What is Your Fridge Telling You?

Recently I went without power because of the hurricane and had to throw out all the food in my refrigerator. As I started to restock it I noticed something. It felt really good to look into my fridge and not see it over packed with food. It gave me a sense of calmness and a bit of a thrill to actually see what I had to work with for dinner.

I also noticed that my life in the past two years reflected what was in my refrigerator. When I was working and taking care of the kids and didn’t feel overwhelmed I was able to plan meals and by the end of the week I could actually see that most of the food in my fridge was used up. I didn’t have tons of produce left over which would eventually rot. Then I got super buy launching a business and I didn’t see the bottom of my fridge for several years.

Shopping for me when I am overwhelmed and too busy looks like this: “I need to stock up on sunflower seed butter and other items at Trader Joes because I don’t know when I’ll have the time to get back there”. When I would run to the local grocery store I would buy whatever I thought I could use to feed my family but with no specific menu plan and as a result I spent more than my budget allowed. Basically I was running on fear; fear I wouldn’t have time to get back to the store, fear 20 people might stop by and I needed to be prepared. Are you familiar with that syndrome? I am Irish Catholic and was brought up always to expect to feed an army at a moments notice and I have to say that they haven’t shown up yet.

Are you so busy and overwhelmed that you don’t have the time to plan meals? Take a look in your refrigerator. If you have tons of leftovers, rotting produce and over stocked shelves I bet your life is super busy; maybe too busy. Perhaps your fridge is telling you to take a moment and breath; to cut back on some of the craziness in life and get to a place where planning dinner and shopping is not riddled with anxiety and stress but joy. It is possible; well maybe not so much joy if you don’t like to cook but perhaps less stressful for you.

Perhaps fear of your finances is what drives you most. Most of us are concerned about money and cost is a leading factor in what we buy. If your fridge has limited or no fresh fruits and vegetables at all than it is saying something different; it is saying that you lack vibrancy in your family’s diet and perhaps there is limited energy in your lives. I was once told by an ancient Asian medicine man that “life gives life”. Food that comes out of the ground unprocessed like green leafy foods support life, food that only comes out of boxes and cans is dead food and can not sustain a healthy life.

I would like to challenge myself and you to stop shopping out of fear? Fear of not getting back to the store, fear of not having enough money to pay for groceries, fear of a hurricane, tornado, flood or other natural or man made (terrorist) disaster? We live in a fear based society and any time we turn on the news we are reminded of all there is to be afraid of. How about you join me in trusting; trusting that it will all get done, that you will have time to get back to the store and the resources to buy what you need. My goal is to see the bottom of my fridge at the end of each week and not to overstock and over-buy just because something might happen. Let me know how it goes.

September – Eat 2 Fruit a Day!

In September the focus is on fruit; the whole fruit and nothing but the fruit.  If you are a busy parent and have a hard time getting your child to eat fresh fruit everyday, you probably let them drink several juice boxes to make up for it.  In fact, you may even give them the new variety of juice that provides vegetables and fruit in a juice box.  Great, you think; you can kill two birds with one stone and have them drink the fruit/vegetable juice and avoid the battle you have with them when you try to get them to eat whole fruits and vegetables.

Is there something wrong with this approach?  Sadly there is.  I am all about giving you short cuts and easier ways to feed your child a healthy diet but when children drink too much juice, it is not healthy for them.  When your child drinks juice instead of eating the whole fruit it prevents their taste buds from developing a taste and a preference for the texture of whole produce. They set their taste buds up to want more and more sweet tasting food and drink instead.  If your child is the type that downs 3 or 4 juice boxes a day, chances are they also want cookies, candy and cake as well.

