By Kimberley Woo
Our diet is made up of the foods and beverages that we consume. Nutrition is the way that we eat and drink to nourish our bodies. Good nutrition means our body is getting all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals it needs to work at its best level. Eating a healthy diet is the main way to ensure good nutrition (NIH, 2008). When I think about children’s health, I am intrigued by the relationship between good nutrition and healthy development. My knowledge about children’s nutrition is grounded in two worlds: what have I learned as a student of Western education and am currently learning in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). For example, my thinking about Western nutrition is based on the latest United States Department of Agriculture recommendations: elementary-aged students are encouraged to eat from a variety of five good groups (grains, vegetables, fruit, milk, protein), to limit their intake of sugar and fats, and to get at least 60 minutes of exercise on most days (MyPyramid, USDA, 2005). In comparison, TCM practitioners believe that children’s health and development require an overall balance, with particular attention paid to spleen qi and blood, and kidney essence. TCM nutritional recommendations consider the whole individual and encompass a range of variables such as constitutional tendencies, excesses and deficiencies, seasons, and lifestyle. While a generic set of TCM nutritional recommendations does not exist for all children, for purposes of this assignment, I envisioned two visually appealing, easy-to-eat, portable, and nutritious dishes for elementary-aged children who are deemed “healthy” by Western measures, but whose TCM diagnoses reveal a tendency towards spleen qi deficiency and a deficiency of kidney essence.
Dish #1: Chocolate dipped strawberries
Strawberries are a popular children’s fruit choice. With increasing access to growers from around the world, these ruby-colored, anti-oxidant powerhouses are often available throughout the year. One extra large strawberry (1 5/8 diameter) is just 9 calories and very low in fat. It is packed with Vitamin C, and contains trace amounts of calcium, potassium, and protein (CalorieKing, 2009). TCM believes that strawberries are “cool” in nature; and that they lubricate lungs, promote body fluids, strengthen spleen and stomach, and detoxify alcohol intoxication (Acupuncture.com, 2009).
Chocolate is the second ingredient in this dish because many children enjoy its sweetness and rich taste. “Ounce for ounce, dark chocolate and cocoa have more antioxidants than do foods like blueberries, green tea and red wine. . . Two tablespoons of natural cocoa have more antioxidant capacity than four cups of green tea or 1 cup of bluberries” (All chocolate, 2008). TCM believes that black-colored foods can nourish kidney yin and tonify kidney essence (Betts, 2009). At the same time “foods with a sweet flavor tonify qi and blood and strengthen the spleen” (Beinfield & Korngold, 2009).
1-16 oz. box of fresh strawberries, with leaves/stems on.
1 lb. dark (60% or higher cocoa) chocolate, break into smaller pieces for easier melting
1. Wash and pat dry (strawberries must be really dry!)
2. Over the stove in a heavy sauce pan, slowly stir and melt 80-85% of chocolate. 3. Remove from the stove and continue to stir until all the chocolate is melted.
4. Line 2-3, 9 x 14 cookie sheets with wax paper.
5. Hold one dry strawberry by the leaves/stem and dip into melted chocolate.
6. Place dipped strawberry onto wax paper to set.
*If the weather is hot, the tray of dipped strawberries can be placed in the refrigerator. CAUTION, chocolate easily absorbs scents from strong smelling items (e.g., freshly chopped garlic, onions, fragrant cheeses).
Dish #2-Organic Ground Chicken, Cabbage, Mushroom, Scallion and Ginger Jiaozi
Potstickers (a variation on Chinese dumplings, “jiaozi”) are one of the most requested menu items in today’s Chinese restaurants. Their crisp bottoms and unlimited savory and/or sweet fillings are the reasons for their popularity. “According to folk tales, jiaozi were invented by Zhang Zhongjing, one of the greatest practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine in history. They were originally called "Ωø∂˙"(Pinyin: jiao'er) because they were used to treat frostbitten ears” (Jiaozi, 2009).
Children love potsickers because they are portable pockets of delicious-ness that can be enjoyed with or without utensils. Three jiaozi are approximately 200 calories, and have 31 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, and 9 grams of protein (CalorieKing, 2009). From a Western perspective, as long as attention is paid to minimize the use of salt and oil, jiaozi can be part of a delectable children’s lunch that combines protein and carbohydrates in a convenient, wholly eatable pasta-filled packet.
