TEACHING KIDS VEGETARIANISM
The birth of a child brings a lot of joy yet opens a floodgate of questions. With my beautiful new godchild, it's "what shall she eat," a constant concern with genetically engineered formulas, bGBH, irradiated meats and pesticide-laden fruits flourishing in the name of health.
Perhaps it's my protective nature that has brought out a new, vocal outrage at the propaganda perpetuated in mainstream media. Where's the beef, to coin a phrase, about real nutrition?
The answer is sounded by the rich, for-profit lobbies that bring us our favorite phrase du jour. From tobacco to meat, there's a well-funded council touting what's cool.
The preponderance of advertising, catchy slogans and celebrity spokespeople, especially for less than healthy products, is astounding. It stands to reason, doesn't it, that if you want to grow up to be a supermodel, you should listen to Tyra Banks and drink three glasses of milk a day. Follow NBA superstars to McDonald's. And if you want to be a great golfer, a big steak dinner is the perfect pre-game snack!
Casey Kasem, celebrity disc jockey and spokesman for the Great American Meatout, says that media actually convinced him one year to try meat. It lasted only a short time. Kasem had the advantage of witnessing what actually happens at a slaughterhouse to persuade him to eliminate meat from his diet. And for 20 years, he proved his point, subtly, as the voice of Shaggy in the "Scooby Doo' cartoons. Shaggy never reaches for a burger-just mushroom pizzas and other tempting meat-free delicacies.
The 62-year-old king of countdown tells his story in this issue. His only regret in life is that he didn't know at a younger age just how much a vegetarian lifestyle could do for his health.
Why do we wait until we've clogged our arteries and putrefied our colons to understand that good nutrition starts early? The answer, sadly, is simple. There's no broccoli man, no carrot king, no soy boy teaching our youth what they should really know about nutrition. Instead, Ronald McDonald and dancing M & M's go to the head of the class.
We can do something about providing good nutrition at an early age. Soy products need to be in every household because of the overwhelming research about the cholesterol lowering and anti-cancer effects of soy protein and phtyoestrogens.
Habits can change. The favorite food this year at Christmas dinner wasn't ham but my vegetarian peanut soup. Birthday parties at fast food restaurants could be replaced by a field trip to a pick-your-own farm with a fresh strawberry dessert, apple crisp or orange smoothie the ultimate birthday treat. All it takes is imagination to invent new family traditions.
As for Hollywood and the mass market media, changes are in the wind. Many children were influenced by a recent "The Simpsons" show that superimposed little lamb faces on a plate of lamb chops. "Showgirls" star Elizabeth Berkeley looked even more radiant in a gown made of lettuce in a recent P.E.T.A. campaign. Positive role models such as Casey Kasem, Lauren Hutton and Ed Begley do exist, although they're harder to find. For the sake of your family's health, they're harder to find.
Written by: Debra M. Gorhame
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