Tonya S. is a 44-year old mom and cancer survivor. Her cancer doc told her to drink Ensure for nutrition when she lost 30 pounds in treatment. This is a highly processed, canned “medical food” I hear about often from cancer patients. Then her radiologist told her to make green smoothies! She got started with that habit, started getting healthy, and then a friend introduced her to GreenSmoothieGirl.com. She says, “our world changed!”
This is a photo of Tonya’s kids Ainsley (9), Keagan (7), and Trevin (5), whom Tonya is committed to feeding a healthy diet. She missed my San Antonio lecture I did recently and wrote us a sweet story:
I had to miss tonight because my son got sick, from sneaking gobs of Halloween candy that we were going to donate. He threw up just two hours before Robyn’s lecture. I was so disappointed. My husband was in Canada on business, and I had a long drive to San Antonio. But, then my sweeties drew me this picture. I’m a mom trying to do my best, provide good meals for my family, and offer grace when needed. I was so sad to have missed the class. My kids made this drawing as an apology and I wanted to share it. I’m so impressed that my green smoothie is making an impression on them already. Blessings!
Seven years ago, as I started this blog, I ruminated a lot on my family’s menus, the “in the trenches” work I was doing daily, raising kids from 6 to 13 years old.
Time has flown.
Now I find myself still parenting, but in a far more limited way. One teen lives with me, the other lives with Dad. The two oldest are adults, mostly on their own. I find myself mostly looking back and wondering, “Was it enough?”
I used to imagine myself, as a very young mother, raising up these immaculately pure vessels. Paragons of ideal health. When my first child was a year old, due to his illnesses and my own, I began to educate myself.
Suddenly I discovered I’d been asleep at the wheel! There were toxins everywhere, the food I’d been serving him was worthless and even harmful. I’d faithfully let his doctor shoot him up with whatever the current pediatrics schedules dictated. I was obedient, and fully in the mainstream of doing whatever everyone else does.
That’s where we all are. Until we aren’t. Information caught up with me and slapped me in the back of the head.
I imagined myself raising perfectly healthy kids. Taking the road less traveled. Protecting them from drinking water out of plastic. My kids would have their stainless steel. Or glass jars, when they were older. I’d make sure they never drank from the tap. Green smoothies for lunch at school, baggies of veggies! They’d be grossed out by the Cheetohs their friends ate. I’d have told them what that orange color really is. This would move them.
I’d buy nutrition books for them, give them summer reading rewards to complete them, tell the family about them.
I imagined myself running healthy treats to their schools, their teachers in church, the babysitting co-op.
Patiently talking to church leaders, teachers, school administration, sports league coordinators who want every kid to be fed a donut and a corn-syrup drink after every athletic event.
I pictured myself taking an alternative “treat” (like boxes of dried fruit, and fruit leather, and carob almonds in Baggies) around to the neighbors before my Trick-or-Treaters hit the streets in their costumes.
Pointing out the Why in everything that I did. So my kids’ education ran deep. Their habits and “comfort foods” as they reached adulthood would include knowing how to make quinoa in 10 minutes and do a variety of things with it, lickety split.
I imagined them as teens and young adults, whipping up a green smoothie before taking off for work. Always choosing a whole-grain option, and opting out of eating grains, where possible, if they aren’t sprouted and yeast-free and non-hybridized.
I imagined them tall and strong, acne free, without cavities or orthodontia, quietly eating a different diet than everyone else. Fiercely committed to it because they’d been educated so well.
Do you moms relate to this? Sure pure intent, such ambition. Had things gone the way I’d imagined, I’d be a “success” by my early definition. I’d probably also be insufferably self-righteous, not particularly compassionate to all the other moms out there mucking around just trying to get everybody fed. Trying to do better, with mixed results.
Where I am now, 20 years later, is a rather different place. Even writing all of that, I confess to feeling no small measure of pain. For all the ways I’ve “let go” of the need to be perfect, of the need to build a fence at the top of every cliff, I still notice, every day, my “failures.” I’m more at peace with them than I was before.
The main thing I rely on, to get me through the disappointments in parenting, is this thought:
“I’ve done what I can do.”
I tried really, really hard. I pretty much did every single thing I wrote, above! And more. It’s tempting to catalog every way I’ve failed in that essentially unachievable imaginary parenting Utopia. (The original plan failed to understand the power of choice—my kids, lacking maturity, with the pull of the world around them, make their own choices, and many, if not most, of them aren’t great, now.)
