My oldest son, Cade, 20 years old, came over to chat for a while and tell me about his luck with the ladies, a few days ago. We were shooting the breeze and had this completely pointless conversation, related to whether or not he has gained weight, since moving out into his first apartment away from home:
Me: I’m not saying you’re fat! I’m saying you’ve filled out a little.
Cade: I weigh the same as I did when I lived here. In fact, I think all the vegetables and green stuff you made me eat probably made me fatter.
Me: Not possible. Raw veggies CAN’T make you fatter.
Cade: Of course they can!
Me: No, they can’t. Seriously. If you ate greens from the minute you woke up till the minute you went to bed, you would LOSE weight.
Cade: Give me a break, Mom. That isn’t true. If you ate lots of big bowls full, you would get fat.
Me: No. If you ate your entire CAR full of spinach, every day, you would actually lose weight. It has basically no calories, and no fat, but greens have tons of vitamins and minerals and stuff.
Cade: [laughing like I am totally ridiculous]
Me: Here, let’s Google it.
I Googled “how many calories does spinach have?” On the screen, what popped up was this:
A serving is a cereal bowl full of spinach, and it has–wait for it—SEVEN CALORIES.
Me: Yeah. See? How many servings do you think you could eat in a day? If you ate all day long.
Cade: Oh, like a hundred?
Me: Ooh, burn! That’s 700 calories. You would lose a ton of weight!
He laughed and let me win. (I have let him win many times. Especially when the subject is sports!)
That’s nutrient density. The only foods you can eat in unlimited quantities, with ZERO fear of one single bad thing happening to you—the nutrient dense foods. Low calorie, high micronutrients. Guess what else they’ve got? Tons of fiber, high vibrational frequency, and quite a bit of protein!
Greens and vegetables and sprouts top the list of nutrient-dense foods. Put them on your plate with RECKLESS ABANDON!
Dear GreenSmoothieGirl: I spoke with you in Houston after your delightful class last month. I shared with you the story of my young son, who asked me not to make him green smoothies any more because the kids were making fun of him. You asked me to write up the story for you and include a picture, so here it is!
My six-year old came home from school and announced that I could no longer put green smoothies in his lunch. He said that the kids were saying his drink looked “gross.”
I said, “We’ll take care of that!” I sent an email to to his teacher the following day. Since parents are asked to take turns bringing in the snack for school, I asked her if I could demonstrate making green smoothies in the classroom when it was my turn to provide the snack. The teacher was supportive of the idea.
Our green smoothie demonstration was a big hit! The kids loved watching what I put in the blender and showing that they were “daring” enough to drink spinach and other fruits and vegetables. To their pleasant surprise, they loved it! When I asked my son the following day what the kids said about his smoothie, he responded, “It’s cool.”
Chandler in Salisbury, Maryland (now in The Woodlands, Texas)
And this is my little green smoothie girl, London (age 4)
This is a letter our reader Christy Li, copied us on, when she sent it out to her daughter’s whole classroom. One of my favorite things EVER is when GSG readers reach down to the kids, to educate them about healthy food choices!
I am Alexandra’s mom, Christy Li. I wanted to share with you what we did in the classroom today, so that you know what your child is talking about if/when they come home and say, “I want to be like Green Smoothie Guy.” (This means they want more fruits and vegetables in a smoothie!)
I read a book to them today and then demonstrated how to make a yummy smoothie. They were all invited to have a sample. I got lots of this request: “Can I have some more?” My brain is thinking, “Yay, they want more spinach and beets!”
My children and I have been drinking green smoothies for years. So of course, I got super excited about sharing this book I recently purchased, “The Adventures of Junk Food Dude” by Robyn Openshaw. As a mom and as a personal trainer, I love Robyn’s (Green Smoothie Girl’s) website and this children’s book because it provides the education about why and how we can eat & drink healthy food for fuel throughout the day.
Morning Strawberry Smoothie:
1 scoop chia seeds
1/4 red beet
3 cups spinach
1/2 small cucumber
1 large banana
12 frozen strawberries
1 squirt raw, organic agave nectar
2 cups organic coconut milk
10 ice cubes
Blend in a quality blender until smooth.
Please let me know if you have any questions and/or if you would like me to come again to have the children sample another smoothie or our ice cream filled with avocado and chard. My kids love their “Peppermint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream” that is really healthy!
