The Japanese have an expression that reminds them to eat lightly, known as Hara Hachi Bu. Literally translated, it means eat until your belly is 8 parts full. Ohsawa often spoke of Vivero Parvo, to only eat the minimum required to sustain good health. This practice is a traditional human one and remains the practice of indigenous people today as outlined in two recent books: The Blue Zones by Dan Buttner and 50 Secrets of the World’s Longest Living People by Sally Beare. By all accounts, the key to a long healthy life may be a slightly empty stomach.
As a child, I was always intrigued when my Italian grandmother would sit down to eat. She ate small dollops of food from her plate, very slowly, but seem to enjoy the experience immensely. She told us she didn’t need much food to feel satisfied. Nonna lived a vibrant, healthy happy life till age 99, despite her daily diet of chicken, refined bread and ice cream. I have also noticed that some Americans have adopted the same practice of eating the Standard American Diet in small quantities. They are practicing Hara Hachi Bu without knowing it and will probably fare better than their well-fed friends.
There has also been an enormous body of scientific research that touts the benefits of a caloric-restrictive diet. These recent studies have essentially confirmed the macrobiotic principle of Vivero Parvo. Study after study show that caloric-restrictive diets have extended the lives of rats by 40%. In a Time magazine article, “How To Live To 100 Years,” focused on a 2009 University of Wisconsin study that concluded “that caloric restriction seemed to extend the lives of humanlike rhesus monkeys as well. The hungry primates fell victim to diabetes, heart and brain disease and cancer much less frequently than their well-fed counterparts did. Finally, in 2011, studies done at the Washington University School of medicine in St. Louis reported that human beings who cut their food intake by 25% extend their lifetime further than those who are well-fed. The authors theorized that by eating less food, it's possible to lower the body’s internal temperature, which may extend life-span. While living a long life is certainly attractive to most, limiting your food may not only extend your life it will also improve the quality of your life.
In the Blue Zones, scientists have located places in the world where people live long healthy lives. These zones are in:
Loma Linda, CA (USA)
Nicoya (Costa Rica)
Butner has compiled a list of habits that many in these zones share (not to suggest that food is the only factor), one of them being the practice of slightly under-eating. Beare has also noted that the longest-living, most vibrant people on earth, never overeat. They deliberately moderate the quantity of food they consume at every meal.
As modern Americans, we love to overeat, for a variety of reasons both physical and emotional. It has become a national pastime, practiced regularly with vim and vigor. We feast throughout the day and night. We spend the day snacking in between meals. It has become part of our American culture to overdo everything.
When we overeat, a process begins, which if left unchecked, may spiral out of control and may be difficult to reverse. Overeating causes the muscles of the stomach to be stretched to accommodate the excess of food. Since it takes more quantity of food to satisfy a larger stomach, we need more food to feel that same feeling of fullness. As you continue to overeat, the muscles continue to stretch more, you continue to eat more to fill this cavity. This endless cycle explains why most people have trouble losing weight.
When we eat until we feel full, we have already eaten too much. According to Susan Dopart, registered dietician, it takes up to 20 minutes AFTER we eat before we experience the feeling of fullness. By the time we feel stomach pressure, we are past the 80% stage. By limiting our consumption while we are still slightly hungry, we avoid feeling bloated afterwards. In addition, Dopart states that “it takes sometimes 15-20 meals to rest the muscle memory of the stomach to get used to less food and people need to trust that that will happen. Most are used to eating until full, which is past satiation and which keeps weight on.” I sense that for most Americans, the signal to the brain that tells us to stop eating has been short-circuited over time. The mindful practice of controlling your intake can help repair or restore this process.
