kids

Kids Are Drinking Way More Coffee. So What?!

babydrinkingcoffee

A new report published in the medical journal Pediatrics found that 73% of children and young adults in the United States have a regular caffeine habit, and more than ever they’re getting their jolt from coffee. In 2000 just 10% of their caffeine came from coffee; now it’s nearly 25%.

Of course kids are drinking coffee.
What else is left? Not soda with all that nasty high fructose corn syrup, and diet soda, we’re now learning, is even worse. Sports drinks and juice boxes are not much better, and there’s too much lactose intolerance going around for milk to make a comeback. 
Coffee it is. And what’s so wrong with that?

It’s not going to stunt anyone’s growth. postum_ad
That old chestnut? Generations of children grew up hearing it but it turns out to be linked to nothing more than early 20th century pseudoscientific ads plugging Postum, a once popular coffee-alternative.
The grain-based, caffeine-free drink—still much-loved in Mormon circles where coffee is banned—achieved early mainstream success with ads touting Postum as a kid-friendly beverage while vilifying coffee with claims that “It robs children of their rosy cheek sand sparkling eyes. It lowers their vitality, lessens their resistance to disease, and hampers proper development and growth.” The message took root in the country’s cultural consciousness and persists to this day.

A few more inches might have been nice, but don’t blame your early coffee habit.
The medical community has found virtually nothing to support a link between coffee and height. The myth makes much of the fact that caffeine has an adverse effect on the body’s absorption of calcium, but that bit of ‘common knowledge’ originated with a single bone mass study of elderly people with osteoporosis whose diets were lacking in calcium. For everyone else, the impact is so negligible that a couple of cups of coffee a day can be offset by a splash of creamer or the foam on top of a cappuccino.

Of course you don’t want to be revving their little engines with caffeine.
Tolerances and responses to caffeine differ widely among individuals, and it can cause jitters and sleeplessness in children just like it can in the rest of us. But there is a growing body of evidence that coffee can actually have a calming effect on some kids. If you’re familiar with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) you know that it’s typically treated with pharmaceutical stimulants—it seems counterintuitive but they work on the brain’s chemistry to calm and focus an overactive mind. New research suggests that the natural stimulants in coffee have the same effect, and findings indicate that caffeine can also work as an anti-depressant in children.

When it comes to kids and coffee, the real problem isn’t the caffeine.
It’s the vanilla syrup, the caramel drizzle, and the whipped cream. It’s all the sugary, frozen, and blended concoctions that masquerade as coffee, some that hover in burger-and-fries territory in terms of fat and calories. For a child, that can add up to breakfast, lunch, and dinner all in a single to-go cup, and there aren’t many kids who take it black.
And then there’s the cost: at four bucks a pop for a fancy latté drink, unless you want to give a serious bump to your child’s weekly allowance, no one should be in a hurry to cultivate an early coffee habit.

hellokittycoffee

 

 

 

 

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The Family Dinner. It’s Not Just for the Holidays.

Dinner with the Andersons: Jim, Margaret, Princess, Bud, and Kitten

Dinner with the Andersons: Jim, Margaret, Princess, Bud, and Kitten; via Screen Gems

 

The reality of a family dinner bears little resemblance to its mythical counterpart.
It’s the rare household with mom, dad, and kids sharing the events of the day over meaty roasts and noodle casseroles. There is probably more texting to outsiders than sharing with family. And a weekday roast? In your dreams.
But that’s okay because family mealtime is not just about the warm and fuzzies of the cultural ideal.

A regular shared meal can pay huge family dividends.
Study after study points to the same thing: regular family dinners lead to happier and healthier kids. They’re less likely to smoke, drink, abuse prescription or illegal drugs, or develop eating disorders, obesity, or depression. They watch less television, delay sexual activity, and get better grades in school. 
Clearly there’s something to this.

Whatever it is, it’s not just about the food.
The ‘secret sauce’ of a successful family dynamic is not in Mom’s meatloaf. Obviously there are plenty of other factors that contribute to a family’s well-being and anchor its values. A common mealtime is just one piece, but it seems to be the bellwether.

Go heal the planet, but don’t be late for dinner!
Since producing the environmental crusade An Inconvenient Truth, Laurie David has been advocating for family well-being. The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time doesn’t have Al Gore’s narration, but it does have child-care experts, writers, artists, and chefs sharing their personal dinnertime rituals. Participants include Maya Angelou, Jamie Oliver, Mario Batali, Alice Waters, Arianna Huffington, Nora Ephron, Judge Judy, Michael Pollan, and Sheryl Crow.

