It turns out, there is a downside to having a toddler who only wants to eat Cheerios, bananas, and wheat bread: a lack of digestive movement, which causes for one uncomfortable and cranky little boy while a swollen stomach.
The solution was simple: feed him prunes. But seriously, what toddler would willingly eat prunes? I don’t even know that I’ve ever had a prune. My expectations were low; exactly where they should have been.
Simply because it was a new food, my son Jack swiped at the incoming spoon of pureed prunes. So I held down his arms as my wife delivered the stuff straight into his mouth- which was conveniently open because he was crying.
We looked for his reaction and were actually surprised. He didn’t not like it. Though there would be several days to follow of Jack pretending to fight prunes, now that he’s a week into it, he hardly ever refues the purple stuff.
Not that he really understands most of what I’m saying anyway, but instead of calling prunes by their actual name, I say, “Jack, it’s time for two bites of chocolate pudding.”
And that doesn’t even make much sense, because he’s never eaten chocolate pudding before. But either way, my kid willingly and joyfully eats pureed prunes. More importantly, “the train is now moving.”
So why resort to prunes only when he needs them? You know what they say:
“That’s ironic- a fast food company is giving free burgers and fries to Olympic athletes and buying ads for everyone to see during a world-wide athletic event? Isn’t that sort of defeating the purpose?”
So yes, I fell for it, Mr. Headline Maker. But then I kept thinking about it. Isn’t it sort of a double standard for us to pinpoint a major contributor of America’s malnutrition when there are plenty of others doing the same thing?
I think of how Coca-Cola is typically a sponsor of middle school and high school sports. It’s common for young athletes to receive a free t-shirt with the classic logo on it, along with the school’s name. Not to mention, when I was growing up, there were soda machines conveniently placed right outside the gym doors.
Really? Think about adding 3 tablespoons of sugar into any 12 ounce serving of any kind of food. Isn’t that kind of weird? Or disgusting? Maybe even unnecessary?
Yeah, I know. There are diet sodas too, if you trust forms of aspartame. I don’t, sorry.
I’ve heard that my generation (around age 30 and younger) focuses on the planning of advertisements more than any generation before. I know it’s true for me. I’m always eager to spot ironic sponsors for any event, whether it’s for something athletic or even the ads showing up here on this site. (I’m still waiting to see a “dad ad.” on Parents.com.)
But honestly, does anyone really care about ironic sponsorship? Does McDonald’s giving Olympic athletes free food really affect our lifestyle choices anyway?
I don’t think it does. It doesn’t actually change anything. It just makes us point out the irony and makes for a light-hearted, 45 second conversation.
And then the conversation turns to Beyonce’s baby or Hostess going out of business.
To me, the most ironic thing would be to see advertisements for carrots during an athletic event.
When you officially go vegetarian, the #1 response you will get from most people is, “Well, just make sure you’re getting enough protein.” I feel like it’s subconsciously assumed that vegetarians are just a few steps away from having an eating disorder.
Prepare for me to rock your world. (As if I don’t always.) The reasons people eat meat are because they like it and it’s convenient. People do not eat meat because their bodies need the protein. For any person with access to a grocery store or market that sells veggies and beans, meat is nutritionally unnecessary.
After all, I accidentally became a vegetarian. Throughout the years, as I learned more and more how to eat properly by cutting out foods with the word “high-fructose corn syrup” in them and started eating fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains in every meal, I finally woke up and realized, “Hey, I don’t want even want meat. Why am I eating this?”
According to the fascinating documentary, Forks Over Knives, which features people who reversed their cancer and Diabetes by switching to a plant-based diet, even the vegetable with the least amount of a protein, the potato, still provides the minimal amount of necessary protein.
Twenty years ago from this very minute, I was probably at Burger King with my family, who was impressed that a skinny little 10 year-old boy like me could so easy down a Double Whopper combo meal. My catch-phrase back then was, “Meat. I gotta have more meat.”
How ironic that two decades later A) I’m a vegetarian and B) I’m never hungry after eating meatless meals.
Forks Over Knives also explains how 500 calories of vegetarian food triggers the mind and body that a person is full, both quicker and longer, than 500 calories of animal based food. Therefore, the more animal-based and processed a meal is, the more necessary it becomes to overeat in order to feel full.
Vegetarianism is considered an alternative lifestyle. But the way I see it, eating meat is the actual alternative lifestyle.
Take a fun look back to the book of Genesis in the Bible. It starts out with God telling people to eat plants and herbs. From Adam until Noah, 20 generations later, there is no mention of anyone eating animals. Then after the Flood wrecked the Earth, God allows people to start eating certain animals (not pork or shellfish.) Why? Out of necessity.
In this new version of Earth where it rained now, where Pangea had been torn apart, where peoples’ lifetimes shortened from centuries to less than a century, for many people it would become necessary, at times, for them to survive off the protein of slaughtered animals. It was scientifically a new environment; they had to adapt.
But here we are now in 2012. It’s never been easier to have access to fresh produce and whole grains. We don’t have to rely on the alternative lifestyle of eating meat.
Instead, we eat meat because it’s easy, familiar, and fun. We like it. But we don’t need it, nutritionally if we get our protein from the right places to begin with.
It’s simply a myth that vegetarians don’t get enough protein. Pretty weird, huh?
