Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Reducing Your Environmental Footprint and Waistline: STOP USING THE DRIVE-THRU

I do not abhor the fast food industry. In fact, I use it way more than I should because of the convenience. However, the more I sit in drive-thru lines the more I start to realize how awful this “convenience” is for our environment and our health.

How much pollution is poured into the atmosphere during idle time? How much energy are we wasting by going absolutely nowhere? How easy is it for us to mindlessly eat when all we have to do is stick our arm out of the car window and demand food? I don’t know the real answers to these questions, but I am sure it is unbelievable.

Therefore, I am making a pledge to stop using the drive-thru. If I need to use a restaurant, I will make myself park and walk in. I also pledge to not eat in the car (something I was never allowed to do in my grandparent’s car as a kid). It will make me think more about what I and my family are eating as well as improve safety conditions. How often do we choose food that is “easy to consume while driving” instead of opting for a more healthy choice? I also admit that it will keep me honest; I can’t tell you how many times I have gone through the drive-thru needing an emotional pick-me-up and have then hidden it from the husband and kids. BAD, BAD, BAD!

I also want to take this time to scold all the husbands out there who sleep out in the grocery store parking lots in idling cars. GO SHOPPING WITH YOUR WIFE! It will save you gas money, improve the air, and allow you to spend quality time with the Mrs!

So, drive-thru days for me are over. What about you?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Don't Count Me Out

It has been a while since I've posted. I regularly see bloggers apologizing for having long periods of absence, but I don't want to do that. What I needed to do was regroup and figure out what my real goals were and how to best achieve them.

Therefore I have been devoting my time to a new project which feels more professional and less personal; this is really what my slightly unsocial personality needed. You can see what I've been up to at While I am not a die-hard locavore, I do enjoy promoting agriculture within my state. I LOVE KENTUCKY!

The better news, however, is that my nine-year-old daughter Eden wants to start writing for "Food, Mommy!". In all honestly this makes perfect sense. She and her brother are the one's demanding food from me and I'm sure she can offer an interesting perspective. While she would really love to have cookies and cake at every meal, she really knows that is not what is best for her. This also let's me encourage her writing skills... she is pretty darn good at it. She'll be posting very soon, and already has a schedule for drafts, revisions and publishing dates. She must get that from her engineer father.

I will still post, when something moves me. You can also find me on Pinterest now (darn that site). Follow me at Twitter: @foodmommy Facebook:

And, let us know if there is something you want us to write about. We will be glad to take requests.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Oops, I Did It Again!

Teaching Your Kids to Have Life-long Healthy Habits

It's amazing what my kid will eat. This is a
raw "Sunny Delight" squash from our garden.
This entire summer, I have made less than 10 attempts to exercise. I quit working on my push-ups and can now only do 10. I gave in to my 9-year-old daughter's constant objections to our daily exercise routine of jumping jacks and sit-ups. We planned to walk the 3 mile loop in the neighborhood nearly every evening, but several 100+ degree days put a stop to that as well. I also quit getting on the scale so I would not remind myself that I once again fell off the "work out" wagon. And I may preach a big "eat healthy most of the time" game, but I have found myself running through the drive through way too many times the last few months.

Why is it so hard for me to stick with what I know is good for me and my family? Quick answer: These are not habits I have followed my entire life.

My point here is not to blame the habits I created in childhood on my parents or grandparents, or school lunches or fast food--it may quite possibly have as much to do with how my brain is programmed--but what I do know is that I need to start creating healthy habits in my children TODAY and EVERY DAY. The more important part of this challenge for me will be sticking with it. I don't want my children thinking it's okay to "give up" on something because it is not easy.

So with renewed conviction, my kids and I will map out a plan this evening that works for our family that includes daily exercise, less convenience food and NO EXCUSES!

I would love to hear how you are working to create life-long healthy habits for your kids.  Comment here or visit me at

Tools and Resources:

Nourish Interactive - Healthy Habit Goal Tracking Sheets

American Heart Association - Help Children Develop Healthy Habits

Sesame Street - Healthy Habits for Life

Super Healthy Kids -

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Maybe I Won't Spray the Squash

This is what I found this morning in my little garden. In fact, most of the blossoms were sporting 2-4 bees. I was given a reminder of why it may not be best to spray insecticides in every situation. The cucumbers beetles are not in great numbers at the moment, so I'm just squishing the ones I find. 

I'm still not sure how my harvest will turn out, but for now I will enjoy all of  the buzzing.
The bees seem very happy!

Related Posts: Outsmarting Nature

Monday, July 9, 2012

Outsmarting Nature

Many people would like to see food production go “back to nature,” and I think that sounds like a fabulous idea. But where I live, Nature could care less if my family eats. I have tried raising backyard chickens for eggs, and vegetables in a small garden, and I have been met with challenge after challenge. My latest challenges have more than two legs.