The differences between families that eat together frequently (defined as eating five or more family dinners per week) and infrequently (fewer than three times per week) are striking. The definitive studies have been conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. Read the full report: The Importance of Family Dinners VI.

Try it, even if it’s just a takeout pizza and nobody has anything to say.
There’s no guarantee that the food is any healthier just because we eat together as a family. It doesn’t guarantee meaningful conversation, much less moments of genuine intimacy.
But the ritual of the family dinner at least makes these things possible.

 

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‘Pink Slime’ Worms Its Way Into School Lunches

image via the Office of the Manhattan Borough President

image via the Office of the Manhattan Borough President

 

Have we already forgotten about ‘pink slime’?
The 2012 scandal was a real stunner even for veterans of the food safety wars.
We were outraged to learn that the vast majority of the nation’s ground beef contained a squishy, beef-like substance made by heating and centrifuging fatty trimmings and connective tissue to extract every last little bit of edible muscle. It’s then treated with ammonia to halt the growth of bacteria, since these lower-grade cuts of beef are more likely to have had contact with E. coli-carrying feces.

Pink slime, known more flatteringly as lean finely textured beef, has been responsible for widespread contaminations, illness, and death. After enough high profile recalls and lawsuits, and a chorus of consumer protests, it’s been banished from every major fast food chain and retail grocer. But it’s still making the stomach-churning journey from slaughterhouses to school lunch rooms.

In the aftermath of last year’s media uproar, thousands of schools across the U.S. voluntarily eliminated the ammonia-treated processed beef product from their cafeterias. While school budgets are tight all over, their lunch programs are under new financial pressures from the recently revised national nutrition standards that hit the ground in 2012. The new requirements demand greater quantities of costly fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while the federal government increased its contribution by just six cents more per lunch.

When pink slime first came to public attention, schools in all but three states— Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota; all big beef producers—purged it from their menus. Four more states—Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Texas— have since put aside concerns and resumed buying the controversial product for the 2013-2014 school year.

If not for school lunch programs, those same slaughterhouse trimmings would be processed into pet food or dumped as compost.
It’s not just about quelling the queasiness of parents and school officials. This is a substance that falls below the quality and safety standards of fast food restaurants and most commercial food processors. It’s nutritionally inferior to slime-free beef and inherently riskier, yet we’re feeding it to our most vulnerable population.
Don’t our nation’s schoolchildren deserve better?

 

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College Kids Are the Foodies of The Future

image via College Planning Advisors

image via College Planning Advisors

 

Kids these days…are tomorrow’s food trendsetters.
There are 20 million college students in the U.S., most in their teens and early 20′s
They’re young, impressionable, and eating Thai food for the first time.

Minds are expanding, horizons are broadening, and not just in the classroom. 
Today’s college cafeterias are serving up globally-influenced dishes, there’s always cheap, ethnic food close by the campus, and student populations are increasingly diverse. Campuses incubate political awareness and activism, and the politics of our food system are among the most immediate and accessible. A college can be big and urban or tiny and rural, it makes no difference—by winter break, every freshman knows tahini is a sauce and panini is a sandwich.

Students develop new eating habits and assert their culinary preferences during the college years, and these practices and penchants will stay with them long after graduation. The food industry is paying attention. It recognizes that these food choices are developing in ways that are distinct from previous generations, and the impact will be felt for decades to come. The food industry strategists at CCD Innovations have extensively studied this cohort, and they outline seven distinct profiles in the Collegiate Gen Y Eating: Culinary Trend Mapping Report.

  • Profile 1: The meatless spectrum– 21% of students identify with the less-meat to meat-less diet, ranging from flexitarian to vegetarian to vegan.
  • Profile 2: The chickpea lovers– Students are crazy for this inexpensive and protein-packed food in any of its many guises.
  • Profile 3: Nut butters– They spent their early, allergy-prone years in nut-free classrooms and cafeterias, and are now coming to appreciate peanut butter, almond butter, and the cocoa and hazelnut combination ofNutella.
  • Profile 4: Consider the brussels sprout– They’re giving up childhood prejudices and delving deeply into the world of fruits and vegetables.
  • Profile 5: Not just chicken chow mein– Today’s students are looking beyond the Americanized Asian foods of their hometowns and exploring Korean, Thai, Malaysian, and Indian cuisines.
  • Profile 6: The new comfort foods– When final exams have students frazzled and stressed, campus dining services know it’s time to roll out the lasagne, enchiladas, and other filling, familiar Italian and Mexican classics.
  • Profile 7: Get it to go– The grab-and-go station has become a staple of campus dining. Students want something quick, portable, and easy to eat as they walk to class.
The recently-launched College & Cook Magazine relies on a national corps of student contributors to tap into the changing culinary landscape on campuses. Early issues of the online-only publication have covered topics like campus sustainability, the intricacies of kissing with food allergies (yes, you can cause a reaction in a partner if you eat one of their trigger foods), and calculating the measuring cup equivalent for baking with a shot glass.

