Thursday, February 12, 2009
Image from FTD website.
We began Fresh Mouth one year ago this week.
Our experimental lifestyle change began the week after Patrick's birthday party. We waited to purge our cabinets of processed products so that we could indulge one last wish for a birthday cake with blue fondant and sprinkles.
Since then we've made tremendous progress. The kids are conscious of ingredients. Aidan simply opts out, about 90 percent of the time, of products with dyes and HFCS. He talks about "real" food and "junk food," and he constantly scans ingredient labels. He's more adventurous with food tasting. He does try.
Patrick doesn't opt out as much and actually tends to taunt me with news that he "reawwy drank blue Gatorade" at a friend's house or from the school cafeteria.
"I did," he says tilting his head to the side with a resigned grin.
"Nothing but chemicals and no value to those muscles," I say trying to appeal to his ego and a budding interest in being really "muscle-y."
But I think this is all actually ok. He has a choice. He knows it, and while he does eat Nerds from a birthday party or covet an insanely large lollipop at a local store, he is aware that these things aren't good for him. One afternoon when he was trying to goad me into a gumball aperitif after a grocery store run, he insisted, "I won't act crazy from the dye. I promise."
"Yes you will," I say.
"Yeah, Mom, you're right," he said after about three more attempts at begging.
He knows he gets cranky from the sugar or the dye or both. He does know it's not good for him. He's conscious.
Patrick tries new foods and even ate chicken curry with vegetables two nights ago. He only ate a little, but he tried, too.
So, all is blissful, right? Not so much. There are daily setbacks to Fresh Mouth. But this is a living, breathing, changing way of living and breathing and eating. It's organic in and of itself. Day by day. Meal by meal. Bite by bite.
So even this week we had setbacks. Dinner last night went like this ...
"I'm a carnivore. I can't eat vegetables," Aidan says when I dole out green beans.
"What?" Dirk says.
"Yeah, vegetarians eat only vegetables and not meat. Carnivores eat meat, no vegetables. I'm a carnivore. So, I can't eat vegetables. I'm not a vegetarian. I eat burgers."
Dirk looks at me, and I want to go under the table and stab my eye out with a fork.
"Are you teasing us, Aidan?" I ask.
He doesn't answer.
"Being a vegetarian does mean you don't eat meat. You're right. But being a carnivore doesn't mean you don't eat vegetables," Dirk says. "They're not mutually exclusive."
"I don't know about that," he says as if this were up for debate.
He eats a green bean. We move on.
And then Patrick ends the meal with, "Can I have that cupcake I got for my birthday?"
People you love the most can be the biggest life saboteurs, and a dear loved one who will remain nameless on this blog (you know who you are) sent Patrick the ultimate anti-Fresh Mouth birthday present - a gigantic cupcake box filled with candy from FTD. (See the saccharine photo above.) My Fresh Mouth jaw dropped when we opened the box.
"Woaa," Patrick said when we saw the contents.
"Yikes," Aidan said.
I let Patrick have one piece and put the rest out of reach.
When he asked for candy after dinner, I simply said no.
He cried. I held my ground. Sometimes the iron fist of insistence on a parent's end is the only way to go. I offered applesauce, and he opted for nothing else.
What does all this mean for a kid and food and eating in this era, in this country?
I read a line from a book of food essays today called Feed Me edited by Harriet Brown that said, "In modern-day America, feeding yourself is an act of bravery."
It's bravery. Certainly with mercury and salmonella and processed food and an endless barrage of bad choices, there is a need for biting bravely.
It's also about perseverance. Day by day. Bite by bite. Give kids and yourself the best you can. Every time. There are always setbacks and recipes for disaster. You just have to educate the carnivore and redirect the sugar fiend. A lot.
Swallow. Breathe deeply. Start over. And over. And over.
Nugget o' the Moment: "That's a long time, but Fresh Mouth is a good idea, Mom. It is." - Aidan when I tell him it's been a year since we started.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
High fructose corn syrup. Image from the Modern Forager.
About ten years ago, I read a book called NEWTON'S MADNESS: FURTHER TALES OF CLINICAL NEUROLOGY. It traces disorders and diseases in history. There's a bit about Dostoyevski's epilepsy and Newton's mercury-caused madness.
Mercury and madness.
I was looking at this book for a book club idea when I read a new study this week about mercury in high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
Mercury and high fructose corn syrup ... it's madness.
According to a new article in the journal, Environmental Health, mercury was found in nearly 50 percent of tested samples of commercial HFCS. Another study by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) detected mercury in almost one-third of 55 popular brandname food and beverage products where HFCS is the first or second highest labeled ingredient.
This means food produced by brands like - Quaker, Hershey’s, Kraft and Smucker’s. And the studies state that the average American eats about 12 teaspoons of HFCS a day. IATP’s David Wallinga, M.D., and a co-author in both studies says:
“Mercury is toxic in all its forms. Given how much high fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered. We are
calling for immediate changes by industry and the FDA to help stop this avoidable
mercury contamination of the food supply.” More.
There's a push to chastise parents who suggest that vaccines and diet increase the risk of neurological spectrum disorders. But these studies would certainly indicate that what we're putting in our bodies and our childrens' bodies is and can affect health, growth and development.
What says the Corn Refiner's Association? Of course, they challenge the studies:
“This study appears to be based on outdated information of dubious significance. Our industry has used mercury-free versions of the two re-agents mentioned in the study, hydrochloric acid and caustic soda, for several years. These mercury-free re-agents perform important functions, including adjusting pH balances,” stated Audrae Erickson, President, Corn Refiners Association. “For more than 150 years, corn wet millers have been perfecting the process of refining corn to make safe ingredients for the American food supply.” More.We're approaching our one-year Fresh Mouth anniversary. One year since we removed HFCS from our diet. There have been slips and instances out of our control when we ate it, but our goal is to eliminate it from our diet and avoid purchasing products with the ingredient. If ever there was a reason to remove an element from a diet, this would be a good one.
Nugget o' the Moment: "The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that minimizing any form of mercury exposure is essential for optimal child health and nervous system development. Current international food processing standards allow 1.0 μg mercury/g caustic soda and there is no standard for mercury in food grade hydrochloric acid." - from this week's study, "Mercury from chlor-alkali plants: measured concentrations in food productsugar."