When we practice Hara Hachi Bu, we put less stress on our digestive organs. The benefits include:
* Increased energy, stamina and endurance
* Improved intestinal functioning
- Better sleep
- Improved memory
* Weight loss
* Improved appreciation for the deliciousness of food
*Overall improvement in life quality
How To Start
The best place to begin in your Hara Hachi Bu practice is to be conscious of the quantity of food you are accustomed to. Take time to think and evaluate. Many macrobiotic people tend to overeat or eat until full, but justify it because they are eating vegetables and grains. I have witnessed mountains of food, enough to feed at least 3 people, piled high on the plate of a single person having lunch. I have rarely seen someone eat sparsely, unless they are ill. If you eat until full or overeat, cut back slightly at first and chew your food more thoroughly. Chewing will help you feel more satisfied with a smaller amount of food.
You can usually feel a small but noticeable difference within one day. This should help encourage you to continue down this path the next day. What you will soon discover is that you need less and less food to feel satisfied. You will actually feel more satisfied as a result. I have noticed that it also helps me to prepare a small plate of food, reminding myself that I am not having seconds. I have also noticed that while it may be difficult to get up from the table while I am still slightly hungry, I soon lose this feeling and a feeling of contentment takes it’s place soon after. It has become a most delightful experience and rewarding practice.
Hara Hachi Bu Beyond Food
We can utilize the practice of Hara Haci Bu in other aspects of our lives. Having less stuff in our possession makes it easier to navigate and enjoy this life. Maybe the less stuff we have, the more fun we have. Many years ago, a friend seemed to understand this concept quite well. Whenever he would travel, Bob would give away his possessions to his friends and would feel better as a direct result. He likened it to the pleasure one experiences after emptying one’s bowels.
Most presenters and lecturers would also do good to limit themselves when speaking in front of an audience. In Presentation Zen, Garr Reynolds advises that “no matter how much time you are given, never go overtime and in fact finish a bit before your allotted time is up. The problem with most presentations is that they are too long, not too short. Performers, for example know that the trick is to leave the stage while the audience still loves you and don’t want you to go, not after they have had enough and are “full” of you.” Hopefully, this article doesn’t leave you feeling full, but hungry for less.
Buttner, Dan, The Blue Zones, Washington, D.C., 2008. Print.
Beare, Sally, 50 Secrets of The World's Longest Living People, New York, 2003. Print.
Dopart, Susan M.S., R.D. and Jeffrey M Batchelor, A Recipe for Life by The Doctor's Dietician,
Santa Monica, 2009. Print.
Reynolds, Garr, Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery 2nd Edition, Berkeley, 2012. Print.
by Michael Bauce
By the time I was 8, a another magic pill suddenly appeared in my life: One-A-Day vitamin pills. My Mom told me I was to take just one every day to make me strong and healthy. I remember feeling so grateful that someone had thought of this pill. Why bother drinking my milk everyday, if a single pill could do it all?
In our modern culture, magic pills have now become popular for those looking for a quick fix from a wide variety of health conditions or as a preventative effect on problems that may arise in the future. There is a magic pill today for every health problem under the sun. If you can't sleep, have no appetite, have too much appetite, feeling depressed or overweight, there is a quick easy solution available. Even if you enjoy good health, there is a pill for you. The common assumption of magic pill theory is that by placing a specified substance in your mouth and swallowing it, you will have improved or cured your condition without ever having to change any of the personal dietary or other lifestyle habits which may have led to this condition.
The mass marketing of magic pills today is unprecedented. It dwarfs all other types of advertisement on radio, TV and Internet. Magic Pills can be drugs, superfoods and supplements. There has been a relentless campaign to convince people that these products are the best modern scientific technology has to offer. The underlying message is that your health is a corporate responsibility and you are an innocent bystander. Ironically, almost all of these magic pills have eventually ended up in the Magic Pill Graveyard. As soon as they do, new more expensive ones appear in their place.