Rest in peace, girls. :(
I’m posting this because my chicken coop has officially become a playhouse for the kids. The last of my beautiful, jumbo-egg laying hens are gone, becoming another meal for the local wildlife. I commented on an article in my local paper about urban chicken farming, saying that maybe an urban backyard may be the ideal place for raising chickens, since my woodland home has become a banquet hall for hungry predators. Someone was quick to “educate” me, telling me I needed to provide them a coop so they would roost. Thanks for the tip, but my chicken mansion had Fort Knox-like security at night. It provided not an ounce of safety, however, for my free-rangers during the day from coyotes and hawks. If I try it again, the days of go-where-you-want will not be an option for my girls. And some wonder why commercial chicken producers keep their birds in houses. Hmmm – cruelty or protecting your investment and the food supply?

Cucumber beetles. Thank you, Ric Bessin, entomologist
friend at the University of Kentucky, for the photo.
In addition to my latest chicken chapter, we also attempted a small garden. It is close enough to the house that the deer and rabbits have not been visiting, but the Cucumber beetles absolutely love the squash and cucumbers that I have provided for them. Since I do not have to rely on this garden to feed my family, I have not used any chemical pesticides. I would go out occasionally and knock them away, but didn’t discover their damage early enough. They were clipping off all the blossoms. No blossoms, no fruit. Did I mention that I also have a mysterious, volunteer gourd growing near the garden? The Cucumber beetles really like that one, too.

I obtained the vegetable seeds from Seminis, which is currently marketing a much-talked-about genetically modified hybrid sweet corn called Obsession II. I asked their marketing team recently if any of my seeds were genetically modified, and they said, “no.” I put in a request for beetle resistant squash. If that does not happen soon, and I expect to have any decent harvest, I believe I’ll have to go to chemical warfare. Maybe organic methods work in other places and growing systems, but I have yet to be successful with them. I even had a conversation with an organic farmer in Nebraska explaining that I have had no luck growing cabbage. And to my surprise she said, “That’s why we don’t grow cabbage.”

My chewed up cabbage from last year. Something enjoyed it!
Our final challenge this spring and summer has been the insects that feed on me and my animals: ticks, mosquitoes, horse flies, deer flies and chiggers, as well as the diseases they are known to carry. I've tried just about every product and method available, and the only real relief comes from dousing my kids head to toe with Deep Woods Off every trip outdoors. I can only imagine what that stuff is doing to our bodies as we breathe and soak it in. Nothing works for the horses (but our bond grows stronger every summer because they know I am pleased to provide them a good scratch or squash a juicy horse fly). I am waiting for some smart person to develop a pill or injectable medicine to keep the little bloodsuckers off our skin. 

My challenges are not unique. Our farmers face similar adversity every day, and they are using technology and better management methods to help keep nature from destroying the food supply:
  • Crop rotation and natural predators
  • Crop protection products
  • Structures for plants and animals
  • Conventionally-bred hybrids
  • Irrigation
  • Genetically modified varieties that withstand drought and pests, and allow more efficient pesticide use
  • Vaccines and antibiotics that keep animals healthy
  • Maintaining wildlife refuge areas

And I even know of a vaccine that controls horn flies on cattle ( that could significantly reduce their stress. 

Are there any of these methods that you approve of? Any you don't? Are some okay to use when maintaining a lawn or golf course, but not on food? If you do not want antibiotics used for meat animals, does that mean you would forego the same medicine for your child or pet to manage antibiotic resistance? If you don't want any trace of pesticide residues on your produce, does that mean you don't use manufactured pharmaceuticals in your own body. Are their methods you feel do more damage than good?

On one hand I appreciate technology—where would be without it? Hungry, diseased, dead?—but on the my semi-misanthropic hand, I sometimes blame technology for growing the population in the first place, thus providing us the challenge of finding, using and growing the resources to sustain weaker selves. And I understand why some blame technology for creating more challenges or environmental problems, like antibiotic resistance or reductions in beneficial insect populations.

Did I happen to mention one of these
ran 25 ft. behind me and kids on Saturday
night? I've had just about all of "nature"
that I can stand.
Some believe going back to basics (no pesticides, no manufactured fertilizers, no genetic modification, no animal confinement) will put the Earth back into a more natural balance, as "God intended." This philosophy may actually work for some farmers and gardeners. And these food producers have a pretty good base of customers and supporters in our current day. 

But is going back to the beginning really the answer? Do we sit back and pray for the best, or do we use the minds that God gave us to continually outsmart the nature He created in order to flourish?

The biggest issue I have is that some are encouraging our lawmakers and regulators to restrict the use of technology and dictate how food should be produced. Based on my experience, I don’t think there is any way we could produce enough food for our increasing population using 19th century farming methods. I also know that some technologies may need to change — or get better — to protect the Earth and future generations.

