Written by Robyn O’Brien
I was not always good about following directions. I was way too curious. So during my early attempts at cooking as a kid, when anyone would put a recipe in front of me, all I could see were “rules.” The boundaries telling me to do “do it this way”, “do it that way”, too much, too little. Those rules didn’t seem to allow for much deviation.
So my tendency was to opt out of cooking, which I did for a very long time until we hit some bumps along the road in the health of our children. I then realized that I was going to have to set a new rule for myself if I were going to attempt anything in the kitchen: Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.
In the years since, I have had to lean on this rule a lot, especially in the kitchen. I was known to burn beans, noodles and pancakes, so those insecurities lingered, and I wasn’t too sure I was going to be able to create much of anything. And as I got started, while I tried to follow the rules in recipes, I found it far less intimidating to get creative.
So today, when a friend asks for “a recipe”, I reflect back on how much we can learn, at any age, and how, if you think about it, we have the ability to become the best version of ourselves that we can be.
Did I ever think I’d be sharing recipes? Not at all. I hardly trusted myself to hit 2:00 START on a microwave without burning something, but life’s lessons can be sweet, especially in the kitchen, so here’s that recipe (and the different ways we made it listed in the options below). It’s been a favorite, and it incorporates foods that are good for balancing blood sugar levels, full of vitamins and minerals and full of antioxidants and health benefits.
But better than that, it just tastes good.
Sweet Summer Salad
Heat oven to 400°. Bake potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes; gently peel off skins (you can do this with your fingers as they cool). Cube potatoes.
For dressing, in a bowl (though in all honesty, I mix dressings in water bottle canteens), mix lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper.
In another bowl, mix potatoes, beans, onions and pumpkin seeds; add dressing and toss.
Chill in the fridge if you have the time for about an hour then serve over the greens…or not. We love it absolutely plain.
And if you have some ideas of ways you want to change it, add to it, we’d love to hear them.
Written By Jen Maidenberg for AllergyKids
When my son was diagnosed with nut allergies at age two, I was sure my life as a mother would never be the same. Almost eight years later, I can’t even remember the ceramic tiled world I was so afraid to drop him on. The world peppered with choking hazards, and poisonous household chemicals. That world – the one that was dangerous enough already – practically disappeared as soon as food became lethal, and now that my son is almost 10, I can almost laugh at what used to keep me up at night before I had nightmares about food.
I felt so desperately alone in the beginning – excommunicated in an instant from parties and playdates dressed in goldfish crackers and populated by filthy hands. Those interactions would never be a gift to me; they would always be a burden. I also didn’t jump with joy, like the other moms I knew, the first time my son was invited to a drop off birthday party. In fact, I spent the next three years as the mom you could count on to stay behind to help (aka hover), while the others ran errands without a thought in the world.
I miss those days.
Little did I know then that those would be the glory days of parenting a child with food allergies. I remember with fondness when I used to fill out detailed forms, and sign up for meetings with principals eager to know every single last detail about my son’s condition. I sigh with longing when I think about the nut-free preschool I sent him to; the school where he was one of at least ten kids with food allergies. I dream about the nut free camp my son went to for three summers, the one where he could eat anything on the menu and the nurse was especially trained in epi-pen administration. I remember when the convenience store was a place my child had never heard of, and the only cash he handled came inside birthday cards and when straight to his piggy bank.
I miss the days when I thought I was in control.
Now, my son runs around our tight knit community in Israel, with a pack of other kids his age. Kids with credit accounts at the convenience store so they can buy snacks after school. Kids who don’t have to read the ingredients on the candy bar labels, and never do.
Now my son earns money for chores and uses that money to buy candy, the labels of which he is responsible to read on his own. Now my son goes to birthday parties and field trips without me. Now, he is the one who surreptitiously scopes the scene to see whose filthy hands he needs to steer clear from; which of his friends have packed weapons masquerading as snack packs.
Now my son carries his Benadryl and his epi-pen twin pack on him wherever he goes. He has been trained how to inject himself in the thigh, with that tight fist (the one we hope and pray we will never have to make) and hold for ten seconds.
