Corn Queen 1 of 3: Corn-free Meal No Easy Task by Annita Woz

chickenlittle-feet1It all began with my bookclub that meets on Thursday nights.

This time around we read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, considered light reading for the two food scientists in the group. The appalling revelation in the book is how much corn is a part of our diet as well as the diet of the animals we eat and a main ingredient (in its various forms) in the processed foods that we eat.

I admit, I learned just enough to be considered dangerous.

The bookclub host served up a corn-free meal for the group (no easy task) and I had a lengthy conversation with a member who lives in the city and raises chickens for their fresh eggs.

One bookclubber confessed that she was going to start feeding her dog a raw diet – just fresh, natural people food- because she had learned that most kibble has ingredients that can cause skin problems and allergies in dogs.

That’s when I realized she was feeding her dog better than I was feeding my children!

So when EP editor Elisabeth Wilkins blogged on the mercury found in high fructose corn syrup (hfcs) it dawned on me that maybe I should not have pooh-poohed all the talk about washing the pesticides off my produce and should not have rolled my eyes all these years at all my granola-head friends that were buying grass-fed beef from a local farmer.

I was not convinced that I had to change a thing, until-sure enough- there it was – three EP forum parents posts had comments like, “the school reported that my child’s behavior was worse after lunchtime.”

Behavior and bad food– there really is a link?

So I’m reading labels like a lunatic. My kids are reading labels. My husband is quizzing me on the food in the fridge, testing me to see if I know what does and doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup in it. I’m finding some form of corn in yogurt, my bread, in my ice cream. My worries are taking on a life of their own! I don’t need a therapist, I need a nutritionist.

So, I put a phone call in to a couple who had published a link between good food and good behavior. They worked for 30 years documenting their results and training schools and parents how to get the same results. Their approach reduced behavior outbursts to nearly zero in the school where Barbara Stitts worked and the test results and followup research is featured in the hit movie Supersize Me.

(Editor’s Note:  Paul Stitts passed away in 2009. Our condolences to his wife Barbara and our never-ending gratitude to this couple and their work on behalf of children.)

Barbara Stitts, currently retired, worked as a probation officer and is a nutritionist. Her work with school lunch programs has taken her all over the world. Her husband Paul, a biochemist, founded Natural Ovens Bakery and the Stitts’ program tested and documented a link between providing nutritious food for lunch and successfully reducing behavior problems in Appleton, Wisconsin schools.

Though they no longer own Natural Ovens Bakery, they still promote feeding students good foods that make them feel good and behave better. Together this educated and dedicated couple make some excellent arguments about how fresh nutritioius food is actually cheaper than buying processed convenience foods. The administrators of those Wisconsin schools agree that it was cheaper to feed the students healthy food than to pay the costs of handling repeated student outbursts or removing a student from school for behavior related problems.

Barbara Stitts believes that with the current focus on the environment that parents are recognizing the value of fresh food and families dealing with shrinking grocery budgets find that eating a fresh food has no hidden costs. Paul Stitts reminded me that in Supersize Me the budget was $27.00 a day to eat at McD’s and that every family can buy plenty of real food for less. Paul added that the food we are putting into our children’s bodies is killing them and healthy school lunches with nutrient dense food can reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity in our children. I had to agree he had a good point there.

Stitts suggested parents buy food that comes in the package nature gave it- no boxes, no cans, no packaging required- and this will also help families avoid food dyes, additives, preservatives and unpronounceable ingredients that someday may be revealed as links to current childhood diseases and behaviors.

Hmm. Could I do this, on a budget? Could I get my school to try this? If I sent simple fresh food in the lunchbox, would my children eat it? Would they feel good and therefore be able to concentrate better? Barbara Stitts says, Yes! What do you think?

Annita Woz

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6 Responses

  1. The sad part is that if you send fresh food in your child’s lunch chances are he’d trade it for the pretty, colorful prepackaged containers. yes, I listened to the tapes of some of the Omnivore’s Dilemma, but had to admit I tired of hearing about corn. Actually, it was my son’s required freshman book at university. He ended up loosing weight this year instead of gaining the “freshman 10”. I think it was that book that really turned him off to a lot of food; that and spending last year in Japan.
    We have not really eaten much processed food since we’ve been married. But the book does get one thinking about proper nutrition.
    Never thought much about how school lunch could affect behavior. I certainly notice the effects of Halloween, Christmas and Easter candy.
    haha….. just got an e-mail from you!

  2. Yes, my husband started calling me the Corn Queen and my kids were rolling their eyes when I would show them HFCS on the ingredient list… But, they started doing some taste tests and have been surprised. They tasted carrots that had the long green stems still attached and then the ‘baby’ carrots that were in the bag and noticed the difference immediately– and then they started to hit eachother with the green stems. So much for improving behaviors with better food! HA! but seriously, I’m glad I slogged thru the book and learned about the supply demand issues caused by the involvement of big biz in corn production and farming and i have to admit i was inspired enough to change my bread, yogurt, egg, and packaged purchases for the better. I also just cannot believe how many things have corn syrup added… perhaps many of the autism, aspergers, adhd, add, the diseasing of our children and John Rosemond would call it, are linked to these preservatives, additives, derivitives of nature …but that is another blog for another day…

  3. I agree wholeheartedly that our nutrition has been taken over by “hidden” ingredients and hazards. In addition to high fructose corn syrup we also need to worry about the huge amounts of sodium added to food. Try going without salt or sugar for five days and cleaning out your body, then go ahead and eat a prepackaged or prepared food and you will not believe how salty or sugary it tastes to you. I remember when I gave up sugar for 2 weeks and then had a slice of pizza that my family had delivered to the house-I could taste sugar in the crust!!! I’ve made pizza dough from scratch and there is not any need to put sugar in it unless you are a corporation trying to appeal to our taste buds on a subliminal level.
    The best way to fight it is to try not to buy all the prepackaged, convience stuff. Try to prepare healthy food in large quantities and freeze the extras. It may sound old fashioned but it works-saves money too!!

  4. I have had a similiar experience when I stopped eating sweets or things that were deepfried– now the grease just coats my mouth and I do not like the taste. It took a while for my body to stop wanting them but now it seems like my cravings for those foods are gone and my taste buds reject them!

    care to share your pizza crust recipe? would it work for calzones?

    I’m looking forward to my CSA share and cooking with some real veggies from the farm!

  5. You said it Dad! That HFCS and corn syrup in general as a sweetener has actually tricked our brains into not recongizing when we are full. ANd corn syrup is called many different things in the ingredient list so it is sometimes difficult to recognize what you are getting.

  6. […] March 14, 2009 by A. Woz My husband has taken to calling me the Corn Queen after my subsequent manic food label reading frenz… […]

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