Winter is perfect for growing lettuce!

Winter brings a little disappointment due to the lack of local fresh greens and herbs.  But, maybe not.  You can have a little indoor garden and include the kids in the fun without a lot digging and weeding.
You can easily grow herbs, celery and lettuce on a window sill or glass doors with a southern exposure.  Here’s how:
img_0456Herbs – Start with those packages from the grocery store in plastic bags or pots.  The most easily found is basil.  Stand up the basil, while in the bag, and add some water and a tablespoon of potting soil.  Let sit over night.  Fill a planter with 2 inches of soil.  Have a helper hold the basil in the planter, with the roots straightened and touching the soil.  Fill the planter around the root and up the basil stalks 2-3 inches.  You can do basically the same technique for any other herb.  Heavily water the plant.  It has been used to a LOT of water.  You may want to feed the plant with an organic plant food.  If the plant looks sad after 1 day, put in a dark closet for 2 days, water every day.  Then, bring out and slowly move toward more sunlight over another 2 days.  If the herb has been in a pot with other herbs, simply re-pot in a larger planter and put some room between the plants to they can grow.
Lettuce and celery – Cut and use the leaves and stalks, but leave a 2 inch stalk for the img_0459lettuce and a 1 inch base for the celery.  Put these in a small, flat bottomed dish with water up to the middle of the stalk or celery base.  Keep half the stalk submerged for a few days.  With hydroponic lettuce make sure the roots are covered.  After day 3-4 add a few spoonfuls of potting soil.  Check for tiny sprouting action.  Depending on how much light and heat you have, small roots will sprout.

img_0458Keep in water, but continue to add potting soil.  With a hydroponic lettuce stalk, you can move to a planter within a week.  If you are starting from a flat bottomed stalk, let roots grow for a few weeks, then re-plant.  
img_0457
The photos show the lettuce ready for a planter, but the celery will need another week or so.  
This celery is growing the roots.  Add dirt a little at a time to get the roots ready for full dirt.
It can be great fun and a good learning experience for kids see roots growing and sprouts img_0455turning into something they use on their sandwiches or in a dinner salad.  Especially after an afternoon of sledding.
FYI – these photos are from northeastern Pennsylvania.
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The Military dishes up School Lunch

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Basic Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Tuesday, May 11, 2010 – Republished article.

Undernutrition and malnutrition are very different animals, except when it comes to the convergence of soldiers and school lunch.

The school lunch program was started during the Great Depression in 1935.  It was a fantastic solution to two national problems.

  1. Farmers had surplus produce that many people could not afford leading to a drop in price.
  2. Children were going hungry because of the 25% unemployment rate – 75% in minority communities.

The Secretary of Agriculture was given funding to purchase surplus foods for a school lunch program via the Congress.[i] School children across the nation began to have at least school lunch as a daily meal.  During World War II, the surplus food supply dwindled as the nation had to feed a military stationed around the globe.  By the end of the war the congress was thinking of ending the program.  However, the military spoke up.

The Surgeon General of the Armed Forces testified in 1946 that, “70 percent of the boys who had poor nutrition 10-12 years ago were rejected by the draft.”  That meant boys between the ages of 8-14 during 1934-36 with limited food sources became a “threat to national security” due to the fact that the US could have had difficulty assembling a military force due to the stunted growth from undernutrition.  This testimony was the linchpin to continuing funding.[ii] 

 Skip ahead to 2010.  Thirty percent of teens are overweight or obese.  This comes from “malnutrition”.  They have food to eat, but the food is extremely high in fat and sodium and lacking fiber and many vitamins and minerals.  Until now, the military has been pretty silent about school lunch, school breakfast or any other federal nutrition program, even though many of their employees have wages and salaries low enough to qualify for a number of public welfare programs.

However, on April 20, 2010 retired Navy Rear Adm. James Barnett Jr. with a group of officers called, Mission: Readiness, spoke to Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack.  Adm. Barnett said that, “When over a quarter of young adults are too fat to fight, we need to take notice.”  Again, the military speaks up because lousy nutrition leads to lack of national security.

School lunch never hits the front page and yet it affects every child in public school, approximately 45-50  million Americans.[iii]  Music and art programs are being slashed and the military had approximately 23% of the 2009 US Federal spending.  One budget of theirs isn’t even allowed to be public.  There are weapons systems, which have been denounced by top military brass, being built at the cost of millions.  But we hear little to nothing about school lunch and school breakfast programs which have not had an increase in reimbursement since 1973.  So,  now they want to help out the poor little lunch ladies. 

The military also wants to help out the phys ed department because so much money is being spent to train new recruits when seasoned soldiers are too heavy and are discharged.  Military recruiters want to work with schools to help recruits lose weight before they try and sign on the dotted line. One recruiter was quoted as saying, “This is the future of our Army we are looking at when we talk about these 17- to 24-year-olds. The sad thing is a lot of them want to join but can’t.”.[iv] It’s great the military is motivated to preventative measures.  