Now, I hold my breath and wait for him to come home.
I could blame this new generation anxiety of mine on our move to Israel last year, and sometimes I do. Sometimes I wish we had stayed in what I now know was our “food allergy aware bubble” of suburban New Jersey. (I am careful to make a distinction between “aware,” mind you, and sensitive). Sometimes I wish I could return to that imaginary place, the one I thought was safer than the place I live now.
And then there are days when I meditate on the path my son would have taken had we stayed in NJ. I think of the local tweens and teens who used to gather after school on the main street of our small town; who popped into the bagel store or the Dunkin Donuts for an afterschool treat. I think of sleepover parties and overnight camp and all the other normal childhood milestones I would have wanted him to experience. Would it have been much different if we stayed in New Jersey? Would he have gone to a nut-free junior high? No. Would there have been a nurse accompanying the traveling soccer team? I don’t think so.
If we were living in New Jersey now, I imagine this still would have been the year: The year I decided not to hold my breath for the rest of my life.
The year I grudgingly understood I couldn’t protect him forever. The year I reluctantly accepted that this was the world and I, or rather he, better be prepared to live in it. Not carefully walk around it, but live in it.
We aren’t handed a manual along with our newborns, and we certainly aren’t offered a contract to sign; one with guidelines and guarantees. If we were offered a contract, a preview into the future, how many of us would sign?
Ironically, what many mothers are offered as we prepare for birth, are techniques for how to breathe through the pain of labor. It is the breath that allows us to face our fears. Breathing deep and down into our backs and our bellies, maximizing our oxygen intake and reminding our internal operating systems to relax. And exhaling softly and slowly, reminding ourselves we are safe.
No, there are no guidelines and there are no guarantees. And the parental control we think we have is an illusion that lasts only so long.
But I will always have the breath. And from now until the end of time, I imagine I will breathe deep into my belly when my son walks out the door; hold it; and exhale softly and slowly when he returns to me once again. Safe.
Jen Maidenberg is a writer and mom to three kids, two with food allergies and one (sigh with relief) allergy-free, so far. More of her writings can be found at www.jenmaidenberg.com
One of the most compelling promises that the agricultural and biotech industries use to justify the need for their food science and the genetic engineering of crops is that this new technology and the ingredients it creates have the potential to feed the world.
Who can argue with that?
But according to Business Week, it turns out that “after millennia when the biggest food-related threat to humanity was the risk of having too little, the 21st century is one where the fear is having too much”.
Can you imagine? What if the chemical industry is busy manufacturing demand, using scare tactics, to get us to believe that we need their genetically engineered, chemically dependent products in order to fend off mass starvation? When in all actuality, we have mass produced their corn and soy to such an extent that a global obesity epidemic has resulted and food waste beyond anyone’s wildest imagination?
It turns out that just might be the case.
According to Business Week, “the issue isn’t so much that we can’t grow enough. Rather, existing food supplies are so poorly distributed that those hundreds of millions have too little for their own health, while 2 billion-plus have too much.” On top of that, a third of food is wasted worldwide, spoiled and thrown out before it even reaches consumers.
We are wasting enough food every day here in America to feed the hungry. And while much focus has been on the obesity epidemic, it is becoming increasingly hard to ignore the fact that with advertisements and food access available 24/7, we’ve got more food than we know what to do with.
One of the most insightful disclosures of just how bad this food waste and excess of commodity crops has gotten is documented in the movie, Dive! The Film, a film made with Jeremy Seifert and Josh Kunau, that highlights exactly what goes into dumpsters in America. And it is shocking what we throw away.
This 45-minute documentary follows Seifert and his friends as they explore the alleys and backstreets of America’s grocery stores in search of good food tossed away because of overly cautious expiration dates. These guys don’t mess around. They suit right up in their bathing suits and dive right in…to America’s dumpsters, and turn up some of the most amazing information.
Americans throw away 96 billion pounds of food every year, or 27 percent of the total amount of available food. That’s 3,000 pounds of food a second.
