Real Food Nutrition for 7th graders

Since we're not with our kids 24/7, we must help them make good food choices all on their own.  And you can start early!  My upcoming talk about how to Optimize Your Child's Brain and Body Through Nutrition reminded me about an experience I had teaching Real Food nutrition to 7th graders last year.  

I had a wonderful opportunity to spend time with four 7th grade classes at a local middle school.  Mrs. Broussard, the 7th grade teacher, invited me to teach her students about Real Food nutrition.  She had already included nutrition education from a mathematical point of view (how to count calories, how to burn off calories based on exercising, how many hours to burn that off, etc.)   Mrs. Broussard is also a Real Food advocate, and wanted me to teach a more holistic perspective to eating and nutrition.  So I came in with a very interactive lesson plan.  I incorporated several videos, posed questions to students to elicit feedback, showed them a healthy lunch box and the breakdowns of each food category.  I also talked to them about how to shop for Real Food and the major differences between processed, convenience food versus real, homemade food.  We covered the dangers of sugar addiction, being aware of different colors on their plate, the 5 flavors of food, and the meaning of being hungry as opposed to eating out of an emotion or an addiction.  

The students all had wonderful answers, questions, and feedback.  One child was devastated to find out that mac and cheese had pasta in it.  I was explaining that eating all "white" foods all the time, like mac and cheese, pizza, and bread doesn't provide you with a balance of nutrients and flavor.  And to that, students were incredulous that I would consider mac and cheese "white" and corrected me that it was "yellow".  I was perplexed, so I told them, "Well, there's white pasta underneath the cheese, right?"  (Sort of tells you how important it is to educate our kids about what's in their food.  Mac is "macaroni", a definite pasta product!)  What I was shocked to find out was that if you eat mac and cheese from a box, it's all yellow.  (Explanation: I'd never eaten mac and cheese from a box, having grown up in Japan, and on the rare occasion that I make mac and cheese as an adult, I grate my own parmesan cheese onto pasta, so it's all "white" in color to me.)  On top of that, in boxed mac and cheese, the yellow is super-yellow.  Not usually an indication of healthy nutrition!  So students and I both learned a lot about nutrition.

I taught the children to shop the perimeter of the supermarkets because that is where you find "real food".  Kids again were perplexed, so I broke it down further for them.  "Real food is food that needs refrigeration, that actually starts to mold if you don't refrigerate it.  Anything that can last on a shelf in a box for years is processed food."  The aaahs and the lightbulbs that went on after this revelation was music to my ears.   

In regards to the 5 flavors,  I taught them that they should have 5 different flavors on their plate: sweet, salty, sour, spicy and bitter.  This will guarantee that a child is eating foods from many different food groups as well as even food processing styles, like sour will most likely be a lacto-fermented food (like sauerkraut or kimchi).  These foods are incredibly high in naturally-occurring probiotics and lactic acid, which both aid in digestion of foods.  Same goes with eating a colorful plate.  We can learn something from the Japanese here.  I remember growing up as a child, my Japanese aunt (I lived in a multi-generation house at one point) used to count on her fingers as she thought about how many colors of foods were on the plates for our dinner.  She'd be counting "green from the spinach, purple from the eggplant, red from the chicken, white from the rice" and so forth.  She always made sure there were 5 colors represented.  So if you follow this, like with the 5 flavors, it will help to ensure you and your child are eating a variety-filled meal each time.  

I know I only came in for one day, teaching 50 minutes of nutrition per class.  These students learn all kinds of important things the rest of the year.  But my hope is that I was able to plant even one new seed, nurture one new outlook.  That's all I ask.  By looking at food differently, our children will follow a different health trajectory than the one of deterioration that an alarming percentage of Americans experience today.  

Thanks Mrs. Broussard and the 7th graders for letting me come and teach your wonderful class!  And a major kudos to all the teachers out there.  They teach day in and day out with very little recognition, often under immense stress from administration as well as from students with behavioral issues.  But they do it because they love what they do and they too want to make a major difference in the lives of our children.  Big hats off to teachers!!

Success! Milestones parent-ed talk/fundraising event

My pediatric holistic health and wellness talk was a huge success at Milestones Preschool!  I was able to raise $$$ for the school as well as raise awareness of the power and effectiveness of Traditional East Asian Medicine (TEAM) for pediatric health care needs.  