A TCM nutritional analysis reveals that the combination of ingredients can address kidney yin and spleen qi deficiencies. For example, chicken is considered warm in nature and used to tonify qi, nourish blood, and aid kidney deficiency. Cabbage is also eaten to nourish yin (Acupuncture.com, 2009). Given the association of colors with the body’s organs, I wonder if Napa cabbage’s yellow-green appearance might be thought of as a spleen nutrient; yellow is often associated with the spleen. At the same time, mushrooms, ginger, and scallions balance the dish by adding yang elements. Finally, the way jiaozi are cooked can add to the yin or yang nature of the dish. Specifically, steaming or boiling jiaozi will give them a more yin quality, while pan-frying will result a more yang-natured dish (Parkinson, 2009).
12-16 oz. package of premade potsicker or jiaozi or dumpling wrappers (do not use won ton or siu mai wrappers, as they are too thin)
1 lb. organic (when possible) ground chicken
1 small head Napa cabbage
4 oz. mushrooms (more to taste), washed and patted dry
1-2 stalks scallions, cleaned
1 quarter-sized slice of ginger, skin removed
seasonings: salt, pepper, oyster sauce (optional)
1 small dish of water
1-9 x 14 cookie sheet lightly sprinkled with flour
1 sturdy sauce pan, teflon coating or an equivalent is a good idea
1 cup of water
1. Set wrappers aside.
2. Place next five ingredients (do not add water or oil) on a board and chop with a cleaver until everything is well-chopped and coheres with the meat (may take 15-20 minutes of steady chopping and refolding of ingredients into the middle of the board).
3. Place chopped meat into a bowl or on a plate.
4. Remove wrappers from package.
5. Take one wrapper and place 1.5-2 tsp. meat filling in the center and lightly wet the edges with water.
6. Crimp the edges and seal well.
7. Place jiaozi on a floured cookie sheet. (At this point, jiaozi can be frozen and cooked at a later time.)
8. When ready to cook, place approximately 1 tblsp. or little bit more oil in the bottom of a pan. Swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Heat until medium hot.
9. Place jiaozi in the pan. Make sure they are not too close to each other.
10. Brown the jiaozi bottoms (2-3 minutes).
11. Reduce the heat to “medium” and add enough water to cover _- 2/3 of the jiaozi. 12. Place the cover of the pan so it covers _-2/3 of the pan.
13. Wait until almost all the steam evaporates.
14. Remove pan from heat and place jiaozi on a warm serving platter.
15. Best enjoyed warm, but can also be served room temperature.
Good nutrition is a necessary component of children’s health. This project combines Western nutrition and TCM food theories to address one particular set of children’s needs. While this is only a start, one of my overarching goals is to encourage the balanced development of children’s nutritional habits that will contribute to a lifetime of good health.
Acupuncture.com. (2009). Gateway to Chinese medicine, health and wellness. (http://www.acupuncture.com/nutrition/strawberries1.htm). (retrieved January 24, 2009).
Acupuncture.com. (2009). Meat and dairy. (http://www.acupuncture.com/nutrition/meatdairy.htm). (retrieved January 24, 2009).
All chocolate: Chocolate and health. “An antioxidant powerhouse: Chocolate’s natural compounds. (http://www.allchocolate.com/health/basics/antioxidant_effects.aspx). (retrieved October 22, 2008). Beinfield, H. & Korngold, E. (2009). Recognition and prevention of herb-drug interaction for menopause. (http://www.acupuncture.com/conditions/menopherbdrug.htm). (retrieved January 25, 2009).
Betts, D. (2009). Yin deficiency: Diet therapy. (http://acupuncture.rhizome.net.nz/Deficiency/YinDeficiency.aspx). (retrieved January 24, 2009).
CalorieKing. (2009). For food awareness. (http://www.calorieking.com/foods/calories-in-fruit-fresh-strawberries-raw-edible-portion_f-Y2lkPTM3MDY4JmJpZD0xJmZpZD02MzYzMiZlaWQ9MzY4MTE2MzYwJnBvcz0xJnBhcj0ma2V5PXN0cmF3YmVycnk.html). (retrieved January 24, 2009). Jiaozi. (2009). Jiaozi: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jiaozi). (retrieved January 24, 2009).
National Institutes of Health. (2008). Diet and nutrition: What are diet and nutrition?. (http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/Diet_and_Nutrition.cfm). (retrieved January 24, 2009). Parkinson, R. (2009). Yin and yang in Chinese cooking. (http://chinesefood.about.com/library/weekly/aa101899.htm). (retrieved January 25, 2009). United States Department of Agriculture. (2005). MyPyramid: Eat right. Exercise. Have fun. (http://teamnutrition.usda.gov/Resources/mpk_poster2.pdf). (retrieved January 23, 2009).