The Drug Industry
The cozy relationship that pharmaceutical companies now have with Doctors is unprecedented and has sullied the reputation of both parties. Pharmaceutical companies regularly wine, dine and shower Doctors with lavish gifts and kickbacks. Drug commercials routinely prod patients to ask for their drug by name. Many times, these drugs are marketed as safe and then pulled from the market just a few years after their release and labeled as dangerous. One good example is the heavily advertised drug Vioxx that was widely prescribed until it was reported that it increased the chance of heart-attacks. The Industry responded by developing another drug without that known side effect. Other well known examples include Ritalin, Accutane and Prozac. Clearly, ingesting newly released drugs today can be risky business.
The United States and New Zealand are the only two countries in the world that permit drug companies to advertise directly to consumers.
These carefully crafted commercials are usually accompanied by a most pleasant, reasonable sounding voice, complete with images of sunshine, family and smiles. They entice their audience by describing their product as a miracle breakthrough, never seen before now. How ironic that the same pleasant voice reads off a long list of potential side-effects, including nausea, vomiting, uncontrolled bleeding, loss of cognitive functioning or vision problems, kidney damage, loss of control of bladder and bowel function and even death.
In the Truth About Drug Companies by Marsha Angell, M.D., she exposes what she calls "a major health cover-up" by the drug industry.4
"The combined profits for the ten drug companies in the Fortune 500 ($35.9 billion) were more than the profits for all the other 490 businesses put together ($33.7 billion) [in 2002]. Over the past two decades the pharmaceutical industry has moved very far from its original high purpose of discovering and producing useful new drugs. Now primarily a marketing machine to sell drugs of dubious benefit, this industry uses its wealth and power to co-opt every institution that might stand in its way, including the US Congress, the FDA, academic medical centers, and the medical profession itself."4
American consumers are now spending roughly $200,000,000,000 per year on prescription drugs (growing 12% per year) according to the online business info provider, ims.5. 70% of Americans regularly take prescription drugs. Despite the billions spent, we continue to suffer with high rates of disease, with no end in sight.
The Supplement Industry
In 2007, Reuters estimated the supplement industry was making $18,000,000,000 a year in sales! Many health-conscious people use supplement their diets to make-up for nutrients they may not be getting in their food. Many others continue to eat a poor diet because they believe pills will provide them with those missing nutrients. This despite the fact that there has not been one single long-term study that has proven the effectiveness of vitamin supplementation in addressing cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes or every day health (although millions have been spent trying). The money continues to flow as we continue our steady health decline.
The latest fad in alternative health is “Superfoods." Superfoods are foods that somehow possess super powers because they are high in anti-oxidants, omega-3s or phytochemicals. Superfoods are described as goji berries, chia seeds, acai berries, cacao, maca and countless others. Dr. Oz is a well-known proponent of Superfood theory. According to Oz, it's might be that rare fruit from the highest mountain top in Peru or the sap from a nearly extinct tree that you need. It’s not that these foods are not beneficial in some ways, but focusing on them for health may not have the magical effect you desire.
Wine & Chocolate
We have also witnessed the rapid promotion of extreme foods that we love, specifically wine and dark chocolate, now widely regarded as healthy by many. FoxNews recently proclaimed that "Red wine can cure cancer. The bad news is you'd need to drink 100 glasses a day. (red wine pill" like drinking 100 glasses a day, could cure major diseases.)"1 Conversely, The Guardian concluded that "The notion that a regular little tipple is good for your health, especially from middle age, is debunked by researchers today. Taking up alcohol may help older men cut the risks of heart attack, but increases the threat of premature death from other diseases such as cancer, according to a study which monitored the progress of 7,735 men over 16 years. Research leader Professor Roger Corder said: "The changes that alcohol causes are so modest that you would not in your right mind believe that they could protect you from heart disease."2
Chocolate has also been described as a cure for everything from cancer, heart-attack, poor vision and cognitive function, damage from stroke, blood clots, etc….3 Although chocolate contains flavanoids that supporters claim to have positive effects, most chocolate companies remove flavanoids during processing because of it’s bitter taste (and add sugars and fats). They routinely keep the flavanoids content off the label. Interesting to note that all whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruit also contain flavanoids.