If your child drinks too much juice at one sitting they can get diarrhea and a tummy ache. If they continue to drink a lot of juice every day this can lead to cavities, becoming overweight as well as being malnourished if they substitute juice for other food that they should be eating.  It can also prevent your child from reaching their height potential. Did you hear that?  Your child can develop a short stature from consuming too much juice and avoiding a balanced diet.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has set a limit on the amount of juice that your child should be drinking every day because they know the risks associated with drinking too much juice.  The recommendation is 4-6 oz of 100% juice for children 1 to 6 years, and 8-12oz of 100% juice for children 7 to 18 years of age. The AAP does not recommend juice for babies under 6 months of age and drinking juice from a bottle is not advised.

In summary, because it is so easy to over-consume calories by drinking too much juice and avoid eating a balanced diet, it is best to limit the amount of juice that your child drinks to the amount set by the AAP.  Make sure the juice that you do offer your child is 100% juice and not a juice cocktail, a juice-ade or juice drink. Your child should eat their fruit instead of drink it. Make sure they get at least two servings a day.

July – Limit Soda and Juice

It is summer time and for most of us that means hot weather.  What do your kids reach for to quench their thirst: soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, juice, milk or water? Most of the time all they need is water unless they have been exercising or sweating for prolonged periods of time in the heat. A sports drink can replenish the water and electrolytes lost from lots of sweating but for most kids, water will do after regular exercise.

Many kids today reach for flavored water, energy drinks and sports drink on a regular basis throughout their day and younger children reach for juice and flavored milk instead. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 listed soda/energy drinks/sports drinks as the number one source of added sugar in a child’s diet today.  On average, kids today drink 7.5 teaspoons of added sugar from these beverages.  That may not seem like a lot at first glance but when you add that up it equals 56 cups of sugar a year from soda, energy drinks and sports drinks!

What is all this sugar doing to our children’s bodies? Children are at an increased risk of developing ADHD, autoimmune disease, cavities, certain cancers, candida, chronic Fatigue Syndrome and fibromyalgia, chronic sinusitis, decreased immune function, diabetes, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome and spastic colon, metabolic syndrome, and obesity from taking in huge amounts of added sugar every year.  Since sugary drinks are the number one source of added sugar in a child’s diet it makes sense to limit the amount that you give your child.

Children only need water to quench their thirst and remain hydrated throughout their day.  How much water do they actually need?  The following table lists minimum water requirements assuming that in addition to the water your child is also drinking 2-3 glasses of milk a day and ½ to 1 cup of juice too.


Age of Child Minimum* Water Requirements
2-3 year 1 ½ cups
4-6 year 2 cups
7-8 year 1 ½ cups
9-13 year Boy 4 cups
9-13 year Girl 3 cups
14-18 year Boy 7 cups
14-18 year Girl 4 cups

* These are estimates of the minimum requirements for water. If your child is outside in hot weather, sick, exercising for prolonged periods of time, or is on certain medication they may need more. Let their thirst dictate how much they need.

In children who drink lots of sugary beverages, their taste buds have developed a preference for sweet tasting drinks over regular water. In order to turn this bad habit around, reduce their intake of sweet drinks by ¼ cup a day until they are drinking mostly water, up to one cup of juice a day and plain unflavored milk. Stay tuned for more on this as I am writing a book on sugar addiction in kids that will be coming out next year (2012).

Image Source: Project Swole

Orange Juice Experiment

I got up early in the morning with my friends (after my little brother jumped all over us) and we did an experiment to see which is healthier: orange juice or a bowl of oranges. We cut the oranges in half from a bowl and squeezed out the juice. We put the juice from the bowl of oranges in one glass and poured out orange juice from a carton in another. We tasted the juice and we all thought the orange juice from the bowl of oranges was healthier and tasted better because the one from the carton tasted WAY too sweet but the one from the bowl of oranges had just the right sweetness. When my friends went home, I searched and found out this:                          

Store Bought Orange juice      Fresh Orange juice                                                                                                           

Calories: 110                                Calories: 85
Carbohydrate: 26                          Carbohydrate: 21
Fiber: 0                                          Fiber: 4.3
Sugar: 22                                       Sugar: 17
Vitamin C: 72                                Vitamin C: 96                             

Which one do you think is healthier?