What I find as the silver lining here is that I think we can have it all – enough food for everyone, today and in the future, with less strain on our environment. I believe environmental responsibility is a value shared by all farmers, whether they are USDA certified organic, heritage seed savers, or the 3000-acre corn farmer using the latest genetically-modified variety so she does not have to spray as much pesticide or use as much fuel. I see a future of farmers working together for that common goal, and it may be as simple as a crop farmer having a conversation with his bee-keeping neighbor to manage when is the best time to spray any insecticides. But farmers must be able to choose what works best for their climate and the nature-created challenges on our changing planet. At my house, that may be GMO squash and a shotgun.

In the end, I believe that nature will continue to change, and organisms will continue to adapt. The winner will be the one that adapts the quickest. And if a manufactured technology is what it takes to prevail, I will not pass judgment. Nature is a beast, and I want to survive! 

Feel free to follow me on Facebook at or on Twitter: @foodmommy.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Friday Forward: “No Antibiotics Ever” Does Not Equate to Safer Meat

Last night I was watching my local NBC affiliate news. “You’ll want to hear what could be in your meat when we return,” caught my attention. It was a good 15 minutes before the story appeared (a tactic no doubt to get me to stay tuned – reminds me of the Saturday Night Live skit many years ago). The segment was the health reporter repackaging a story released by Consumer Reports about antibiotic use in meat and food labels. I was very unhappy with what I saw and heard, so I just had to respond. This is what I sent to the reporter:

Hi, XXXX. I appreciate all of the health info you cover, but I was a little disappointed about tonight’s “Antibiotics in meat/superbugs” story that aired tonight. I think it was very misleading (wish I could refer back, but the video is not offered online - UPDATE it is not featured on the homepage, but I'm not sharing a bad story!).

While I don’t believe anyone can discredit that routine feeding of antibiotics to animals, as well as overuse and misuse of antibiotics in humans contributes to resistance, my “take-a-way” from the story was that superbugs occurred in meat only from animals that were fed antibiotics any time in their lives. You led the viewers to believe that if they purchased meat that says “No antibiotics ever” or “Organic,” this would be a safer option.

I have talked to a local meat processor, and I learned that superbugs can be in any meat from anywhere, whether they were given antibiotics or not. But, I did not hear the Consumer Reports lady say they tested any meat and found superbugs. In fact, she didn’t say she tested meat at all. While contamination can occur, meat is routinely tested. This would have been an excellent opportunity to stress that all meat should be cooked to the recommended internal temperature. Food safety is critical. It would have also been helpful to relay that all animals must be antibiotic free when they arrive at the processor. USDA routinely checks this and removes any contaminated product they may find. In fact, they have stepped up their monitoring process.

I also noted the comment that routine antibiotics are given because of “unsanitary conditions”, another assumption. Have you ever visited a commercial poultry house? I have, and could not get over how much cleaner and less stinky it was than some more “natural” operations I have visited. (I have also now learned that routine antibiotic use is no longer industry practice - 40 years of industry experience offersopinion about antibiotic use in livestock.)

Lastly, I would like to encourage you to utilize the knowledge of our many Kentucky farmers for stories about food. Get a farmer’s perspective on why he or she may need to give antibiotics (I would be more inclined to eat a healthy animal than one that has been sick). Ask how antibiotic use has changed and how the livestock industry is addressing this issue. If you ever need help finding the farmers to talk to, I would be glad to put you in touch with them.

Here is a great post from John’s Custom Meats  – farm and meat processor in Bowling Green – that explains the issue at hand:

I hate thinking this story was a way to get people to stay tuned to the end of the broadcast. It got my attention, but I wish the story was covered from all sides. I’m afraid people will be led to believe certain meat products are safer, when in fact they are not.

Jennifer Elwell
Blog:  “Food, Mommy!”
Twitter @foodmommy

I was also able to call on Kentucky farmer and meat processor Amy of John’s Custom Meats to tell me more. She offered this:

FSIS (USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service) is revamping the residue testing program. There is a new (and more accurate...better) test available that they will be using. In addition, they are increasing the amount of testing being done.

Here's the link to the FSIS press release

Translation: This is a good thing! 
Description: new test method can test for a whole multitude of residues all from one sample. This will provide a more accurate baseline to zero in on the main problem residues. What will result from that is focusing in on the main problem areas and increasing sampling in those areas. Eventually, leading to the source of the issue or just finding there is no real issue to begin with.

NOTE: On Friday’s, I will select a topic that I feel was “forward worthy.” Find many more posts and articles I have forwarded on my Facebook Page - - or Twitter account (@foodmommy).

Speaking of encouraging news reporters to talk with farmers, I have to forward this post as well. Another farmer/blogger acquaintance Ryan Goodman has been a recent and popular fixture on CNN’s Eatocracy – No Bull: Start a Conversation with a Farmer 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Reinventing Our Plate

All of the information about portion size and what we should be eating must be sinking in, because I’ve got a new way of loading up my family’s’ plates. Vegetables and fruits take center stage while the meat, dairy, and grains play side dishes.

