Being Irish I love March because Spring is coming and of course right in the middle we have St. Patrick’s Day. The kids love it because they get to wear green at school and pretend they are more Irish than they are. My daughter (the actress) loves to put on the Irish accent she learned from her cousins last summer and we have a good laugh at her developing brogue.
The only thing I dislike about this day of celebration of all things Irish, is the association it conjures up with Lucky Charms, a Mc Donald’s Green McFlurry or a green donut from Dunkin. Take it from me – we do not celebrate products like this in Ireland, we don’t even have them. The most I saw growing up was people drinking green beer and even that was frowned upon (only because of the green part, let’s be honest).
So what exactly is in Lucky Charms that makes them Exhibit A in the fight against the fake phood industry that seems to prey on our children by portraying themselves as a ‘healthy’ breakfast?
I don’t know where to begin. I will pick out my top 3 offenders, and you can decide if that’s enough to make you run to the organic section. Also, these ingredients are in most of the more colorful cereals: Froot Loops, Apple Jacks and Trix to name a few.
- Corn Syrup – also known as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This is a highly processed chemical (yes) derived from corn. It is a GMO food which means it contains glyphosate and should be avoided for that reason alone. It is manufactured in a very complicated tri-enzyme process which you can read more about here. If you want to hear about how HFCS can cause type 2 diabetes then Dr. Hyman explains it quite well here. There is also many reports that HFCS contains mercury, one of the most toxic substances known to man. HFCS is in ketchup, soup, pickles, cereal, sodas, mayonnaise, candy, cakes, breads, bagels and so many more things it’s hard to list. Basically – if it’s not organic, it has HFCS.
- TSP: Trisodium Phosphate – an industrial alkalizing cleaning agent doubling as a food additive. The FDA has given this chemical a ‘generally recognized as safe’ or GRAS category. It has given safe limits for this additive (70 mgs) but the general public have no way of knowing how much of this toxic chemical they are consuming on a daily basis which could reach up to 500 mgs daily. In its dry powder form it is incredibly corrosive to the human body when consumed. So much so, the FDA has recommend it be removed from household cleaning products – because it is bad for the environment! So where does that leave the cereal consumer? Caveat Emptor and run for the organic hills!
- Artificial colors: Yellow 5 & 6, Red 40, Blue 1 and “Other Color Added” – right away I see a huge red flag because I don’t know what “other color added” means. It usually means I have to call their consumer help line. But I value my sanity so I’m going to take a guess that it means a substitute for Red #3 (since it was banned), made from the cochineal beetle. The other 4 colors listed are derived from coal tar. Added colors have long been associated with ill-health effects and hyperactivity in children although there are few conclusive studies. The most notable study is the Southampton Study in 2007 which asserted that when combined with sodium benzoate (a popular food additive), they caused more hyperactivity in children and recommended that all colors be labeled in Europe. Food colors have a long history with the FDA and now, out of around 80, only 7 remain legal for the food and cosmetics industries to use. If you’d like to learn more, check out these articles and videos on food dyes on Dr. Greger’s website as he discusses their affect on children’s health and in particular ADHD.
I am only giving you 3 things to remember to avoid like the toxic plague because they transfer to so many other products that I hope you will remember them. I didn’t mention “mixed tocopherols” only because it is a synthetic vitamin e and is generally safe. It is used to replace the highly controversial BHT which is widely suspected to be a carcinogen.
So why not try a new tradition in your family if you like to celebrate our national holiday? Enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day breakfast with a hearty, protein-packed traditional Irish breakfast – organic bacon, eggs and sausage… with a slice of soda bread and a healthy pat of Kerrygold butter (see my recipe here!).
“lá sona Fhéile Pádraig duit” – Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
It’s been three years since we began our organic journey and our family has benefited in so many ways. I spend a lot of time researching food and how we can improve our family’s health. I try not to worry about being perfect because it’s very difficult to be 100% when surrounded by so many food options, especially for children. It can also be expensive and people ask me all the time; “is buying organic worth it?”. Well I believe it is because our children are growing up with a toxic load which we were not exposed to and I have to do all I can to protect them from that.
After abandoning Costco and other large supermarkets 3 years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Costco are listening to consumer demands and stocking so many organic products. I am now a happy customer once again. So I thought I would share what I fill my cart with these days as most of the items are new. I hope that people will take note and support their local stores which make an effort to supply affordable organic options.
