Make produce palatable for kids, convicts - The Packer

Make produce palatable for kids, convicts

04/13/2012 09:14:00 AM
Dan Galbraith

Inmates would do so much better if they’d just care about their appearance a little.
Those incarcerated at Middle River Regional Jail in Staunton, Va., recently experienced a change to their diets, increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables. This caused inmates to complain, according to an article in the Verona News Leader.
Evidently, inmates are unaware of or are not concerned with a recent study linking fresh produce to improved attractiveness and healthier looking skin.
“We’ve got some grumblings,” Maj. Eric Young, who works at the jail, told the News Leader. “It’s hard to please 550 different people.”
Surely increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables in inmates’ diets doesn’t constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Admittedly, the Middle River Regional Jail didn’t add fruits and vegetables to benefit inmates’ health, but rather to trim costs.
The article noted the jail’s menu increased carrots, cabbage and potatoes, among other fresh produce items.
I found another of Young’s comments in the article kind of funny, yet a sad reflection of the mindset of what is obviously not just one jail worker, but scores if not hundreds of inmates — as well as tens of thousands of free Americans visiting fast-food chains across the U.S.
“They (fruits and veggies) don’t have the same taste as a cheeseburger,” Young said.
Well, sure, they don’t taste the same as a cheeseburger, but fruits and vegetables can still taste as good or better than greasy, unhealthy dishes, particularly if the produce is fresh enough and prepared well.
Personally, I look forward to grilled squash this time of year as much as I do to a grilled burger.
And to get the taste and healthfulness of fresh produce at a lower cost than alternatives, as the jail has learned, is the proverbial icing on the cake.
“They’re actually getting a good, healthy meal,” Young added.
Oh, how times change. I remember when I was a kid and hated to eat my veggies, I felt being forced to eat them was actually some sort of cruel and unusual punishment. 
Meanwhile, adults would try to guilt me into eating them by telling me, “Starving children in Africa and prison inmates would kill to have this food you take for granted.”
I of course would reply, “Well, then, let’s send it to ’em!”
Now that I’m feeding kids again as a grandparent to boys ages 8 and 5, I find success increasing their intake of fresh produce by employing a far different strategy than did my predecessors.
Carter and Parky love their fruits and vegetables, so, instead of using guilt trips or forcing produce down their throats, I tend to bribe them with their favorites, such as Cuties clementines and edamame.
Fresh produce becomes easier to push when it’s used as a reward instead of as a punishment, it seems.
I find it ironic Carter and Parky will clean up the floor or perform other chores they don’t want to do just to get a crack at some sweet corn while young Danny would have eschewed his veggies and when forced to eat them would have threatened to not do chores of any kind for a month.
Gee, looking back, maybe I was a little spoiled. Not to mention nutritionally misguided.
Now, getting back to that study showing fresh produce can turn you into a hottie ... the University of St. Andrews has found people with higher produce intake experience healthier skin tones and are perceived to be more attractive.
Produce added red and yellow to survey participants’ skin because of the carotenoids in the fruits and vegetables, researchers found.
Specifically, the study focused on beta-carotene, which lends the orangeish hue to carrots, pumpkins, apricots and peaches; and the red-hue-lending lycopene, found in foods such as grapefruit, watermelon, peppers and tomatoes.
“Our study suggests that an increase in fruit and veggie consumption of around three portions, sustained over a six-week period, is sufficient to convey perceptible improvements in the apparent healthiness and attractiveness of facial skin,” lead researcher Ross Whitehead said. 
“Conversely, those (participants) that worsened their diet became paler.”
And, fortunately for the fresh produce industry, the researchers footnoted their results by saying consumers will get the most from their produce by eating more whole fruits and vegetables and not relying on juices.
Just what the fresh produce industry needed. 
Now, if we can just get the prisoners on board, we’ll really have something.
“Once the word gets out that eating fruits and vegetables can make you sexy, attractive and maybe even look younger, hopefully, the carrots, kale and cantaloupe will be flying off the shelves and into people’s meals,” Samantha Heller, a dietitian and nutritionist at the Center for Cancer Care at Griffin Hospital in Derby, Conn., told HealthDay.
There has been a lot of hubbub about this study online but, admittedly, the study only tracked diets of 35 subjects, all of whom were white, and the researchers admitted more studies are needed to see if the effects are replicated in non-Caucasians.
Previous University of Nottingham research suggested produce-eaters were more attractive than people with suntans, according to Shape registered dietitian Cynthia Sass, which echoed the praises of the St. Andrews study and furthermore offered these tips to its readers (and hopefully the jailers and the jailed in Virginia are reading this): 
u Always include fruit at breakfast. If you’re on the run grab a mini banana or some unsweetened dried fruit. If you have more time add berries or frozen, thawed pitted cherries to your oatmeal or cold cereal, or whip frozen fruit into a smoothie with almond butter, organic skim or non-dairy milk (almond, soy, hemp), rolled oats and cinnamon.
u Make veggies the main attraction at lunchtime. Make salad your lunch staple. Mix it up by using different types of greens and raw veggies and adding a variety of lean proteins (lentils, beans, tofu, chicken, shrimp), whole grains (cooked, chilled quinoa, wild rice, corn), and healthy fats (avocado, nuts or seeds, pesto, or extra virgin olive oil). 
u Include fruit at snack time. Munch on seedless grapes and almonds or enjoy a few tablespoons of nut butter with fresh apple or pear wedges.
u Build your dinner meal around veggies. Think of veggies first and build your meal around them. Grill skewered veggies like mushrooms, onion and bell peppers, roast eggplant or tomatoes; stir fry veggies in garlic, and sesame oil; use spaghetti squash in place of pasta, or whip up a veggie soup or bean chili loaded with a variety of chopped vegetables.
Those are my thoughts exactly on grill skewers. And I’m pretty sure even the Virginia prisoners would stop whining if they got to partake in a cookout with those.
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