Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Healthy Kids…Yours, Mine, Ours

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

I’ve been called diminutive, and I guess I am at 5’2”, and kinda thin. So when I walk anywhere with my son who’s 6’4”, 330 lbs, no one believes I’m his mom. In fact, when he was little, people thought I was his nanny – he was so big compared to me even then. His high school football team had a good laugh when I walked onto the field with him during Mom’s Day. His dream was to be an NFL defensive lineman, and although his workout routine still, at 24, equals NFL stats, he changed his direction to pursue another lifelong dream unrelated to sports. Most of his friends are athletes and most of them stayed with us at one point or another. And they all came to know and really appreciate the food he was brought up on – whole grains, fresh veggies, beans, and sugars all as organic as I could find and cooked at home from scratch. Before their next visit, they’d phone in their orders to me or through him. Feeding a football team if you’ve never done it, even for a few days, can be daunting, but surprise of surprise, they finished it all and wanted more.

Doc applauds our lifestyle. My son ate his first beef burger at age 12 or 13, inadvertently, and never really did develop that much of a taste for it. True story: during a football game in high school, he banged bodies with an offensive lineman, also big. What a hit! What a horrible sound! It was a clash of the titans. And they were both carted off to the hospital. The orthopedic surgeon reported to us that the other kid came away with a broken shin bone, I’m sorry to say. However, he was incredulous at my son’s injury, a slight bone bruise. With taped leg and crutches he went back to the sidelines to cheer his team on.

“Whatever you’re feeding him, keep doing it. I’ve never seen bones that size or that dense in a kid before!” Those were his exact words. That was an extraordinary feeling to have our lifestyle applauded, though not the way I would have chosen.

A living answer to questions. He’s still my trophy and my testament to natural foods for kids especially when he visits my cooking classes. People just don’t believe it. True, you’re thinking there must be some big genes somewhere in the family, and yes there are, but it’s not the size, it’s the quality. He’s a walking testimonial to a lifetime of natural foods with a presence that answers their questions: “Will my child get enough calcium?” “Will they grow?” “Won’t they get sick more?” “Can they grow up healthy without all the protein and vitamins from meat and dairy?……… Yes, yes, no, and yes. Absolutely. Here. Look. And in he walks.

I’ve had non natural foods kids raiding my pantry, freezer and refrigerator forever. One 10-year-old made a B-line for seaweed whenever he came. Didn’t bother him at all what it was. He just wanted it. Loved the taste and he said it made him feel good. You can’t argue with that.

Kids know. Like that 10-year-old. They want to be shown, but also to be allowed to experiment. I have another true story here: I was asked to make two dishes for a grand opening for a holistic health center last year in Coronado, CA. One of the dishes was an Asian style tofu appetizer (go to my website: and click on Asian Style Tofu Wrap-Around – the very same one). A 13-year-old boy (difficult to please at that age regardless, unless…) came by in the line and wouldn’t try it (tofu, yuk!) until I told him he could spit it out in from of me if he didn’t like it. No pressure. That intrigued him enough to try it. Guaranteed he liked the idea of spitting it out in front of me.

I was distracted by other people asking questions and didn’t see his reaction or his leaving. About ten minutes later, he returned with a few friends. They didn’t say a word, but they did polish off the entire platter and left. Maybe they had a new regard for tofu after that. I like to think so. Kids want to know you care by giving them options, challenging them, and respecting their opinions. And what better place to start than in your own kitchen where your daily soul replenishment for the five senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste, and feeling all come together to create the ultimate sense of well being from food. ‘Home [and hearth] is where the heart is.’

Pride of creative ownership.
Make it a game, interesting, fun. Dress it up. Make it all natural and as organic as you can. Make it look like what they’re used to, but the ingredients can either mimic or be completely different. Season it and spice it up with a familiar aroma, appearance, and mouth feel. But whatever it is, it’s got to taste great! Another thing about them which you probably already know, they don’t spare your feelings. They tell you the truth. So ask them what the dish needs and get them involved in the kitchen and the preparation by letting them fix it the way they want. Let them make it their own. For you it’s hands off unless asked. Whatever the mess, whatever their tastes, whatever their additions or deletions it’s theirs’ and not only deserves but requires your respect. My son is getting to be one incredible chef choosing food and spice combinations I would never think of in a million years. He astounds not only me but his friends with his choices and complexities of taste while still sticking to organic whole grains, veggies, even meat, chicken, and wild fish. Allow them the gratification of astounding you. Their tastes are often so different from ours. There’s no age limit or requirement, by the way. So much more fun than going to formerly frozen formula Chili’s or McDonald’s or wherever and their memories are priceless. Oh yeah! And invest in a bread machine. Let them invent variations on their staple. So easy.

Prenatal to post natal to pre-school to post college, they need and want guidance from mom and dad. Their culinary creativity being rewarded early with applause and respect will give them the confidence to continue natural foods in their lives and to teach their friends and their own children. Give them their jump start by changing to whole grains and veggies during pregnancy. When nursing they’re already used to the foods. And when you start introducing solid foods, they intuitively know them already. Even seaweeds. Really. Yup, even seaweeds can be luscious. It all depends on your creativity and that intangible ingredient that makes it all a hit, your LOVE.

