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    • Nutrition in schools - who's teaching our children?

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    •  6/2/2011 12:38:34 PM
    • A good friend of mine called me the other day, appalled my the message that a "guest speaker" had given to her 5th grader while at school.  The speaker was a nutritionist that had come to the classroom to speak about good health.  Her daughter came home quite upset about some of the things that were taught (like vegetarians weren't healthy and neither were people that didn't drink milk).


      At first I just let in roll off me and simply told her, "Well that doesn't surprise me, that was probably what she was taught while getting her certification".  But for some reason, it just didn't sit right with me.  After a couple of days, I decided that too many people just sit by while truth is being questioned. 


      I have one huge regret that happened this past school year. My 6 year old came home in tears after his class discussed nutrition one day at school.  His teacher told him that he was not allowed to tell the students that milk wasn't good for him and that he would be in trouble if she ever heard him say it again.  I consoled him when he got home from school and then.....I did nothing.  To this day it still bothers me.



      So I decided that this would be an opportunity to share my beliefs with a nutritionist that was going around teaching in schools.  Below is the letter that I wrote:


      Dear Nutritionist,



      This letter is in response to your nutrition lesson given to students at Riverton Elementary last week.  I was not actually in the class that you taught, so I am simply responding to the information I received about the class.


      For starters, I am so appreciative of people that are passionate about nutrition.  I applaud you for choosing a career path that allows you to spread the message of the importance of good nutrition. Especially to children who may not receive that information at home.  There is such a need in this country for heightened awareness of the importance of feeding our bodies properly.   We live in a time where there is a lot of confusion and a lot of “experts” teaching opposing ways of eating.  So thank-you for taking the time to teach children the value of a balanced diet and the importance of good health.


      I do however have some concern about some of the curriculum that you teach.   The first part was your stance on vegetarians and the other was on milk.


      It was brought to my attention that in your class, you taught the children that vegetarians are not as healthy as their meat-eating counterpart.  In this area, I would like to turn to long-standing science.  Multiple studies have shown that vegetarians live longer than non-vegetarians do1. The research shows those who avoid meat and dairy have lower rates of heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity, which are the leading causes of death in America2.  So as far as life-span and disease go, evidence shows that vegetarians are incredibly healthy.  Evidence also shows that getting protein from plant sources is a wonderful, if not optimal way, way to fulfill our daily protein requirement.  In fact, plant-based protein received from green vegetables and legumes for example, do not include any harmful cholesterol, hormones or animal fat that can often be found in today’s typical omnivore diet.


      One other section of your lesson referred to milk and that those who do not drink milk are not getting enough calcium.  In all the research that I have done, those countries that consume the most dairy are also the countries that suffer from the most osteoporosis.  Dr. Joel Fuhrman is an expert on this topic and here is what he has to say:


      “Contrary to popular belief, you do not need dairy products to get sufficient calcium. Every natural food contains calcium. When you eat a healthy diet, rich in natural foods such as vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds, it is impossible not to obtain sufficient calcium. In fact, the addition of more natural plant foods to the diet has been shown to have a powerful effect on increasing bone density and bone health.  Fruits and vegetables strengthen bones.  Researchers found that those who eat the most fruits and vegetables have denser bones3."


      I think that most people can agree (and science can concur) that a diet rich in whole nutrient dense foods in the message that we need to be sending.  Also, that a diet high in processed foods, cholesterol and saturated fats is one that should be avoided.  I  appreciate your efforts in spreading this message and my hope in writing this letter to you was to simply shed a little light on areas that are somewhat misrepresented in the general public.  I felt that it was important for me to add my voice and to share with you that as far as science has shown a diet that does not include meat and dairy has proven to be another OPTION for a healthy lifestyle.



      Charity Lighten

      Certified Plant-Base Nutritionist

      Food for Life Instructor for the Cancer Project


      PS- I write this letter not as the PTA President (in case you recognize my name), but simply as an enthusiastic parent.



      1 Chang-Claude J, Frentzel-Beyme R. Dietary and lifestyle determinants of mortality among German vegetarians. International Journal of Epidemiology. 1993;22(2):228-236.
      Kahn HA, Phillips RI, Snowdon DA, Choi W. Association between reported diet and all cause mortality: Twenty-one year follow up on 27,530 adult Seventh-Day Adventists. Am J Epidemiol 1984;119:775-787.
      Nestle M, Animal v. plant foods in human diets and health: is the historical record unequivocal? Proc Nutr Soc 1999;58(2):211-228.

      2 Barnard ND, Nicholson A, Howard JL. The medical costs attributed to meat consumption. Preventive Medicine 1995;24:646-655.
      Segasothy M, Phillips PA. Vegetarian diet: panacea for modern lifestyle disease? QJM 1999;92(9):531-544.

      3. Tucker KL, Hannan MT, Chen H, et al. Potassium, magnesium, and fruit and vegetable intakes are associated with greater mineral density in elderly men and women. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69(4):727-736.
      New SA, Robins SP, Campbell MK, et al. Dietary influences on bone mass and bone metabolism: further evidence of a positive link between fruit and vegetable consumption and bone health? Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71(1):142-151.

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    • Crazy Sexy Cancer - there is hope!

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    •  5/19/2011 1:42:14 PM



      I received some sad news this week.  A good friend and neighbor just was just diagnosed with breast cancer.  She was at a routine mammogram when they discovered the lump.