 

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Fixing the 4 Food Groups of the Corner Store

 

image via The Candy Trail

image via The Candy Trail

 

Candy, ice cream, chips, and soda.
That’s the stock in trade of the corner store. When kids drop in on the way home from school clutching dollar bills from their allowance, that’s what they buy. And in Philadelphia, the poorest and most obese of the big cities, they were buying way too much. A study published in the journal Pediatrics reported that more than 53% of  the city’s public school students were shopping at corner stores once every school day, and 29% were stopping by both before and after school, five days a week. On average they were spending just over a dollar at each visit, and on average they were buying sugary, fatty treats that added up to 356 calories.

There’s so much wrong with this picture—from the dearth of healthy options in urban food deserts and the poor nutritional choices the kids were making, to the out-of-whack food system that creates so many empty calories so cheaply. It threatened to undermine the schools’ efforts where they had eliminated junk food from campus vending machines and rid cafeterias of hard working deep fat fryers.

The corner store is not the enemy.
Bodegas and convenience markets are part of the urban landscape. They serve an important role in poorer communities where options are limited, and Philadelphia has fewer supermarkets per capita than almost every other large American city. The corner stores are free market enterprises with little square footage and prime display space that’s often contractually reserved for favored vendors. They don’t have room to stock what doesn’t sell, and what does sell is often cheap and unhealthy.

It’s a two-pronged approach.
Store owners need to be encouraged to stock fresh, healthful foods, and kids need to be encouraged to choose them. The Food Trust, a Philadelphia-based organization that works to improve access to affordable, healthy food, has led the charge with its local Healthy Corner Store Initiative and the creation of the national Healthy Corner Stores Network.

Creating a sustainable model on the supply side.
In 2009 The Food Trust began with fewer than a dozen participating Philadelphia store owners. They provided equipment like inexpensive refrigerated barrels that allowed the stores to expand their inventory of perishable foods, and linked the owners with local farmers and fresh food suppliers. They also offered training, merchandising, and technical support to store employers that showed how they could boost food safety and reduce spoilage, and ultimately the store owners found that they could improve overall store operations while profitably selling healthier products.

Appetites don’t naturally follow access.
To create sustainable demand for healthy foods, the diet of an entire household has to be transformed. The Food Trust reaches out to both children and their parents with education and message marketing. They engage families through community-based programs on nutrition and healthy purchasing, and are a strong presence in the public schools where 80% of the city’s students have participated in nutrition and wellness programs. Of equal importance is a youth leadership program that targets the social component of behaviors and the troubled relationship that many kids have with food.

In just four years, Philadelphia’s Healthy Corner Store Initiative has grown to involve 680 store owners. All have agreed to stock at least four healthy new products, with most offering dozens more. Pricing is kept competitive and many products bear labels and logos that highlight the store’s healthy options.

Philadelphia is bucking a childhood obesity trend.
While obesity rates remain unchanged all around the country, recent studies show an average decline in obesity rates for Philadelphia’s schoolchildren of five percent, and an even more significant seven percent drop among African American boys and Latina girls, two groups at especially high risk for diabetes. The success is shared by numerous constituents of the city’s broad-based assault on obesity, but breaking the old corner store habit, with its daily dose of junk food, is no small part of it.

 

Posted in community, health + diet, kids | 1 Comment

Kids Drinking Coffee. Why Not?

[image via the New Yorker]

Of course kids are drinking coffee.
What else is left?
Soda is out—high fructose corn syrup, you know. Sports drinks are, as the British press put it, just lolly water. Ditto for juice boxes. Certainly not milk with all that lactose-intolerance going around.
Coffee it is.

And what exactly is so wrong with that?

Coffee doesn’t stunt anyone’s growth. That turned out to be a giant fallacy.
And it has health benefits, reducing the risk for Parkinson’s disease, liver cirrhosis, and gallstones. Not exactly pediatric ailments, but it can’t hurt. More intriguing is growing evidence to support years of anecdotal claims from parents that the caffeine in coffee actually calms down children with ADHD.

Gunning their little engines with caffeine.
Coffee does of course rev kids up, and it can leave them with jittery nerves and insomnia. And children are already getting plenty of caffeine from sources like soda, candy, hot chocolate, ice cream, and even cold medicine.

