Renegade Roundtable with Chef Susan Teton Campbell. Susan is a food evangelist and author of “Raising a New America” and co-author of “The Healthy School Lunch Action Guide.”
Kevin: Tell us a little bit about your experience working with schools, working with children. What’s a good way to start introducing these foods to kids?
Susan: When I worked in the schools that was in the 90s so I think it depends on the children. I think it’s so important to start kids out at a young age with just the foods from the earth and not the factory. I have neighbors that will stop at McDonald’s as treats for their kids. They’ll say once in a while. It’s like the treat kind of thing. They’ll come home with these sugary colas and all this kind of stuff, milkshakes. They’re just all over the place. They are so amped up.
I raised a son that had a lot of problems with allergies and focusing and all the things we call ADHD now. He’s all grown up now but these things, this is how I first learned that food could be this powerful. If parents think that a little is okay, I really don’t think it is anymore. The children that are being born in today’s world are not as strong as they were 20-30 years ago. Each generation we get a little weaker because of all the environmental influences and everything else. I think it’s absolutely vital to start your kids out on a very healthy diet. I would definitely include a cultured food in their diet. If they’re young and you’re raising them with a good diet, their formation will be a lot stronger and a lot more able to handle junkier foods as they enter into a larger, more expanded social life.
I know it’s an issue with a lot of parents. I know it’s really difficult. My friends make sure that they sit down to a sit-down dinner every single night, despite the fact that they do these other things at times. On the whole their children get dinner every night and they have that family time. I think that’s really important too.
I would highly recommend a cultured food. If you don’t have time to make them then make sure they get probiotics in pills or in some way. There’s a lot of products on the market now.
The other thing is I don’t think parents should push so much food on their kids and make them finish all the food. Most kids don’t require as much food as people think they need. They’ll let you know when they’re hungry. So you always want to make sure that you have nuts and seeds and things like that in the car or a little pack-n-go kit, so when you’re out and the kids get hungry or blood sugar goes down that you’ve always got liquids and you’ve always got maybe some dried fruit and nuts and seeds for them to snack on. You’ll find if they’re really hungry they’ll grab it and they’ll eat a handful and then they’re done. They don’t need all that much food.
I think as long as they have good, wholesome foods around the house, if they really don’t want to eat their broccoli then don’t make them.
Kevin: The thing is eventually they will. Things that I eat now, I never ate when I was a child.
Susan: And I don’t like to get into vegan, vegetarian, low-fat, high-fat. I’m really just trying to educate people to eat from the earth and not the factory. If people really want to incorporate animal foods into their lives then what I say is make sure the animals are as healthy as you’d like to be.
If you’re going to drink milk or eat cheese, just make sure. I’ve found in all my research and just watching families, if they eat animal foods and they eat other really wholesome other foods from the earth, they’re usually pretty well off. It’s the junky factory foods that are the worst and the highly processed foods and all the chemicals.
Kevin: I’m not ethically opposed to dairy or eggs but I read something like The China Study and I say, what’s the answer? Do you know what I mean? Do you have any thoughts on that?
Susan: I think the answer is not nearly so much of them. A lot of these diets, the low-carb diets or whatever, they’re having you eat like salmon every day or eggs every day. I think if you have an egg a week or something it’s not going to be that big a deal. But I agree, I think we’re a lot better off on a more vegetarian diet. But a vegetarian diet doesn’t mean you’re eating a lot of starches.
Susan: That’s why I’m a real advocate of trying to inspire people to eat more legumes. Not so much beans but more lentils and chickpeas and mung beans. These things are really great foods. All these vegetables and high-quality, alkaline grains and cultured foods. If you’re going to eat animal foods they should be more sparingly, which is like the centenarians do. They have like 10 – 15 percent of their diet is some animal protein. It’s a very small amount. They might take a piece of meat and make a stew and you have maybe two bites of meat. That’s all you’re really having because it’s enough.