Many of the health claims today directly result from studies funded conducted and released by the various industries involved. The highly touted study of red wine and it’s positive effect on health was discredited when it’s main researcher was found to have committed more than one hundred acts of fabrication in his work. Despite all of the negative revelations, magic pills continue to be easily marketed to a hungry audience. They can satisfy our cravings for sweets and alcohol while leaving us guilt-free (so they say).
Whole Foods Not A Magic Pill!
Today there is a common understanding among health-conscious people that views whole foods as a magic pill of sorts. Although we make a conscious choice to eat whole grains and vegetables for our health, food doesn’t necessarily heal the body. The body heals itself, if given the proper support and nourishment. This is an important distinction that separates natural healing from magic pill theory. The macrobiotic way of focusing on home cooking using a wide variety of natural foods, cooked in season with regards to balance and season, allows the body to gently and slowly clean house and re-establish it’s natural functioning. It’s quite a magical and beautiful process to experience, without any of the hocus pocus surrounding magic pills.
1 Fox News March 9, 2013, "Red Wine Pill" http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/03/08/could-red-wine-pill-cure-major-diseases/#ixzz2Sd0OAom5
2 Healthy Wine Myth Debunked, James Meikle and Tim Radford http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2001/dec/20/research.medicalscience
4 The Truth About Drug Companies, Marsha Angell, M.D.http://www.wanttoknow.info/truthaboutdrugcompanies
RAISING KIDS WITH MACROBIOTICSby Michael Bauce (reprinted with permission from Macrobiotics Today)
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The advice that follows is a part of what I have learned from my experiences with children and food, particularly as a father, starting in 1985 and my job as a Cooking Instructor in a Berkeley elementary public school since 1999. I have been lucky to have spent so much time with children. They can teach adults many things about life.
Raising children is among the most important tasks we have in our daily lives. We have a instinctual responsibility to guide and nurture and an opportunity to learn and grow in the process. Women may have a natural instinct to nurture, yet men also can be nurturers.
Health, Behavior, Emotions and Appearance
Food plays an essential role in raising children because it affects health, appearance, behavior and emotions. It is the role of the family to produce strong, healthy children who in turn build strong, healthy societies.
Today, a growing number of students arrive at school tired and unable to focus in the classroom. Many skip breakfast and rely on junk food from corner stores, sub-standard school lunch and fast food places to make it through the day. In some cases, these are the only choices children have. Also, there is often little, if any, cooking done in the home.
This is the first generation of children to be raised with junk-food as it's staple. The Berkeley Health Department estimates that if these eating habits continue, these same children will develop cancer, diabetes, stroke and heart disease in their 30's. They are currently on track to live shorter lives than their parents.
By teaching your children to cook (and eat) macrobiotically, you are giving them the tools they need to succeed in life. They will perform to the best of their ability and you will most-likely be happy with the results. They may stray the course as they grow, yet will benefit in a multitude of ways. I have witnessed this in my own children and heard similar reports from other parents.
When we started macrobiotics, my wife and I were enthused and ate very strictly, according to what we read in macrobiotic literature. We also attempted to raise our children according to the strict advice given. In time, we learned is that is was up to us, through intuition and every-day practice, how to do this best. We slowly found that flexibility held the key to success. The policy that worked the best was to serve macrobiotic food at home and allow them to eat what they pleased when they were out with friends.
1. Be A Role Model - Kids love to imitate their parents in many ways. If you want your children to be excited about natural foods, you have to exude the same enthusiasm.
Many times, parents have asked me why their children won't eat vegetables at home. When I ask if they eat vegetables, the answer is revealing. "I could do better" is a common response. When junk food, sugar, fruit and juice are readily available at home, it becomes harder for children to appreciate the natural taste of grains and vegetables.
Cook meals at home instead of relying on restaurants. Visit Farmer's Markets regularly and identify produce that is local and seasonal. Start a backyard garden. Frequent health food stores in your area.