Tolerances and responses to caffeine differ widely among individuals, but it’s pretty safe to assume that the younger they are, the less coffee they probably should drink. The United States hasn’t developed dietary guidelines for kids and caffeine, but Health Canada recommends no more than 45 mg/day for 4 – 6 year olds;  62.5 mg/day at 7 – 9 years; and 85 mg/day for 10 – 12 year olds— compared with moderate adult intake of around 400 mg. (about 3 coffees’ worth).

The real problem isn’t even the coffee.
It’s the fat and calories of the vanilla syrup and the caramel drizzle, the steamed milk and whipped cream. It’s all the frozen, blended mochafrappacappalattaccinos that masquerade as coffee. There are coffee concoctions that hover in burger-and-fries territory in terms of fat and calories. For a child, that can add up to breakfast, lunch, and dinner all in a single to-go cup. And there aren’t many kids who take it black.

Best is to watch the sugar and keep a tally of caffeine from all sources.
And at four bucks a pop for a fancy latté drink, no one should be in a hurry to cultivate their kid’s coffee habit.

 

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10 Reasons Why You Should Buy Girl Scout Cookies

Yup, it’s Girl Scout cookie time.
Those girls time it just right. Just as your New Years diet resolve is weakening, they come a’knocking.
In case you need a little nudge toward an extra box of coconut-caramel Samoas, here are 10 good reasons why you should buy Girl Scout cookies.

scouts

 

 

 

10) They’re not Boy Scout cookies.

 

 

 

gsuniform

9) You can thumb your nose at Conservative mudslingers.
Prominent voices on the Christian Right claim that we’re distracted by the cute green outfits and cookies; that the Girl Scouts are really out to feed us a radical feminist lesbian agenda along with a box of peanut butter Do-Si-Dos. The Family Research Council published Girl Scouts Not Pro-Abortion! Earth Not Round!; WorldNetDaily blared the headline GIRL SCOUTS EXPOSED: LESSONS IN LESBIANISM; and HonestGirlScouts.com created a timeline titled  A History with Planned Parenthood, United Nations, Radicals & More as part of its Girl Scouts Hall of Shame.

girlscoutgps  

 

8) Cookie app!

cookiedo


7)There’s something to this Girl Scouts thing.
Nearly three-quarters of all the women serving in Congress, including 14 of the 20 women senators, are former Girl Scouts. This is especially notable when you consider that less than 10% of U.S. women were scouts in their youth.

girlscoutcreditcard 

6) The Girl Scouts take credit cards.

Girl-Scout-Cookie

 

 

 

5) New cookie boxes.
The re-designed packaging features girl-power images from the Pulitzer Prize winning photographer David Hume Kennerly who has photographed four decades of American presidents, documented the Jonestown massacre, and produced a book about the last Seinfeld episode.

rainbowpatch

4) The Girl Scouts made LGBT history welcoming the first transgender scout.
Last year’s statement from the Girl Scouts of Colorado: “Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization and we accept all girls in kindergarten through 12th grade as members. If a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.”

 

women-leaders

3) Do it for Hillary.
Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton. Sandra Day O’Connor, Janet Reno, and Madeleine Albright. Every woman astronaut that’s ever flown in space. Gloria Steinem, Barbara Walters, Martha Stewart, Taylor Swift, and Venus Williams. All told, the Girl Scouts of America claim 64% of today’s women leaders—civic, athletic corporate, political, arts and sciences— as their own.

national_gs_cookieday

2) National Girl Scout Cookie Day is coming.

CookieMagnet_ThinMints

 

  1) Thin Mints.

 

 

Posted in cookies, diversions, kids, shopping | 5 Comments

Smart Kids Grow Up to Drink More Alcohol

image via The United Nations of Beer

image via The United Nations of Beer

 

It seems contradictory, but it’s true.
The smartest kids are the ones who grow up to consume more alcohol, more frequently. They are more likely than less intelligent individuals to drink to get drunk and to engage in binge drinking.

These are the findings of two highly respected, long-term studies: the National Childhood Development Study from the United Kingdom and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health in the United States. Both studies defined high intelligence as a childhood IQ of 125 and above; both studies controlled for a huge number of variables in both the kids and their families (including age, sex, race, ethnicity, religion, marital status, social status, education, earnings, political attitudes, stress factors, religiosity, physical and mental health, medications, socialization, and sexual activity). The findings held true: smarter kids drink more as adults, and it appears that it’s their intelligence itself that makes them drink more.

On the face of it, this makes no sense: obviously these very smart people are familiar with the potential dangers of heavy alcohol consumption. The researchers reported the data, but offered no explanations. Hypotheses abound.

