Monday, November 19, 2012

Health and Nutrition

This semester we studied nutrition.  We have been focused on nutrition for quite awhile, ever since I read the book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which changed my life in so many unexpected ways.  I truly believe that each step we take leads us in a certain direction.  Because I was already on a path towards local grown, organic, non-GMO eating, dealing with Lilah’s food sensitivities to wheat, dairy and egg was not as hard as I thought it would be.  

The girls and I watched every episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.  We learned about pink slime, about sugar content in food and drink, and how hard it is to change a system, especially a government run system.  We were shocked that some children could not recognize and apple or a piece of broccoli.  We were not shocked at the average school cafeteria since my girls have vivid memories of theirs and most of those memories are unpleasant.
Jamie Oliver caused me to reflect on how I can improve my own relationship with food and how I prepare food for my family.  I love how he refers to the kitchen table as the family alter.  It should be a space that is revered for how gathers us together for the purpose of sharing healthy, delicious food.  It should not be filled with clutter, mail, odds and ends plus a few carelessly strewn coats.  It should be beautiful.  It should be a place you want to come to.  My table can easily become a dumping ground for textbooks, pens, mail, hole punches, etc.  Now I make a conscious effort to keep it covered with a beautiful tablecloth, accented by a centerpiece.  It really does make a difference.
We visited the Peabody Museum to view the Big Food exhibit that is currently on display.  There we learned about food deserts (a term we also came to understand while listening to Don’t Eat This Book), we learned what 5lbs of fat looks like, and how much sugar is really in many drinks.  Now they understand why I don’t let them have chocolate milk! Lilah realized how adept she is becoming at reading labels and understanding ingredients.  Grace reflected on how the display asking visitors to vote on food choices is exactly what we do when we vote with our dollars.  I loved it when she said to me,”Mom, this is all about what we have been learning!”
We completed an 8 hour audiobook, Morgan Spurlock’s Don’t Eat This Book.  It is ironic since I turned off the documentary Super Size Me when the F-bomb was said but this audiobook is peppered with some pretty colorful language (and yes, the F-bomb makes one appearance....why Morgan?  Why?)  However, what we learned from listening to this book offset the swear words that they already knew and thankfully do not use!  We skipped the chapter on food lobbyists.  It was too technical and while very interesting to me because I get sick over the incestuous relationship between big food/chemical and the USDA, my girls did not share in my enthusiasm.  We also skimmed over how the McDiet  negatively affected Morgan’s sex life.  TMI for the girls!  Every single time we listened to this audiobook one of us stopped the cd and commented that we learned something new. The discussions that came from this audiobook were lively, maddening, intellectual and memorable.
We also viewed Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, another documentary that hits home the importance of using food to cure your ills.  The movie’s creator, Joe Cross, lost a stunning amount of weight juicing for 60 days and in the process was able to reverse a severe autoimmune disease to the point that the symptoms disappeared!  Our family juices regularly, not as a meal replacement but as an additional way to get lots of fruit and veggies into our bodies on a daily basis.  After watching this my girls, especially Grace, enjoy juicing more.  Grace is even learning how to use the juicer to make yummy juice for the family to enjoy.  So far her favorite is carrot, apple, celery, lemon with a tiny bit of ginger.
I feel we will always be learning more about food, herbs, and natural self-care.  It feels almost silly to call this a “semester’s worth of learning” but since I am now keeping a transcript of Grace’s 7th grade year (which you can download from this amazing resource), I am quantifying this as a semester.  Our course description:
“Student will learn the role nutrition has in sustaining a healthy body and mind.  Food selection, and food preparation will be required.  Student will learn how to determine nutritional content of food prepared.  Instruction addresses nutrition from the perspective of food habits and wellness, menu planning, special dietary needs, foods costs, food-buying strategies, food safety and sanitation procedures, food labeling, and preparation practices.   Student will learn this through documentaries, docu-dramas, museum exhibits, texts: The Juicing Bible, Pat Crocker and The World’s Healthiest Foods: The Essential Guide for the healthiest way of eating, George Mateljan.”

Demonstration of knowledge assessed by: 
  • Execution of product (meal, snack, juice, dessert) that is not only edible and nutritious, but marketable!
  • Ability to prepare a balanced meal for family of four.
  • Verbal communication with adults who are well versed in topic.
  • Not only being able to quantify reasons why certain food are nutritious but also being able to make an effective argument why certain foods should be rarely, if ever consumed.  

It took us 8+ hours to listen to the audiobook due to the numerous discussions we had mid-chapter.  Jamie Oliver’s series was 12 episodes at 44min each totaling almost 9 hours.  Fat Sick and Nearly Dead 97 min.  Big Food exhibit 3 hours.  “Lab/Kitchen do you quantify that?  I am going to put 1/2 hour a day x 5 x 16 weeks = 40 hours.  54 hours.  15 hours of in class seat time usually equals one per credit hour.  45 hours of seat time would be typical of a  3 credit hour class.  I am going to count this as 3 credits.
What really intrigued us was a commonality that each documentary/book had.....the effect of advertising on family purchases, especially those influenced by children.  We learned that marketing departments coined the phrase “whine factor” and know exactly how long on average it takes for a child to whine before the parent gives in.  This is why most products that are marketed to children are placed at the cart level -- right where the riding child can see.  My girls want to go to the supermarket and observe this in action.  They want to diagram the store to show that the healthy whole food is on the perimeter and the packaged, processed, shelf stable preservative-laden food is in the middle.  
I am wondering if this could lead into a study of advertising/marketing........


Jen @ Forever, For Always... said...

You know how much I love this topic! I watched Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead with my oldest, really interesting story. Have you guys watch Weight of a Nation? It is an HBO documentary that is available on youtube - no "F" bombs!! Why must they do that??!! I love how you have turned something you are interested in into a "class" for your family. Interest led learning for the mom at it's best :) Keep up the good work, there is much to be done in this area.

Homeschool said...

It is a wonderful to give them so much fantastic information that they can apply on every meal, every shopping trip and cooking experience. WOW! You have inspired me (again) to watch the Morgan Spurlock series. This kind of learning is so powerful.

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