The sweet potato and fresh-from the garden squash and beans play the main role on this plate.
We got a few more veggies in by adding a small salad.
As I became more concerned about the nutrition in our household, I realized that we may not be getting enough of the recommended vegetable servings in our diet. I try very hard to always provide something plant-based and colorful at lunch and dinner, but I’m thinking it’s time to step it up and at least follow the USDA MyPlate suggestion: Half your plate should be fruits and vegetables. I’ve been consciously doing this for a little over a year now.

Here are a few ways that we have increased on fruit and veggie intake:

  • You can’t leave the breakfast table without having at least one fruit, but two is better. I always try to keep bananas and berries on hand. I like grapefruit and usually eat it 3 times a week. I’m not a juice person, but will drink it if I’m running behind on time.
  • Have a serving of fruit at lunch and one at dinner or for a snack. I always have 4-5 different kinds of fruit on hand depending on what is in season or on sale. Bananas and apples are always around (my husband gets very unhappy if they are not), and I will pick others depending on what is in season or on sale. Frozen fruit is great for smoothies, and canned fruit is a last resort, but I keep it in the cupboard just in case.  When buying apples, I like getting the bags of small apples. Occasionally, I can only find the large apples that are worth eating. In those cases, we share. I also keep dried cranberries or raisins around; they are a great substitute for candy.
  • Think "Veggies" at lunchtime. Load sandwiches with spinach and other vegetables like cucumbers, pickles, peppers and more. Then add a baked sweet potato or a few baby carrots instead of chips. If chips are easy, opt for corn chips and chunky salsa (limit the chips – don’t let your kids eat out of bag). I also make sure my kids finish the salsa (1/2 cup serving). You can also serve a salad as the meal with different types dark green lettuces and 2-3 other veggies or fruit.
  • At dinner, serve at least two colorful vegetables. White potatoes and sweet corn are counted as starches in my kitchen, but a better option than white bread. Sweet potatoes have become a family favorite and very easy to cook. I actually prefer to cook them in the microwave.  In fact, the microwave or steamer is my preferred way to cook most my vegetables.
  • Figure out how to add more veggies to your standard recipes. I have started adding squash, peppers and onions to my spaghetti sauce. I add a can of black beans and onion to my taco meat. Fajitas are a favorite because you can cook the meat with onions, peppers, squash and more, and then add salsa and avocado to finish. Stir-fry dishes are also easy to add lots of veggies to. Think about trying veggie-full soups. On pizza night, I limit my kids to one slice, and we add a salad or baby carrots and a fruit.

For additional tips, I found these resources at
  • Add More Vegetables to Your Day
  • Focus on Fruits
  • Smart Shopping for Veggies and Fruits
  • Liven Up Your Meals with Vegetables and Fruits
  • Kid-Friendly Veggies and Fruits

Size Matters

One thing that we all need to be careful to do as we are adding vegetables and fruits is to decrease the portions of the other foods. Taking a cue from the 250 to 400 calorie frozen meals like Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice, I serve most of our meals on a 7-inch plate or a soup bowl (daddy is excused from this). I get the bigger plates out when I want to add more veggies, but know that I don’t have to cover it entirely – keep food out of the outer rim.

For anyone who needs a visual guide to help them fill a healthier plate, there are several “portion” plates on the market:

Find your Zen when eating:
Functional and beautiful:
For the educational approach:

Last year I rated USDA’s new My Plate, and did not give it a very good review - I Give the New USDA Dietary Guidelines a C Minus - but now realize that the My Plate is a good place to start for better eating, and is best used with the store of healthy eating tips on its website:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Our Foodie Summer

Our summer has been full of food milestones:

We were asked to take part in a sweet corn taste test. The corn is a genetically-modified hybrid developed by Seminis to protect the crop from insects. It was fabulous! I'm all for reducing pesticide use if possible. 

My first homemade banana nut muffins. It was a great use of too-brown bananas.
I hate throwing away food! While the bananas were obviously not local, I used a packet of Weinsenberger Mills Biscuit Mix instead of Bisquick (which my Betty Crocker cookbook called for). Weisenberger Mills is located in Midway, Kentucky and purchases grain from many of my farmers!

We put out our first official garden. I prepared the spot with my trusty garden claw and some of my horse manure. Then we just stuck in some seeds. We planted tomatoes, cucumbers, scallop squash, carrots, and beans. The beans emerged first, followed closely by the squash and cucumbers. The cucumber beetles have really enjoyed our garden, but they seem to be gone now. Keeping the weeds out is also daily work.

This mysterious plant cropped up about two feet behind the garden in the hard clay. We are still unsure what it is. Someone suggested it may be a gourd. We will see. It's getting bigger by the day.