2. Adapt a Whole-Grain, Vegetable-Based Diet - By making whole grains and vegetables the foundation of your families' diet, you are giving them the best chance for their future. Whole grains, beans and vegetables provide all the highest-quality nourishment necessary for the proper growth and development of your child.
3. Get Kids Involved - Kids love whole grains and vegetables and are more likely to try new foods if they take part in it's preparation. Involve them in every step of the process: gardening, preparation, cooking and cleaning up. More involvement in the process encourages trying foods that may be a hard sell otherwise. Instruct children how to properly use knives to cut up vegetables. This can be taught as early as age 5 (using cerated knives), with supervision. Allow them to measure and stir.
4. Make Meals a Fun Ritual - Encourage communication of ideas and expressions at mealtime. Create a peaceful, fun environment at the dinner table so that eating meals together becomes an enjoyable experience for all. It also helps to make a daily schedule; to pick a time that dinner is served every night and establish the ritual of eating together as a whole family.
Modern schedules often keep families apart and dinner is a time everyone can reconnect, especially if they know the time is the same every night. Cook with variety in mind that adjusts with season. It will enrich your family for a lifetime.
5. Eat Breakfast Together If Possible. There's no better way to start the day than eating together as a family. Children who eat a well-balanced breakfast arrive at school more focused and ready to learn. They perform better physically and mentally. Sugary pastries and sugary cereals are NOT part of a healthy breakfast. Whole-grain porridge or oatmeal cooked softly with roasted nuts and seeds and cooked or dried fruit is a favorite.
For variety, occasionally try whole grain waffles or pancakes with maple syrup or fruit sauce. Baked or pan-fried mochi, miso soup, and nori seaweed were also good breakfast additions.
6. Be Flexible - Children should enjoy a wide diet and can eat foods not regularly included in the standard macrobiotic diet for adults. Try to create your meal around whole grains and vegetables. Use your knowledge of yin and yang to help guide you both as they experiment with new foods. An ice-cream cone in December may be a poor choice, yet one in July could be a celebration. If you are too strict, your efforts will most likely backfire. Many macro parents use different approaches in this regard.
“Once they got into their teens they both basically abandoned eating macrobiotic fare on a regular basis and we allowed them to eat what they chose. (This is an important lesson for parents to learn – allow your children to express themselves as teenagers which is healthy for them to do.) By that time they already had a solid foundation of eating well through gestation, breast feeding and the first 7-10 years.”
7. Talk With Your Child's Teacher/Principal - Schools today are often candy outlets with junk-food being offered regularly. Many times birthday parties are held during the week that include sugary cakes and sodas. While these items won't harm your child occasionally, the frequency at school parties and functions might quickly sabotage your efforts at home. Donate healthy snacks for your children’s classroom such as popcorn, 1/4 piece nori sea vegetable (a kid's favorite), carrot and celery sticks with hummus, whole grain crackers with nut butters, natural corn chips with salsa or fruit (and encourage other parents to do the same). Encourage your child’s teacher to promote health eating habits in the classroom and point out the benefits in doing so.
Other Helpful Suggestions
1. Introduce Yin and Yang - Start to introduce the concepts of yin and yang to your child at an early age. These concepts will become useful as your child develops an understanding of life.
Hot and cold, dark and light, up and down, day and night are good places to start. I remember a beautiful book by Aveline Kushi entitled "A Child's Look At The Harmony Of Life - Lessons of Night and Day" that was useful and fun when my children were younger.
2. Encourage Playing of Musical Instruments - Playing music calms the mind and body. When we play music, our creativity comes from the infinite universe that is channeled through us.
3. Teach that Work is Play:
The theory of working hard and suffering through life is a commonly held one. Convey to your children, through example, that life and work is play to be enjoyed to it's fullest.
"The concept and practice of work is an unnecessary and imprisoning delusion. The real purpose of life is play, free and spontaneous amusement leading to artistic, intellectual, social and spiritual development."
