Archive for ‘Motivation’

September 20, 2017

Can Food Win a War?

save France“Food Will Win the War” was the slogan of the US Food Administration in 1917; can food win a war? I’ve been cleaning out a storage building and a house. I’ve sorted through bags and bags of mail from 1987 to now, disposed of boxes of paper scraps, broken toys, and canned food so old that the cans are leaking. Hidden amid the mountain of junk, I’ve also rescued two baby books, a 1910 teaching contract, antique maps, and a copy of “Food Saving and Sharing” – the 1918 textbook prepared under the direction of The United States Food Administration.

This 102 page book, which was distributed to teachers in schools across the US, provides basic information about food and its function, interweaves cultural myths, and promotes conserving food, cleaning your plate (that probably sounds familiar), and helping the nation and its allies through personal sacrifice. For me, reading this now at a different point in history provides much food for thought.

Food Administration

Established in 1917, the US Food Administration was the agency responsible for the administration of U.S. Army overseas and Allies’ food reserves. The Food Administration’s goals were to provide food for its own troops and those of its Allies in war-torn Europe as well as to feed the American and Allied populations. Although the name sounds similar, this agency was not related to the Food and Drug Administration which was instituted in 1938 to enforce the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

Herbert Hoover was tapped by President Woodrow Wilson to lead the organization. As head of the agency, Hoover was quoted as saying, “Our conception of the problem in the United States is that we should assemble the voluntary effort of the people…We propose to mobilize the spirit of self-denial and self-sacrifice in this country.”

“Food Will Win the War” became the slogan featured on widely disseminated posters, articles, and educational material. Concepts such as “Meatless Mondays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays” were implemented to encourage US citizens to voluntarily conserve food so that more commodities would be available to send to the Allies.

The campaign was successful, resulting in a 15% reduction in domestic food consumption without rationing. In a 12-month period from 1918 to 1919 the US furnished 18,500,000 tons of food to the Allies.

Food Education

About half of the book “Food Saving and Sharing” is food education. I was struck by the accuracy of the information included. With more sophisticated lab technology, years of additional research, and multiple media outlets for disseminating information, it seems that we should have
significantly greater knowledge and be more accurately informed regarding nutrition now than we were 100 years ago. Instead, we have a wealth of confusing, conflicting, misleading information to sort through. It’s tough for most of us to know what to believe.

I recently watched a national TV morning news segment in which an MD stated that yogurt was not a good breakfast food because of all the sugar it contains. She did not qualify that statement in any way and it’s simply not true. Plain yogurt contains no sugar other than lactose from milk. If made at home and processed for 24 hours, even the lactose breaks down.

If milk is a good breakfast food, then yogurt is just as good. Well, actually better for most of us so long as the yogurt contains live bacteria. What’s not so good are yogurts that have sugars, sweeteners, gums, and flavors added. The distinction is important. If that distinction isn’t made, the public is being misinformed. And not just misinformed by misleading advertising (which is constant and bad enough), but misinformed by an authority figure with a national platform presenting the information as fact.

My experience of frequent frustration with current presentation of food and nutrition information, advertising, disinformation, and inaccurately reported research stands in contrast to the simple, clear message delivered a century ago. Reading this book it was interesting to see the food knowledge of 1918.

“Food Saving and Sharing” explains the functions of food and four basic food groups using the imagery of a child shopping for food in an imaginary market. The book explains each food group and why it should be included in the child’s basket. At that time, milk spanned the spectrum of each food group and was considered important for children because of its protein and “lime” (calcium) content.

Here’s what we can learn from the book:

The Functions of Food
1)Fuel to keep us warm and give us energy for work.
2)To build and repair the body.
3)To keep the machinery of the body in good running order.

Food Groups
The first group is fruits and vegetables. (Notice that it was not grains.)
The book states that we need the mineral matter supplied by fruit, vegetables and milk to make teeth and bones. We also need them for vitamins that make us grow. Not much was known about the amount of vitamins needed at that time, but it was known they are important to health.

We also learn that fruits and vegetables contain a lot of water which we also need. Water comprises 60 lbs of every 90 pounds of weight in an adult. (As you can see, this is very close to the 64% water we now estimate the human body to be.) 

While the term fiber is never used in the book, there are repeated references to the “bulk” and “things that are not readily digested” that help move food through the digestive tract.

The second group is proteins.
The word protein means “of the first importance”. Protein is important because it is needed for growth and repair. Children who don’t get enough protein become stunted.