Our first harvest. Not enough to feed a family of four, but I did cut up the squash and add it to some spaghetti sauce. I am about ready to harvest a few cucumbers.

The wild blackberries are thick at our house. There are about 50 or more bushes on our property. I loaded the kids up with Deep Woods Off and bowls and off we went. I am amazed they have grown so well without human intervention. It has been very dry here this spring and summer, but I guess we had just enough rain.

The first of many blackberry cobblers. It was so delicious. I'm also thinking about trying my hand at blackberry preserves. For breakfast the other morning, I added them on top of a whole wheat tortilla and peanut butter. Roll it up and you've got a great on-the-go meal.

I lost all of my original laying hens to coyotes and hawks.I purchased two new hens and they did not take to the coop. We have yet to catch them, but I recently found where they were laying their eggs... in my hayloft. They are half the size of what I was getting before. I sure do miss my girls. If I try chickens again, I will have to put up a fence. So much for free-range chickens. 

Do you have any good summer food stories? 
Share them here or on Twitter - use #summerfoodfun and tag me - @foodmommy. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

My Meatless Monday: Broccoli Cheese Soup

If you’ve read my other posts, such as “Why I choose to eat meat,” you know I’m a full-fledged omnivore, and not the least bit interested in trading in my steak knife. Occasionally, however, I do think it is perfectly acceptable to have a meat-free meal as I believe in providing a variety of proteins in my family’s diet. But be forewarned: my broccoli soup is far from vegan. The dairy cow was my best friend in helping me achieve this delicious, kid-approved meal.

Finally, My Perfect Broccoli Cheese Soup

I learned to love broccoli cheese soup after having it at several restaurants. It was also a food I never had a problem getting the kids to eat. I’ve tried a few recipes, but never quite got one I loved until this one. I started with a recipe I found online, and modified it a bit after trial and error (believe me, I had lots of errors. The last time I made it, I accidently used seafood stock instead of chicken stock – my sensitive-palleted husband was not happy).

Large broccoli crown or 2 small crowns – You need about 3 cups of chopped broccoli
1 medium onion
1 large carrot
3 Tbs. butter for onion
½ stick butter for rue
½ cup wheat flour
2 cups milk & 2 cups heavy cream (or use 4 cups half and half)
4 cups of chicken stock
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese
Salt and pepper

Involve your kids! Learning to cook encourages them to try new foods.
  1. Sautee’ a medium white or yellow onion in 4 tablespoons of butter. Set aside.
  2. Chop broccoli into fine pieces (about 3 cups). Set aside.
  3. Grate a large carrot or several baby carrots. Set aside.
  4. In a stockpot, melt a stick of butter (1/2 cup) and add 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour, stirring constantly for 3-5 minutes on medium heat.
  5. Slowly add a mixture of 2 cups milk and 2 cups heavy cream while stirring.
  6. Add 4 cups of chicken stock and simmer for 20 minutes. You may need to turn up the heat a bit, but be sure to stir often.
  7. Add the broccoli, onions and carrots. Cook for 20-25 minutes.
  8. Salt to taste (my kids don’t like pepper, so I don’t use it). I also learned something from seeing the Voltaggio brothers (Top Chef) at the Incredible Food Show in Kentucky. “If something doesn’t taste quite right, you probably only need to add salt or sugar.”
  9. Add 1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese and 1 cup of Monterey Jack cheese, and stir until melted.
  10. Serve with your favorite bread, another serving of veggies, and fruit for dessert.

Friday, March 30, 2012

What Does Healthy Look Like?

Today was the moment of truth. I gave myself until the end of the month to be able to complete 25 real push-ups simultaneously, AND I DID IT! My arms felt like they were going to fall off, but I did it, and I am so proud of myself. I am now wondering what my next little fitness goal should be – run the distance between the house and bus stop and back in under 8 minutes, or run two miles on the treadmill in 20 minutes or less. Honestly, I need to work on my flexibility – I’ve never been very flexible, and it seems to be getting worse as I age. So maybe I will try to fit yoga into my routine a couple days a week so I can touch my knees with my forehead.

This entire period of goal setting and exercising with the kids encouraged me to pose this question: What does “HEALTHY” look like? I know that I am medically “defined” as being overweight – 10 pounds shy of being at the high end of an optimum BMI – but does that mean that I am unhealthy? I am hoping not.

Instead of going by physical aptitude, physicians’ tests, and the like, most people today tend to dole out the “healthy” adjective to those that look a certain way. She will hate me for doing this, but the photo is of my little sister two years ago when she was competing in a Natural Physique Council bikini contest. Yep, she looks healthy to me! I could be envious and say that I was duped out of getting those good genes, but I know she worked really hard to look that way. She also has a degree in health and fitness and is a certified personal trainer. The interesting thing about her journey to that awesome body is that she said she would never tell a client to eat the way she did for good health. Food choices are very limited. She ate plenty, but her diet was not varied at all. And you should see what all the competitors ate the day of the competition…SUGAR, SUGAR, and more SUGAR.