My son once observed to us from a boarding school he attended for one year for football before going to college, that he thought he was the only person there who loved his parents. Wow! Now that blew us away. He realized that we always inspired him to achieve and create, to have his own opinions, and respected his choices. Experiment. That was the year he started cooking for himself and starting teaching me. Very gratifying. He’s still teaching me.

Some answers really are that simple. With the meteoric rise of childhood and young adult health diseases: diabetes, obesity, eating disorders, high cholesterol, asthma, high blood pressure, depression, ADD, ADHD, and the lists goes on and on…… Diseases once thought to be brought on by age deterioration in adults are now epidemic, even plagues among our children. Drugs are not the answer. One definite answer is natural foods. Too simplistic? Things in life don’t have to be that complicated. You really are what you eat.

We sold our souls and our health. It’s the insidious invasion of the soul snatchers in the guise of the big pharmaceutical companies and the big brand name food manufacturers all in collusion with the advertising companies and the food/chemical lobbyists in Washington D.C. I refer to Dr. David Kessler’s (former FDA commissioner, 1990-1997) new book, “The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite”. He writes about just this, not that we didn’t know it already, but a former FDA boss telling us from the ‘inside’ about how our souls and health have been hijacked for profit is pretty frightening along with our disastrous eating habits being engineered by those companies’ food scientists. Very scary, but not irreversible.

Now it’s time to create your own good health! Get your whole family into the kitchen. Have fun creating a lifestyle change that makes you happy and gives you the power of choice. Food becomes an exploration into a culinary world of individual tastes designed by you that changes with your whims by adding a little bit of this or a whole lot of that. And your children? They’ll love it!

Drugs: Keep Them Under Wraps

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

‘Medicine’ cabinets, if there is such a thing anymore, are no longer off limits to our teens. Prescription pill popping is so common place now with media advertising and TV commercials targeting young parents to baby boomer grand parents that it’s no wonder our teens take it to heart that it’s okay for them to do it too. Wrong. Parents, if you must pop ’em, protect them and do it out of plain sight and pain sight. Keep them inaccessible. Better still, find natural alternative ways to deal with your issues. With teens, you’re not the only ones in your house and they are very sensitive, very aware of what’s going on. It’s obvious to them that it’s permissible.

How do you protect them from the side effects that they don’t even consider along with the drugs, which undermine their entire psyche making them anti-social, anti-school, anti-communicative, and anti-help driving them into further depression to the point of being suicidal? Most people forget that pharmaceutical drugs are mostly derived from plants. Try researching the natural derivatives with a natural health practitioner and natural foods to help your teens.

Peer pressure, anxiety, and moodiness as hormones change or make their debut are common and part of growing up. With aware parents they will get through. We all did. The epidemic increase of depression is one of the most troublesome teen problems. A March 1st, ’09 full page add in the NYTimes from the The Partnership for a Drug-Free America, stated that “1 in 5 high school teens admits to abusing prescription drugs.” That’s an epidemic that we have to face. But how can we face it when those drugs come from mom and dad, the two people these kids need to trust more than anyone else in their lives.

Drugs are drugs. They trust us and we trust the pharmacies. Wrong. Another quote:“taking drugs without a prescription can be as dangerous and addictive as using street drugs.” It’s easy when they’re 2 -years-old. Oh, those terrible 2’s! Flexing their gimmees and NOs. But the teen years are more contemplative, more quietly discontent, dark countenances, tenuousness, fear of life’s coming unknowns, slamming doors, unresponsiveness, withdrawing into themselves, and within their rooms. What to do. Make a haven of relaxation, acceptance, and natural snacks to munch on.

We’re creating a generation of prescription addicted teens.Be aware of their moods. You were there. With each birthday expect the expected and let them know that what they’re going through is not unexpected. Tell them you got through it. You’re there for them. Explain to them why you’re taking those drugs specific to what condition and that they don’t have it and how harmful it can be for them. Their anger and hostility are pretty normal to a degree. It’s OK. You’ve got their backs. You love them regardless…forever. Together make a lifestyle change to a more natural approach.

One solution to consider while keeping that lid on your drugs, start introducing natural alternative remedies and foods into your lives. Help them cope by helping them change their brain chemistry with non chemical, natural foods and nutrients. Get them into the kitchen with you to cook their favorite meal. Teens can feel isolated and alone which can drive them to drugs. Hug ’em. They never tire of that or hearing your validations of love.

Take them or better yet, send them for an Aromatherapy massage. Now there’s a constructive suggestion. Those are sooooo nice, relaxing and therapeutic for guys and gals to get rid of tension if only for a little while. Put some fragrances around the house, whatever they like or try something new. Change the pictures on the walls and the furniture around the house. Break the monotony in the house for them. Drag out some new childhood photos. Make the issue subtly not pointedly just to let them know you notice and care. Take a LOVE time out. Create an atmosphere of love and trust so they come to you rather than go your ‘medicine’ cabinet.