This is a story by Dr. Michelle Jorgenson, a GSG reader in Highland, Utah, whose story is featured in the intro to How to Raise Healthy Eaters. I think you will find it inspiring:
One of my pet peeves is when people say, “I try to help my family get healthy, but they just won’t eat that kind of food.”
You aren’t punishing them by giving them healthy food to eat. You are giving them a gift. I have personal experience with a child who was literally “starving” on the typical kid diet of chicken nuggets, mac-n-cheese, french fries, and white bread. This child is my son Luke. We adopted him when he was 2 1/2 years old.
He could barely walk, and he couldn’t talk–not even one word, and doctors thought he was autistic. When we first brought him home, I had him tested by an early intervention center, and he tested at a 8-month old level on everything. He was so tiny. In fact, the first night I had to bathe him in the sink at our hotel because he was too little for the shower.
He’s Hispanic, so most people ask what country we adopted him from. Well, Luke was from Las Vegas, Nevada. Last I heard, that wasn’t a third world country! He did have a rough start in life: he was born severely premature at 25 weeks. His birth mother was single, with very little money, and very little help. I think it’s a miracle that he lived that first year: feeding tubes, oxygen at night, surgeries. He is a fighter!
But the prematurity wasn’t the only thing to blame. In fact, most kids catch up from a premature birth by 3 years old. Luke was nowhere near catching up. In the short few hours I had with his birth mom, I found out what they had been eating. Things food stamps buy: bread, crackers, cereal, bananas, peanut butter. Add in chicken nuggets and french fries, and you have his entire food chart. Our first meal with him made me cry. He shoved the food in with two hands, as fast as he could eat. There was no way he was even swallowing. He ate at warp speed until he was sick. This continued for many months.
He wanted what he was used to: crackers, bread, anything carb-loaded and white. He was eating so much food, and was still so tiny, and so hungry.
That first night I also noticed a strange sound in his belly. We scheduled to see a pediatric digestive system specialist. He found that one of Luke’s early surgeries had failed, and Luke’s stomach had moved up to where his lungs should be. He had to have major surgery to put everything back where it belonged. After the surgery, they told us his diet would be restricted. He couldn’t eat all those simple carbs anymore–they would go straight through.
This was right about the time I found Green Smoothie Girl and was contemplating some serious family diet changes, so the timing was perfect. We added green smoothies every morning, and he liked them. We also started eating more and more vegetables in every meal. He still ate ravenously, but it changed to anything green! He couldn’t get enough broccoli, green beans, asparagus, peas, lettuce. He loved them all. He started avoiding the carbs on his own: he would leave bread uneaten on his plate on any occasion it was given to him.
Other things started changing, too. He started using sign language, and then finally, words! He started to grow a little. His motor skills improved and his behavior seemed to mellow some. Something was making a difference.
Luke still has his challenges, but food is no longer one of them. Now he is a thriving 7-year old who loves anything green and will eat veggies over anything else he’s offered. He turns down sweets, carbs and most meat. He is small, but he
is growing, and I know that it is because he is actually getting fuel, rather than just food.
He does well academically, and is not autistic. He is coordinated and has excellent motor skills. He is a different boy than the one eating the standard diet of most American kids.
If I had let Luke continue avoiding the food that his body needed, who knows where he would be today. We owe it to our families to help them get what they need to be as happy and healthy as they deserve to be.
Be tough and do right by your family to make nutrition changes. It’s worth it!
This is an excerpt from my book coming out Jan. 1 (available only at classes on my lecture tour, TBA soon), regarding How to Eat Right In the Real World. And raising healthy eaters without being condescending or superior while the S.A.D. is served all around us.
Several parents in our recent contest, submitting their ideas about how to raise healthy eaters, wrote about the need to avoid being “judgmental.” That is for sure a tricky proposition, in a world where we “health nut” parents disagree with the vast majority of what is taught academically about nutrition, and what is served in schools, at parties, and in our friends’ and families’ homes.
We have strong convictions that lead us to swim against the current. To raise healthy eaters, we have to buck cultural norms, often our own friends and family, plus our children’s inevitably being influenced by pop culture’s seduction.
