Sunday, December 6, 2009

Don't feed your kids out of a box.

Yesterday I was watching an episode of Glee on Hulu and I watched the following commercial for "Gerber Graduates Healthy Meals" with absolute HORROR:


So all you need to feed a child is a box of processed garbage and a microwave! How easy! I went to Gerber's website to investigate further, specifically checking out the "LIL’ ENTRÉES Dishes" for toddlers. Let's look at the ingredients, shall we?


Beef Ravioli:

WATER, GREEN BEANS, BEEF TOMATO RAVIOLI (ENRICHED DURUM FLOUR [DURUM WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, FERROUS SULFATE, THIAMIN MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID], WATER, SEASONED BEEF [BEEF, WATER, SEASONING {DEXTROSE, SALT, ONION}], WHOLE EGG, BLEACHED WHEAT FLOUR, PART SKIM RICOTTA CHEESE [WHEY, CREAM, VINEGAR, CARRAGEENAN], SALT, SOYBEAN OIL, DRIED EGG WHITES, BEEF STOCK FLAVOR [SALT, AUTOLYZED YEAST EXTRACT, POWDERED COOKED BEEF, BEEF FAT, GUAR GUM, CARAMEL COLOR, BEEF STOCK, XANTHAN GUM, LACTIC ACID, BEEF FLAVOR, BEEF EXTRACT, NATURAL FLAVOR], TOMATO POWDER, DEHYDRATED ONION, SUGAR, NATURAL TOMATO FLAVOR [MALTODEXTRIN, NATURAL FLAVOR, MODIFIED CORN STARCH], EXTRACTIVES OF ANNATTO [COLOR], GARLIC POWDER), TOMATO PUREE, TOMATO PASTE, COOKED SEASONED BEEF (BEEF, WATER, SALT), MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, SUGAR, ONIONS, OLIVE OIL, GARLIC, SALT, CHEDDAR CHEESE (CULTURED MILK, SALT, ENZYMES), WHEY, NATURAL FLAVOR.

Mashed Potatoes & Gravy with Roasted Chicken:

WATER, CARROTS, POTATOES, ROASTED WHITE CHICKEN MEAT (WHITE CHICKEN MEAT, WATER, SALT, MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, TAPIOCA STARCH), NONFAT MILK, BUTTER, CREAM, MALTODEXTRIN, MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, SALT, CHICKEN FLAVOR (CHICKEN BROTH, SALT, YEAST EXTRACT), SOYBEAN OIL, WHEAT FLOUR, CHICKEN FAT, SHORTENING POWDER (OLIVE OIL, MALTODEXTRIN, SODIUM CASEINATE, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES), MILK, AUTOLYZED YEAST EXTRACT, ONION POWDER, GARLIC POWDER, NATURAL FLAVOR, GUAR GUM, XANTHAN GUM, SPICES, CARAMEL COLOR, EGG YOLK SOLIDS.

Ok, and now for my rant. There's a real problem here that people will knowingly feed children heavily processed food out of a box, heated in a microwave. It's not real food. WHY would you feed this garbage to a child? Nothing says health like powdered cooked beef, caramel color, modified corn starch and shortening powder! How will these ingredients nourish and enrich a child? And how blind are people that Gerber actually would want to give your kids healthy meals? They want to make money. They want their "food" to be salty enough and tasty enough that the kid will be addicted and demand more of it.

I find this outrageous and damaging. And I'd like to know what you think. Does the "I don't have enough time" excuse warrant this sort of short-cut that short-changes the nutrition of growing children? Or is it setting children up for a palate that favors salty, processed food that will only intensify with age and lead to nutritionally bankrupt eating habits that will endure throughout life? What did you eat as a little kid? I ate some of whatever my Mom made for dinner for everyone... and it was all homemade, real food.

Marion Nestle, in her work, "What to Eat", says that children "should be eating the same healthy foods that everyone else in the family is eating - just less of them and with a few minor modifications: leave out the salt, sugars, and peppery spices; mash the foods or cut them into small pieces; and make sure the foods are well moistened so children will not choke on them. Children do not need added salt or sugars. They do not need soft drinks, juice drinks, desserts, candy, sweetened cereals, or fast food. And yes, they will eat 'adult' foods, the healthier kinds that grown-ups eat, if given the opportunity to eat such foods early and often. If you offer healthy foods, your children will have the chance to eat them. If you offer junk foods to your children, they will eat junk foods."

Here are just a few great resources for feeding everyone in your family real food:

Carolyn Cope feeds her family with real food. Her blog is Umami Girl.
Anne Marie feeds her toddler real food. Her blog is Cheeseslave.
Start a kid off right with Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck.
Marion Nestle writes the blog Food Politics. For more information about her book, "What to Eat", click here.

Let's talk about it.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Amazing Chicken Meatballs... with Bacon!


So I just had lunch but there is no way I'm going to get to the end of writing this post without eating another one of those meatballs. Between you and me, that meatball just to the right of the spatula is asking for it!

Jamie first alerted me to the deliciousness of these heavenly meatballs back in October when we both returned from our drive out to the farm with a pound of ground pastured chicken, and to be honest I don't know how I waited this long before making them. They are just tremendous - juicy, flavorful, satisfying and addictive. The original recipe is nearly perfect, but I added three extra cloves of garlic and extra salt*. I didn't bother making the peperonata, instead I just made a green salad with olives and capers and lemon dressing, and it was spectacular.

Top ingredients go a long way here, please take care to buy the best ground chicken and bacon you can find. Mmmm, can't wait for leftovers...

*Jamie's tip: A good way to check the seasoning on the meatballs (or any sausage or stuffing that you make): fry up a mini patty in a hot pan so you can see what it will taste like when cooked. Adjust the seasoning accordingly and keep testing until you get it right.