Friday, March 12, 2010

Green Smoothie Yumminess

What took me so long? I've been reading about green smoothies for ages (fruit smoothie with leafy green veggies thrown in) but I just never got up the nerve to try it. Kale and spinach ... in my fruity breakfast? Well what finally got me was this video by Julieanna Hever, fellow vegan dietitian (and quite possibly my new BFF). She promised that I wouldn't even taste the greens. And she was right! The secret is including a frozen banana every time. I've been having one every other day for breakfast (alternating with whole grain hot cereal with fresh fruit and nuts and flax), and I feel great! Watch her video and give it a try! And for more yumminess and great healthy vegan tips from Julieanna, visit her web site and blog.

Monday, March 8, 2010

New York City Musings

Last weekend we spent a beautiful, unseasonably warm Sunday in Manhattan. In the morning, Dan, Ben, and I drove in, parked the car in a free "no parking except Sunday" spot, walked to the Intrepid Sea/Air/Space museum (Bank of America cardholders can get in for free during the first weekend of every month), then to Times Square, then took a subway to Greenwich village, and back again. A lovely, full, perfect day. Over the course of the day, I thought of ten NYC things I thought would be fun to share here...

1. I would kill for a vegan hot dog from one of those street vendors in Times Square.
2. NYC public works construction guys are the nicest folks ever.
3. Lula's Sweet Apothecary is still as amazing as the day they opened. I don't know which is better, the incredible selection of organic vegan ice cream, or the friendliness of the owners.
4. The playgrounds at Tompkin's Square Park ROCK.
5. Mahmoun's falafel is quite yummy. They offer whole wheat pitas (bonus!). Extra tahini sauce is a must though.
6. Macoun apples are the perfect sweetness and crispness. And they can be found at the Farmer's Market at First & St. Marks.
7. I just don't get all the hype over H&H bagels. I was told I "had" to have a fresh one. So I did. It is the very definition of mediocre. And at over $1 a bagel, I'm awed that they manage to stay in business.
8. I've never seen so many 5-pound dogs in one day in my life.
9. You can get an "I Heart New York" tee shirt for $2.99.
10. As long as I live, I'll never get to try all of the Indian restaurants in Manhattan. But I'm sure going to try.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

School Lunches, Bento Style

Most school lunches are nutritionally dismal. Recently I took tours of my town's elementary schools in preparation for sending Ben next year, and I peaked at the kids' trays during lunch at one of the schools. Meatball sub, canned peaches, chocolate chip cookie, milk. It's depressing. Truly it is. I've been reading a lot lately about people who are passionate about doing something about changing school lunch; I plan on getting active locally when my son starts kindergarten. One particularly interesting blog, called "Fed Up With School Lunch," is about a teacher who has committed to eating her school's lunch every day for a year. She figured, if it's good enough for the children, it should be good enough for the adults. Read about her adventures here.

Fortunately for many of us, our children do not have to eat what is served in the school cafeteria. They can bring healthy and delicious food from home. In the Pre-K my child attends, school lunch is not an option so he is quite used to bringing a lunch every day. That won't change when he starts in a new school in the fall.

Today, Ben got a fun lunch: three mini pita sandwiches (you can get Mini Whole Wheat Pita Pockets at Trader Joes for $1.49), one with almond butter, one with tofu salad, and one with black bean spread; a homemade vegan banana flax muffin; carrots, celery, and dip; and grapes and strawberries. If you're wondering about that cool lunch box, it is a Laptop Lunch Bento Box, which I've been using for almost 2 years now. I love that thing; it cuts back on waste (no paper or plastic bags needed) and encourages me to include a variety of healthy foods every day (gotta fill those sections!) Most of you out there probably already know about the blog Vegan Lunchbox; the blogger, mom Jennifer McCann, has the Laptop Lunch systems as well (she showcases the one I have in older posts). I think that her family is the best-fed family on the planet!

Anyway, back to school lunch...The sad truth is that many families cannot afford to send their children to school with fresh, healthy food. They qualify for free or reduced school lunch, and since the USDA promises that the meal meets at least 1/3 of a child's daily requirement for nutrients, it should be a trusted program. Unfortunately, the meatball sub meal mentioned above DOES meet these requirements. But imagine if the standards were different -- imagine the meals had to meet OPTIMAL nutrition standards! Antioxidants. Phytochemicals. Fiber. Disease-preventing phytonutrients. The problem, as always, comes down to money: the government provides subsidized foods to school, mainly dairy products and meat. Healthy foods, in OUR system, are costly. It doesn't have to be that way.

In future posts I'll showcase some of the heroic pioneers who are transforming school lunches to make kids maintain a healthy weight, perform better in school, and have reduced risk of chronic diseases that are more frequently showing up in childhood, particularly heart disease and diabetes.