Psychology Today theorizes that it’s all about evolution. They argue that alcohol is a relatively recent invention in human history. Until 10,000 years ago, drunkenness was a mostly unintentional state that occurred when our ancestors ate rotten and fermented fruit. In an evolutionary sense, the deliberate creation and consumption of alcohol is a modern invention that has been embraced by the leading edge of highly intelligent early adopters.

Another evolutionary theory posits that people of higher intelligence can take more pleasure from the mind-altering experience of drunkenness. Their brains are equipped to process a broader range of stimuli and novelty than are the brains of the less intelligent.

Addiction expert Stanton Peele suggests that individuals of lesser intelligence are more susceptible to public health and educational messages warning of the dangers of alcohol. They might also have swallowed the myth that alcohol kills brain cells.

The Journal of Advanced Academics links drinking to the difficult adolescence of highly intelligent teenagers. They are more prone than mainstream kids to experience depression and social isolation and commonly use alcohol to self-medicate.

Or maybe, it’s just that once they’ve outgrown those awkward years they want to cut loose and make up for all the high school parties they weren’t invited to.

Posted in beer + wine + spirits, kids | Leave a comment

Back to School With Home Economics

Creative Commons image via San Jose Public Library

How to you teach Home Ec to a generation raised on Top Chef and Project Runway?

For starters, it’s not Home Ec, but Family and Consumer Sciences. Cooking is now culinary arts, and sewing has given way to fashion design. And many believe that’s the problem.

Home Economics for girls and Shop for boys had long been required for high school graduation. In the 1970′s, classrooms went coed, but by then, the traditional Home Ec curriculum of hand-stitched hems and tuna casseroles was deemed fusty and outmoded. Instead of retooling, most school districts simply dropped the graduation requirement; the Reagan era tax cuts made the decision for them.

If it breaks, get a new one. If you’re hungry, try the drive-through.

Basic life skills like household repairs, balancing checkbooks, and preparing simple meals are no longer routinely taught in school– and what busy, working parents of teenagers have the time or the inclination to give home lessons? Instead, non-mandatory Home Economics has led to boutique electives in fashion merchandising and sushi-rolling. And this in the midst of a childhood obesity epidemic and our collectively declining financial health.

Nobody wants to see a return to the gender-stereotyped classrooms and curriculum, or the tuna casseroles, but how about some basic principles and pragmatic instruction that would transform daunting chores into manageable and rewarding pursuits? Home Economics is not like you remember. Here’s a thought for this back-to-school season: maybe it should be.

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Kids These Days…

Kids these days…are tomorrow’s food trendsetters.

There are 20 million college students in the U.S., most in their teens and early 20′s.
They’re young, impressionable, and eating Thai food for the first time.

Minds are expanding, horizons are broadening, and not just in the classroom.
Today’s college cafeterias are serving up globally-influenced dishes, there’s always cheap, ethnic food close by the campus, and student populations are increasingly diverse. Campuses incubate political awareness and activism, and the politics of our food system are among the most immediate and accessible. A college can be big and urban or tiny and rural, it makes no difference—by winter break, every freshman knows tahini is a sauce and panini is a sandwich.

Students develop new eating habits and assert their culinary preferences during the college years, and these practices and penchants will stay with them long after graduation. The food industry is paying attention. It recognizes that these food choices are developing in ways that are distinct from previous generations, and the impact will be felt for decades to come. The food industry strategists at CCD Innovations have extensively studied this cohort, and they outline seven distinct profiles in the Collegiate Gen Y Eating: Culinary Trend Mapping Report.

  • Profile 1: The meatless spectrum– 21% of students identify with the less-meat to meat-less diet, ranging from flexitarian to vegetarian to vegan.
  • Profile 2: The chickpea lovers– Students are crazy for this inexpensive and protein-packed food in any of its many guises.
  • Profile 3: Nut butters– They spent their early, allergy-prone years in nut-free classrooms and cafeterias, and are now coming to appreciate peanut butter, almond butter, and the cocoa and hazelnut combination of Nutella.
  • Profile 4: Consider the brussels sprout– They’re giving up childhood prejudices and delving deeply into the world of fruits and vegetables.
  • Profile 5: Not just chicken chow mein– Today’s students are looking beyond the Americanized Asian foods of their hometowns and exploring Korean, Thai, Malaysian, and Indian cuisines.
  • Profile 6: The new comfort foods– When final exams have students frazzled and stressed, campus dining services know it’s time to roll out the lasagne, enchiladas, and other filling, familiar Italian and Mexican classics.
  • Profile 7: Get it to go– The grab-and-go station has become a staple of campus dining. Students want something quick, portable, and easy to eat as they walk to class.
The recently-launched College & Cook Magazine relies on a national corps of student contributors to tap into the changing culinary landscape on campuses. Early issues of the online-only publication have covered topics like campus sustainability, the intricacies of kissing with food allergies (yes, you can cause a reaction in a partner if you eat one of their trigger foods), and calculating the measuring cup equivalent for baking with a shot glass.

