April 2009: Spring Seasonal Eating

Did you all see the article in the New York Times reporting that President Obama has officially decided to plant a vegetable garden at the White House? Click here in case you missed it.  Good to see that America’s first family is setting a great example for the rest of the nation!

I hope you are all as excited as I am about this wonderful time of year when the seasons change and we start to see more and more GREEN!  This month’s column is appropriately about eating greens, those yummy foods that signal that Spring is here—asparagus, kale, chard, arugula and much more.  This month I am honored to feature a column written by a college buddy of mine, Katherine Sumner.  She is a certified holistic health counselor with a focus on holistic nutrition, food and lifestyle coaching.  Her education at New York’s Insitute of Integrative Nutrition gives her a wide spectrum of knowledge about nutrition based on many different dietary theories—from the USDA pyramid to the Zone to Aryuvedic traditions.  If you would like to check out Katherine’s website for more information, please seewww.pureandsimplehealth.org.  Katherine is also the mom of two young boys (3 and 6), so she knows first hand the challenges of feeding young children healthy, nutritious meals that they will love.

Katherine’s column begins by explaining why eating greens makes sense for our bodies during this Spring season.  She then gives us some tips about how to incorporate greens into our family’s diets simply and easily.  She concludes with some great recipe ideas (be sure to try the Kale Chips*-amazing!) and some excellent resources for you to check out for further info.  Thank you Katherine for sharing your wonderful knowledge with us!

*I experimented with some different types of seasonings, from spicy cajon spices to mixed seasonings from Braggs.  These Kale Chips do not last long in my household!

What if you have a child/ children who really tend to shy away from greens, and perhaps vegetables in general?  Here is an idea inspired by some research that Tia Rains, PHD, recently shared with me:  Give your veggies fun names!  In a recent study, 186 4-year-olds were given regular carrots and, on other lunch days, they were given the same vegetables renamed X-ray Vision Carrots. On the latter days, they ate nearly twice as many.  Children continued to eat about 50 percent more carrots even on the days when they were no longer labeled as anything special!  (1)  So basically, cool names translated into cool foods—that kids eat.  In our house, we refer to cauliflower as “clouds” and broccoli as “trees,” and my kids often pretend they are giants eating them.  So go ahead, have fun, be creative and enjoy those glorious greens (or “power peas”, or whatever you want to call them)!

Seasonal Eating by Katherine Sumner
“Our bodies crave what nature provides, all we need to do is stop and listen.”

Why is it that in the Spring we have so many children suffering from colds and allergies instead of enjoying the sweet scent of a spring flower?  The answer is simple – nature provides the foods we need in each season when we need them;  when we eat foods out of season, we do not listen to nature’s wisdom.  When you eat the right foods during each season, you are providing your body with all the necessary nutrients needed for it to face that environment and keep your bodies healthy and strong.  If we pay attention to our cravings during the year, we can discover exactly what our bodies need.

For example, in the Fall/Winter season, our bodies crave warm foods such as soups, stews, meats, heavy grains, and fish.  These high-fat and protein-rich foods help warm the body and insulate it from the cold.  Good fats in these foods also keep our bodies from getting too dry, which can cause excess mucus and winter colds.  In the spring, we feel drawn to salads, berries, and lighter veggies.  This low-fat diet helps us to burn off the weight stored during the winter months as well as pulls toxins out the body.  In the summer, when the days are hot and long, we enjoy the high-energy foods that have a cooling action such as high-carb fruits and vegetables.  These foods cool our bodies down and also provide us with long-lasting energy.

WHAT IS SEASONAL EATING? Seasonal eating is how our grandparents and great-grandparents used to eat.  Seasonal eating has always been valued in places all over the world including India.  Ayurveda, a 5000 year old system of health and medicine known in India, focuses on three primary growing seasons and harvests – Spring, Summer, and Fall/Winter – which they believe keep our body, mind, and spirit in balance and help the body stay healthy.