But then, I’d be depressed, and I’d lower everyone’s vibration. It’s easy to dwell on the fact that I was too “controlling” and less “sunshiny and education-oriented” many times. And beat myself up that I learned too late, how to mother most effectively.
It’s easy to focus on the can of corn-syrup drink, or the wadded-up McDonald’s bag, that I see in my son’s car. It has happened. I know what happens to people who eat genetically modified foods, and fast foods. I talk to these folks all the time: I read their emails, I meet them at my lectures. They’re figuring out how their diet has impacted them and contributed to so many disease states.
Not my boy! Please, not my boy–not after the price I’ve paid to be different. To get him out of his hellish health problems early in life, before his immune system was fully formed. You can imagine these are thoughts running through my head.
What if, right now, I think on a few very good things that have made it all worth it–despite the failings.
First, my kids don’t have “positive associations” with “Happy Meals” and drive-thrus and candy and soda and bags of salty snacks. Hopefully this matters a lot.
Second, their brains are grooved to know what almond bars, and green smoothies, and huge plates of salad and kefir, and fruits for snacking are. They have a thousand memories of homemade whole foods. Childhood programming is powerful. Regardless of what they do now, they have a place to come back to. If declining health starts to teach them a lesson. I talk to people in their 60’s all the time who have never practiced any of these good habits. Maybe, despite the sketchy choices I see my kids making now, when they’re away from home, this alone makes it all worthwhile?
Third, following the Pottenger cat study, maybe having outstanding nutrition while they were growing up, is why none of my kids needed braces. All have lovely teeth. Both of their parents required orthodontia! (The Pottenger cat study showed how you can rehabilitate genetics with a strong diet.)
Fourth, all of them are tall and strong. Baby Boy asks me every day to stand back-to-back with me to see if he’s taller than me, yet. It will happen this summer, as he turns 14.
Fifth, I catch them talking their friends into drinking a green smoothie, asking for one of my books for someone they know who wants to improve their diet, or speaking favorably about the health-nut home they were raised in.
Sixth, aforesaid boy with junk-food wrappers in his car? He texted me, recently, “Mom, I’m dying.” I drove to his apartment, shoveled all 6’4” of him into my car on a Friday morning, and took him by to my house. For 2.5 days, I took him to my massage therapist, and I had him spraying ACS in his mouth every hour. I took him home Sunday night, all better, and ready to go to work Monday morning.
I’m not sure I would even get a passing grade, if the fantasy parenting-Utopia list that began this blog were the requirements of a college class. I’m holding a space for it to all turn out okay anyway. I have done all I can do.
One of the things I like best about the way I was raised is that my mom talked to us like adults. No down-talking. No dumbing down her rather formidable vocabulary. She figured if we didn’t know a word, we could ask what it meant, or look it up. Or just learn through exposure and context.
I am the oldest of 8. We all read a lot, from the example of our mom, and constant summer trips to the library. We were consequently locked in the basement and forbidden to come upstairs for 2 hours, every summer afternoon. It was officially called “Quiet Time” but affectionately or not-so-affectionately called Jail Time by the inmates.
You might go nuts if you had 8 kids 24 hours a day, too. Perhaps it was just insanity prevention rather than pulling us off of baseball fields and out of trees we climbed and into a few hours of mind expansion each day. But the interesting effect is that it made readers out of all of us.
Baby Boy is nearing 14, this summer, and I’ve learned a thing or two, raising 4 teenagers. One is, don’t preach. If you’ve got something important to say, save your breath rather than deliver a sermon. (I’m not saying I haven’t done it. I’m saying it’s totally ineffective.) Choose your battles carefully, look for your opportunities, and make every word count.
Stealth is key.
So, my ways of teaching my kids stuff are, first, the Drip Method. Say a little bit, more often, rather than sermonizing ad nauseum every now in then. As if parenting is an Event to check off a list, rather than a Process. Make sure you make your point with stories, and relevance, and keep it short and simple.
Because they stop listening way too dang fast.
Second, pay close attention to what they care about most and gear the message to that.
On a baseball tournament trip a week ago, to the Four Corners (Utah meets Nevada, Colorado, and Arizona), I had a chance to talk to Baby Boy about good nutrition choices relative to something he’s Completely Obsessed With.
