Frequently Asked Questions

Food

Why should I buy local and eat seasonally as much as possible?

Once you go local you'll never go back! There are three main reasons to buy and eat local food. The first is simple - it just tastes better because it is fresher. If you purchase food at a local market, be it meat, eggs, dairy products, fish or produce, chances are it was gathered, milked, caught, killed or picked that morning.

The second reason is that it reduces your carbon footprint and is better for the environment. There are countless analyses of how much gas is guzzled by food that travels halfway around the world before it gets to our plates. Why eat an apple from New Zealand when there are terrific apples growing just 50 miles outside of NYC!

And last but not least, eating locally sustains our local farmers who work hard to produce excellent food. When you shop locally you can get to know and support your producers in a way that's not possible when shopping at the Food Emporium.

What's so special about grass-fed beef, pastured chicken and pork and wild fish?

Until about 50 years ago all animals in the US were put to pasture and all fish were wild. The advent of the factory farm (and corn and soy subsidies by the US government, but that's a whole other story!) took animals (including fish) out of their natural element and put them into feedlots with awful conditions. There they were fattened for slaughter by feeding them corn, grain, soy and assorted by-products.

As a result, factory farming has profoundly changed the body chemistry of the creatures we eat, making these proteins a sad echo of what our grandparents ate. Grass-fed meats have much higher levels of omega-3 and CLA, both good fats, that have been shown to reduce risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, ADHD, Alzheimer's, and cancer. Additionally, grass-fed products are lower in calories and fat, and taste fantastic.

As for fish, many popular species of fish (such as salmon and tilapia) are now being farmed and fed corn and soy with the same deleterious effect that these products have on land animals. Wild fish has higher levels of omega-3 and is thus much healthier than farmed fish.

Why should I buy grass-fed dairy products?

Milk, cheese, butter and yogurt from cows that have been raised on grass are all much higher in omega-3, CLA and vitamin E, and provide much-needed nutrients that grain-fed products simply don't. Because children tend to eat large amounts of dairy products, grass-fed is the way to go! Luckily, Ronnybrook Dairy and Natural by Nature brand milk products are readily available in the NYC area and both dairies raise their cows on pasture.

Why should I avoid high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils?

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a corn-based sweetener that was developed in the 1970's as a way to utilize the corn surplus in the US (Are you seeing a theme here?). HCFS is an entirely man-made substance with no nutritional value that the human body does not know how to process - thus it gets stored as fat. It's found not only in baked goods, sweets and sodas but also in the vast majority of processed "supermarket" foods, including, but in no way limited to, bread, ketchup, mustard, cereal, pasta sauce and even some packaged meats like bacon and ham.

Partially Hydrogenated Oils (PHO) are also nutritionally corrupt. PHOs are fats (mainly corn or soybean oil) that have been heated, which changes their chemical composition for the worse - it produces trans fats, which are, quite literally, metabolic poisons. Trans fats interfere with fundamental cellular functions and prevent the human body from acquiring essential nutrients. Like HFCS, PHOs are in most processed foods. When shopping, check the ingredient list and avoid all food with the word "hydrogenated" as well as "mono-diglycerides" (which are the same thing by a different name).

Both HCFS and PHOs subvert the natural processes of the human body in insidious ways and inhibit productive growth in children. It can be tough going in the beginning to give up these products since they are widespread, but once you do, you're unlikely to go back.

Why are a long ingredient list and a long shelf life NOT a good thing?

Foods with too many ingredients are not natural. Additives in our food are unrecognizable by the body and thus cannot be broken down. When food cannot be processed by the body and used for energy it gets stored as fat. Fresh food doesn't need additives - it has all it needs. According to Nina Planck, the greenmarket guru and author of Real Food: "Buy food that spoils, but eat it before it does." The same goes for a long shelf life. Food that can last for years is food to which many preservatives have been added.

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Family Meals

Why are scheduled mealtimes good for families?

Kids are not born knowing how to sit down for a meal. It is a skill that needs to be taught and the best and easiest way to do that is by simply sitting down with your kids and eating together. The family meal has fallen by the wayside and it's time to pick it up, dust it off and bring it back. Yes, there are tons of studies that show how important family meals are - and how your kids will be smarter, fitter and maybe even become the President one day, if you sit down together. Besides, it's just plain easier to make one meal and serve it instead of two or three different meals.

Why should you involve your children in all aspects of your meals - from shopping to cooking to cleaning?

Kids love to be involved in parental activities. For a toddler, household chores are fun! Cooking is especially fun because you get to eat afterwards. Even very young children can join a trip to the market and can choose their own fruits and veggies. They can also help in the kitchen by washing produce, sorting ingredients, as well as other assorted tasks. As noted food personality Nigella Lawson claims: "My main babysitter is the kitchen. With the promise of food as the reward."

Kids who have participated in the shopping and preparation of their own food will be more inclined to eat it. So wean those kids off Tivo'd Dora's and get them into the kitchen to help you! You'll make your life easier, and they will eat better.

Why should I avoid making different or special meals for my children?

In Europe, you will often hear mothers saying to their kids: "Eat this, it's so delicious." Here in the US, we usually say: "Eat this, it's good for you." Food is delicious and should be conceived that way for children from the very beginning. Whether you are talking about fresh summer fruits and vegetables, a succulent piece of meat or a delicious rich dessert - they all have a place in a child's diet. If kids are used to eating with their parents and what their parents eat, they will have no idea that kids the world over are getting special meals of dinosaur shaped nuggets and fries for dinner every night. They will instead eat grilled salmon, roasted cauliflower and sweet potatoes with nary a second thought! A shared meal is a great way to bond with your kids and also shows them that your sole purpose is not to cater to their every whim, but rather that they are part of a family that does things together.

How can I broaden my child's palate?

Some kids just don't like peas, or tomatoes, or brussel sprouts. And that's O.K. Kids don't have to like everything - but they do have to try things. A good rule to implement is that kids have to taste everything. If they don't like it ? that's fine, but they have to try it.

Another way to combat the picky eater syndrome is to never pose it as an option. Instead of starting babies on tasteless jarred food, just give them modified versions of adult food (mushed up, of course). Other than known allergens such as seafood, nuts, egg whites and honey, there is no reason whatsoever why young children cannot eat everything their parents eat!

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Kitchen and Cooking

Why should I prep all my ingredients first?

There are two main reasons why you should prep your ingredients. The first is that it makes cooking so much easier and quicker and you can pretend you are on a cooking show. Second, it makes it much easier for little hands to help in the kitchen. When you don't have to worry about washing, drying, slicing and dicing you can have a relaxing, fun and interactive experience with your kids and produce a delicious and healthy dinner to boot! If you can prepare you ingredients during nap time or gym class or even the night before, you'll be all set.

Why should I "take shortcuts" and clean up as I go along?

The goal is to be feed your family but not be in the kitchen all night long. To that end, take some shortcuts - put foil on that baking sheet and buy pre-peeled garlic if you want! There are no prizes for the dirtiest pans and when you can relax after dinner, you'll be happy that you put in the extra 5 minutes beforehand. If you can clean up as you go along, you'll have plenty of time to enjoy the fruits of your labor without dreading clean up.

Why is it worth it to spend a little more on some kitchen items and O.K. to skimp on others?

The window displays at William-Sonoma are the stuff that culinary dreams are made of, but they're far from kitchen reality. The truth is, much of the equipment that you cook with every day can be (and should be) very affordable - and it's only worth breaking out the credit card for a few well-chosen items that will last you decades, if treated with respect. You don't have to buy into a kitchen fantasy in order to have a well-run and functional kitchen.

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