- Ronald E. Kotzch, Ph.D, Macrobiotics Yesterday and Today 1985
4. Live The Simple Life Of A Child:
By living simply, with a sense of wonder and awe, you are also seeing the hidden connections in life that may pass by those too busy or involved to notice. It is important that you convey to your child the wonder and beauty of life, even through an adult's eyes.
Rudolph Steiner tells a beautiful story about a Gypsy mother and daughter that illustrates the importance of a simple life. Although the Gypsy life is a struggle, by society's standards, Gypsies live simply. When a clergyman generously offered to house and educate them, he was turned down. The Gypsy mother would not permit her child to be "educated, because her way of life made for more happiness than all scientific knowledge, all the repute and mutual esteem and all so-called advantages of culture." Gypsies are certain that "all culture, all education and learning, all the respect and esteem sought by other people, make one far less happy than the basic elementary life of the Gypsy, the life of a child of nature." This is a universal lesson from which we all could benefit. We, as macrobiotic people, are like Gypsies in that we are also searching for those hidden connections in life.
Michio Kushi also stresses this concept frequently. “Become like a child: keep a very pure mind, undisturbed by relative thoughts. Then you can dream straight to your goal....without thinking of value, purpose or comparison.”
Whatever you think, accept like a child
Whatever you see, be amazed by a child
Child Of Nature (Jealous Guy)
I'm just a child of nature.
I don't need much to set me free.
I'm just a child of nature.
I'm one of nature's children
- John Lennon
5. Spiritual Practice:
Develop rituals and spiritual practices in your family's life (this doesn’t have to be religion).
Celebrate the Equinox! Create a family shrine to illustrate family connections. These practices will all strengthen your children's natural faith in the Universe.
- Avoid Reliance on Doctors: I have found that doctors are best used for mechanical reasons: broken bones, burns, accidents, etc. Try to eliminate the reliance on doctors for family health. Most health problems can be resolved without western intervention. This has been a liberating experience in my family!Many children, raised without doctors have successful stories to tell. You will be teaching your children that health is a personal responsibility.
"Most people are willing to accept an inexcusable brutality as long as it comes from an authority figure."
-John Cusak on Doctors
2. Vaccinations: By allowing your child's immune system to develop naturally, you are creating lifelong natural immunity. Vaccinations interfere with the bodies' ability to develop correctly. Parents of children raised without vaccinations (and with a whole-grain, vegetable based diet) have reported remarkable results:
"We raised three children on a macrobiotic diet. We didn't have any of them immunized.
When the kids were ages 9, 14, and 16, we did have an outbreak of the whooping cough in our town in Massachusetts. Our nine-year-old had a best friend who had it. And our fourteen year old had both a best friend and a boyfriend who had it.
Our fourteen-year-old was sent home from school with a note requesting that she take three weeks of preventative medicine as the outbreak in her class was so severe. The kids in her school were all throwing up from that preventative medicine. We got a prescription from the doctor, sent it into school for them to see, but never filled it.
Although doctors insisted that those who were immunized were having less severe outbreaks because of the immunizations, our kids were not immunized at all and did not contract the whooping cough."
"5 children starting in 1973 and the last born in 1983. No
vaccinations, no chemical white sugar (or any of its derivatives) ,
no processed food, fresh ground flour, whole grains, 2 acre garden of fresh vegetables, no "white" oils, high quality sea salt, very few animal products, plenty of fresh air and sunshine, strong immune systems from (probably) eating a lot of good soil.
All were born at home. I can only remember 2 medical traumas that cost. One broken arm and one chipped tooth. Under one thousand $ for medical bills through the age of 18 for all."
“We raised them macrobiotically beginning with breast feeding. When they were ready to start eating solid food, at around the time of the first teeth, we started them with eating the regular simple macrobiotic fare.
