Wednesday, July 30, 2008

We Must Help The Kids

“I could be a vegetarian - I love vegetables” is one of the more surprising reactions I get from some people when they learn that I am a vegetarian. My standard reply has been, “Vegetarianism is about protein. Everybody should be eating vegetables.”

But the problem is they don’t. There is no doubt that the foundation of a healthy diet and weight control is the significant consumption of vegetables and fruit. Unfortunately, many adults do not like these fine foods - so we must make sure kids don’t develop these attitudes.

The U. S government reports that the number of Americans with diabetes has grown to about 24 million people, or roughly 8 percent of the U.S. population. A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), based on data from 2007, said the number represents an increase of about 3 million over two years. The CDC estimates another 57 million people have blood sugar abnormalities called pre-diabetes, which puts people at increased risk for the disease.

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the country and can cause serious health problems, including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and amputations. It is well established that overweight predisposes people to illness and that the regular consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is one of the best defenses against overweight, in addition to being a protective factor against most chronic ailments.

In addition, a new study reported in the journal Pediatrics shows that when infants are exposed to fruits and vegetables repeatedly, they’re more likely to not only eat them, but to actually want to eat them. Researchers in Philadelphia looked at a group of 45 4- to 8-month-olds and found that the babies ate more green beans when they were fed these vegetables repeatedly, regardless of whether they had already developed a taste for sweeter peaches.

Obesity rates in the U.S. have tripled among children ages 2 to 5 and nearly quintupled among 6- to 11-year-olds since the 1970s, according to the CDC. The medical consequences amount to an estimated $100 billion a year and an immeasurable amount of human suffering. Kentucky cardiologist, Dr. James W. Holsinger Jr., nominated as the next surgeon general, says fighting childhood obesity is his top priority.

I am happy to say that these studies confirm the ideas behind my new book, “The ABC's of Fruits & Vegetables and Beyond.” My basic notion is to have kids’ first words, that is their ‘ABCs,’ be ‘B is for banana’ and ‘T is for tomato,’ instead of ‘ball’ and ‘truck.’ Everyone knows that if you want kids to learn things without resistance – languages for example - start them young.

B is for bananas.
The US loves this fruit -
It certainly is "a peeling"
In its pretty yellow suit.
T is for tomato.
Did you know that it's a fruit?
Some say that it's a vegetable
Which causes a dispute.

After kids learn the alphabet through the amusing fruit and vegetable poems written by Jim Henson writer Steve Charney, their relationship to these important foods is strengthened by a variety of activities, such as jokes, geography, recipes and fun facts, in order to develop an easy-going relationship with them.

I have received confirmation of my approach from nutritionists, but what I am most happy about is that it is already being bought in quantity for class use.

We must help the kids.

(c) David Goldbeck

Friday, July 4, 2008


At the end of a successful party, after the guests have gone, what’s left is generally a lot of clean-up. Trash bags full of paper plates, napkins, plastic ware, paper tablecloths, streamers, balloons, gift wrapping. Is this really the price we must pay to host a party? Throwing a party that’s kinder to the environment is probably easier than you think.

Invitation by Email
To save paper (and postage), send invitations by email. Whether it’s a small dinner party or a formal affair, you can design something attractive, including an RSVP and all the vitals the guests need to know. There are also websites such as that make this simple. If it’s a big event, you might even want to design a webpage around it.

Setting the Table
Begin with cloth. It doesn’t have to be the finest Damask. Consider inexpensive vinyl felt-lined tablecloths or buy oil cloth from a roll to size. (Woodstockers take note, both are available at H. Houst & Sons). These can be wiped clean and reused numerous times.

If you don’t have enough plates and glasses in your pantry, consider the options. If you entertain frequently (and have the storage space), consider purchasing an inexpensive set of dishes and glasses or mix-and-match from yard sales and the dollar store. The same for silverware. Renting is another possibility. If you must resort to disposables, purchase compostable products made from plant materials like potato starch, cornstarch or bagasse (a byproduct of sugar production). You can find resources on line at,, and

If disposable cups are used, set out a marker and ask everyone to write their name or some favorite fanciful identifier so they can keep track of it for refills.

Setting the Scene
For table and room decorations, use fresh flowers, paper creations made from used paper (and save them for future events) or food to create edible table d├ęcor.

At the event, set up bins for reusables, recyclables and compostables with signs explaining what goes where.

What’s to Eat
Build the menu around fresh, locally grown or produced food. Less fuel wasted in transport and less packaging to discard.

Greener Gifts
When gifts are involved, encourage guests beforehand to shop locally, avoid the “big box” stores, or use their creative talents. You can also send out a wish list of things you would really like to have. Another ideal green gift is something consumable that leaves no waste, such as food or candles. Or request donations be made to your favorite nonprofit or charitable organization.

Request “no gift wrapping” or reusable gift bags. (Note: When you bring a gift to someone, scarves and fabric make a reusable gift wrapping alternative.)

Give party favors that are durable or consumable rather than useless throw-aways. If you have the time, consider making something from resources you have on hand. If you’re looking for something even easier, how about a gift exchange. If it’s a kids’ event, ask everyone to bring a puzzle, book or toy they already own and swap so they each get something “new.” For adults, suggest books, cds, dvds or other items they have enjoyed rather than the “white elephant” they have sitting in the closet waiting to be dumped on someone else.

After the Ball is Over
The next day, say “thank you” to everyone by email, as well. Let them know you appreciate their help in making your gathering greener.

-- Nikki