It was not that long ago – it must have been before the rise of the supermodel – when somebody was referred to as “healthy” it meant they had some meat and fluff on their bones. Parents were worried if their kids were getting enough to eat, and having a little extra in the middle and on their cheeks was a sign of getting plenty. But where is the line between healthy and unhealthy? Can we really tell by “looking at a person?”

I try to remind myself on a regular basis when talking with my child that I need to focus on fitness and quality of diet - not what they look like or the numbers on the scale - but it has been a real struggle for me worrying about how they will be perceived by others.

I was shocked at my kid’s last checkup when my pediatrician called attention to my 3-year-old son’s numbers – he is in the 75th percentile for height and 85th for weight. “I don’t really worry about those things at this age, but we may look at it in the future,” she said. Really? LOOK AT HIM! He is solid as a rock and extremely healthy! So now I’m thinking all this number business needs to be thrown out the window as well. BMI, ideal weight, muscle mass, body fat percentage, waist to hip ratio? What is the real determination of “healthy?” We are unique individuals, and what is healthy for one, may not be healthy for another.

When I was in high school (late 80s/early 90s), I remember hearing a commercial on the radio for a weight loss product while I was riding with other students to a Quick Recall meet. The commercial was a conversation between two teenage girls who were making fun of another girl who weighed 150 pounds. I remember feeling like a complete loser, because I weighed about 160 at the time. “Do they think I weigh that much,” I fretted? “I’ll just have to lie if someone asks me how much I weigh.” And thus the reason why most men think any woman, who is “trim,” no matter how tall she is, weighs 120 pounds or less. WE’VE BEEN LIEING ABOUT OUR WEIGHTS FOR YEARS! I would be thrilled to be 150, or even 160 again, and I know I would look pretty darn good!

I always find myself comparing myself to the Biggest Loser contestants. "I weigh that much, and look nothing like that." "They must be much shorter than I am." "Honey, do I look like that?" Finally, I told myself to get over it. We have a wide-screen TV.

My new philosophy is that “healthy” is a feeling, and right now I’m feeling pretty healthy. Will it make me live longer? I don’t know, but at least I’ll be happier than if I was constantly worrying if my dress or pant size makes me an adequate human being. I hope to instill this in my kids as well.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Things We Like Thursday: Fuji Apples

Of all the produce I buy, I think most of my money goes to apples. Unfortunately, we are pretty picky about them, and our favorite - the Fuji - is among the most pricey.

We love them because they are crisp, super sweet and rarely mealy (nothing ruins my day more than biting into and then throwing away a mealy apple). I have noticed, however, that late summer is not a good time to buy them... grocery stores are trying to move the previous year's harvest, and they may not be the best quality. My suggestion is to try to buy apples from a local orchard at this time of the year.

Learn more about the Fuji apple.

Having been to a local orchard and talking with apple growers, I know it is tough to get the nice looking apples that we enjoy. Last month, I talked with a friend who grew up on a apple orchard in Ohio. You can view the interview below.

So what is your favorite type of apple?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

First Inspiration

While I am not at all a fan of politics or expressing which party I hang my hat, I am a fan of the First Lady’s efforts to improve the health of this country. In fact she has inspired me to do two things:

1) Push-ups

I did not see the show, but I saw the coverage of the push-up contest between Ellen DeGeneres and Mrs. Obama. Michelle was able to complete 25 push-ups – real ones – live on the show. I can do 25 sissy push-ups fairly easily, but I admit I have not attempted many of the other lately. I worked on it in my college days, and I think I got up to about 10. The challenge is ON for me to get to 25. After about a week of working, I can do 15 (some of the time). I hope to be at my goal by the end of the month. I also expect to keep it up throughout my life. I just hate hearing my back crack and pop at every attempt. I am sure it will get better, though.

2) Scheduling Joint Exercise Times with the Kids

I finally came to the realization that if I want my children to exercise regularly, I am going to have to do it with them. If I’m stuck in my office working, they aren’t going to be beating down my door wanting to run and play; they sit and play in front of the TV. This week we came up with a regular exercise routine and will also schedule time for “fun” activity several days a week. Our goal is to complete 300 jumping jacks, 30 squats, 30 push-ups (girly-ones count for now) and 30 sit-ups before the end of the day. We have also been working on completing the half-mile round trip between our home and the stop sign down the road. The hills make it quite a bit of a challenge. Playing tag, jumping rope, and riding the horses have also made the list of things to do more often. Unfortunately, my schedule and rising gas prices are going to make getting involved in organized sports somewhat difficult, so we will be happy with activities we can all enjoy.

