NYC: hot dogs or raw gourmet? Horn of plenty or fries and a shake?

After my second trip to New York City this year, the verdict is this: in keeping with the diversity of that teeming city as immigrants poured in during the 19th and early 20th century, the city is all things.

Hot dog stands AND lush edible vegetables growing next to the street on 9th Ave. A horn of plenty in the Macy’s parade, and a giant Ronald McDonald and Pillsbury Dough Boy. A huge Hershey’s store on Times Square, AND Sarma Melngailis’ Pure Food and Wine restaurant.

(See them below. My friends Jamie and Jennie were afraid to try the oyster mushroom I am showing in the photo, so I enjoyed most of the 10 fabulous courses myself. Both of my friends suffer from horrific endocrine / hormone problems that cause them great pain as well as infertility. I am working on getting them to see the connection between those issues and diet/lifestyle. Both subsist primarily on junk food, so raw food dishes taste strange to them. Anyway, the food was wonderful, but DARN I didn’t get to meet Sarma.)

A few of my photos

–served and cleaned up at a downtown soup kitchen run by Baptists

–watched the Macy’s parade including Jessica Simpson, Kanye West, and Gladys Knight

–ran all over the city and Central Park on the subway and on foot, impressed in the photo below at the creative places I found KALE growing!

–hung out with some drag queens, firefighters, and Elmo (see photos for proof)

–saw some fabulous shows like Promises, Promises with Kristen Chenoweth, Sean Hayes, Molly Shannon

–found a sports bar to watch BYU lose by one point to the U of U

–and of course shopped till we dropped on Canal Street and Chinatown, and here at FAO Schwartz (or the candyland “FAO Schweetz” here!)

Somehow I missed snapping the parade photo of–I am not making this up–the cornucopia of plenty from the original Thanksgiving followed IMMEDIATELY by a giant fries-and-a-shake. I did, however, capture my Nemesis #1 and Nemesis #2 as they floated past us on the edge of Central Park.

On Thanksgiving I reflected on the abundance and the paucity of modern life. How we can tap the amazing things available to us like never before in history–or we can indulge in those things that are shiny on the outside but slowly drain away our life force.

do you “make” your kids finish dinner?

The day after Halloween, I posted on my facebook page that I paid my kids $20 for their bag of candy, like I do every year, and then I threw it in the trash.

I got some indignant responses, saying, “Geez, at least give them to candy giveaway programs for the troops!” and the like.

(The two who said that are friends who were on my high school’s drill team. In other words, people who don’t know much about where I am now and what I do.)

Anyway, some of my fellow health nuts went, well, nuts on them. I was a non-participant in the ensuing debate, which you can see on my FB wall. But if I’d wanted to get all argumentative (I didn’t and don’t), I’d point out that if I don’t want to feed my kids poison, why would I want to feed it to the people defending my country? (Or anyone, for that matter. Death row inmates, maybe, if I could be really certain they are guilty.)

Yes yes, I know, the troops will get candy regardless–if not from me, from someone else. But that doesn’t mean I have to be a part of it.

(Have you seen the story about the burning Carnival cruise ship, and the people onboard who were “rescued” with a delivery of Spam and Pop Tarts? LOL!)

The other day at my tennis workout, Laura, one of my teammates and a friend of mine for 20+ years said, “Robyn, I went all Red today.” (She’s speaking of one of my favorite subjects, Taylor Hartman’s Color Code, which you may google at will. Everyone close to me knows you have to understand the Code or you won’t speak my language. I eventually buy any friend who doesn’t “get it” The Book. Which is now inexplicably renamed–for political correctness?–The People Code.)

Anyway, Laura’s daughter Gabby came home from school saying that her friend gave her the brownie out of her school lunch. (I’m talking about the lunch they SELL at school.) So Gabby had two brownies–her own and the friend’s. Gabby was about to throw them away when the lunch lady said, “You’re not going anywhere until you finish your lunch” and required Gabby to eat everything, including the two brownies. “I almost threw up!” Gabby reported to Laura.

Laura was incensed and described the incident wherein she pointed her finger in the principal’s face about this (she’s a White/Yellow! out of character!) and had a little chat with him about the lunch lady.