That is, being taller than me. Literally once a week, he stands next to me and says, “Mom, I’m taller than you!” (He’s not. He’s firmly 5’6” and I’m just over 5’8”. This has been pointed out, and proven by a third party, many times.)
So in the car, where he’s trapped and can’t get annoyed with what I’m saying and then abort further conversation, we talked about it. Tennyson has several friends who are very small, even though they have tall parents. They are not growing. This is stressing their parents out and causing setbacks in their athletic performance as other peers are getting taller and more developed. I know this because the parents sometimes chat with me about it.
I told Tennyson that eating dairy products full of hormones has a lot to do with this–lots of kids his age have stunted growth. I explained why. I told him that if he wants to get taller, eating dairy products and meat are some of the worst things he can do.
But eating candy is just as bad. It is fuel that has no redeeming value and cannot build healthy muscle tissue, let alone strong eyes, bones and teeth, brain, and organ function. I told him that bad food wasn’t everywhere, when we were kids, like it is now. And his grandparents had very little of it, when they were little.
Eating white flour is bombarding the gut with hybridized grains that our digestive tract doesn’t understand. It causes inflammation in the gut, and then we can’t digest food effectively, and then we can’t absorb nutrition…..and grow. Plus, white flour (breads, etc.) is just gluey and slows down the colon’s ability to move things through.
I made certain to connect, for Tennyson, that getting taller totally depends on what type of fuel he chooses. After I drove home the idea that eating non-organic meat, and dairy products, will stunt growth, and I pointed out the evidence that he is “lactose intolerant,” which really perked him up (who doesn’t love a good DIAGNOSIS?), I said,
“Want to know how to get taller?”
My slam dunk moment.
He was totally into it. Waiting for what I would say. “Yeah,” he admitted.
“Eat everything green you can get your hands on. Don’t gripe about green smoothies and drink EXTRA of any green drink or veggie juice any time you can, ‘cause you know it’s GROWING JUICE. Lots of greens, and vegetables, and fruits, and beans, and whole grains. Not processed food. That’s half the difference between you and those other kids. You’re so much taller not just because your parents are tall. Theirs are, too. It’s also because of how I feed you.”
Don’t eat white bread. Candy and sugar treats. Meat, especially processed meat, and dairy products. (Except the kefir I make from organic milk.)
Oh, and soda? My kids don’t drink it. But Baby Boy needed to know that kids who drink soda have bones that don’t grow. And bone growth is the most important thing in GETTING TALLER.
That was where I threw in—I’m not above these tactics!—“Do you wanna be taller than Dad? And Cade?” (They’re both 6’4”, his dad and big brother are.) I said, “I think it’s entirely possible. Be the tallest person in this family. Just start eating more healthy food!” I told him that THESE are the most critical years for growth, right now, his teen years. Because his body is putting its energy into massive growth in these years, and at 16, maybe 18, it’s OVER. He’s the size he’s going to be. He can stunt and squander that need of his body, with terrible fuel–or make the most of what his body is TRYING to do. Give it amazing raw materials to work with.
If you could see me now, you’d be seeing the look of Smug on my mug. It was a pretty good parenting moment. Because a LOT of what you get, with teenagers, is resistance. In this Car Moment (that seems to be where most of my breakthrough “talks” are), I was getting somewhere. He was All In.
I have written many times about why it’s worth it, if you just stay the course. I stand by that statement. As Dr. Michelle Jorgenson said, which I quoted in the intro of my new book, How to Raise Healthy Eaters,
“Do right by your family and be willing to make nutrition changes. It’s worth it!”
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)
For a few months, I’ve been researching and writing, and talking with GreenSmoothieGirl readers about their experiences. How to Eat Right In the Real World is my next book to come out January 1. Why write exclusively from my own experience, when I have thousands of genius readers whose ideas just jump off the page?
Of course my book will have lots of recipes and ideas from many of my readers. One of the subjects the book covers is how we get our kids to buy in, so that we’ve done our job, and they leave our homes with solid nutrition habits.
What I learned from reading these parents’ many ideas and experiences are these 15 common themes, your “Cliff’s Notes” for that section of my book:
Start when babies are weaned. Don’t feed them sugar or even lots of fruits. To help them develop a taste for the best nutrition, feed them greens, vegetables, legumes, avocados, and whole grains.
Be an example.