But it’s not just us tossing those PB&J crusts out, the main line of food waste tends to be coming out the back end of the grocery stores. And the film shows that a frightening amount ends up being tossed by grocery stores before it can be purchased by consumers.
Now that’s good news for the food industry, as it creates a constant state of demand for their products.
But what if we were to figure out a better business model, designed to deliver all of the food we need without wasting over a quarter of it? What if our taxpayer dollars were used to build a distribution model to get this food to people who need it, like the 1 in 4 American children at-risk for hunger, rather than on farm subsidies which are arguably contributing to this mounting waste?
With the Farm Bill hitting the Senate floor this week, we have an opportunity to actually build a better food system, one that creates less waste and more nutrient-dense foods. Wouldn’t that be in the best interest in the health of our families, our corporations, our economy and our country?
Cleaning up the food supply is messy business, but it can also be a lot of fun. If you are interested in learning more, please visit: http://divethefilm.com/
Prevention through education is worth more than cure
In 1991, two months after we lost our only child, Colette, age 5, to a cancer, we later proved could have been prevented, Al Meyerhoff and Lawrie Mott, both senior attorney and senior scientist with the San Francisco office of the the Natural Resources Defense Council, published a startling article entitled, ‘What Would the World Be to Us, If the Children Were No More.
Longfellow’s cautionary note and their research soon became the enigmatic flame which fueled a major grassroots effort to stop pollution at its core. This movement spurned thousands if not hundreds of thousands of parents to awaken to the larger issue of human rights and the violations of corporations who are blatantly committing environmental child abuse.
Two decades ago, the rescue remedies for proving invisible dangers in a child’s fragile world fell short and added fuel to the perpetrators who ignored the hazards and went on committing even more crimes by releasing more chemicals without any restrictions.
Science was emerging and proved that children were more vulnerable to toxins in the environment but industry with their powerful corporate gut and gateway to the powers that be were able to slide a slippery deck of cards, load all the bases, and cavort with those who wanted bigger and bigger bucks.
Abusive, corrosive and mindless thinking led vested interests to eventually sway state and federal government into a war not against the real perpetrator, cancer, but chemicals themselves. And today as we reawaken to statistics found in 1991 in Meyerhoff and Mott’s article, we are faced with even more abuse from toxicity.
Over 80,000 chemicals continue to leave their pervasive trails in our air water and food supplies.
In 2010, New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof warned readers that “some cancers are becoming more common, particularly in children. We don’t know why that is,” he continued, “but the proliferation of chemicals in water, foods, air and household products is widely suspected as a factor.” Kristof drew his support for this statement from the President’s Cancer Panel, which he called “the Mount Everest of the medical mainstream.”
When this article was published and the findings of the two-member panel and their conclusions were released it provoked a tremendous backlash from the American Cancer Society.
Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, professor of pediatrics at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and chairman of the school’s department of preventive medicine contributed to the hearings having summarized his findings.
“While mortality from childhood cancer has gone sharply down, incidence rates are increasing. There has been a 55% increase from 1975 to 2005 in the incidence of leukemia in 0 to 14-year-olds and an 81% increase for acute lymphocytic leukemia — the most common type of leukemia. …The explanation for this increase may be due in part to better diagnostics, but this alone does not account for the continued inexorable rise. Serious consideration must be given to the possibility that environmental factors are involved.”
Twenty two years have passed since my husband and I founded Healthy Child Healthy World in our daughter’s memory. We knew from the day we lost her that finding cures for pediatric cancers would take vast amounts of money, billions of dollars of research, all vested in a hope for survival.
But in the end we decided that prevention through education was the cure. Giving parents tools to prevent exposure to dangerous chemicals in home and school environments would safeguard their children and help to preserve their sanity as parents.
Chemicals know no boundaries. Unleashed into the environment they are the silent killers of today’s children and the genetic mutations they cause are the killers of generations to come.
Humankind must acknowledge that the only hope we have for true survival as a species is the instinctive need is to help, support and protect our children.