Proteins included in this group are milk, cheese, eggs, nuts, seeds, fish, seafood, legumes, and meat. Meat is not necessary if we use the right foods in its place. According to this text, if we rely on beans and peas we need some milk, eggs, or meat as well.

The book also encourages us to get over our prejudice about fish stating, “It is foolish and narrow-minded to be afraid to try new kinds.” (I don’t know much about the origin of this fish prejudice, but my father had it and my sister still does.)

The third food group is cereals (grains).
Cereals are presented as the cheapest source of energy. All cereal grains are good producers of starch. They are easy to cook, but must be cooked for a long time, so prepared cereals have been put on the market. For instance, rolled oats are oats steamed, then crushed between heavy rollers.

Wisely, we’re informed that if we eat more peas and beans, we will not need so much bread, and when there’s a shortage of grains, we can eat potatoes instead.

Fourth is the group called sugars and sweets. 
The consumption of sugars is not highly encouraged. While it is asserted that sugar provides quick energy for emergency rations, it is also recognized that: “Sugar is so agreeable that we are often inclined to eat it in too large quantities or at the wrong time.” It will spoil your appetite because it makes you feel as if you don’t care for anything more even though your body may be in need of food.

Further noted are the facts that you can get sugar from fruits and vegetables and that potatoes or bread will provide quick energy as well. 

The rest of the book sings the praises of our troops and allies and encourages us to conserve so we can support those who live in war-torn areas. While the reasons for conservation may now differ, it is still a timely message.

Can Food Win a War Now?

In spite of a long growing season and an agricultural history, my state reports a food insecurity rate of over 25%. Somehow that seems unfathomable when according to the Environmental Protection Agency, wasted food is the single biggest occupant in American landfills.

Across the nation, the US throws away 60 million tons (or $160 billion) worth of produce annually. We waste between 30 & 40 percent of our food supply while 12.3% of our households (15.6 million) are uncertain of having, or are unable to acquire, at some time during the year, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because of insufficient money or other resources.

Surely we can find a way to win the war on hunger here at home!

Food propaganda? 

“Food Saving and Sharing” seems to only promote the positive aspects of a particular course of action rather than presenting the pros and cons of multiple options. It uses familiar cultural myths to encourage compliance with the course of action it promotes. That sounds like propaganda to 
me. 

Yet oddly, the presentation of the message feels so much more informative, unifying, and positive than the majority of messages bombarding my screens every day, I find myself longing for this kind of straightforward promotion and the message that the US is us.  

The US is us!

With or without this book’s existence, I choose to believe the general premise that each of us makes a difference. Our choices determine whether that difference pulls our families, friends, communities, and institutions forward or leaves someone else with a greater burden. 

Individually, we can choose to leave our fears, recognize our value, and work each day to learn more about nutrition, waste less, face poverty, practice compassion, and make a positive difference. Collectively, we can choose to meet seemingly insurmountable goals.

Food can win this war! We can decide to feed our food insecure. We just need to again mobilize a spirit of self-denial and self-sacrifice in this country. We need to embrace the truth that the US is us…ALL of us and we can make a difference!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Food,_Drug,_and_Cosmetic_Act

https://www.archives.gov/fort-worth/finding-aids/rg004-food-administration.html

http://exhibits.mannlib.cornell.edu/meatlesswheatless/meatless-wheatless.php?content=two

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Food_Administration

https://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/sow-seeds

https://www.usda.gov/oce/foodwaste/faqs.htm

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/07/american-food-waste/491513/

http://www.foodwastemovie.com/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/get-know-food/

August 21, 2017

Sandwich in Some Healthy Habits

Today when the moon gets sandwiched between the earth and the sun seems like the perfect opportunity to sandwich in some healthy habits. I’m sure you’ve seen a million warnings in the past two weeks about protecting your eyes during today’s eclipse. You probably prepared by purchasing some special viewing glasses or creating a pinhole viewer. That tiny bit of preparation will protect your eyes as you view something spectacular.

eclipse

Eclipse


Making tiny changes in preparation for better health as you age can be just as easy and have a big impact over time. If you look at everything you think you should be doing to live a perfectly healthy lifestyle, it may so overwhelming that you don’t ever get started. Statistics indicate that the majority of us fall in this group. The CDC reports that only 20% of Americans meet physical activity recommendations and a 2016 study indicates only 3% of us live a healthy lifestyle.