 

Posted in food trends, kids | Leave a comment

Intelligent Kids Grow Up to Drink More Alcohol

image via The United Nations of Beer

 

It seems contradictory, but it’s true.
The smartest kids are the ones who grow up to consume more alcohol, more frequently. They are more likely than less intelligent individuals to drink to get drunk and to engage in binge drinking.

These are the findings of two highly respected, long-term studies: the National Childhood Development Study from the United Kingdom and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health in the United States. Both studies defined high intelligence as a childhood IQ of 125 and above; both studies controlled for a huge number of variables in both the kids and their families (including age, sex, race, ethnicity, religion, marital status, social status, education, earnings, political attitudes, stress factors, religiosity, physical and mental health, medications, socialization, and sexual activity). The findings held true: smarter kids drink more as adults, and it appears that it’s their intelligence itself that makes them drink more.

On the face of it, this makes no sense: obviously these very smart people are familiar with the potential dangers of heavy alcohol consumption. The researchers reported the data, but offered no explanations. Hypotheses abound.

Psychology Today theorizes that it’s all about evolution. They argue that alcohol is a relatively recent invention in human history. Until 10,000 years ago, drunkenness was a mostly unintentional state that occurred when our ancestors ate rotten and fermented fruit. In an evolutionary sense, the deliberate creation and consumption of alcohol is a modern invention that has been embraced by the leading edge of highly intelligent early adopters.

Another evolutionary theory posits that people of higher intelligence can take more pleasure from the mind-altering experience of drunkenness. Their brains are equipped to process a broader range of stimuli and novelty than are the brains of the less intelligent.

Addiction expert Stanton Peele suggests that individuals of lesser intelligence are more susceptible to public health and educational messages warning of the dangers of alcohol. They might also have swallowed the myth that alcohol kills brain cells.

The Journal of Advanced Academics links drinking to the difficult adolescence of highly intelligent teenagers. They are more prone than mainstream kids to experience depression and social isolation and commonly use alcohol to self-medicate.

Or maybe, it’s just that once they’ve outgrown those awkward years they want to cut loose and make up for all the high school parties they weren’t invited to.

 

 

Posted in beer + wine + spirits, kids | Leave a comment

Child Foodies: Even more obnoxious than the grown-ups

 

image via Supermarket Guru

 

It seems that kids don’t want to eat like kids; or at least a certain sort of parent doesn’t want them to.

The Prepubescent Epicure as Ultimate Foodie Accessory
It goes beyond the desire of parents to raise an adventurous eater or to share a love of food with their children. It’s a badge of honor for the urban sophisticate; instead of comparing notes on traditional childhood milestones like first steps and shoe-tying, parents claim bragging rights to the child that can handle an escargot fork or requests duck confit in their lunch box. A new tooth is cause for celebration because now the little one can finally have his own artichoke.

Into and Out of the Mouths of Babes
Here are select outtakes from the haute world of kid cuisine:

  • The Brooklyn Paper explores the coffee culture of the borough’s youngest cafe habitués, ‘tots ditching their bottles and juice boxes in favor of “babyccinos” — mini decaf cappuccinos.
  • ‘Down from heaven came the crab. It was enclosed in the zucchini flower, doused with black truffle sauce, topped with shaved truffles…’
    –from the blog of 12 year-old David Fishman, aka the Middle School Food Critic, whose reviews have appeared in GQ Magazine.
  • Birthday Cake Two Ways in which a food blogger tells of serving a wheel of truffle-infused aged goat cheese ‘with three white candles plunged into its earthy skin‘ in lieu of a cake to celebrate her daughter’s 3rd birthday
  • C is for Chanterelle, K is for Kobe Beef in My Foodie ABC, a bestselling alphabet primer
  • A New York Times roundup of kid-friendly meals includes a $32 child-sized serving of spaghetti with butter at the Michelin-starred L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Of course there’s nothing wrong with teaching kids about good food. Their young immune systems can’t handle certain raw foods; otherwise, let them experiment. But the notion of tiny, discriminating epicures is a figment of the narcissistic parent’s imagination.

Oliver Stern, 3, who lives on the Upper East Side and attends a private nursery school there, won’t eat Chinese unless it’s the $33 crispy beef from Mr. Chow
–from Twee-sine, the New York Posts’ look at the twee cuisine phenomenon, as proudly reported by his mother

According to the Monell Chemical Senses Center children have childish tastes that serve an evolutionary function by helping them get appropriate nutrition. They prefer sweet to savory, need higher levels of salt, react powerfully to strong odors, and are more drawn to textures than taste.