If we continue to permit hazardous substances that pose invisible dangers to ourselves and our families that negligence and failure to respond goes beyond, in my opinion, an unwitting form of child abuse… it will lead to the extinction of innocent lives and the loss of joyous memories never to be shared and cherished. Worse the intoxication of corporate greed for the benefit of so few, so few who live to witness that power and wealth just like chemicals have no boundaries but claim it’s victims one at a time.
LuxEcoLiving Editor’s Notes:
You can read more about Nancy’s journey in her manuscript, The Flower That Shattered The Stone.
Written by Robyn O’Brien and originally seen on Prevention.com
Last week, the Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center (CEHC) released a list of the top ten toxic chemicals suspected to cause autism and learning disabilities.
This list can’t come soon enough, as last month, the CDC reported that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) now affects 1 of every 88 American children – a 23% increase from 2006 and a 78% increase from 2002.
And while there is controversy over how those numbers are reached, it still is worth repeating. There has been a 78% increase in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in the last ten years. At the same time, the CDC also reported that ADHD now affects 14% of American children.
As these disorders continue to affect more children across the U.S., researchers are asking what is causing these dramatic increases. Some of the explanation is greater awareness and more accurate diagnosis. But clearly, there is more to the story than simply genetics, as the increases are far too rapid to be of purely genetic origin.
According to the Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center (CEHC) release this morning and data from the research article, “Environmental Pollutants and Disease in American Children (July 2002), “the National Academy of Sciences reports that 3% of all neurobehavioral disorders in children are caused directly by toxic exposure in the environment and another 25% disorders are caused by interactions between environmental factors and genetics. But the precise environmental causes are not yet known”. (Note: the first version of this article included a link to the National Academy of Sciences study from 2000 and has been updated to include a link to the July 2002 study).
So while industry can claim that there is little evidence that these chemicals in isolation or in combination (which doctors now refer to as “synergistic toxicity”) cause autism, the truth is that there is still very little evidence or the toxicological safety studies. In other words, there is a gap in the science.
There is a huge gap. According to CNN, the EPA has tested only about 200 of the 80,000 chemicals in use.
But thankfully, that is changing with the work of the team at Mt. Sinai and the extraordinary leadership, courage and intellect of Dr. Phil Landrigan and the urgent call by experts to reform chemical laws.
To guide a research strategy to discover potentially preventable environmental causes and to arm parents and those hoping to be parents with knowledge, the Children’s Environmental Health Center (CEHC) has developed a list of ten chemicals found in consumer products that are suspected to contribute to autism and learning disabilities.
This list was published today in Environmental Health Perspectives in an editorial written by Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, director of the CEHC, Dr. Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), and Dr. Luca Lambertini, also of the CEHC.
The top ten chemicals are:
- Organophosphate pesticides
- Organochlorine pesticides
- Endocrine disruptors
- Automotive exhaust
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
- Brominated flame retardants
- Perfluorinated compounds
As the Children’s Environmental Health Center shares, the editorial was published alongside four other papers — each suggesting a link between toxic chemicals and autism. Both the editorial and the papers originated at a conference hosted by CEHC in December 2010.
The first paper, written by a team at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, found preliminary evidence linking smoking during pregnancy to Asperger’s disorder and other forms of high-functioning autism. The next two papers, written by researchers at the University of California – Davis, show that PCBs disrupt early brain development. The final paper, also by a team at UC – Davis, suggests further exploring the link between pesticide exposure and autism.
Ultimately, all five papers call for increased research to identify the possible environmental causes of autism in America’s children.
This importance of this call to action can not be emphasized enough, because while our children may only represent 30% of our population, they are 100% of our future and we need to protect them like our country depends on it. Because it does.
So what can you do to protect the health of your children? Thankfully, a lot. And while none of us can do everything, all of us can do something, so choose one, some or all from the list below:
- Eat organic food whenever possible to reduce exposure to synthetic pesticides which by law are not allowed for use in its production
- Open your windows to clear the air in your home from the toxins that can accumulate there
- Take your shoes off as you come inside to keep pesticides on the soles of your shoes from entering your home
- Look for cans and plastic bottles that are “BPA-free”