I have raised my children for over 20 years in Utah. There is essentially no smoking in the most heavily LDS (Mormon) culture anywhere in the world. (The vast majority of Utah County residents are LDS. There’s plenty of fast food and sugar to compensate for the fact that we have almost no smoking or drinking!)
(I sometimes wonder if the dominant culture may subconsciously feel, “I don’t drink or smoke, and Utah has some of the best health in the nation, so this junk food won’t hurt me!”) You can go weeks, in my hometown, without seeing a smoker or a can of beer.
When my second child, Emma, was just three years old, we were out running errands, and she was in the car seat. “Mom!” she exclaimed. “There’s a bad man next to us!” She sounded terrified. I looked over, in alarm, into the car next to us. The man driving the car was smoking a cigarette.
Of course that was an opportunity to educate Emma that the man himself was not a bad person. (She had mixed up my explaining that smoking is a poor choice, with the character of the person making that choice!)
I told her, “Oh, honey, he isn’t a bad man just because he is smoking.” I explained that he was probably a very lovely man just like her own grandfathers and daddy. He probably wished he could stop smoking, but the first time he tried it, he didn’t know that he would want to smoke every day of his life after that. Now it is making his lungs black, and it makes him cough at night, and he has trouble breathing. He has a very high chance of getting lung cancer, which could kill him.
But he is not a bad man. He just made a bad choice long ago, and now that choice controls him. We don’t want to ever smoke a cigarette, because it makes our hair and clothes smell bad, and it makes our skin look old, and it turns our insides black and rotten.
When we talk to our children, we have to be precise, well-intentioned, and thoughtful, in order to make the discussion about choices, rather than judgment and being “holier than thou.” Make it about consequences and empowerment, through education, rather than judgment and superiority.
Infuse your conversations with authentic compassion for those who don’t know what you are teaching your child. (Most don’t.) Talk about how we don’t criticize others’ choices. We just make good choices, consistently, and if they are interested, others will ask us as they see good choices modeled for them.
If we aren’t careful in our messaging, too, our children are likely to blurt out something unintentionally hurtful, judging a family member or friend you care about very much.
This reader, Ann in Ohio, gave us a great entry in our recent contest sharing ideas about How to Raise Healthy Kids. It qualifies as a “runner up,” and we’re going to give her a prize, too. I have adapted her recipes, using my 6 baking tips to make a recipe healthier:
Replace sugar with raw coconut sugar, and you’ll never know the difference.
Replace vegetable oil with extra-virgin coconut oil.
Use a Tbsp of chia soaked in 3 Tbsp of water, instead of an egg.
Use aluminum-free baking powder found in health food stores.
Use whole-grain, organic pastry flour instead of white flour.
Enjoy these ideas and recipes from Ann W. in Canton, Ohio:
Thank you for this opportunity to shine a little bit of light on what has helped grow my two little beauties into healthy, vibrant, and smart young ladies. From the get-go, our family focus has always been the whole body. When my girls were babies, I tried to provide for them wholeness in mind, body and spirit.
Fast forward to today: I have two beautiful daughters, age 9 and 11, who are both in gifted programs academically, and they are healthy eaters physically, as well as spiritually grounded.
In helping them grow nutritionally, I have incorporated a varied “green” diet with minimal processed products or meat. Most of our focus is on fruits and vegetables and whole grains. One way I have helped our girls widen their palates is by offering the “two bite” concept.
When I bring a new food to the table, my girls have learned to refrain from the sometimes irresistible urge to say, “Ewwww!” at the food presented to them. Instead, they know to take a bite to taste, and another to make sure.
This has always worked in our house to make meals more adventurous. It is also a contagious concept to some of their food-finicky friends. Moms are always questioning: “My daughter ate WHAT at your house? Are you sure? How’d you get her to taste that?!”
Somehow saying a child will only have to try the new food may reduce the pressure of cleaning a plate of unpalatable food for kids. So yes, that means that the ball, for the most part, is in their court. If they truly hate the taste of a food, I will never force them to eat it, but always have plenty of healthy alternative sides to choose from.