Catching Clueless Monkeys

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

Put an orange in a small necked container. When the monkey tries to pull its hand out with the fruit, it can’t… unless it lets go of the fruit. And it won’t. You think that all the monkey has to do is let go and reason that there’s got to be a better way, but there is no reasoning, it’s instinct, it’s food. That monkey is driven. No reason — he’s got to have that orange. Sadly, we’re the clueless monkeys. We’ve given up our ability to reason and sold out our health for mindless convenience.

Through out-of-control manipulation of food product development skewed to chemically tingle our taste buds and tantalize our brain centers, food scientists in laboratories for popular brand food manufacturers, chain restaurants, and fast food franchises, all in collusion with advertisers have all helped us become a nation of overeaters. We’re mindlessly stuffing our bodies with false ‘food’ putting ourselves on the painful path to obesity and related diseases. Foodwise, there is no “better living through chemistry” (DuPont Chemicals old slogan), but there are huge profits, and we’re paying for it with something more precious than money. We’re paying for it with our lives and the health of our children’s lives.

Food Cues by Design — “It’s all in your mind.” It is. The food chemists know it. They know the brain’s chemistry can be triggered by designed cues to compel us to overeat by manipulating the makeup and chemical content of three irresistible, well known ingredients: fat, salt, and sugar. Lays slogan: “Betcha can’t eat just one” is absolutely true, and they count on these big three cues to getcha. The general American public has succumbed to the addiction of prepackaged, premade foods of any kind, restaurant or store bought. We’re hooked by our chemically programmed brain’s concept of ‘taste’. It’s not all our fault, but making us aware of WHY makes us responsible and aye, there’s the rub. We have to choose to make the effort to change our life’s Wellness and food patterns to literally greener, healthier pastures.

“The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite”, a book by Dr. David Kessler, former FDA commissioner 1990-1997, tells us about how our brain chemistry is being held hostage by the commercial food industry for profit. We’ve been programmed to be overweight, obese, overeaters. FOR PROFIT, did I say that already? In an interview by Monica Eng for the Chicago Tribune, he tells us why we can’t stop ourselves:

“…food is being designed to activate the neural reward centers of the brain and keep them engaged, so that we don’t even know we are full. The food industry also has engineered food to be highly palatable and almost predigested. They inject it with fat and marinades [salts, sugars, chemicals, etc.] so that it’s almost like baby food, it goes down in a whoosh and this combination makes you want to reach for more and more to activate those reward (dopamine) centers again…”

He estimates about 70 million people are affected. This sounds like what it is… an epidemic. The food manufacturers and advertisers have created an appealing and unrelenting atmosphere of desire and consumption ending with us “double dipping” from our own pockets – (1) paying them to make us overeat and then, (2) paying the pharmaceutical/medical industry to cure the incurable because it’s embedded in our brains… behavioral! We’ve been programmed to overreach and overeat. Dare I call it brain dead?

Wellness You Can Count On – There is a growing body of scientific research actually on the side of natural Wellness. Breaking the habitual craving cues is up to us. Imagine how our righting this diabolical wrong will change not only the entire food industry, but the health industry – its providers and policy makers. Imagine healthcare rates going down and benefits going up because we become healthier as we take control. Hopefully, Dr. Kessler, having been the boss of the FDA will have enough heft, so to speak, to influence America, “…explain…what’s going on – how do we break through and help people understand how their brains have been captured?” he said. He suggests keeping food simple. I pose this as a start: home cooking, of course, but more importantly using whole grains, vegetables and cutting back on salt. We can’t live without it, but we can’t live with too much of it. Cut back. Taste your food for the first time. I fully believe that many other cravings, again staying away from chemically enhanced processed/prepackaged foods, will dwindle. BUT it will take time, patience, and your will, just like with any other rehab, to reprogram your brain. Mere thoughts, sights, suggestions, and smells will not be the motivating triggers for mindless, nonstop grabbing and overeating on the way to obesity. Real hunger will motivate and real repletion will rule to be the natural end of meals and snacks.

All of us monkeys out there should give ourselves the gift of personal power, leave that orange in the jar and get out while we still can – it’s most likely chemically engineered anyway. Don’t allow the food industry to short-circuit your body’s self regulating instinct anymore. Dr. Kessler’s plea is for us to “fight back against the industry’s relentless quest for profits while an entire country of people gain weight and get sick.” (Publishers Weekly) Here, here Dr. Kessler. Glad to have you on our side.

ABOUT: Wellness Chef Helen Sandler
Lecturer, personal chef, teacher, wellness coach, & speaker, Helen promotes a healthier lifestyle through common sense, organic / natural approach to a happier, positive life.

Helen Sandler is used to being an innovator and at the cutting edge of whole foods whole grains awareness. After graduating from SUNY, New York with a teaching degree, she began to follow her real passion for healthy cooking which took her from Los Angeles to Boston to attend the cooking school of the late and great master Japanese natural chef, Aveline Kushi. Later that passion took her to Kyoto, Japan to continue her studies, where she spent four more years learning the art of healthy Japanese cooking (Seishoku).

As Wellnes Chef Helen she is the featured authority at CTNgreen /wellness with articles in the library there and the virtual paperless magazine at CTNGreen Magazine