Let kids have choices, among the broad variety of amazing whole foods options.
Let them participate by planning, choosing, and preparing meals.
Be consistent in your nutrition teachings and practice.
Be creative and develop a great repertoire of healthy-eating recipes, habits, and games.
Make healthy meals and snacks yummy. Find great recipes.
Make mealtime fun and positive, and speak enthusiastically of your own love of all things nutritious.
Assume kids want to make good choices and educate them–often, with variety, with good videos and books, with love and humor, telling them what’s in it for them.
Make connections between health/energy, and good food–let consequences (for them and others) be the teacher, and point them out.
Don’t have junk food in the house. Period. There’s junk everywhere outside the home, still far too much.
Grow a garden, to give children ownership of their diet and a connection to their food sources.
Find a support group! Having friends who are on the same path to whole foods and whole health, is half the battle, since we tend to do what those around us do.
Before they go to a party, fill them up with nutrient-dense foods (like green smoothies or salad), and/or outright bribe them to skip the cake and ice cream!
Let love for your children be your motivating force and top priority, guiding you towards balance and peace in your home as well as excellent health.
Your child is truly blessed, if you take the time to feed her excellent nutrition, explain often why you’re doing it, and model good habits to her.
I hope my readers send a link to Beckie’s story, to teachers they know, to give them ideas. Teachers WANT to motivate and educate their students towards good nutrition choices, and they want good Christmas gift ideas too! Thank you for sharing, and for being a great teacher, Beckie!
This is the story about how Green Smoothie Girl has impacted Kazoo School, with its progressive philosophy of education. This means that students get to have a say in what they want to study. I decided November would be a great time to introduce them to healthy eating, with the holiday season coming.
One morning I read them The Adventures of Junk Food Dude and did a simple green smoothie demonstration. They loved it! They even requested I read the book to them again the very next day. This mini lesson sparked their interest and we had many discussions about healthy food choices.
For Christmas, I gave all my students their very own Ball jar to make smoothies at home!
When everyone returned from the Winter break, I heard many stories of green smoothies made and I even had parents coming to me asking for tips. It was exciting to learn that the information was reaching home, and that is when I realized how big of an impact I could have on their food education. So my co-teacher Whitney suggested we make our Science Month a “Healthy Bodies” theme. She knows how passionate I am, and she basically said, “Whatever you have in mind, go for it!”
Music to my ears! I started by taking information I had learned from the12 Steps to Whole Foods Manual and Greensmoothiegirl.com and adapted it into activities appropriate for 1st and 2nd graders.
During the month they:
1) Had to find two food labels. The first one had to contain, only, ingredients that they recognized and could pronounce. The second was a label with ingredients they could not pronounce or know what they were. We then proceeded to pick one ingredient they could not pronounce and research what it was. We made a bulletin board display of our findings.
2) They kept a food log for two weeks. Each student rated how they felt, what they ate and how much exercise they got each day. At the end of the two weeks they charted the healthy food choices they made vs. the “not-so-heathy” choices.
We also did two experiments. We recreated the McDonald’s experiment you wrote about HERE. We also did one that showed how our bodies use and absorb sugar.
The culmination was our Science Fair night where we presented all of our findings to the whole school, friends and family. I did a green smoothie demo at the fair, and it was a huge hit! I could tell that the parents were really starting to take notice of all the information their children had accumulated over the year.
It was great to see the response from the whole school (I have become the Green Smoothie Girl of Kazoo school), but there were two moments where I really knew my students had retained what they learned.
In our after-school program, we offer a snack to each child. The bin is full of the usual choices: granola bars, crackers, fruit snacks etc. But one day I noticed one of my students taking their time choosing and I inquired as to why. His response blew me away.
He said, “I am checking the food labels to find the healthiest choice.” I almost fell over! The second moment happened after a parent brought in cupcakes at 9:30 a.m. for a birthday treat. Around 11:30 everyone was grumpy and tired.
I took that moment to point out that this is what we call a “sugar crash”. The very next day there was another birthday and this child’s parents chose donuts. One student raised his hand and asked, “I don’t want to crash, can I not have the birthday treat?” Even if only a handful remember what they learned this year about healthy eating and continue to make better, more informed choices, I feel accomplished!
I have attached some pictures from the year. Thank you so much for providing the tools for me to educate my students!
Let’s develop a GreenSmoothieGirl curriculum for teachers!