      What do you say?  "I'm sorry?"  "Everything's going to be ok?"  What do they even want to hear?  Maybe it's something simple like, "I'm here if you need me."  Maybe that's too cliche.


      Being involved with the Cancer Project, I could look her in the eyes and tell her truthfully that there are small steps she can take to empower herself TODAY.  She doesn't need to sit idly by and wait for her doctor's next step.  She can at least take a little control of her cancer by feeding her body in a way that will help it fight that nasty beast! Both she and her doctor are optimistic, which is awesome!


      I'm not sure where my interest in cancer even came from, but it is definitely a passion of mine - Prevention and Survival that is!


      I've had the documentary Crazy Sexy Cancer sitting in my house all week calling my name (thanks Netflix).  Anyway, I finally got a chance to sit down and watch it today.  I loved it!  I must be on a Kris Carr kick lately, but I loved it.


      I laughed, I cried, and then I prayed.  For me, for my family, for all those suffering with this awful disease, and for hope...hope for everyone.


      The movie has a way of putting a face to cancer.  It makes it even more real to me.  It lets me see the "enemy" of cancer that I want to be fighting regularly. It allowed me to feel the emotion of cancer.  It let me see that I can fight cancer in a small way each day in my kitchen.  I don't eat out of fear, but I do like be even more aware of what I'm fighting. It's so empowering!


      I am huge believer in cancer prevention.  Of course that is not possible for everyone, or for every situation.  And I certainly don't want to cast any blame on anyone.  But it feels so empowering to believe that the choices I make can (and do), improve my health.  The choice to do yoga today instead of sleep longer.  The choice to have a beautiful green smoothie this morning instead of bacon and eggs.  The choice to laugh with my kids instead of letting our stressful schedule today get me uptight.  I want to be as much  a creator of my own life as possible and then lean on God for all the rest.


      Cancer is such a scary word and seems to be spreading like a plague.  Kris Carr has a way of making peace with it while still fighting it that is truly inspiring. She allows the viewer to become a part of her battle and then share in her victory.  I know this movie has been around for awhile, but if you haven't had a chance to watch it, go out and see it (not with little ones though, because it has some adult language).  At a somber time, it was nice to watch something that left me feeling refreshed and uplifted.  Once again, nice work Kris Carr!

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    • FREE YOGA!

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    •  5/11/2011 4:57:09 PM

      While on vacation recently I flipped through the March issue of YOGA Journal

      I am a big fan of magazine's for when I am drudging along on the stairclimber at the gym.  Sadly, the more magazines I try the more I realize how picky I am.  I have little patience for the endless ads, and I am generally looking for something a little more interesting to read than how to add shine to my hair.  My favorite ones right now are VegNews, Whole Living and Vegetarian Times.  Well I just added the Yoga Journal to my list.  Thanks to I can enjoy it for incredibly cheap (this is where I order most of my magazines).

      I would not consider myself a "yogi" by any means, but I admit that month by month I find myself skipping spin classes and boot camps in lieu of yoga classes and balance workshops.  There is something about the calmness I feel while sweating that is very appealing to me (it helps having newbie mommy next to me in most classes :).

      With  my hectic schedule I can't always make it to my favorite classes.  Well, my worries are over. 

      The Yoga Journal mentioned a website called Yogis Anonymous which offers FREE classes that are being streamed LIVE!  What an incredible concept.  The site is basically a Yoga studio in California that offers a variety of classes throughout the day.  The best part is that you can follow along from the comfort of your own home.  Just check out the schedule (which are Pacific Standard Time) and log on during one of the classes. yoga!  They also have a huge library available anytime for a small fee (and a few free ones too)!  I love it!  Such a great idea.  My son was home sick from school yesterday, which put a quick stop to my yoga class.  Luckily there was a class scheduled, so I got out my mat and enjoyed some awesome yoga in my front room.  Thanks Yogis Anonymous!

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    • New Book - Crazy, Sexy Diet by Kris Carr

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    •  5/5/2011 9:21:07 AM

      This is a new book on the market that I just bought.  I am loving it! (although don't leave it around for younger ones to read because it does have quite a bit of bad language....reminds me a bit of 'Skinny Bitch").

      I was first introduced to Kris Carr a few years ago when she appeared on Oprah to talk about her documentary, "Crazy, Sexy, Cancer".  She talked candidly about her quest to battle her cancer with nutrition.  What a warrior!

      Her book is fantastic and I love learning new things and also being reminded of habits I want to continue.

      Kris is a queen juicer and inspired me to dust off the old juicer and start incorporating some green juice into my diet (her book talks in detail about all the benefits).

      Here she is with her green juice.

      Each day this week I have enjoyed 16 oz of pure energy (usually 8 oz in the morning and 8 oz in the afternoon).

      Here what I've been using:


      4 leaves of kale or red chard

      1 cucumber (I peel mine to get rid of the waxy peel since they are not organic)

      1-2 carrots

      1 celery stalk

      1 apple

      This will generally give me about 16 oz.  I store half of it in a small canning jar with the lid on tight (trying to avoid too much air with help the enzymes to not break down as quickly).

      There are lots of different juicers out there (which Kris covers in the book).  I use this one from the Juice Lady and it works great.



      Love the book, love the green juice, love the spreading of the word of good nutrition - nice work Kris Carr!

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