Since then we allowed them to basically eat that basic fare at home but they could eat whatever they wanted when they were out with friends or at school. (they both attended Waldorf School though 8th grade).
They were never vaccinated.
So, what is the outcome of their macrobiotic childrearing as far as their physical, emotional and mental health is concerned?
Up until they left home they never saw a doctor for whatever childhood illnesses they experienced, which were mainly limited to chicken pox and measles as well as occasional bouts of flu-like symptoms – fevers, sore throats, aches and pains etc. And the occasional skin problem, All these we dealt with using macrobiotic home remedies.
The only two times we took them to the doctor was the elder one put his hand into a steaming bowl of oatmeal and had second degree burns. The other time was when the younger son broke a leg playing football.
We raised 2 children on macrobiotic food. Best decision we ever made! We had to use doctors only on 2 occasions, both times for a broken arm. Our children are now 30 and 33, have families of their own, and are grateful for their upbringing. Their families all eat whole grains regularly.
“From the beginning my wife and I, being Macrobiotic, decided that it was probably more risky to go to a doctor for birthing our children than a midwife since the doctors only have medical alternatives in case of problems. We also realized that the current medical scare tactics about vaccinations could also be dangerous so decided against them as well. The birthing had a few complications on our first child but nothing the midwife couldn't handle. We also decided that we would tell the truth to our children about sugar, animal products, cheese and dairy. Since we lived that way it was easy! We really had no problems that had to involve a doctor except for a fractured wrist so my kids never had to see one for illness. No earaches or tonsil problems ever. Sure there was the occasional cold (discharge), but nothing that a careful diet couldn't handle. To this day we still do not have a single pill in the house. My children all played music (violin, viola, piano) and are quite accomplished.
I think the best thing they learned is that they have the most control over their health and their life. And to this day they continue to exercise that right by cooking for themselves. I love it and am so glad I raised my kids Macrobiotically!”
Keep in mind that your right not to vaccinate is guaranteed under federal law (and most state laws) for both religious and personal reasons. Most schools do not know the law in full and will insist that your child's vaccinations are up to date. You can sign off vaccinations on the flip side of the form and be legally protected. Schools may have the right to remove your child from school in the case of an epidemic. One must wonder why they would be concerned having an unvaccinated child in school if they truly believe that the vaccinated ones are protected.
When you choose to raise your children macrobiotically, you are teaching them the life-long skill of living in harmony and balance with nature. You will sowing the seeds for their future and also establishing planetary health, peace, happiness and love for future generations.
originally printed in Macrobiotics Today
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Cooking With Kids in Berkeley
KIDS LOVE NORI SEA-VEGETABLE
MY PERSONAL STORY
It has been said that when one door closes, another opens. Although the mystery of what lies behind the new door may be daunting, change is always exhilarating. I had this in mind when I abruptly ended my job, back in 1999, and trusted that the Universe would take care of me as it always had.
I had been operating a macrobiotic meal service out of my home for a period of years after almost a 5 year stint working at the Oakland Macrobiotic Center. The income was good and the customers were happy. I felt satisfied contributing to the development of a peaceful world.
On the back side, I was feeling increasingly isolated in my kitchen. I spent most of my time planning, shopping and cooking, with little close connection to the larger community. I awoke one day and decided to listen to that little voice in my head telling me to reinvent myself once again, for my own good, despite the risks of uncertainty. I called my customers and told them I was moving on to unknown destinations. Instead of focusing on the pile of bills accumulating on my desk, I remained excited about what adventures may lie ahead.
One short week later, that golden opportunity fell into my lap. I received a phone call asking me if I was interested in teaching cooking/nutrition in a Berkeley elementary school. Our mission was to not only to help students learn to cook and enjoy natural foods, but also to appreciate ethnic diversity through the great diversity of food. It was part of the macrobiotic dream of establishing peace through food, Berkeley style.
