Saturday, 3 August 2013

Fattening children

One of the things that has fascinated me since I started blogging a year and a half ago is the synchronicity that pops up so unexpectedly. I mentioned in my last post that I had a swag of food-related ideas for this blog that had died a death in draft form because they were ending up as rants, so it wasn't until that post that I really did get my head together enough to respond to the Jamie Oliver expose of McDonalds without going overboard. The response to that post has been amazing - it rocketed up my list of all time most viewed posts on Dragon Mother - EVER. Thanks to everyone who came to read!! And then there was this cartoon that a friend posted this morning that I couldn't resist popping on here, because it relates to that last post and what you're about to read:
So, this morning while cruising around Facebook, I found a link to a blog post that a friend had put up that was absolutely chilling. The blog is called The Well Fed Homestead, and I have every intention of going and having a good wander around to see what else the writer has to say, but this post, How to Fatten Pigs and People - the title is indicative of where it's going - is both disturbing and VERY confronting. 

From my brief look at the blog, it is the chronicle of a family going back to farming for themselves in order to eat and live healthily, the way we used to before the world got so speeded up, industrialised and urbanised. How many of us dream about that? I know I do... Family discussions at home over the last year or so have come back a few times to what we might do when we hit a financial place where we don't necessarily HAVE to live in the city for work and school reasons, and while Young Stepson thinks where we're heading consistently in these conversations shows that either his father has totally lost his marbles or I've pulled some evil magic spell over him and bewitched him, my partner and I are both leaning strongly towards land and a rural option rather than a beach house. What the stepson doesn't understand is the pull land has on someone who grew up on it, as his father did, and as I partly did, and also, he's at an age where city life holds all the potential excitement that he's looking for, while we're looking for something more peaceful where we can start to think again and have space just to BE.

But, I digress. Part of that imperative for me is certainly about being able to grow our own food, raise free range eggs, eat seasonally more than we do - the temptation of a ripe fresh tomato in a fruit shop in July can be hard to pass up, even if I know instinctively it's NOT going to taste of summer... And certainly, to be in a position where the bulk of our food does come out of our own garden, and there are less trips to shops where the other temptations of packaged convenience foods beckon from the shelves.

And this is where the blog post that spurred THIS post hits hard. These people raise their own food. They do it small scale, primarily for their own consumption, but from the post, they've clearly done their homework on the methods used to raise meat commercially, and the direct comparison they draw between the supplements used to fatten pigs FAST for market and the trends in current eating habits in the USA - and Australia, as well as most of the modern West these days - is disturbing and eye-opening to say the least.

The first point is the comparison between skim and full milk products. It is well documented that children shouldn't be fed skim milk, that full milk is better for growing bodies. The same can be said for full milk cheeses, yoghurts and other milk products. However, it's skim that's been used to feed pigs for generations, and current health trends have demonised whole milk products because of the fats in whole milk. This is the point - where if you haven't already done so, you should take a moment to go read the other blog post for the details of why this is bad, because I'm just summarising... There are many excellent reasons to feed children whole milk, and from what's in that post, even more for those of us who consume dairy products to continue to do so, and avoid the skim products even as adults. Among other things, those fats in the whole milk products satisfy our body's cravings for sugar in a way that the skim product can't, so we're less likely to reach for something to supplement that craving in addition to the milk! Who knew??

The next is corn. Now, corn is one of my all time favourite treats and there is nothing to compare to that first juicy mouthful of fresh corn on the cob picked straight from the garden, stripped of its husk and dropped into boiling water for about three minutes and then lightly buttered and salted. Really. And even when we manage to get lucky at the fruit and veg store and get corn that's just come in, it's still at the very least, 12 hours from being picked and the sugars in the corn have already changed, so it's just not the same as what you can get straight out of a garden. My kids LOVED growing corn, and used to watch the silks as it ripened, waiting for them to be dry and brown enough to signal they were ready to pick - and then we'd have a wonderfully messy meal of it! Corn in itself, like any other fruit or vegetable, is good food. The ubiquitous byproducts and supplememts produced from corn to alter, extend, sweeten and colour other foods...they're the problem. They're in everything, and it has been found in numerous studies that they are a major contributing factor in the obesity epidemic.

And then sugar - the latest demon. I don't have a particularly sweet tooth, so I've never really had an issue with high sugar consumption. My partner, on the other hand, always checks the dessert menu in a restaurant before he orders. I do have sugar in my tea and if I make porridge for breakfast, I can't resist the luxury of brown sugar and raisins on it... I eat the odd bit of dark chocolate - the good stuff, and I'm not proof against the tiny handmade biscotti that are handed out free with a coffee at the coffee cart near my work. Having said that, I don't eat packaged food, I don't use packaged shortcuts, and until age and hormones stepped in, I've never really had any significant weight issues - so now, it's about dealing with the inevitable changes and modifying quantities of food I eat and the exercise I do. However, our bodies are programmed to want a certain amount of sugar. It's one of the foods that give us energy. Breastmilk is naturally sweeter than cow's milk, so to mimic that flavour, cow's milk baby formulas have extra sugars added. We all know, those of us who've had children, that it's much easier introducing sweet solid foods to them than savoury ones - their faces when they get their first salty or acidic foods are hilarious! But you only have to read labels on cans and boxes in the supermarket to realise just how excessive the extra sugar levels are in processed food now - once you get going with added sugars, the body gets tripped into craving more and more and more... And there's the problem - start THAT cycle early and we're potentially setting our children up for a life long struggle.

The food industry is no small adversary if we're to start claiming back better eating habits. Those processed products and fast food are staple conveniences for many people and with busy lifestyles, I get that it's easier to just grab something already made or that just needs a few packets to be ripped opened and combined. It takes time, consideration, energy and a different attitude to what we spend out money on to eat fresh and well. In the long term though, surely it has to be a better use of our funds than the medical costs that we're already facing that only stand to get higher as these quick fix habits become even more entrenched.


  1. I don't buy low fat or skim milk products, even with Hubby's high cholesterol. I believe our diet is healthy enough to compensate for the daily indulgence of fresh full cream Paris Creek milk.
    Sugar, however, is my nemesis. Oh, how I struggle to avoid worthless sugar-laden treats. It's amazing that one piece of Lindt dark chocolate - especially one with a little added flavour - is enough to satisfy those cravings, though. We now have "Shabbat chocolate" every Friday night in the single hour we have as a family and because it's dark chocolate I can get through the rest of the week without 'falling off the wagon.'

  2. Mmmmmm....Paris Creek milk. I have to scour Sydney for that!! The yoghurt I found in a few local specialty shops, and the butter and Quark in one of those shops. But not the milk disappeared from the local area when Macro sold out to Woolworths - and Woolworths don't carry any of the boutique products Macro did as an independent. Sigh.

    That little bit of good quality dark chocolate is good for the soul - and that needs to be fed too. Partner used to pig on cheap milk chocolate and invariably made himself sick. I began a campaign of slowly introducing dark chocolate, starting with the dark Lindt orange, he'll even be happy with a couple of squares of the plain dark. Satisfies the cravings, and he's not sick. Win win!!

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