If you would like to personally ask me any questions about converting to vegetarianism, feel free to email me at nickshell1983@hotmail. Or simply check out this article I wrote a few weeks ago: Healthy Parents: 5 Steps to Planning Vegetarian Meals. Trust me, if you’re attempting to go vegetarian but aren’t “feeling full,” it means you’re doing it wrong. I’ll help.
In South Korea, people really do eat dogs. If you need a visual, check out my personal Facebook page and look in my photo album called “Uncensored Korean Files” to see a dog deli I photographed while I was teaching there.
Here in America we eat pigs, which are just as cuddly as dogs and arguably more intelligent, but we’re okay with that because for whatever cultural reasons, we Americans know that it’s somehow uncivilized and morally wrong to kill and eat a dog, but not a pig.
Similarly, we as individual family units live by our own quirky food limitations. A few weeks ago on Facebook, I posted this as my status for my 871 friends to respond:
“Alright parents, I have a very personal question to ask you for something I’m writing for Parents.com. Where do you cross the line on what you will and will not allow your kid to eat? For example, how much fast food is too much? Any particular foods you just don’t want them eating? What about when you’re not around, like if your kid is at a friend’s sleep-over?”
Out of the 24 comments I received in a 24 hour period, the overall consensus was “everything in moderation.” However, the variable I noticed in their comments is what we all consider to be normal in our everyday eating habits. And that’s sort of the whole point of what I was asking.
For example, for some, it was no fast food. For others, it was no meat that isn’t organic. Or no caffeine or no sodas. And then there’s me, the hard-core vegetarian of the group who didn’t bother to mention the long list of things I won’t allow my own kid to eat.
We all know that cancer, Diabetes, and obesity rates are radically higher than they were a 150 years ago before we as humans we introduced to highly processed foods and began eating them in the majority of our meals. So now we as parents want to protect our kids by making deliberate dietary decisions for them.
So here’s what I say: Let us all be weird in our own weird ways when it comes to what “unhealthy” foods we won’t allow our kids to eat.
I’m past the point of worrying that I might hurt someone’s feelings when they try to feed my son something that isn’t on “Dad’s list” of approved foods.
Maybe I err a bit on the radical side, but so what? My kid’s not going to starve nor be malnourished if I have a say in it. He just may be a bit deprived as an American kid who doesn’t get to experience the joy of chicken nuggets like all the normal kids. He’ll be okay.
It’s not that we all as parents are necessarily judging each other for what the other does or does not let their kid eat. Well heck, if I’m judging anyone for that reason, it would be me. I’m more than willing to label myself as the wacko dad here.
But hey, we all draw the line somewhere when it comes to what we won’t let our kid eat.
What is the proper size portion of meat to eat in a meal? In the documentary Super Size Me, Lisa Young, PhD, RD, CDN and the Professor of Nutrition at New York University explains that the federal government defines 3 ounces of meat as a sensible portion.
I knew a guy who got an app on his iPhone that kept up with exactly how many calories he ate each day, as he wanted to only consume the appropriate amount for his age, weight, and height.
Despite being very careful about his food choices, he reported back to me after a week that he was coming up too high on his sodium count each day. I suggested he only eat meat in one of his daily meals, and that he make sure the portion was no larger than a deck of cards.
He did, and that was the only way for him to consume the proper amount of sodium.
To be clear, I am suggesting that eating meat for more than one meal a day (and/or consuming more than a deck-of-cards-sized portion of meat in that one meal) is adding too much meat (and sodium) into one’s diet. So for those who are crazy enough to follow my logic on this and actually believe that information is true and relevant, I want to explain how vegetarians plan their meals; at least how my wife and I do it.
So for the meals you don’t eat meat, you can remember what you learned here today to build a satisfying and fulfilling meal, sans the meat.
1) Half-veggie, half-whole grains, seasoned with cheese. That is the formula for how we plan our meals. No vegetarian should ever finish eating a meal and still be hungry. That’s why whole grain pasta, bread, and rice (along with beans) are crucial for making a hearty vegetarian meal. Don’t even bother with “white bread,” which leaves you longing for more substance unless you pair it with meat. It’s like eating a Kleenex; virtually no nutrition.
2) Think of your favorite meals that do contain meat, but remove the meat. My wife and I both love lasagna, pasta, and pizza. So we make the healthy version of these foods with whole grain pasta and whole wheat dough. We pack these meals full of veggies, like spinach and zucchini, held together with a little bit of cheese. What’s interesting is that when you use whole grain instead of white noodles or dough, you get fuller quicker on less food.
3) Put together a list of your “heavy rotation” vegetables to serve as your staples. Our list is basically this: spinach, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, cucumbers, avocados, romaine lettuce, green beans, green peppers, celery, okra, and basil (which is actually an herb.) We keep all these veggies stocked every week in our fridge to serve as the “flavor” of our meals, whereas the whole grains are the “substance.” Cheese is the “fun part.”
4) Make a distinction between your main dish and your side dish(es). Much of the time, our side dish is a salad consisting of romaine lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, and Italian dressing (full of good fats from oils.) Sometimes it’s sauteed spinach with garlic and a little bit of butter. (As you can see, we’re not opposed to a bit of dairy to make things interesting.) Meanwhile, the main dish may be veggie lasagna or bean and rice burritos stuffed with veggies and avocados in a whole wheat wrap.
5) Make sure your meal has some fat in it. If you end up making a meal that doesn’t have cheese in it, make sure you throw in a whole avocado or at least some almonds. At least for me, I got to have some fat in my meal to be full. Again, vegetarian meals shouldn’t leave you hungry. Otherwise, you’re doing something wrong.