The focus of this chapter revolves around lifestyle challenges parents face, particularly in the area of what we eat. What is normal today is actually causing us to be unhealthy: fast food, processed food, and refined sweeteners.
We are eating a lot of food, but not getting the nutrients our bodies need. The average person gets 50% of daily calories from high calorie, low nutrient foods. Even when we eat “healthy” foods, they aren’t what they used to be in terms of nutrient density. For example, broccoli has only half the amount of calcium it had 50 years ago. Cauliflower has 40% the vitamin C.
The biggest issue is the food choices we make. Foods like soft drinks and refined sugar consume minerals from the body and do not add any to it. Minerals are critical for the functioning of the body from the operation of the cell and bone strength, to nerve, brain and muscle function. Eating out has surpassed home cooking as the option of choice for food. We spend $110. billion on fast foods, where we spent $6 billion in 1970.
Our bodies are made up of the things we eat. If we don’t eat the nutrients that fuel our bodies, deficiencies show up, manifesting first as things like irritability, lack of attention, mood swings. Is it surprising us that 20% of children have learning and behavior problems?
What Do We Eat per Person per Year? (Statistics from the USDA, 2001)
- 142 pounds of caloric sweeteners
- corn sweeteners (79.2 pounds/person) –increased significantly from previous usage
- beet and cane sugar (61 pounds/person) –dropped significantly from previous usage
- 24.3 gallons of coffee
- 87.9 pounds of added fats and oils – 32.5 pounds of hydrogenated vegetable shortening
- 26.7 quarts of ice cream sherbet, frozen yogurt, and ice milk
- 25.1 gallons of alcohol – 21.6 as beer
- 46.4 gallons of soft drinks
- 4.2 pounds of potato chips
- 22 pounds of candy
- 38 donuts
Food is the area that I think is one of the hardest for people to change. We love our food. We eat for pleasure and comfort. Certain foods are connected with special events. And, we are so pressed for time, convenience becomes critical. Whatever the reason, what we eat is a very personal issue and is difficult to change because we don’t want to change, we like our food and the convenience. To change involves sacrifice. Yet, if we don’t give some things up and start eating differently from the standard American diet (SAD) eventually we will become sick, especially our kids because they likely never had a good nutritional foundation. When we begin to think of everything we eat as moving us toward health or away from it, it can make the choices and changes easier.
This strikes at the heart of autism and allergies. Anything nutrient deficient does not move my son toward health. Anything processed - hydrogenated oils, refined sugar, corn sweeteners, antibiotic and hormone laden meat, food colors - they all work to damage his body further rather than toward restoring healthy function. We have stayed far away from these things and have worked to feed him excellent nutrition, seeing everytime he takes a bite as an opportunity to give his body vitamins, minerals, fats, etc that he needs. We are are seeing great results (with additional supplementation, of course. When the bank account of nutrients is so extremely deficient it needs some major deposits)!