Monday, October 24, 2011

Halloween and the never-ending stream of candy and sugar

The constant availability of sugar in many forms has to be a large part of the current obesity epidemic. Everywhere we go, someone is offering Lavender or all of us candy, a cookie, or some other flour- or sugar-based item.   It makes me crazy.  Food does not need to be a part of every activity in which we participate!

And now it's nearly Halloween, just one of the sugar-dominated holidays of winter.   The costume is the biggest fun, but my little trick-or-treater is sure to bring home a lot of stuff that none of us needs.

What to do with all that candy? 
Well, first... I need to come up with a way of separating it from Lavender.  My thoughts:
  • candy for 2 days
  • one piece of candy each day for a week
  • fill a small container with favorites
  • pick a few pieces, trade the rest for a family dinner at kid-chosen restaurant
  • pick a few pieces, trade the rest for a favorite homemade dessert that we will make
  • parent buys the candy at a per-pound or per-piece rate
  • kids can choose from these options but not "candy until it's gone."  This is probably the route I'll take this year.  Last year, I offered to buy the candy but she wanted nothing to do with that - however, this year, she is much more interested in money.
and then, what to do with the rest? 
  • Give the first-purged candy to the next kids who come to the door.
  • Conduct candy experiments.
  • Make decorations for Thanksgiving and Christmas (gingerbread house) or just let the kids make some art. Bonus result of seeing the candy as a not-food item.
  • Some dentists participate in this buyback program.
  • Our food shelf collects it.  I have mixed feelings about that.  
  • Give it to Herb to take to work.
  • Just pitch it.  Yes, it's a waste of resources, but using it doesn't make it healthier for anyone.
How can we limit our own participation in the annual tooth decay and environmental damage?  Instead of candy, how about 'treating:'
  • All those random plastic young-kid toys that entered your house to be played with once, that you would otherwise throw away - let someone else enjoy them for the day.
  • Pencils, regular or mechanical, or pens.
  • Small spiral notebooks
  • Raisins (these are in recyclable boxes, too)
  • Microwave popcorn (avoid the artificial, chemical "butter") or not-horrible chips, if you find some, although these are in throwaway packaging
  • Sunflower seeds (individually packaged)
  • Bookmarks

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cell Phones and Kids

Lavender doesn't carry a cell phone, but we are a cell-phone-only household and so she occasionally uses mine, usually on speaker mode.  However, when I see a study like this, I pay attention:

Cellphones Exceed U.S. FCC Exposure Limits by as Much as Double for Children, Study Finds

excerpt: "The paper notes that the industry-designed process for evaluating microwave radiation from phones results in children absorbing twice the cellphone radiation to their heads, up to triple in their brain's hippocampus and hypothalamus, greater absorption in their eyes, and as much as 10 times more in their bone marrow when compared to adults."

Check the SAR rating on your phone - and next time you upgrade, compare models before purchasing!


EWG's Best & Worst Phones / Shopping Guide

CNET: Cell Phone Radiation Levels

FCC: Specific Absorption Rate for Cellular Telephones

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Arguing about Starchy Vegetables

The Senate stood up for potatoes and corn this week when the Obama administration proposed limiting starchy vegetables to 1c/week in school lunches (how did corn ever become a vegetable, anyway?).  Simple solution: serve them, but don't count them as vegetables, but rather toward the grain portion of the meal, which is often overloaded anyway. Non-starchy vegetables have higher nutrient levels by far, and are the ones less likely to be found in abundance in many homes - why not take this opportunity to introduce students to them?  This approach follows Dr. Joel Fuhrman's nutritarian food pyramid.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Quinoa for breakfast

Quinoa is a seed that is treated as a grain, and which is cooked exactly like white rice (1:2 ratio, cook for 20 minutes after bringing to a boil).  It has a light, fluffy texture much like couscous.  Rinse and cook 1 c. quinoa for 4 breakfast servings.  Add butter, or fruit and nuts, milk and cinnamon, or cooked greens with whatever else your taste buds fancy.  Refrigerate or freeze extra servings in microwave-safe glass containers.  Cost per serving (quinoa only): about $0.25 for organic quinoa purchased in bulk.

For numbers buffs: According to, 1/4 c dry quinoa has 157 calories, 2.5g fat, 27g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, and 6g protein.  Unlike other grains and grain-like foods, all essential amino acids are represented in that protein. 

But we don't cook it just because of that.  Lavender likes it, and it's a much better breakfast (not to mention far less costly) than processed cereal from a box! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Summer Wrap

This wrap is loosely based on summer rolls, the fresh and delicious, not-fried rolls that are on the menu at some Thai and Vietnamese restaurants, made with rice paper wrappers. 

per serving:
1 tortilla of choice (not corn) - mine were 6" so if you use very large tortillas, adjust quantities below accordingly
1 Tbsp peanut or almond butter
1/4 tsp tamari or soy sauce
1/4 c shredded Romaine or spinach
3 T shredded carrot
a few slivers of sliced bell pepper
any other random vegetables you have ready to go - I added some shredded Brussels sprouts

Add ingredients in order listed, and roll it up.  Slice or not.
Cost: about $0.50 each.  Lavender took 2 of these for lunch today, with olives, fruit salad, and carrots.  Total lunch cost, $1.75.  (Largest individual cost = tortillas at $0.25 each.)

Monday, October 10, 2011

More homemade school lunches, with cost estimates

 Cream cheese and jam on sprouted whole grain bread ($0.50), carrot and cucumber sticks ($0.25), olives ($0.25), prune plums ($0.25).  Total $1.25.

 Homemade chicken spaetzle soup ($1.00), carrot sticks ($0.25), pickles ($0.20), and homemade apple crisp ($0.10 - from homegrown apples).  Total $1.55. 
It was difficult to estimate the cost of the soup since the stock and much of the chicken came from the carcasses of 2 organic chickens that we roasted.  I estimated $3 worth of chicken for the 5 servings of soup, probably in excess of the actual cost.

 PB & J on sprouted whole grain bread ($0.55), olives ($0.25), carrot and red bell pepper sticks ($0.40), and mango-prune plum salad ($0.60).  Total $1.80.

Homemade vegetarian split pea soup ($0.25), homemade bread (free, from a friend), olives ($0.25), trail mix ($0.20), and prune plums ($0.25).  Total $0.95.

Lavender requested to make her own lunch twice this week, and that's why the humble sandwiches appear.
Average cost of these lunches = $1.39
Average savings per day over school lunch = $0.96