I am looking forward to these challenges, and making plans is something my daughter enjoys (must be those engineer genes my husband gave her). If we stick with it, I definitely expect a healthier and happier family on the horizon.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Things We Like Thursday: Green Juice

I always worry that someone will think I am being paid to endorse a product, but that is never the case. I do however want to give a shout out to our favorite things in this household. Who knows, you may discover something you have never tried before.

This first "Things We Like" post goes to green juice, at least that is what my kids call it. Naked's Green Machine looks terrible and smells weird, but it tastes wonderful. It is an awesome way to get some fruit and green veggies into your child's diet. I do admit that it is a little on the pricey side, but I'm a believer in paying for nutritional content.

Check it out at

Bolthouse Farms makes a similar product - Green Goodness - and usually one or the other is on sale.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Chickens are NOT Vegetarians

It’s amazing what will get me riled up enough to take time out of my job and mommy duties to rant. This week it was the newest commercial from my favorite chicken company (that’s sarcasm by the way). I do have friends in chicken, so I won’t name them specifically, but I’m sure if you’ve been watching TV lately, you know who I’m talking about.

The latest marketing tactic is to tell us that their birds are fed an all vegetarian diet – no animal byproducts or bone meal. This is on top of their previously used tactics to tell me that their chickens will never be given hormones or steroids and they are raised cage-free, facts in which all chickens destined for meat can claim.

Why does this make me mad? Because chickens are not vegetarians, nor do I think they want to be! I know this because I watch my chickens on a regular basis. They scratch up any little critter that they can find and devour them lightning fast. While they share corn and greens, they fight over bugs and worms. They are also a bit on the cannibalistic side, having eaten on each other in their younger days. And you won’t believe the frenzy that ensues when one of their eggs crack. It is gobbled up lickety split. The last time I threw a cracked egg out of the coop, I saw one hen grab the shell, and the others chased her around the yard for at least 10 minutes. I wish I had my video camera.

I guess I’m having a hard time believing that a consumer of meat worries about whether or not the animal’s diet was vegetarian or not. I get that a vegetarian pet owner may want their dog to eat a meat-free meal, but a chicken?

I remember one of my first days at the University of Kentucky in Animal Science 101. Dr. Ely asked the class, “If a horse, a cow, a sheep, a pig, and a chicken were enclosed within an acre of land with no other food than what was provided on that land, which would survive the longest?” It was a pretty easy guess that it was the chicken. They can eat anything and everything. I expect that even the corpses of the other animals and the resulting insect banquet would be fair game. The chicken, like many other species that are easy “survivors” are opportunistic consumers. Much like us, they eat what they can find.

I have no problem with my food animals being supplemented with disease-free animal byproducts. In fact, I think it is a pretty good use of resources. I know for a fact that most any intensive animal operation looks at animal nutrition as a top priority, and if bone meal is a good way to add adequate calcium in diets, I think it should be used. I believe the same for protein and fat. In the real world, most animals let nothing go to waste. They eat the bones and the guts. Heck, my chickens even eat poop. This is definitely not a case of the chickens thinking animal byproducts taste bad.

The “what effect does this have on me” scenario in my opinion is not that we are getting “better” meat, but it’s going to cost you more because they need to find higher-priced nutritional supplements. So I say, “Let them eat guts.” I know they enjoy them.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Making Food Decisions Built on Trust

I remind myself everyday how lucky I am to work for farmers. The world of agriculture is like a family to me, and I have built some very strong relationships within my state and across the nation. The exciting part is that my family continues to grow.

For the past year, I have been witness and huge nurturer of a sprouting seed called CommonGround. Farm moms and women are becoming empowered to talk about life on their farms and how they are working to raise safe, nutritious, ethical and environmentally-responsible food. And for the first time in my career, I am working with young, vibrant ladies who represent all facets of food production!

From Shana Beattie who raises corn, soybeans, alfalfa hay, beef cattle, 8 million pounds of pork and her four children alongside her husband on a 100+ year old farm in Nebraska to Mary Courtney, who raises vegetables for local customers through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program in Kentucky. She and her husband bought a new farm and are working to support their two young children with one on the way. Linda grows organic produce and crops to enable a livable return on their small farm and Ashley farms several thousand acres of grain in which her family is able to support 14 families by providing jobs in their community. Did I mention they voluntarily participate in an environmental certification program? The best part is that they all support each other.

Katie (right) and her husband raise turkeys for
Subway. How cool is that?
As a mom of two, I embrace the concept of CommonGround: being able to have a conversation with my peers. I have learned so much by listening to these ladies, and I feel better than ever about making a trip to the grocery store. I also know that I want to support local farmers like the Courtney’s, because I have a connection with them, and I know that getting produce closer to the source tastes better. And… wait for it… I no longer look at organic food as some evil marketing scheme trying to dupe me out of my money. It takes a lot of work to comply with certification standards, and a farmer willing to do that should be paid more for his or her labors.

