Oprah, raw food, and parenting (part 2 of 2)

I have started meeting with a good friend of mine this week whose wife asked for my help with nutrition counseling. My friend is a regionally renowned musician whose family is going through some seriously tough times. He is amazingly well read, brilliant, educated with an advanced degree, a church leader, fantastic dad, and one of the finest human beings I know. And still, his wife says he is like most of America in one sense at least. He knows nothing about nutrition. He did the Atkins Diet religiously for a long period of time before suffering the consequences of that regimen (health lost, weight regained). He was raised in a fairly chaotic environment and simply doesn’t know.

What a gift we give any child who is raised with a whole-foods, plant-based diet, even while the larger culture around him has gone insane. (Even a child will be gripped by the very visual and easily documented results when quasi-vegetarian Morgan Spurlock, in the documentary SuperSize Me, eats at McDonald’s for 30 days. But unfortunately you have to access the child-friendly version of the movie that they showed at my kids’ school, since the regular version inexplicably contains the F word.)

I got a very long email yesterday from someone who read my intro to 12 Steps and told me that my attitude toward children is “disrespectful” because I state that children generally need adults to help with their nutrition because they make choices based on what tastes good rather than what’s good for them. (Feel free to sound off on this blog about your opinions on that, which are welcome!) The writer said that her children always choose vibrant whole, raw foods and loathe any processed junk food.

When she writes a book about how exactly she achieved that (if in fact she didn’t just get lucky with perfect children), I do hope it outsells 12 Steps. I’ll be the first in line to buy it, because that is not my observation of the vast majority of American children. I speak positively about whole plant foods in my home and attempt to make appealing dishes, and two of my children are vegetarian by choice. However, most of my children will eat fruits and veggies but otherwise make poor choices if left to their own devices at food-related events outside my home.

I wish they wouldn’t, just like I wish I wouldn’t have ever made bad choices. But I honor their choices even if I “require” things of them (and make no apologies about it, while you, reading this, are free to reject my way of thinking and doing things). For instance, when I buy them dinner at Sweet Tomatoes, their first plate of food has to be a giant green salad. In the long run, I trust that their tastes have been “set” to enjoy green and raw plant foods, and their experience with good health because of their diet will be a powerful motivator in the future.

wrap-up: Education Week may offer “education” you don’t value, part 5 of 5

In a class I attended on single parenting, the teacher repeatedly brought up the “McDonald’s Effect” (which you may remember from the documentary Supersize Me):


McD’s is carefully, methodically creating its youngest generation to be its best customers ever.   Play Places beckon with bright colors and all kinds of free fun.   When you walk in the door, the smells are inviting and rewarding.   You buy a very inexpensive, easy meal in a brightly colored box, with a fuzzy stuffed-animal toy.   It’s exciting–you never know what it will be, but it’s always fun!   Nothing in the box has any nutritional value.   In fact, what’s in it will hurt your child.   But the child develops emotional attachments and positive memories of fun, good smells, good tastes, instant gratification, and comforting toys.   That, on top of the sensations in their mouth of high-fat, high-sugar foods, is virtually irresistible. For life.


I actually like sitting in classes where something false is taught. It gives me a chance to think through the logic of my own belief set, and craft responses in my head if not out loud, that are sensible and rational.


I would like to say that some dietetics professors at least two other universities I know of are 12 Steppers, learning and growing, changing curriculum with information outside the mainstream “bill of goods” sold to us by industry.   Not all nutritionists push animal protein consumption on people.  


But, do your own thinking regardless of the teacher’s credentials.


Many years ago I read a three-part Wall Street Journal series on inner-city nutrition.   The WSJ reporter went into a tenement building to interview three obese young ladies eating in front of the TV after school.   They were munching on the usual suspects: chips, Hostess products, sodas.   The reporter had found that in the inner city, most of the people are eating three meals a day of fast food. He had also gone into the grocery stores to find that most had no produce at all besides potatoes.   Store owners who were interviewed said no one bought it.


One of the young women was quoted saying this:


“I know it’s good for me because McDonald’s sells it. They wouldn’t sell it if it weren’t good for me.”


Now you folks here on GSG.com are, many of you, the “choir” that I preach to.   Already converted.   But some are newbies.   And whoever you are, you are surrounded by newbies.   You have the power to slowly, in a “drip” fashion, influence people to reject what they’re taught by pop culture.


Please do it.