The California Nutrition Network provided the funding as part of the USDA Food Stamp Program. The focus of these programs is on “vegetables, fruit and whole grains.” It provides yearly grants for cooking and gardening classes. The program was just beginning in Berkeley and was currently in three schools. I was happy to hear that my good friend, Susanne Jensen, was also involved.
My experience with macrobiotic cooking made me very familiar with the subject matter. Since our 2 sons were raised macrobiotically (now 23 and 18), I had some experience with kids and food. I was eager to learn more. I realized that in many ways, I was now the student. I knew my kids appreciated these foods, but what about kids raised on the Standard American Diet? How would they react to it? What happens when you expose inner-city kids to healthy foods? You might end up tossing out stereotypes about kids and junk foods.
Cooking classes are structured so that each of the 20 classrooms (k-5) are scheduled for 1 hour classes, once every 2 weeks. We use the same recipe for all 20 classes and then move on to the next recipe. We are guided by Harvest of The Month (root vegetables, beans, whole grains, etc...) which keeps all cooking instructors focused on the same vegetable, grain or fruit for that month. We use all organic, locally produced, seasonal produce and grains from Berkeley Farmers’ Markets (3 a week) or from our own school garden. The grant also provides gardening classes for students, so they are able to experience the whole process.
The first recipe I tried was vegetable miso soup. I used more sweet tasting vegetables like carrots and broccoli. I chose chickpea miso and soy souce for a kid-friendly soup. I had the students cut nori seaweed into strips as a topping. They chopped, washed their cutting boards, set the tables with tablecloths and flowers, stirred the soup and added the miso. I explained that the nori seaweed was a vegetable that grew in the ocean. I told them that miso helped digest the food they would soon eat for lunch. We talked about how the fiber of the vegetables acted like a broom and swept their digestive tract clean. We sat down together and enjoyed the soup. I saw it as a small success when over half of the students finished their bowl of soup.
Over the next years, the successes continued. We are now offering cooking and gardening classes in 8 Berkeley schools. Currently, we have almost 100% participation in trying new foods. During recess, children rush into the cooking room and sample soups, stir-frys, brown rice and raw carrots. We have made Pumpkin Muffins, Chinese Won-Tons, Black-Eyed Pea Soup, Hummus Sandwiches, homemade Tortillas & Pinto Beans and more. The 3-Bite Rule (first bite tastes different, second one tastes a little better, by the third bite, you’ll love it) encourages reluctant students. What seems to be a major factor in determining if kids will try foods is whether or not they have had a hand in preparing them. I have learned that the more a student participates in preparing the meal, the more open he or she is to eating it.
Once a child has become excited about healthy foods, he/she
naturally wants to spread this enthusiasm at home. Some Mothers have reported that their whole family has now begun to eat healthier as a result. What is vitally important is that families show positive examples through healthy eating habits so that the seed planted in cooking class grows in the larger community. Kids love to imitate their parents and teachers. If we are truly enthused about food, they will feel our excitement. I began to see that Michio’s dream of One Peaceful World through food, may begin with the children.
KIDS LOVE NORI
When I first handed out Nori as a snack, I had only a few takers. They were mostly Asian students who were already familiar with the yummy taste of sea vegetables from their home life. Soon after, students from all ethnic backgrounds came and started requesting seaweed samplings.They had seen their friends munching on a green square, wondered what it was, and wanted to sample some too! I explained that it’s not really a weed, but a mineral rich vegetable that grows in the sheltered inlets of the sea. I told them it was most delicious to boot (the bottom line with kids and adults). Some chose to roll a carrot inside and called it raw sushi! When asked if we could use it in cooking class, I knew I was on to something big. So, we made rice balls and rolled them in roasted seeds, nuts and of course..... shredded nori. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Thousand Oak students are currently sampling 50 sheets of Nori per week (each one per-day per-student sample is 1/4 sheet). We have dubbed a young student "The Nori Queen" because of her ongoing enthusiasm. Parents have now related stories about visions of Nori dancing in their children’s heads as they sleep.