There is room on my table and in my refrigerator for it all, and I can feel good about what I am feeding my family. I have developed trust in my farmers because they are willing to be open with me about why they choose to grow my food in the manner that they do. They are also willing to listen to my concerns and tell me if they can do better. That is meeting on CommonGround, and I am proud to support the movement.

My plea to my readers is that the next time you hear of a food issue in the news or from a fellow friend who may not get their knowledge first hand, seek out one of these fabulous ladies and just ask. You can find them at Bookmark it! You can also find many of my farmer friend's blogs by clicking on the tab at the top.

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Don't Get Frustrated, Get Creative!

It doesn't happen all that often, but my now three-year-old threw a fit this evening because he did not want to eat his dinner. Even though I have fixed taco salad many times before, and he has been more than happy to eat, this time he decided that he did not like the way it looked.

He thought he could get away with just hoarding some corn chips, but I quickly told him that he was not going to eat chips alone. The whining and crying was getting him nowhere, and I finally told him that if he was going to continue, he was not going to sit at the dinner table. The rest of us needed to eat in peace.

After I finished my dinner, I put my thinking cap on and tried something else: a deconstructed taco salad.

Do you want a little bit of cheese? Open up like a little birdy. Down went some cheese.

How about some lettuce? He thought eating big pieces of lettuce was really fun.

Now what about some hamburger? It was turkey burger with black beans, but he was happy with "hamburger." He ate several bites.

I rewarded him with an apple cut up in slices (he never refuses fruit). And then he asked for a couple chips with salsa.

So even though he did not eat taco salad, his belly had taco salad, the dinner that I made for everyone.

Yay, me! Good boy, Lane.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Spoiled and Lazy?

You may think I will be posting about my children, but even though they are spoiled and lazy at times, today I’m thinking about the state of our food industry and our role in creating what it has become. I do believe our food system is a result of us wanting more convenience, and the industry responds. But is it all bad?

It has been one of those extra special weeks at my household. I’m working more hours getting ready for a number of upcoming meetings and events, so the meals available to my family have suffered due to a lack of time. Sunday we had Tuna Helper with added broccoli (dinner in less than 15 minutes). Monday was Taco Bell between trips to office supply stores and the copy shop, Tuesday was soup from a can or whatever else you can find that night which was a medley of cereal, apples, peanut butter and milk, and Wednesday I visited the local Chinese takeout. I better stop now before it gets worse.

But I have come to the realization that even though I have wonderful intentions of providing my family good food, I am exactly the mom our food industry is catering to: one with never enough time on her hands. I am grateful to have these options, but try to be careful not to be sucked into the deep chasm of ready-made meals every evening.

Why, you may ask? There are fewer ingredients, and I want my kids to learn to appreciate raw, unadulterated food. What I don’t want to do, however, is look a gift horse in the mouth. Fast food and pop-in-the-microwave meals may not be best, but I am so glad to have them when I need them on occasion. It’s when these options are abused, the “cheap food is making us fat” complainers definitely get fuel added to their fire.

I recently watched a couple episodes of “Half-Ton Teen.” It was quite apparent that those children were victims of their mamas letting them eat whatever they wanted, most of which came pre-packaged or from a drive-thru. Who is to blame, here: the mamas, the kids, or the industry?

The most compelling argument blaming the industry is that unhealthy food is cheaper. While the price of whole food ingredients may seem formidable to someone trying to feed their family on a budget, I have to disagree that the frozen pizza for $5 or less is “cheaper” than the meals I can cook with a meat and a few vegetables. You have to get creative and opt for the least processed foods (because you pay for that) but it can be done. I would also encourage everyone to look beyond the cost per food volume or cost per calories; figure your cost per nutrients.

The real reason fast food is compelling to most of us moms is because it’s EASY.

I’m afraid I’m digging a big “do what I say, not what I do” hole here, because this week I needed “easy.” My daughter is loving it right now and is quick to suggest, “Let’s just go get a pizza,” when I start wondering how I’m going to get dinner made before 8 p.m. I may cave 10% of the time, but try to balance it out by allowing only one piece paired with some raw fruits and veggies, which are also easy.

The absolute best food marketing campaign of 2011 was for Cutie mandarin oranges. They didn’t try to sell the fact that their product was a better option than a cookie, but they said their product was easy for a kid to peel and eat. I was sold… I’ve bought about 3 bags of them this winter, and they don’t stay in the refrigerator long at all.

In the end, I guess I’m trying to say it’s okay to be spoiled and lazy some of the time and it’s okay to rejoice the food industry that has allowed it to become easy to do so. I also want to stress that you will never hear me complain about having access to cheap, easy food. BUT, just remember to treat it as a special gift when the going gets tough, or your kids won’t let you get back to the meals that you know are best.
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