I said this, separating the “making” kids do it issue from the junk food issue. “Yeah, um. I require my kids to finish their salad, veggies, fruits. If they don’t want whatever ELSE we’re having, like whole-wheat pasta with pesto, for instance–I don’t care.”

I often have this debate with someone in my life who regularly reiterates the mantra that children shouldn’t be “forced” to do anything. I agree that it’s not only pointless, but also impossible, to force anyone to do anything. (I’ve written before about the unforgettable experience I had many years ago, watching a friend of mine force-feed her son a hot dog, because she was terrified he wasn’t getting enough protein.) But could it be that this argument often functions as a smokescreen for the real issues:

Are we willing to parent? Do we take a stand on things we think are important? Requiring a child to do something she’ll learn from–for example, complete homework, eat foods containing live enzymes, treat others with respect–isn’t a bad thing. Are they “forced” (negative word) just because it’s required and there’s a consequence for non-compliance attached? We adults are all required to do things every day. Forced? No, but our feet are held to the fire, and if we choose badly, negative consequences follow. I’m pretty sure you and I work part of every day to pay the rent of some folks sitting behind bars thanks to this very principle.

“Well, sure,” Laura said, “it’s one thing to require your own child to finish her carrots.” But a bunch of junk food? She told the principal, “A brownie is a waste from the minute it is created! After you eat it the rest of the day is about getting RID of it.” (There’s that consequence thing rearing its ugly head again.)

And Laura, my friends, isn’t a health-food fanatic. She’s just a regular mom. She’s at her ideal weight and incredibly fit. Disciplined about food consumption like no one else I know. Laura’s is one of the testimonials in my book The Green Smoothies Diet. She’d been told she was pre-diabetic until she started green smoothies. She has brought one to the gym every morning for the past few years since I taught them to her. She takes one to a handicapped woman in her neighborhood, regularly, and she evangelizes for green smoothies constantly. When one of the dozens of women we play tennis with at the club asks, “WHAT’S THAT?!” about her disposable see-through cup of sludge she’s drinking, she points at me. I take it from there.

Anyway, Laura continued, “When I see somebody nagging their kid to finish their Thanksgiving pie, I think, ‘Why? It’s PIE!”

She said it, not me. Well, now I know I can confide in Laura, at least, if not the popular girls from high school, that I dump all the Halloween candy in the trash. (Lest you think I’m an ogre, let me say this: I do let the kids keep three pieces.)

Your thoughts?

that ubiquitous blue, sugary sports drink

That blue drink. It’s everywhere. I’ve never tried it, but it’s in the photo with my son in the dugout from last week.

One of my kids reported to me not long ago, “My soccer coach says I HAVE to drink Gatorade, because it’s good for us and she doesn’t want us passing out.” I told her, “I’ve never tasted Gatorade in my life, and I’ve run 10 miles at a time, or played tennis for 3 hours and haven’t passed out yet. There was no Gatorade until 20 years ago or less. [Thanks, University of Florida! Not.] What do you think all the distance runners in Africa are doing? All you need is what I already give you–good ol’ water. Mom trumps the coach in this case–I am not buying Gatorade.”

Chemical food dyes, chemical sweeteners, chemical electrolytes, no thanks. Good water and fresh fruits and vegetables, plus some nuts or seeds for good fats, are the best thing to fuel a workout before or after. I also love Hot Pink Breakfast Smoothie–what I make every morning–for a perfect electrolyte and fat/carb/protein ratio for athletics, 400 calories. It’s in the Breakfast recipe collection or Ch. 11 of 12 Steps.

baseball, apple pie, and . . . green smoothies?

I was asked recently for photographic evidence of my son Tennyson’s snacks in the dugout that radically differ from traditional standards. It wasn’t easy to capture boys sitting together eating (since they are usually PLAYING), and this isn’t the greatest photo, but here ya go.

I love baseball, but I don’t love blue PowerAde and Red Vines and salted sunflower seeds that you see my son’s teammates eating.

I do love apple pie–the LaraBar kind! (It’s a raw-food snack widely available now, even at Costco.) And green smoothies. Here you see Tennyson, who Coach tells me leads the team in all categories, with both.

No, my high-school junior doesn’t take Mom’s healthy stuff in the dugout any more. That’s okay–I give it to him at home before the game.

