TOS Crew: Growing Healthy Homes

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Nutrition has been a concern for our family since Eldest was three, more than two decades ago. (How can the time have passed so quickly? Never mind, I’m getting sidetracked again. Please wait while I pour myself a cup of tea and get back on track.)

We’ve tried to eat in a healthy way, for the most part, due to multiple food allergies in our family. Sometimes we slide, especially around the holidays, but we’ve been trying to teach our children to make healthy choices. Part of this is teaching them about how our bodies use food, and part is getting them to notice how their bodies feel after eating certain foods. Eldest, for example, has been cutting down on sweets lately, of her own choice, and she’s being much more careful to avoid MSG in all its many forms, and the thickener carrageenan, and any form of red food coloring, as she has realized that they are migraine triggers for her. Youngest has noticed that certain foods give her a rash on her upper lip, and so she chooses to avoid them.

Middlest… well, she knows what’s healthy, but she hasn’t yet made conscious choices in her diet. In other words, she’d rather eat to delight her taste buds, and is resistant to making changes for the sake of physical wellness. It’s frustrating, but children do reach an age where they’re making their own choices, and if they choose to buy candy and chips with the money they earn, well, one can only hope that wisdom will eventually arise and they’ll make the connection, and want to be influenced by the knowledge that when they eat this they feel sick or lethargic and when they eat that they feel energized and well.

I’ve muddled along, condensing information I’ve gleaned along the way and teaching the girls from 4-H materials, Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions, whole foods advocates, and other moms struggling with food allergies in their families. Being on the TOS Crew this year yielded a wonderful resource for our studies when Growing Healthy Homes provided Crew members with a PDF e-book of Nutrition 101: Choose Life!, a “family nutrition and health program.”

Packed with information and colorful illustrations, Nutrition 101 is a six-unit course in healthy living with a focus on what we eat. It makes a great supplement to a study of the human body, as the study is organized by body systems: digestive, nervous, respiratory, muscular, skeletal, cardiovascular, immune, endocrine, and more. I like that the authors’ approach is infused with scriptural principles.

If you’re familiar with naturopathy and nutritional therapy, you’ll probably be very comfortable with the material presented in Nutrition 101. If not, you’re in for an eye-opener. You are what you eat is not just a cliche, it’s reality!

It can be overwhelming to contemplate a lot of changes in your diet and lifestyle all at once, but working your way through Nutrition 101 makes for gradual change. It’s doable.

Each unit consists of four chapters, first introducing a body system and how it works, followed by the impact of nutrition on that system. Here you’ll find, also, discussion questions, activities, and additional resources, as well as recipes (and not just for food!). If you follow the authors’ suggested schedule, you can cover a chapter in a week’s time. As you go, you learn about how a system works, and then you learn how it’s affected (for better or worse) by the food you eat.

There is an answer key for the activities, and a number of appendices offering helpful charts and lists (foods, for example, that a rich in fiber, or calcium, or protein) as well as additional information on a range of related subjects, such as toxins found in household and health-and-beauty products, healthy food substitutions, and recommendations for food safety. I found the sections on asthma and cancer to be especially thought provoking, as both maladies are very prevalent in our extended family.

The activities are divided into Elementary and Secondary sections, and involve all sorts of learning, not just cooking or working with food, but making illustrations, completing charts, writing a song, making flash cards, studying scripture, conducting experiments, and doing further research through reading books and Internet searches. Each chapter contains lists of websites with additional information.

As I mention elsewhere, the recipes aren’t just for healthy foods, but also for nontoxic household cleaners and nail care products

I was already familiar with a lot of the material in this book, as we’ve been using alternative medicine for years, finding relief that allopathic medicine had not been able to provide. However, having it all together in one place has been a great help in passing this understanding on to our children. I’ve also learned a lot in the reading!

When Eldest was a cute little mite, she was diagnosed with multiple delays, some of them related to her almost-constant ear infections, plus a possibility of ADD or ADHD, though she was really too young to tell. She had a whole team of professionals assigned to her case.

One of them was her pediatrician, who kept track of the state of her ears and sort of provided oversight of the whole process. I’ll never forget one of our early visits, partly because of the tone: I felt like a spy, being given top secret instructions.

Partway through the visit, the doctor closed the door to her office, looked around, and lowered her voice. “Don’t tell anyone in the clinic what I’m about to tell you, or I’ll be a laughingstock.”

A bit taken aback, I nodded. She lowered her chin to look me straight in the eye, speaking in a near whisper. “Eliminate all sugar from her diet, as far as you can. That includes fruit juice and “natural” sugars like honey and maple syrup. Read labels. Learn all the names for sugar (dextrose, fructose, corn syrup, etc.) and avoid the stuff. Also cut out artificial colors and flavors.”

This would make her a laughingstock if her colleagues heard about it?

Okay…

I read labels. I was amazed to find sugar in canned vegetables. (We switched to fresh and frozen.) While going around the store, reading labels, I found another mom following me, watching what I put in my cart. It was an odd feeling, until she walked up to me at last and said, with the air of a co-conspirator, “Are you using the Feingold Diet?”

(The Feingold Diet, it turned out, was a dietary treatment for hyperactivity, and her family eliminated sugar, artificial colors and artificial flavors for the sake of her son.)

For a month we followed our radically different diet. No more convenience foods! Cook everything from scratch! Perhaps the hardest thing: No more candy or soda!

The change was so gradual that I really didn’t notice it, until the day we were out and about and errands took longer than I’d thought they would. I hadn’t packed a snack, and we were hungry. I considered our options, and the pizza place seemed like the best, healthiest choice. What to drink with our pizza?

I remembered back to the conversation with the Feingold mom. She’d said that lemon-lime soda was the one soft drink that her family could have, because it used natural flavors and had no color added. We had lemon-lime soda with our pizza. Within minutes our little girl was bouncing off the walls, almost literally. She was running around the restaurant, and when I told her to stop, to come back and sit down, she said something that floored me.

“I want to, Mama, I really do, but I can’t!”

The desperation in her voice struck me. She was telling the truth. She really did want to obey, but the sugar had set her off. There was something to the pediatrician’s advice, after all.

Nutrition makes a difference. Not just that. Nutrition is important.

No, more than that. Nutrition can be crucial, not just to your health, but your well-being.

Choose Life, indeed.

You can download sample pages of Nutrition 101, or order your own copy, here.

The book on CD-Rom is $79.95, the pre-order price for the printed copy is $99.95 (I’d say the extra $ is worth it, because of the cost of color ink in printing from the CD version!), and a combination book-and-CD package is available for $129.95.

Would I buy this product? It’s a tough question. I think that if I’d had a chance to look at a friend’s copy, I probably would.  It would be easy to build a full year of science/health using this resource, using Nutrition 101 as the primary text for our younger daughter (along with such resources as Blood and Guts by Linda Allison), and as a supplement to a course on the human body for our high school students. There’s just so much good information here, that I’ve printed pages to use as a reference in our cooking and menu planning.

Read more TOS Crew reviews of Nutrition 101 here.

Disclaimer: TOS Crew reviewers were provided a free PDF copy of Nutrition 101 for review, from the publisher.

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