- Organic Coconut Oil – Cold Pressed is best.
- Organic pajamas – avoid flame retardant inhalants.
- Organic Maple Syrup – The dark color means more nutrients.
- Figgy Pops – perfect high antioxidant snacks.
- Organic Frozen Fruit for smoothies.
- Organic Go-Go Squeeze apple sauces – 4 flavors!
- Organic Olive Oil – it’s a blend but the real stuff is expensive.
- Kind Bars – 5g sugar box – perfect for those after school snack attacks.
- Organic Chicken Stock – well, Thanksgiving is just around the corner.
- Namaste Gluten Free Flour – perfect for pancakes and muffins.
- Organic Sugar – avoid GMO sugar!
- Organic Bread – non-organic wheat can be contaminated with glyphosate.
- Organic Back to Nature Oreos – my kids don’t know the difference!
- Seeds of Change organic quinoa and brown rice – perfect for last minute meals.
- Organic apples – a little on the large side but great for sharing.
- Organic ground beef and chicken – I prefer fresh from a butcher but good to have in your freezer.
- Organic chia seeds – add to smoothies or make chia pudding.
- Organic Quinoa – make a lot, it lasts 3 days in the fridge.
- Organic Protein Powder – perfect for smoothies
- Organic Linens – including crib mattresses & towels. We don’t need a crib mattress but I sure wish we had this when our kids were babies.
There are so many more things on my organic list but I do avoid the organic and milk and eggs at Costco (sorry!) – only because I prefer grassfed dairy and pasture raised eggs. I would love to eat less processed food but in the absence of living on a farm, we have to use what we have. I will tackle planting a vegetable garden next year!
I often get asked what I recommend for breakfast to boost protein intake as an alternative to egg dishes or oatmeal (both of which I recommend, see previous blogs here and here), and I always suggest my protein packed chocolate pancakes. Kids love them and moms can be assured that their little ones will get a nutrient packed breakfast that will sustain them all morning without that sugar crash which usually follows a breakfast of cereal or bagels. As with all pancake recipes, you can add or subtract ingredients and don’t forget to ask the kids what they think!
2 cups of your favorite organic pancake mix or flour. Since I like to make gluten and dairy free, I use this mix from Breads From Anna – Non-GMO and allergen free.
2 pasture-raised eggs (or egg substitute)
3 cups of coconut milk or other non-dairy milk. Use whole milk if using dairy.
1 scoop of protein powder. My go-to is Vega chocolate powder as you can also use it in smoothies. The Berry flavor is also excellent.
1 tsp of green super food powder of your choice. I use Vimenergy’s barleygrass but you can use spirulina or wheatgrass. Don’t worry you won’t get green pancakes. Although you can add more for your St. Patrick’s Day pancakes!
2 tsps of raw cacao powder. This gives the pancake more of a chocolate flavor and yet adds tons of micronutrients.
2 tbsps of unrefined coconut oil, melted
1/2 – 1 cup of your favorite berries or chocolate nibs (organic and raw if possible).
1-2 cups of coconut water to vary consistency. Add as needed, do not add all at the beginning.
Method: Mix all the ingredients together and cook in unrefined coconut oil for 5 minutes each side, medium heat. Serve with fruit, organic syrup, honey or specialty chocolate spread. You can make the entire batch to be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days or pop them in the freezer to be heated in the toaster when needed. You can also use the mixture to make muffins (bake for 30 mins) for super nutritious snacks on the go! ENJOY!
So another high protein breakfast idea which the kids will love is the Berry Nutty Breakfast Milkshake. I call it a milkshake and not a smoothie because kids tend to think a milkshake is more fun and so I’m just playing with words. You can too! So this shake has protein, antioxidants, micronutrients and you can add additional super-nutrients by adding a ‘super’-powder of your choice. My favorite is immune boosting Chaga powder but you can use any one. Just remember if you add a green like spirulina, it will affect the colour of the shake! So this is just a suggestion, you can play around with it but this is one of my favorites.
1 cup of coconut or almond milk. You can also use a full fat dairy milk
1 cup of organic mixed berries (raspberries, blueberries, cranberries and blackberries)
2 tbsps of nut butter – almond or cashew. You can use peanut but it has a stronger flavor.