FIRST HARVEST – SPRING. The first harvest comes in Spring and consists mostly of sprouts, roots, and bitter greens (dandelion greens, swiss chard, kale, mustard greens, green beans, asparagus) to help cleanse our bodies.  During the Spring as the ground softens from all of the rain we receive, we begin to see plants begin sprouting up from the soil.  Our bodies will also begin to hold on to more water, and as the body begins to rehydrate from the dry winter months, the toxins are sent to the liver.  If the body has not begun eating bitter greens, roots, or sprouts, which help the liver remove toxins from the body naturally, then we begin seeing Spring colds, allergies, and coughs. Bitter greens and roots will remove mucus from the body and clean the blood, helping the liver do its big spring cleaning job!

NOURISHING OUR CHILDREN IN THE SPRING. So how can we as moms begin to feed our children seasonally – beginning with Spring?  First, we need to minimize some of the more acidic foods such as dairy, nuts, meats, and heavy root vegetables (sweet potatoes).  Second, we need to start including the lighter veggies (cauliflower, brussel sprouts, asparagus, sugar snap peas, sprouts, bitter greens, radishes) and fruits (dried fruits, berries, grapefruit, lemon/lime) into our daily meals.  Third, which I find the most important, is finding delicious ways to eat these spring foods and get our children involved in the process.  We all know children like to have choices.  When we can empower our children with choices of which foods they can eat, then it is a win-win for everyone!

You can start by either planting some of these spring foods – sugar snap peas, greens, radishes, and berries – or by taking a trip to your local farmer’s market and having your children pick a new vegetable and/or fruit to try!  Then find a simple recipe with your child and get them in the kitchen.  Depending on their age, they can help you clean the vegetable(s), mix up the ingredients, or set the table.  Once you find a few recipes that seem to work, add them to your family favorite list!

Here a few tips from our kitchen –

1)       Keep raw veggies on hand – radishes, celery, cauliflower, sugar snap peas – and serve them with their favorite dip (hummus, yogurt, or nut butters)

2)       Roast the veggies – coat the veggies with a little olive oil or coconut oil plus some sea salt and roast them on 400 degrees for a tasty treat!

3)       Have your child create his/her own smoothie and put in some yummy berries!

4)       Make your own salads – buy a mix of salad greens (including some bitter greens & sprouts – dandelion greens, mustard greens, watercress) then have lots of different salad toppings to choose from – fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, beans, and cheeses.  You can even have two choices of dressings.

5)       Rice bowl night – make basic brown rice and then have choices of different veggies to add to their rice bowl.  For example – peas, peppers, scallions, carrots, cooked kale – and then add a little soy sauce for flavor and even top with sesame seeds!

6)       Adding greens (swiss chard, spinach, kale, or dandelion greens) to soups or pasta.These are a few ideas of ways to start including those wonderful spring foods into your family meals.  I have also included some recipes that my two boys, Hatton (age 6) and Robert (age 3), love to have during the Spring.  I wish all of you a healthy Spring – enjoy the season!

Books (available through the Recommended Products store book section).
Perfect Health for Kids by Dr. John Douillard
The 3-Season Diet by Dr. John Douillard
Greens Glorious Greens by Johanna Albi & Catherine Walthers
Simply in Season by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert
Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair
Salad People by Mollie Katzen
Refined to Real Food by Allison Anneser
The Vineyard Kitchen by Maria Helm Sinskey
Chef Bobo’s Good Food Cookbook by Robert w. Surles

Recipes:
Cauliflower Poppers
Egg Drop Soup
Garden of Peas
Kale Chips

Sources

(1)     Study presented at the annual meeting of the School Nutrition Association in Washington, DC, March 2, 2009.

Disclaimer: This column is for information only, and no part of its contents should be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, recommendation or endorsement by the author. You should always ask your physician for his or her recommendation before starting any new health-related activity.

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