[Note from Robyn: I agree that in general, it’s not a great idea not to “force” kids to do much of anything. That said, since it takes 10 or more exposures to get a child to embrace a food, having them eat some is a good idea, in my opinion. In the home I grew up in, my mother didn’t want to be a short-order cook to 8 picky kids. Who can blame her? So each of us was allowed ONE food we didn’t have to eat. I still, to this day, remember the foods each of my brothers chose! Mine was spinach soufflé, a bizarre and yucky entrée my mother purchased at the military commissary. We felt like we had some choice, to get to say no once in a while! I don’t endorse allowing a child’s uninformed choices to let him or her out of eating entire classes of the most nutritious foods, though. For instance, while I wouldn’t make my son eat Brussels sprouts, I also wouldn’t let him refuse to eat all vegetables, or all greens. That seems very unwise to me, since it’s counter to his best interests.]
Three recipes have allowed me the peace of mind to know that my girls have gotten good nutrition each day. I love these recipes because of how healthy they are, but also how for how versatile they are. These are great recipes that are easy enough for the kids to help out with.
For example, my girls love collecting things from the garden, like kale, and watching as it transforms to the “Green Drink” in the blender. Both the Hermits and the Granola are fun for kids to help with, and nothing can compare to the yummy smell while they’re baking! The Hermits and Granola are hard to keep around because they get gobbled up so quickly, but they are great for school lunches if you make a big enough batch.
This recipe is a tweaked combination of a few I have tried over the years [adapted by Robyn].
1 cup wheat germ
1 1/2 cups oat bran
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup chopped almonds
1 cup milled flax seed
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup chopped walnuts
8 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup raw coconut sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup raw honey
1 cup coconut oil
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups dried fruit
Line two large baking sheets with aluminum foil. Preheat the oven to 325.
Combine the oats, wheat germ, oat bran, seeds, and nuts in a large bowl. Stir together salt, sugar, maple syrup, honey, oil, cinnamon, and vanilla in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
Pour wet ingredients over the dry ingredients, and stir to coat.
Spread the mixture out evenly on two baking sheets.
Bake in the preheated oven until lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Stir once halfway through baking. Cool granola and stir in the dried fruit. Store in an airtight container.
Hermits [adapted by Robyn]
Makes about 32 bars
2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour (extra, if needed)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted organic butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed raw coconut sugar
1 Tbsp chia seed soaked in 3 Tbsp water for 20 minutes (or 1 organic egg)
4-5 tablespoons unsulphured molasses
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (walnut, almond, peanut, etc)
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup milled flax seed
1/2 cup dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, etc.)
Use two 11 x 17, or larger cookie sheets. Lightly oil each pan or cut a piece of parchment paper to fit each sheet. Preheat oven to 375°
Sift two cups of flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium-size mixing bowl. Set aside. In a separate large bowl, use an electric mixer to soften the butter. Slowly add the sugar to the butter, beating at medium-high speed for 1 minute. Add the chia/water (egg replacer) and beat for another minute. Add the molasses and the vanilla, beating for 1 minute longer, until the batter is smooth.
Stir 1 cup of the dry mixture into the creamed ingredients. Stir in the nuts and the dried fruit. Slowly add the remaining cup of the dry mixture, stirring after each addition. The dough will be dense and hard to stir. If it seems a little soft, mix in another 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour. Turn out the dough onto a well floured surface and divide it into 4 equal pieces.
flour hands and surface to roll the first ball into a log about 12 inches long. Roll the log onto one of the pieces of parchment.
Place the log (with the paper) lengthwise onto the cookie sheet, leaving room for a second one beside it. Slightly flatten the log into a rectangle about 3/4 inches thick and 1 1/4 inches wide
Repeat with the second log.
Bake the bars on the center oven rack for 11 to 12 minutes. Prepare the second baking sheet or thoroughly cool the pan if only using one. Do not overcook the bars! They will have flattened and will continue to cook and get firmer as they cool.
Allow the bars to cool for 10 minutes, and then place them onto a large cutting board.
While the bars are still warm, cut them into 1 1/2-inch-wide sections. Cool the bars thoroughly. Store in an airtight container.
Watson Green Drink (GSG Inspired!) [Slightly adapted by Robyn]
3 handfuls greens (combinations of kale, spinach, collard greens, etc.)
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup frozen mango
1 frozen banana
2 Tbsp. chia seeds, soaked in 6 Tbsp. water
1/2 cup flax
Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth, adding more liquid if needed. Enjoy!