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Another Day in the Country

© Another Day in the Country

This morning when I was supposed to be writing my column, I was listening to the Rachel Ray Show and her guest, our former President Bill Clinton. They were talking about the fact that this is childhood obesity month and what Rachel and Bill are attempting to do — getting meals in schools improved.

Bill was talking about the fact that he’d had a stent put in place some years ago (as many adults our age have done) and a well known doctor, a friend of his, had called and said, “You know, you did this to yourself. How could you be so stupid?”

They went on to talk about the outbreak of Type II diabetes (the kind you do to yourself vs. the kind you inherit) and how many children are affected by it — when it used to be an adult-onset type of thing. So, they are starting in the schools, attempting to change the eating habits of our children and hoping it will sift down to change the eating style of Americans in general.

I’m applauding! I work at a school. I see them feeding breakfast and lunch to children every day and I have a hunch that, for many of these kids, it’s the most consistent food they have prepared for them in any given day. Sitting down together as a family to eat an evening meal or a Sunday dinner is no longer the norm. We’ve become a fast-food, grab-and-go nation.

Visiting cousins a week or so ago in Colorado, we were definitely on a mini-vacation. We were in the Big City — Denver, with a whole bunch of exciting possibilities. I went shopping at my favorite store: Ross’s, a discount store. We went out to eat at a marvelous restaurant, serving Chinese cuisine. We went to a preview performance (they are cheaper) of the musical “Ragtime!” We helped make decorations for a family member’s wedding and then cheered, sighed, celebrated and smiled. We went to a magic show at the hotel where we were staying — a magicians convention was going on. How lucky could one be? And then my cousin had a request when we got back to their house.

“Let’s make a fried chicken and mashed potatoes type dinner! Will you girls cook?” Jess and I dived in with gusto. (This is not meant to make you hungry, nor suggest that this is the healthiest food in the world; but hang in there with me. I’m making a point.)

It just so happened that Keith’s grandchildren were there for dinner. “What are you making?” they wanted to know. We told them. “I want French fries,” said the 5-year-old. “We don’t like mashed potatoes.” “We want Chicken McNuggets,” said the 3-year-old, “not fried chicken.” We laughed. “I’ll try and accommodate,” I said. I chopped some chicken into smaller pieces and cut up a potato to toss in with the frying chicken, at the last moment.

Now, here’s my point. Our eating habits have changed. We’re no longer making food from scratch. We buy canned, boxed, prepared food and pop it in the microwave. Or we run the kids past the drive-in and check “meal time” off our to-do list. This is now a working-mothers generation — not that we didn’t work before. People drink gallons of soda, on the one hand — even feeding it to our toddlers — and not enough water on the other. Our diet, in America, is ruining our health.

Here’s the good news: If our choices are harming our health, then changing our choices can improve our health! If we didn’t know, we can learn. I consider myself really lucky in that I had a mother, raised on a farm right outside Ramona, who educated herself about a healthy diet. She decided to become a vegetarian 65 years ago when the term was laughed at, “Nobody can live that way,” said my usually soft-spoken Grandpa Ehrhardt, when she announced her intention. Mom persevered. She grew gardens, canned vegetables, made “meat-substitutes”, ground her own wheat, baked bread. I’m forever grateful.

Even so, knowing about a healthy diet (what I took for granted) I find my resolve to live a healthy lifestyle drifting, shifting, and I need to be reminded that there are always improvements I can make. I can learn some new tricks: like flossing regularly, which will lengthen my lifespan and allow a few more invigorating days in the country. So can you!

Last modified Sept. 22, 2011

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