It is important to note that you can improve your health by making small changes over time. A study published July 13, 2017, in the New England Journal of Medicine found that “Improved diet quality over 12 years was consistently associated with a decreased risk of death. A 20-percentile increase in diet scores (indicating an improved quality of diet) was significantly associated with a reduction in total mortality of 8 to 17%….” In other words, it didn’t take 100% improvement in diet to result in a significant reduction in mortality. And mortality is the extreme. Just imagine how much small changes can improve your everyday energy level, stamina, strength, flexibility, mental acuity, mood, and comfort level.

So often we look at eating well and working out as all or nothing propositions. When all seems like more than we can handle, we go for nothing. Knowing that even small changes can make a difference seems to indicate we should look at healthy habits more like a savings or investment account with benefits that grow slowly, but surely.

What do small changes look like?

Drink water 95% of the time rather than soda, diet soda, energy drinks, sweetened coffee drinks, lemonade, sweet tea, hot chocolate, or any other sweetened drink.
Eat an orange for breakfast rather than drinking orange juice.
Eat plain, unsweetened yogurt topped with fresh fruit rather than flavored yogurt.
Choose eggs and whole grain toast for breakfast rather than cereal and milk.
Snack on raw, unsalted nuts rather than the salted, roasted version.
Choose black beans over pinto beans.
Order a side of mixed vegetables rather than a choice of potato most of the time.
Reserve dessert for special occasions.
Snack on fruit rather than candy.
Pop your own popcorn using a tiny bit of olive oil spray.
Get salad dressing on the side and limit to 1 tbsp.
Buy frozen vegetables rather than canned when you can’t get fresh.
Cook with olive oil.
Take leftovers for lunch rather than eating fast food.
Substitute baked fish for one serving of red meat each week.
Eat less prepared meat.

Sandwich in some activity

Even if you don’t have an hour to spend in the gym, you can increase physical activity during your daily routine.

Stretch every morning.
Walk to lunch.
Walk a few flights of stairs before catching the elevator.
Do stair stretches before you head upstairs to shower.
Regularly park on the far side of the parking lot.
Do some yoga breathing at your desk.
Carry your own boxes.
Wear ankle weights on Saturday.
Do tricep curls with your cast iron skillet before cooking.
Find a video workout you can do at home when there’s no time to go to the gym.
Combine lifting light weights with warrior poses and lunges.

Make sure to rest

Get the electronic lights out of the bedroom.
Allow plenty of time for sleep.
Plan some down time each week.
Do something fun each week.
Don’t skip vacations.

As you can see, nothing on these lists sounds like a big deal. Everything is easily doable. In fact, it’s hard to believe that these changes can make any significant difference in your health. The great thing is, they can. Simple changes like these when made for an extended period of time can have many positive effects. Why not sandwich a few into your day?

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2013/p0502-physical-activity.html

http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(16)00043-4/abstract

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1613502

August 15, 2017

Travel Tip #18 Push the Limits?

Travel Tip #18 Push the Limits is written with you in mind if you suffer from IBS, IBD, Crohn’s Disease, Celiac Disease or other conditions that may lead to a sudden need for bathroom facilities. I just got back from LA. During Sunday brunch I had a sudden reminder of how uncomfortable it can be to travel with a gastrointestinal condition. This travel tip deals with a subject that’s difficult to discuss in public.
cypress
If your guts are constantly in a knot and you can’t predict when diarrhea, gas, or pain may suddenly hit, it can be hard to imagine taking a long trip on an airplane or even in a car full of people. A fear of embarrassment or discomfort can lead to a gradual withdrawal from family outings and vacations.

Reluctance to disclose the real reason for resistance to certain situations often leads family and friends to misinterpret what’s happening. I mean who really wants to say, “I just can’t face the chance that I’ll poop myself during a 3-hour plane ride?” I don’t. It really doesn’t matter how close we are, I just don’t want to discuss that with you.

So, what should I do?

Pretend to be too busy, too sick, or too angry with Aunt Jane to attend?
Insist on a different trip that no one else is excited about?
Wear adult diapers?

Sometimes saying no may be the best choice. If your only motive is to take care of yourself, you’ve explored all the options that might make the journey enjoyable for you, and you still can’t find a way to make peace with attending, then say no. It’s only when you have an ulterior motive or when continual refusals begin to limit your access to a full life that saying no becomes detrimental.

