Tag Archives: politics

Let’s move! toward awareness of food, fitness, food allergies, and the gluten-free diet (plus a contest for precocious sous-chefs)

I have a big celebrity crush on Michelle Obama. It’s not just her arms (though of course that’s part of it). I also admire the work she’s done to promote childhood healthy eating and exercise habits with Let’s Move! In a (relatively) noncondescending, nonextreme way, the organization has been pushing back against childhood obesity—arguably one of the biggest health issues the United States, among other countries, faces today.

Some don’t believe politicians should get involved with food. But like it or not, by way of crop subsidies, government oversight organizations, and more, they’re involved already. Plus, say what you will about MyPlate (and, as a vegetarian with vegan leanings, I’ve said plenty about that cup of dairy), when it comes to the “food” kids are served and the health education they receive at public schools, we could use a little help.

In a conversation about the initiative, my sister commented that it was annoying how issues of “home and hearth” still seem to fall to the First Lady, in a time when such issues should be equally relevant to men and women. Maybe that’s true. But gendered undertones aside, what Let’s Move! is attempting is important. A campaign to change the food and fitness culture of an entire generation calls for a prominent champion, and Michelle is using her pull to spread awareness about the issue in a way that most people can’t.

Whether or not it’s working is hard to say. I get their newsletter, which means I’m in the bubble, but skimming the initiative’s anniversary highlights is encouraging. In part, I think, due to Obama’s work, policy changes are being made, and large audiences reached. Even the nutrition facts label might get a makeover, and according to the CDC, childhood obesity fell by 43% over the last decade—though tough to tell how much of that can be credited to Obama’s efforts, given that Let’s Move! was only founded in 2010.

Lest you scold me for babbling about my socially liberal heroine on a blog focused on gluten, not politics, I’d argue that a generation of kids learning that what they put in their mouths has a direct impact on their health can only be good for the gluten-free. Children educated about nutrition will be better prepared to care for themselves if food allergies or a gluten-related disorder come their way. Moreover, they just might grow up into a nation of adults who know how to cook, care about food, and value wellness. Again, all good things for them and us.

The reason I’m writing about this now is that (as I mentioned) I receive the Let’s Move! newsletter, and the latest issue put out a call for “all young chefs” to enter the 2014 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge.

It’s a pretty cool contest. Kids ages 8 to 12 work with their parents to create and submit a delicious, healthy, original, affordable, and meaningful recipe. A winning child/parent team from each US state will get to head to DC for lunch with the First Lady.

MyPlateThe recipe does have to be inspired by MyPlate (but the protein and dairy can be vegetarian or vegan, if that’s your thing), but it also has to have a unique story—that’s where “meaningful” comes in. When I read that, I immediately thought, wouldn’t it be cool if one of the winning stories was about learning to cook with a gluten-related disorder or food allergies—facing these obstacles together, as a family, and coming through it stronger? 

Right now, the closest I come to parenting is cooing at babies at the farmers’ market and nagging teenagers to study SAT vocab (which, by the way, is due for a change in 2016). So I thought I’d throw out the challenge to those of you who do have a budding foodie in the family.

If you and your child want to enter, you have until April 5th, and I’ll be rooting for you all the way. A healthy diet is good for us all—and a matter of life and death for some. The food allergic and gluten-free community knows that better than anyone, and our food is darn good, too.

What do you think of the Let’s Move! campaign, MyPlate, the government’s focus on obesity, and the possibly changing nutrition facts label? Will your family be entering the contest?

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Sprue Histories: The Presidents Edition

There’s an interesting practice known as baptism by proxy, in which the Church of Latter-Day Saints claims historical figures for the Mormon faith by baptizing living stand-ins. I find this impulse perfectly understandable, albeit morbid and somewhat disrespectful. We all want to believe that the people we admire are sorta, kinda, just like us—and if they’re already dead, who’s to stop us from claiming them for ourselves?

In honor of Presidents Day, I thought I’d perform a little biopsy by proxy, a related practice popular among certain sects of Latter-Day Celiacs. Check it out:

[John F.] Kennedy’s Irish heritage, long duration of gastrointestinal complaints (since childhood), diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome and migraine, presence of severe osteoporosis, and the development of Addison’s disease all lead to a presumptive diagnosis of celiac disease. (Peter H. R. Green, MD)

Although it’s hard to believe that such a prominent figure could’ve managed to go undiagnosed, Dr. Green suggests that steroids might have suppressed Kennedy’s intestinal inflammation and contributed to a misdiagnosis. Good enough for me, Pete! It’s official, JFK was one of us. If he were alive today, I’m sure he’d be right there with his fellow Bostonians trying out the new GF muffins at Dunkin Donuts. It’s humbling, honestly—sure, it took a billion years for the doctors to figure me out, but they never got it right for him, and he was the president of the United States.

Okay, so, that article was news to me, but it’s a few years old, so maybe it wasn’t new to you. To add some real value to this post, I’ve taken the liberty of bringing a few other heads of our state into the celiac fold. As it turns out, the Oval Office attracts a gluten-fearing bunch. Here’s some presidential advice and support for you:

“Nothing short of gluten-independence, it appears to me, can possibly do. A peace on other terms would, if I may be allowed the expression, be a peace of war.”—George Washington
“Baking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies.”—Thomas Jefferson
“If we falter and destroy ourselves, it will be because we lost our gluten-freedoms.”—Abraham Lincoln
“The world must be made safe for the gluten-free.”—Woodrow Wilson
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Wait, and gluten. That stuff is in everything.”—Franklin D. Roosevelt
“History does not long entrust the care of gluten-freedom to the weak or the timid.”—Dwight D. Eisenhower
“Gluten is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hit man.”—Ronald Reagan
“I misunderestimated gluten.”—George W. Bush
“Why can’t I just eat my waffle?”—Barack Obama(By the way, Mr. President, if you make it with Udi’s, then yes. you. can.)
  This one’s too easy. Bill Clinton actually does avoid gluten. For real.

Happy President’s Day. Enjoy your day off, and maybe a nice slice of coconut-flour cake in honor of Washington’s birthday. What do you think—is Dr. Green’s case convincing? And which will come first, a female president or a celiac-diagnosed president?

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