At school, we are in the middle of a USDA-sponsored grant which emphasizes the importance of healthy food choices by the up and coming generations. Hardly a boring task, it is an exciting challenge to be a part of.
As many of us already know, our country is in poor health statistically. I won’t stay on my soapbox for very long today, but long enough to say that whether or not we take care of ourselves is up to us, but I feel that we need to accept responsibility for future generations in helping them to learn what the choices are.
A staggering statistic I ran across earlier this year is the amount of time, in hours, that the average American child spends watching processed food commercials. Do your own research and find out for yourself, but I can tell you that my children, even the youngest, can be found reading a book and singing the catchy jingles for any given sugar-laden cereal. We’re just as guilty as the next, so none of this is meant as a condemnation in judgment on other folks.
The reality is that the mass marketers have known for fifty years that the most powerful advertising at their disposal is that of ‘nudge-marketing’. Purportedly coined by Mr. Kroc himself of McDonald’s lore, this type of marketing is so effective that it gave Mickey D’s the push it needed to open a seemingly infinite number of franchises globally.
Not sure what nudge-marketing is? Imagine this: You are the dad, and your young son is tugging on your shirt saying “please, Dad? please, Dad? please, Dad? please, Dad? please, Dad? please, Dad? please, Dad? please, Dad? please, Dad? please, Dad? please, Dad? please, Dad?” with a not-so gentle tug on the sleeve with each and every question mark. Get the picture?
Ray Kroc himself noted that when a child brings his or her grandparents in for burgers, the chain thus has earned two new customers. From there, the trend continued to span every processed food type from TV dinners to fast food to frozen pizza. While marketing focuses on all demographics, it is especially noteworthy when it addresses young and impressionable minds.
The danger is in the wording on the labels. Lobbyists work hand-in-hand with legislators when it comes to verbiage in packaging laws. For example, pay attention to anything with the word ‘fruit’ in the name. It should be scrutinized at the ingredient list. More often than not, unless you’re buying a reputable brand, there’s a good chance that there are more refined sugars and chemicals than anything fruit in the snack, not to mention the sodium levels. And yet we still buy them. Nudge factor.
Well, I guess I was on my soapbox for a few minutes more than I thought, but there you have it. As I have written before, take a chef with ADD and give him a typewriter; this is what happens.
On days like these, I tend to go simple. I try to figure out the simplest salads; a key in increasing healthier foods in not only our house but in others as well. I teach these techniques in my cooking classes (In Ocean Pines and at Shore Appliance) in an effort to better the health of myself and others. I am learning as I go. Believe me; I have not eaten like I do now for the first 42 years of my life.
And while there is sugar below in the form of pure maple syrup and 10x, you have control of the quantities. So go make a salad and let your kids help. Get them interested in better foods, and they just might find that they’re tastier, too.
1 ea. Cucumber
1 ea. Grapefruit, sectioned
1 head Romaine lettuce, shredded
Fresh basil leaves
Candied nuts (Recipe follows)
½ ea. Medium tomato, thinly wedged
Dried fruit for garnish
Ginger-Maple Dressing (Recipe follows)
Section the grapefruit, removing seeds and membrane
Peel the cucumber and cut in half lengthwise. With a spoon, remove seeds and slice the cucumber on the bias (at an angle)
After the rest of your mise en place is complete, simply assemble the salad and dress as you wish
Nuts of your choice (walnuts, pecans, almonds, filberts)
water as needed
Sprinkle some water on the nuts in a bowl just to get them damp
Coat well with powdered sugar, using a drop or two more of water if needed
Spread out on a sheet pan and toast in a 400F oven until brown, turning regularly
When you pull these out of the oven they will be soft and must cool down to have that nice crisp you so often get in restaurants these days
2 Tbsp. pickled sushi ginger
1 Tbsp. Dijon or stone ground mustard
¼ c. Pure maple syrup, grade B if possible
S&P to taste
Light vegetable oil as needed
place the ginger, mustard and syrup in a blender and blend until pureed
Slowly drizzle in the oil while the blender is mixing and pour until the mass comes to a stop on its own. This will indicate that enough oil has been emulsified into your dressing
Season with salt and pepper as needed.