A child’s tastebuds are immature. Their palates are just plain unrefined, physically incapable of truly rarefied discernment. There have always been picky eaters and kids who throw temper tantrums over Happy Meals. Thanks to indulgent parenting, now they’re stamping their little feet over a $32 plate of Mr. Chow’s crispy beef.

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Food Named for Celebrities/Celebrity Babies Named for Food

We’ve always named foods for celebrities.
I’m not talking about foods named after their creators, like the Earl of Sandwich or Sylvester Graham of graham cracker fame, but foods that are named in tribute, like the Shirley Temple or Baby Ruth.
Really, could there be any higher honor?

New York’s Carnegie Deli is famous for immortalizing its showbiz regulars with sandwiches.
There’s Henny’s Heaven (cream cheese, lox, lettuce, tomato, onion, and capers on a toasted bagel) named for the classic comic Henny Youngman, and the overstuffed corned beef of the Woody Allen. We know that Tim Tebow has truly arrived now that the newest Jet has his own Carnegie Deli sandwich. We also know that he’s not yet a real New Yorker: the corned beef, pastrami, roast beef, American cheese, lettuce and tomato of the Jetbow are packed between slices of white bread and slathered with mayonnaise, both firsts for the deli, which is more of a spicy mustard and rye bread kind of place.

Ben & Jerry’s favors rock stars for its ice cream flavor honors.
There’s been the Queen-inspired Bohemian Raspberry, an homage to their favorite jam band with Phish Food, Dave Matthews Band Magic Brownies, and the butter brickle salute to Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brickle Road. Cherry Garcia was the company’s (the world’s?) original rock star ice cream, and is still its all-time best selling flavor.

Food on the celebrity brain.
Could it be wishful thinking on the part of those who have yet to achieve sandwich-like star stature? Maybe it’s all the deprivation required for the photo-op-ready body. Whatever the reason, one thing is clear: the stars are naming their offspring for food, and not the Basils or Honeys of yesteryear.

Jason Bateman’s daughter, born just this winter, is Maple Sylvie. Isla Fisher and Sascha Baron Cohen have daughter Olive, and both Ethan Hawke and Claudia Schiffer named their daughters Clementine. Duran Duran’s Simon LeBon chose a spice for his daughter Saffron, while Grey’s Anatomy’s Isaiah Washington went with the herb Thyme for his son, and there’s a glut of little Hollywood Coco’s (David Arquette and Courtney Cox; TV actress Diane Farr; Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore; No Doubt’s Tony Kanal). The Man vs. Wild star, himself saddled with the monicker Bear Grylls, named his son Huckleberry, while Chef Jamie Oliver can almost be forgiven for daughter Poppy Honey.

Most credit Gwynyth Paltrow and Chris Martin with kicking off the trend when they named their baby girl Apple, but early rockers Frank Zappa and Bob Geldof both bested the couple—by a few decades and a ton more audacity—with their now-grown daughters Diva Thin Muffin and Peaches Honeyblossom. For the record, Ms. Zappa has dropped her middle names and Ms. Geldof has appealed to celebrities to stop the naming madness, claiming to be haunted by hers all her life.

In Unfortunate Baby Names, Uncas Slattery (yup, Uncas) identifies what he believes are the most unfortunate food-related names of all time:

  • Apple Pie – born Virginia, c. 1830
  • Candy Barr – born South Carolina, c. 1848
  • Cherry Tart – born Mississippi, c. 1859
  • Eggy Bacon – born Georgia, c. 1851
  • Ham Burger – born Michigan, c. 1847
  • Liver Bacon – born Missouri, c. 1891
  • Muffin Hill – born Texas, c. 1876
  • Treacle Tart – baptized Durham, 1746
  • Gooseberry Berry – born Texas, 1920

See, Peaches Honeyblossom Geldof? You could have done a lot worse.

 

Posted in Entertainment, kids | 2 Comments

The Myth of the Sugar High

Let’s put this one to rest once and for all…
Sugar does NOT turn kids into hyperactive maniacs.
There’s NO SUCH THING as a sugar-induced high.

I know what you’re thinking. Of course it’s real. You’ve seen it with your own eyes. Two cans of Coke or a birthday party goodie bag and the kids are bouncing off the walls.