Parents loved the hands-on portion of my Iyashi Touch protocol (a type of pediatric TEAM massage I teach my families), and I could see their children were curious and eager to have some of these tried on them that night.  I had feedback from one parent the next day that her daughter made sure that she had her special toothbrush just for her :-)

Parents also asked a lot of great questions regarding my holistic nutrition talk.  I loved being able to see how engaged they got with the information, how their minds were turning, reassessing where they were in their dietary approach to their children.  It really thrills me when I see that lightbulb go off in people, and that's why I love teaching, both to the public as well as to my students at Yo San University.  Imagine, families starting to eat healthier and implementing massages on their kiddos, changing the future of our children's health, just from empowering educational talks.  I love that I can make a difference in this world, one child, one family at a time.  

I'm also excited to share that the director has asked me to come back to do more talks on pediatric healthcare and nutrition, so be on the look out for future classes!

Thank you everyone for who attended!

A picture of me teaching part of my Iyashi Touch last year.  I taught this on 1/29/14 at Milestones.

A picture of me teaching part of my Iyashi Touch last year.  I taught this on 1/29/14 at Milestones.

Healthy Holiday Eating & Drinking

To stay on track with healthy eating, it is absolutely critical during this festive time of year to look for locally grown foods by shopping at your farmer's market or joining a local community supported agriculture (CSA) program for the bulk of your grocery items. When shopping at the grocery store (even Whole Foods), resist the temptation to fill your shopping cart with sweets, dairy, and chips. Filling up on “junk” foods will exhaust your digestive fire, create dampness, weaken your immune system, and make you more susceptible to seasonal illnesses.  It is especially during the winter season, as we all know, that the cold and flu runs rampant at the work place, in schools and at home.  And it behooves you to stay vigilant in what you eat so that you and your family can avoid getting sick.  (To read about home care for when you do get the cold/flu, read my blog here on that topic.)

So, I don't mean to be a party pooper, but  Christmas festivities and New Year's Eve celebrations are no ticket to trash your body (or to not make healthy snacks and meals for your children's growing bodies). While it's okay to indulge in “unhealthy” holiday treats in moderation, there's no reason why you can't make something that is both healthy and a real treat to counter those unhealthy treats!  If you're the host, you can create a healthy feast using plenty of winter root vegetable and body-warming lamb for example.  If you're the guest, don't arrive hungry to the party so that you don't run wild at the snack, cheese and sweets tray.  And if you're planning to partake in alcohol, ALWAYS drink in moderation and determine a designated driver before the drinking ensues.  But life is all about moderation, so do enjoy the festivities!  Let me share a family recipe for a tasty Colombian alcoholic beverage that will warm you up from the inside!

Canelazo.jpg

Canelazo 

(Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic Recipes Included)

Canelazo is a drink that will warm you up on a cold night and is a popular winter drink in Colombia, where I’m from. It's made from aguapanela (found in Latino markets, but brown sugar may be substituted here), cinnamon, lime juice, and the fiery concoction known as aguardiente (or "fire water"). Aguardiente is an anise-flavored liquor, which can also be found in Latino markets, but rum can be substituted here. This is a delicious drink to serve to friends on a cold winter's night.  A children’s version can be found following the adult version.

 Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups aguapanela (or 1 cup brown sugar mixed with water)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 4-6 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 cup (or more to taste) aguardiente or rum

Sugar for serving

Preparation:

  1. Bring the aguapanela, lime juice, cinnamon sticks to a boil. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Remove from the heat. Add the aguardiente or rum (to taste). 

  3. Reheat, without boiling. (If it boils, the alcohol will boil away).
  4. Place sugar in a shallow dish.  Moisten the rim of the tea cup and dip into sugar.
  5. Serve hot into tea cup.

 Serves 4

 From a Chinese Medicine perspective, this drink is a Qi tonic, strengthening the digestion (aguapanela/brown sugar, cinnamon, anise), warming (alcohol, cinnamon, aguapanela/brown sugar and clove), stops pain (cinnamon, clove), and lubricates the lungs and stops cough (brown sugar).  So as long as it’s drank in moderation and taken after a healthy meal, an alcoholic drink like this can be warming and tonifying to the body on a cold winter night.  Enjoy!

Child-friendly Canelazo

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups aguapanela (or 1 cup brown sugar mixed with water)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 4-6 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon grass-fed beef gelatin powder

 Preparation :

  1. Bring the aguapanela, lime juice, beef gelatin powder, cinnamon sticks and clove to a boil. Mix gelatin powder well until it melts.  Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. 

  2. Remove from the heat.
  3. Serve warm into mug or sippy cup.

The gelatin may lump up after a while once the canelazo cools down. Warm the drink until it melts again and re-serve.