutinize this schedule, I find a 12 hour fast automatically built into the regimen.

My grandmothers were active throughout the day. Mostly housework which involved sweeping the house and garden, dusting, cooking, doing dishes etc. None went for walks unless they had someone or someplace to visit. The idea of going to a gym or setting aside time for exercise was laughed at.

Good genes you would say. Perhaps, perhaps not. Not everyone in their immediate families had long lives. They outlived their husbands, siblings and even children who were not so careful with their food and habits. 

I attribute their good health and longevity to a simple frugal diet and moderate sensible habits. Perhaps I should guard against survivorship bias, something I wish to explore at a later time.

I would like to conclude this blog with an excerpt from an article by

Tammy Beasley, RDN, CEDRD, CSSD, LD

The Healing Power of Nutrition, Beyond “Let Food Be Thy Medicine”

The first and most obvious role of nutrition is to support the physical body itself. Although social media’s food messages typically demonize a type of food in its entirety, the truth is that all foods (fuels)— carbohydrates of all types, protein of all types, and fats of all types—play unique supporting roles in healing and sustaining our physical bodies. These different food (fuel) groups work synergistically together in beautiful balance. Understanding what each fuel group provides and how the fuel groups work together reinforces trust in the body’s ability to balance the food it receives. This balance does not depend on perfection in either exact measurements or micro-managing macronutrients and/or calories to be effective—a concept that is hard to believe now but becomes easier as you practice balanced eating from all fuel groups consistently.   

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Simple Rules to Follow

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My Great Grandmother’s Plate

I remember sitting at the dining table as a child staring at my Grand Nana’s plate. 

It was more like a large cereal bowl she insisted on using at every meal. I would watch disapprovingly as she slowly and methodically served her vegetables, piece of fish or chicken and salad. All onto one plate. Then she would serve a large spoon of rice (just one) or 2 small slices of bread and sit down to eat.

She filled her mug with boiled and cooled water and sipped while she ate.

Nana believed in enjoying a good meal. She chewed methodically with her full dentures (she had lost most of teeth in an accident) and was sure to eat every scrap on her plate.

However she never went for seconds. It did not matter how delicious the food was. It didn’t matter if the cook was offended by her absolute refusal to eat more. I remember an occasion where my aunt was reduced to tears after Nana refused to take a second helping of dessert.  Nana knew how much she wanted to eat. And that this what she did throughout her 93 years on this planet. She was also quick to point out if the food had too much salt. She was never shy.

She would often warn us before a party or dinner, “now don’t forget to say , no thank you if they offer you seconds”. I used to be quite irritated. Nana and I had a different opinions when it came to desserts.

Nana believed that eating like a glutton was bad for health. She always ate a measured, small portion of everything. She never lived to eat but truly ate to live. She did not covet luxurious foods or any foods besides black tea, bananas and coconut water.

At 93 she had the skin of a 60 year old 

She cooked most of her meals and hung up her apron at 87

She was active and strong. 

Her workload as a 80 something would put most 50 year olds to shame

Today we live in a world of ever growing portion sizes and waistlines. The goal is to eat fast and eat more. Have you taken a look at buffet meals. Gorging takes on a new meaning.

We need to slow down and think about what and how much we are putting into our bellies. The quality of our lives depend upon it.

(image from: Sweat Apps)

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My Plate

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Super baby————>Superman?

Let us look at the rosy and fortunate beginning of a child. 

From conception to birth, every meal of the expectant mother is scrutinized. Eat this and not that....books and websites are explored for the most baby friendly foods geared to producing a hybrid Einstein/Metusalah. A family might spend beyond their means to provide mother and child with nutritious food. A mother is weighed regularly to ensure that she is gaining the right amount of weight. Oh what fuss we make!!!

 Grandmothers, in-laws and friends all share their wisdom on how mother and baby should thrive. 

After birth ever anxious parents spend a fortune on the right food with the hope of creating the first super child.  Food for smart, athletic, attractive offspring. It is an industry by itself. Oh what a fuss we make!!!

A few years go by and the child becomes old enough to make choices. 

Then fate lowers the boom.

Parental priorities change. It’s time to focus on achievements both academic and a mind numbing array of activities geared to produce accomplished youngsters ready to take on university admission committees. With a life on the fast track, juggling school extra curricular activities and play, children have little time to think of food......Fueling the furnace to keep it running becomes the priority. Even the conscientious parent succumbs to the siren call of quick filling meals in an effort to juggle the demands of life.

It doesn’t matter where or how they are introduced to one another. A siren call is jet that. Junk food/fast food become intimately acquainted with young people. The bond is strong and firm. Unshakable.

Junk food, poor nutrition, binge eating and skipped meals become a way of life. A legacy we carry into adulthood. 

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The First Step

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