But study after study after study proves otherwise. Researchers have tested the sugar in soda, candy, and fruit; compared honey, molasses, corn syrup, and cane sugar; looked at short-term and long-term effects; examined young kids, old kids, kids with ADHD and the purportedly sugar sensitive; and the results are always the same: there is no scientific cause and effect between sweets and hyperactivity. In fact the only reason there are so many studies is because you refuse to believe the results.

I know. You’re still not convinced because studies, schmudies; you know what you know—a handful of Hershey’s Kisses and you’re prying the little ones off the ceiling.

The scientific community has a couple of theories.
All suggest that there is a legitimate high; it’s just not really from the sugar.

The buzz can come from the sheer thrill of getting a sweet treat—eating a forbidden or restricted food can in itself create a certain excitement. Then there are the environmental factors. Often the treats are given on occasions when the kids are already amped up like a play date, the ball park, a holiday, a school event, or a party. It can also be the caffeine that’s found in the treats—it’s in soda, and not just cola but some orange, cream soda, and lemon-lime varieties; and it’s in the chocolate in cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies, candy bars, pudding, ice cream, and more. And then there are the expectations. Parents are on alert, on the lookout for bad behavior, maybe even fueling it by raising the anxiety level in their kids.

There are plenty of  good reasons to limit the amount of sugar in children’s diets. A sugar high just isn’t one of them.

 

Posted in candy, food knowledge, kids | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Today’s history class is brought to you by Doritos

“The best-selling packaged cookie in the world is the Oreo cookie. The diameter of an Oreo cookie is 1.75 inches. Express the diameter of an Oreo cookie as a fraction in the simplest form.”

You’re looking at middle-school math.
The worksheet comes from a a sixth-grade curriculum in wide use across more than a dozen states. Another lesson on research methods asks the kids to design an experiment that allows them to prove that there are 1,000 chocolate chips in the large package of Chips Ahoy! cookies, and in the geometry unit, surface area is calculated using a box of Kellogg’s Cocoa Frosted Flakes.

We’ve recently increased awareness and toughened school nutrition standards. Cookies, candy, and chips are out, and schools are being pressured to turn down the million-dollar soft drink product placement contracts they were jumping at a few years ago. These changes have left school districts looking for new sources of income, and junk food marketers looking for a new ‘in’ with school-age kids. Both groups have found what they need in the classroom.

It’s called Sponsored Educational Materials, and it can be anything from branded assignment books and textbook covers to an entire course curriculum. While we might cringe at the sight of obesity-prone schoolchildren toting school supplies plastered with Pop-Tarts logos, the sponsored curricula are truly chilling. Companies like Kraft and Burger King hire educational consultants to create teaching materials that will further their corporate interests while adhering to national standards. First graders are color-sorting M&Ms and counting Tootsie Rolls, elementary art classes are decorating push-up tubes for Nestle Push-Up Ice Cream, and students in high school business skills courses learn how a McDonald’s franchise operates. And a special ‘A’ for irony has to go to Coca-Cola and PepsiCo for curricular programs like Coke’s Step With It! and Pepsi’s Balance First, that dominate middle school instruction in health and physical education.

To learn more about advertising cloaked as teaching aides, visit The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, a group that is advocating for government policies to limit marketers’ access to children. Earlier this year, the CCFC set its sights on a blatant piece of propaganda titled ‘The United States of Energy,’ a lesson packet used nationally in sixth-grade classrooms. Sponsored by the American Coal Foundation, it was a less than fair and balanced assessment of our nation’s energy sources that failed to mention any of coal’s negative impacts on the environment and public health. The CFCC organized a successful letter-writing campaign to remove the material from classrooms. The group hopes to repeat that success as it goes after junk food marketing.

 

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Culinary Crusaders: lending a hand in the volunteer kitchen

image via saavi

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If you can chop or bake or just wash dishes, then have I got an opportunity for you!

From gleaning fields after a harvest to feeding the hungry in Appalachia to a bake sale in your community, there is a food-focused volunteer opportunity to fit every calendar, budget, and skill set. [...]

Posted in community, kids, Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

C is for Cafeteria: A look at school lunches

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Inside the school cafeteria

It’s just like you remember: loud and chaotic, lunch ladies in hairnets, pizza Fridays. The lines are long, the meat is still a mystery, and most of what’s brought from home gets tossed.

Less familiar are the trading bans and peanut-free zones to accommodate allergies, the absence of any actual cooking, and the runaway rates of childhood obesity and diabetes.

The National School Lunch Program provides commodities and subsidies to public and private schools that offer free or reduced-price meals. This year’s subsidy was $2.68 for each free lunch down to 25¢ for full-priced lunches. At that rate, most districts can afford food costs of about 90¢ for each lunch served. [...]

Posted in food policy, food safety, kids | Tagged , , | 3 Comments
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