by Joe Shea
January 30, 2011
MEMO TO MUBARAK: HOW TO GET OUT ALIVE
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Jack Spratt had nothing on us. He and his wife were a perfect complement to each other. He could eat no fat, she could eat no lean - and between the two of them they kept the platter clean.
At my house we don't opt for leans or fats, we read labels for the absence of high fructose, trans fats, the presence of fiber for us both, high protein for me, low protein for him, fish for him, greens for me ... and so forth. Our meals would never be served from the same platter.
What we aim for is improved nutrition. It's what appears to be in the hearts and minds of everyone in America. The way families go about it is the question and it's begging for answers. I like information, and suggestions are always welcome, but I'll choose the food groups covered and balanced out over the day and week.
Now I'm concerned that government mandates entering my domain might preclude our family's option to choose what is packed for lunch. I expect children to hear nutritional information during Health Class but not to come home and say: "Mom, organic apples are better for us."
I asked one father of three young children what went into their lunches. He said:
"Nothing ever comes home ... 100% Juice Capri Sun Juice or Juicy Juice ... usually a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which they've not become sick of yet, with real 'all fruit' type jam and then a 'Gogurt,' tube of yogurt, perhaps, and/or a small sandwich bag of 'Cheeze-its' or pretzels (we do try and get low salt and baked, not fried, and such, but nothing fake ... all real stuff. You know, as good as you can get these days, but we're not fanatics."
That sounds fairly typical for the brown-bag brigade or the Sponge Bob and Barbie doll adorned lunchbox crew preferring homemade lunches over cafeteria fare. Most children are very selective about what is on the tray at school and some scrape as much into the garbage bins as they consume.
I don't know if that will change to any degree when the new law is enacted at six cents more a meal. Children learn what they like at home or out with parents. Public dictates got trans fats out of the oil used in cooking french fries at McDonald's. Yet those fries are ballyhooed until McDonald's always looks like the culprit in the war on obesity.
We don't know how long Jack Spratt and his wife lived or which one outlasted the other but I'd hazard a guess they neither counted calories nor did they know what cholesterol was. If they felt sluggish they knew from experience which foods or beverages boosted their energy.
Now, I'm not defending our present-day eating habits in either choice or quantity; yet it's surprising that prizefighters in training are said to start the day with five raw eggs.
When I heard that my mind immediately went to "salmonella," the dreaded cause of gastroenteritis, typhoid and 2,500 strains of food poisoning, reputedly found in raw eggs and especially one that cracked in the carton. For generations, raw eggs were the mainstay for those boosting energy each morning.
Many of our older Americans are in the "toast and tea generation." Their families are grown; they're not too active, they don't feel hungry, yet they just want something to tide them over. A light meal of toast and tea is always satisfying. We seem to know what we need and of course having knowledge of what is beneficial versus detrimental is important. If the government were to provide that information, an informed society would make its own choices.
Yes, obesity is rampant in America. Yes, something should be done about it but not at the expense of our choices. The fast food restaurants have really complied to a certain degree. McDonald's has apple slices as an option to french fries, but they come with a frosting dipping sauce. The customer has to know apple slices are available, the clerk does not ask.
They're putting salad bars in schools. This is a good idea but I've taken notice of the shopping carts at Walmart where many in our Latino community shop. Lettuce, squash, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, red and green, corn, carrots and most of the fruit and berries in the racks.
I'm impressed. Our family does not eat all of those fresh fruits and vegetables. And yet, those housewives pushing the shopping carts are quite overweight - not morbidly obese, but heavy. Where is the correlation between what they eat, their weight, and how healthy they are?
When kids were told of the dangers of smoking they went home and told their parents to stop smoking. Therefore, awareness went home with scores of little naggers. Today, with nutrition on the agenda, those same third graders will take the message home about fried food and trans fats. We don't need taxpayers paying a price to get the message across.
For those carrying lunch to school, I can picture a neighboring child at the table suggesting "your mother doesn't love you if she doesn't put carrots and fiber flakes in your lunch." Kids can be cruel.
I heard yesterday that pediatricians claim infants should be breast fed exclusively for six months with solid foods along with breast milk for the full first year. We know that.
Mothers who breast feed work it out even if it means pumping a supply and freezing the required amount for feedings by care givers while mothers are at work. They've been doing that for the last 20 years.
However, the report took it further. Doctors were suggesting a law should be passed that in the workplace mothers have a place to pump their breasts and the time to do so. They didn't add "a freezer to store the bottles until quitting time" since that's a given. Mothers who do not breast feed may ask for equal time to shop for a case of baby formula. It could happen.
Nine out of 10 Americans have poor nutrition - or, is it 3 out of 5? The statistics illustrating our eating habits are so variable it's a wonder we manage to live through the day.
Mrs. Obama is also touting movement, exercise, and being active. Again, this is a home project but she's wise to help get the word out. In the 1960's the active Kennedy family set the stage for President Council on Fitness Sports and Nutrition (PCFSN), and my children in elementary school brought home certificates for having climbed a rope to the ceiling in the gym.
During that era, grownups were arranging to walk 50 miles as Bobby Kennedy suggested. He proved it could be done. Children followed suit. It seemed like a good idea and they decided to do it or at least do their best. It was just the beginning for that generation. From that start we now see the parking lot at fitness centers full each morning before 6:00 a.m. baby boomers who started out climbing ropes in the gym now do miles on a treadmill before starting their days.
It wasn't mandatory then and isn't now. It's done through our freedom of choice. We had informed choices. We learned one calorie is one unit of energy.
It's not the calories going in that cause obesity but the calories not being burned off. Calories are the cause; obesity is the effect of holding on to them. To quote Mrs. Obama, "Let's Move."