1 tsp of Chaga powder extract (optional)
1 tbsp of raw honey
A squeeze of lemon juice and a tiny piece of rind.
Oats or nuts to decorate
Put everything in a blender until smooth. You may need to add more liquid to reach your desired consistency. You can also add ice to make it more of an arctic blast. Top with some oats or nuts and you’re good to go! Of course this is not just for breakfast, it can be a quick snack for those on-the-go moments. Enjoy!
Filed under Food, Recipes
1 cup of steel cut organic oatmeal
3 cups of water or almond milk
pinch of sea salt
1 organic pear
1 tsp of cinnamon
Making oatmeal from steel cut oats does take longer but it is a healthier option than processed quick oats. Bring the water to a boil in a pot and then add the oats and salt. Bring back up to a boil, then simmer for 20-30 minutes depending on how you like it to taste. While the oats are simmering, peel and dice the pear and put it in a small pot with a little water. You may wish to add some sugar to taste but this is not necessary. Gently bring the pears and water to a boil and simmer for 5 mins.
Once the oats are done, add the soft pears and top with a dash on cinnamon. Enjoy!
Filed under Food, Recipes
I am excited to be speaking in Bronxville, NY this week on the detriment sugar is having on our children’s health. It is such an interesting topic to research and I look forward to a lively discussion on Thursday. Sugar is an anti-nutrient. It is at the forefront of one of the costliest health crisis in our country. Together we will learn how to live healthier with sugar from sources other than sucrose and how to reduce sugar in our children’s diets while increasing their nutrient intake.
This talk is only open to the parents of the Reformed Church of Bronxville school.
American children consume 32 teaspoons of sugar per day. As a nation we consume 130lbs of sugar on average in one year. How is this even possible? How is it tolerated given the chronic ill health of our population? What can we do about it? What is the one thing that will help? Well, I believe that we can start to reclaim our children’s health by doing one simple thing – stop drinking it.
Childhood obesity rates have tripled from 1980 to 2010. There are over 2 million children in the US in the morbidly obese range. In NY over 40% of children are overweight or obese. This is unsustainable. Even national efforts to reduce childhood obesity have been failing. The First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign has recently admitted that obesity rates in children have only just plateaued and obesity in our youngest children is only beginning to see a slight decrease. The one thing they do not recommend as part of the Let’s Move campaign? Eliminating soda or sugary drinks. For some reason, it is not mentioned even though it is the largest source of sugar calories in our children. And since diabetes and obesity are now the number one health issues of our country, we have a $245 billion reason to tackle the problem in our youngest population.
Drinking sugar is the main problem in my view as it is metabolized in the body differently from fats, carbohydrates and proteins. It is an anti-nutrient source of calories, meaning that not only does it contain ZERO nutrients, it also depletes the body of calcium, vitamin C, potassium, thiamin and chromium.
Sugar is also toxic. Much research has been done on this but the most outspoken proponent of this idea is Dr. Robert Lustig, who’s You Tube lecture has been seen over 5.5m times. Sugar is 50% fructose which is toxic in the pharmacological quantities it is consumed. Fructose can only be processed in the liver where it is quickly turned to fat. It does not stimulate effective insulin production which can lead to insulin resistance and ultimately diabetes. It interferes with our leptin (satiety) and ghrelin (hunger) hormones which are our signals to stop consuming, allowing a vicious cycle of over consumption. There is also the added toxicity of sugar beets being a GMO product which have been engineered to resist the highly toxic herbicide Glyphosate during farming, which is passed to the end product. There is much evidence to support the notion that glyphosate in our food system is leading to many chronic diseases and also childhood developmental issues – see MIT scientist Dr. Seneff’s research here.
So what can we do? I believe we should look to the main culprits and that is soda, fruit juices and sports drinks – and stop giving it to our children. We must also remember that sugar is hidden in many other staple foods for kids such as ketchup, mayonnaise, pickles, sauces, dairy products, soups, bread and cereal bars. It is becoming increasingly difficult for parents to account for the sheer amount of sugar in our family’s diet. Therefore, I believe we should begin with the largest source – the 33% that comes from drinking it. Removing sugary drinks will go a long way to help reduce the largest source of this dangerous food additive (note, it is not food).
Let’s encourage our children to drink water (or infused water!) and eat whole fruit to add that all important fiber!