The Renegade Lunch Lady, part 2 of 2

The “Renegade Lunch Lady” Chef Ann Cooper went to Washington, D.C. to investigate our first lady’s agenda. She ripped a hole in Michelle Obama’s “feel-good” childhood-obesity legislation, that has no funding and no policy “teeth.” I figured as much. Great platform, Mrs. Obama. Let’s make it reach to families and schools:

Let’s get vending machines out of the schools even if they create revenues (at the expense of our children’s health). Let’s get processed food out of school lunches. Let’s not cut funding and class time for physical education. Let’s educate people about real nutrition, not curriculum funded by big businesses like meat and dairy and processed food conglomerates.

Those are the things we need, not feel-good irrelevancies like providing milk and juice as options, or replacing potato chips with low-fat potato chips, or frying the french fries in a different oil. (Someone here in Utah, where nutrition initiatives have always failed in our legislature, called me this year to ask if I’d get behind a school-lunch initiative that was baby pablum like that.)

Chef Ann Cooper’s sites are here:

Thelunchbox.org

Lunchlessons.org

Enjoy her sites–I love this lady and her enthusiastic, tireless mission. She said re-training long-time lunch ladies, towards better nutrition, is one of her most difficult tasks. We are certainly, the vast majority of us, deeply and emotionally entrenched and invested in the destructive food habits of our generation.

I am personally not untouched by the way our culture is sucking our kids into a no-win situation where more than half our kids finish junior high school overweight. Since my divorce 18 months ago, despite the fact that I have NEVER purchased school lunch for any of my children, one of my own children has become overweight. I do not provide junk food in my home, and serve only whole plant foods. But just eating in her father’s home some of the time, 1 of my 4 children has gained significant weight.

It is an issue that is very difficult to discuss with a child. Any suggestions are welcome.

But one study found that being overweight is a bigger life stressor for a child than having cancer is. Watching my own daughter, I cannot overestimate the social impact on her own life. I am doing all I can do, including begging her father to make efforts on his side, but the good news is that she has the experience and knowledge to make a change in her choices, when she decides the physical/social/emotional cost is too high.

We do more than physical harm to children allowing them to become overweight. The whole culture must be educated and retrained back to the basics our ancestors took for granted.

If more and more people support whole, locally grown, organic, and raw plant foods, we will turn the health care debacle around. Watch this blog this week for my thoughts on ObamaCare.

the Renegade Lunch Lady

In Anaheim (I know! I still haven’t told you about the handful of cool products I found–but I will! And I bought some of them for you!) . . .

I heard the coolest talk by Chef Ann Cooper, the “Renegade Lunch Lady.”

She manages 30,000 kids’ lunches in the Boulder, Colorado area. Her goal is to transform children’s diets from the hot mess of processed food it is now, to a nourishing whole-food meal, one school lunch at a time. She’s my hero.

The U.S. government pays $2.68 for a child’s school lunch. Two thirds of that, Cooper says, goes to payroll, leaving just a dollar to feed each child! She wants you to go to her site, thelunchbox.org and write your elected officials to ask for an extra dollar to feed kids good nutrition, in addition to other government initiatives.

She told us to go out into ExpoWest and find real nutrition. (Good luck! Like I said, 1 in 100 “organic” or “natural” choice is worth your money.) Instead of (her voices changed to a sarcastic tone) organic gummy bears. (I love this lady. Wasn’t that just what I was telling you last week? Don’t waste your limited dollars on organic junk food!)

She said, about school lunches:

“Just say NO to refined flour. To soda, candy, and chips. To antibiotics and hormones. To chemicals and preservatives.

“Just say yes to plum tastings, to a salad bar in every school, to cutting sodium levels in half, to hummus tastings.”

She helps the schools figure out ways to connect children to their food sources. Growing food in the school yard. Trying new, whole foods they’ve never been exposed to, with fun tastings–with all the varied colors, textures, and tastes.

She says the USDA LOVES food for school lunches that haven’t been touched by human hands. School lunches nationwide are chicken nuggets, corn dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches. And we wonder why 70% of America is overweight. In the next two years, MILLIONS of Americans will become overweight. We have to stop the trend NOW.

What is needed, Chef Ann says, is “fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains, and clean proteins.” Amen, sister.

She says, “Vote with your purchasing!”

Here’s her PowerPoint presentation she showed us, which is fantastic:

http://www.chefann.com/html/about-chef-ann/audio-video.html