 Well, that’s one way to look at it.  Another way is that the military industrial complex may not have the fodder it needs to continue its various “security” operations around the world.  If we don’t have an abundant supply of healthy young people we may not be able to continue as the world’s police department.   What would we have done if we didn’t have recruits to go to Afganistan and search for vaporous weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

 The former president of the American Medical Association, Ron Davis, MD, stated he had spent all of his time in office, 2007-2008, trying to get one word changed in defining Medicare and Medicaid.  He lobbied that the word, preventative, be added to the type of care covered by these two programs.  On a phone conversation he said that if preventative medicine were available to people who qualified for these programs costs would decrease because the high expense of treating diabetes, progressive cancers and health problems related to obesity could be addressed early on.  It still has not happened. 

 But with Haliburton on board all things are possible.

[i] Food Research and Action Center. 2008. Commodity Foods and the Nutrition Quality of the National School Lunch Program: Historical Role, Current, operations, and Future Potential.  Executive Summary. FRAC. Retrieved from :http://www.frac.org/pdf/commodities08_execsummary.pdf on May 12, 2010.

[ii] Boyle M. 2003. Historical Background of Food Assistance Programs. Community Nutrition in Action: An Entrepreneurial Approach, pg. 124-125.  Wadsworth, Belmont California.

[iii] Institute of Education Sciences. [nd] Fast Facts. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=65 on May 18, 2010.

[iv] Jalonick MC, [2010] Are school lunches a national security threat?, Military Discusstion. com, April 20. Retrieved from http://www.military-discussion.com/forum/index.php?topic=2545.0 on May 18, 2010

Does your food do what you want it to do?

There I am at a party looking at the food.  I’m looking for guests I know and who looks fun and interesting.

Before I can finish scanning the room.  The host says, “Meet my friend, LaDiva, she’s a dietitian.  LaDiva, don’t hate me because of the food.  I know so much of it is bad.  But it’s a party.”

Great way to meet someone new.  Now, the new person will begin to spew all their guilt about their diet to me.  “I don’t eat THAT much meat.  I mean, why does bad food taste so good?”

Really?  Do you think I care?  Did you notice I had a glass of red wine in my hand?

So here are my mental replies:

  1. “Hmm, interesting.  You don’t eat that bad-ly.  You are using the word, bad, as an adverb.  You need to add an -ly.  Strunk and White have an app.”
  2. “Hmm, interesting.  What else do you think about your food?”
    “Well, it is just hard to make healthy stuff.”
    “Hmm, interesting.  Hard to make.”  I nod my head.
    “Yes.”
    “Do you have a credit card?”
    “Yes.”
    “Great.  The rest conversation is going to cost you $150 for an hour.  I have my Paypal swiper with me.”
  3. “You eat really bad?  Actually you eat BADLY, and have you ever painted a room or anything?”
    “Yes.”
    “Well, this conversation is about as interesting to me as watching that paint dry.  I am now going to put that knitting needle through my eye to divert the pain of this verbal interchange.”
  4. “Okay, I’m going to cut to the chase.  You need to ask yourself, what do you want your food to do for you?  Answer that and the rest is easy.  Excuse me.  Those folks look like they are having fun.  I’m going to join them.”

That’s my bottom line.  What is it you want your food to do?  Here’s an example:

  • I’m a person with high cholesterol.  I have a couple of teen age kids, I want to get through college and off into their own lives.  I know what I eat causes my problem.  I pay my own insurance and if I need more medication, my premiums will go up.  I need my food to lower my cholesterol and make sure I go to my kids weddings.

If this person is chowing down on the animal foods, saturated fat and little fiber, their food is NOT doing what they want it to do.  Their diet is actually supporting their next stroke and decreasing the number of meals the caterer plans for the graduation parties.

  • I’m a person wiling to risk the damage to my liver by having a martini.  I drink my martini after 5:30pm.  The point of the martini is to break the work day from the evening.

This person’s food does exactly what they want it to do.  And if they have an olive, they even get fiber.  If they have more than one martini, it may not do what they want it to do because, depending on their alcohol tolerance, they make get to tipsy and not make dinner or go to bed at a reasonable hour.  If they have 3 or 4, they may have a hangover that REALLY ruins their next day and any relationships they have with people who don’t appreciate their 3 am bad joke phone calls and texting about how their bosses really don’t understand them.

The idea is not rocket science.  It does take looking at yourself, your goals and owning what you do versus what you want.  I come in when you want to get these two – goals and daily life – to work together.  That’s where my expertise gives you strategies to make your healthy life a reality.

So looking at your life and health goals, that’s the question to ask.  And when we meet at a party, tell me a great joke and the most fun thing you have ever done.  Leave the food guilt in the car.  It will wait for you.