Say yes within limits. If it’s hard for you to take care of yourself, establishing certain parameters in advance can make it easier to decide in the moment when presented with an invitation. For instance, you may want to have a rule that you only agree to car trips in areas with ample facilities. You may want to limit flights to 1 hour at certain times of the day. You could have a rule that you will not stay at friends’ houses so that you have the privacy of your own space. Along those lines, you can have a rule that you don’t share hotel rooms. If you know you usually have fewer problems an hour after eating, join the family after the meal rather than for the meal.
breakfast
Make sure you eat properly and/or take your medication on time. When you’re willing to say yes, there’s no reason to tempt fate. Adhering to the regimen that works best for you while varying your activity can make all the difference. Investing a little time in research and advance planning can make it possible for you to have plenty of medication on hand even when you miss a connection.
It can also mean that you have plenty of tummy friendly snacks on hand when meal times or restaurant options unexpectedly change.
orange tree
Focus on the good stuff. A beautiful view, a warm hug from your favorite cousin, or the smile on your grandson’s face when he meets LeBron James can all mitigate a little discomfort. After all, you may not feel perfectly well at home. If you can feel equally good and add some great memories, it may be worth risking possible inconvenience or embarrassment. If things turn out badly, you can make a different choice next time. If you always stop yourself before you start, you’ll miss out on a lot of good stuff.

Bring the party to you. If you need to be in your own space to be comfortable, make your home the place everyone gathers. Let the travel be someone else’s problem. Instead of missing out on memories and contact with people you enjoy, develop your hosting skills.

That doesn’t mean you have to do a lot of work and throw a party. Just establish that you’d like to see everyone at a certain time and invite, invite, invite. When someone visits, relax and enjoy them. It may take some time to develop momentum, but eventually word will spread that your place is the place to be. Making your guests feel welcome is all it really takes to be a great host.

If you suffer from IBS, IBD, Crohn’s Disease, or Celiac Disease, should you push the limits and travel or should you stay home? There’s no right or wrong answer. What’s right for today may not be right for tomorrow.

The important thing is to always, always take very good care of yourself. For some of us that is in and of itself pushing the limits.

July 9, 2017

Five Easy Ways to Freshen Up Your Summer Menu!

teaHere are five ways to freshen up your summer menu! When it’s hot and humid, the last thing you want is to eat is a heavy meal. Fresh, cool, and light seems much more appealing. My preference is to live on gelato in the summer, but that’s not really practical. Of course, I’d be happy to add ice cream, fresh peach granita, or banana popsicles to the menu – again, not exactly practical.

So what are some easy ways to freshen up your summer menu?

Salads
Many of us default to salads as our lighter fare for the summer. Salads are a great place to showcase seasonal fruit and fresh herbs. Strawberries, blueberries, and peaches are all great additions to spring or bitter greens. It’s also a great time to use tomatoes as a base for Insalata Caprese! Mint and watermelon pair well with salty feta cheese while a salad of cucumber and dill will lighten up the meat off your grill.
caprese salad
Cold Soups
Cold soups can fill you up while cooling you off. I love gazpacho in the summer! The traditional version has a tomato base, but you can also begin with watermelon, cantaloupe, cherries, or strawberries. If you’d rather have a milder flavor, vichyssoise made of potatoes, leeks, cream, and broth may fill the bill. One of my favorite cold soups combines honeydew, cucumber, and jalapeño peppers.
honeydew soup
Chilled Condiments
In the winter, it’s comforting to add complimentary flavors to your dish by serving a warm, thick sauce or gravy. In the summer, pico de gallo, salsa, chimichurri, tzatziki, raita, or another cold condiment will add layers of flavor without the heaviness of gravy. I recently made chimichurri with baby arugula instead of parsley. It was delicious with grilled steak!
asparagus guac
Iced Drinks
Icing down anything when the thermometer hits 100º just seems reasonable – coffee, water, lemon water, juice, gin, and vodka are commonly served with ice. In the South, we also drink a lot of iced tea! Adding muddled mint or cilantro and leaving out the sugar makes the tea even more refreshing.

Cold Desserts
Summer is the perfect time to serve chilled banana, tapioca, or rice pudding. It’s also a great time for no-bake fresh fruit pies. My mom made a fresh peach pie that makes my mouth water every time I think about it. And really, there’s no need to cook – a bowl of fresh fruit topped with a tiny bit of plain yogurt sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg can easily satisfy your sweet tooth in the healthiest way possible.

Freshening up your summer menu with chilled food and fresh produce is practical, easy, and delicious! Give these 5 ways a try.