Jewish World Review Feb. 3, 2004 / 11 Shevat, 5764
Allergic girl can teach her friends and their parents a thing or two
Since my 10-year-old niece Abigail visited me, I've been
thinking a lot about food.
That's because Abigail has peanut and egg allergies, and so has to carefully
navigate her food choices. She thinks about everything that goes into her
mouth. She has to be able to watch other kids eat ice cream, when she can't
have any. She has to forgo many foods she'd like to eat and she does it with
I'm sorry for Abby's allergies.
But watching her for several days it occurred to me that if Americans were as
careful about what we ate, if all of us were as good at handling delayed
gratification or non-gratification as this little girl, we would not have the
obesity problem we do in this country.
I think that would make a fascinating study compare children with serious
food allergies to their non-allergic peers. My guess is the former would have
much lower rates of weight problems.
Anyway, my point isn't one about obesity. My point is that if we had to learn more
about nutrition, if we were forced to think about what we eat just as my niece is,
we'd be eating so much healthier.
The American food supply is so cheap, ubiquitous, easy to get, and varied
and often so junky it's easy to stuff food into our mouths and never really think
about what we are doing, or the habits we're creating, especially the habits
we're creating for our kids.
Three of my four little ones are slim, and one is, well, not exactly slim.
But in watching my niece I found myself reflecting more on some of my own
family's eating habits, from the standpoint of nutrition, not necessarily calories.
We've got some problems.
I'm afraid I've ingrained in my children some bad habits.
Every time we go out to dinner, they assume rightly that we are going to
have dessert. Every time we go to the movies, they assume rightly that they
are going to get candy.
Now, we don't go to the movies or out to dinner every week. But when we do, it's
become unthinkable to them that they don't get goodies, too. I need to change
that to "sometimes," not "all the time." I don't want them to grow up to be adults
who think they have to have dessert at restaurants and candy at movies.
Here's another bad habit I've let my children become too accustomed to "kids
food " when we go out. (And yes, sometimes even at home, too.) Nuggets,
macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, etc. My children, at least the
two older ones, should be encouraged instead to enjoy a variety of "adult "
foods on those restaurant menus.
I have a friend who is a fabulous gourmet cook, and thoroughly enjoys all sorts
of wonderful foods in moderation. She said she developed a wholesome
delight in food because her parents introduced her at an early age to varied
"grown-up " fare. Even when she was a child and she went with her parents to
a restaurant, she'd be asking the chef how he made the delicious onion soup.
Anyway, I now see I've got some tough habits to break I'm sure I'll think of
On the other hand, I guess I've created at least some good habits, too. For
instance, my kids only drink skim milk, orange juice and water at home no
sodas. They eat lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains; and I don't keep
junk food in the house. (Well, OK, occasionally I'll allow a package of Oreos or
Tootsie Pops in the door there are worse crimes.)
Anyway, on balance, we're probably doing OK.
Still, overweight or not, it just pays to think more about food.
Men's Health magazine recently ran an article about feeding our brains. It turns
out that eating certain carbohydrate-rich foods like oatmeal "is the same as
having a shot of glucose, or blood sugar, injected into your brain," and that's a
huge help to memory and concentration, they said.
Foods like raisins, apples and nuts are rich in boron, which made test subjects
perform better on attention and memory tests. Eggs and milk are loaded with
choline, and "studies have shown that college students given 3 to 4 grams of
choline 1 hour before taking memory tests scored higher than those who didn't
receive the choline supplements."
Thinking more about what we eat is just plain smart.
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