The Dadabase Healthy Parents: The Marketing Strategy of “Cancer Sells”

October 21, 2011 at 9:52 pm , by 

Eleven months.

Here at Parents.com, the motto is “Healthy Kids, Happy Families.” As the daddy blogger, I want to extend the “healthy” part to parents, too. Because our kids learn their dietary habits from us, the parents.

Two years ago, I was 25 pounds heavier, but I have drastically changed my lifestyle since then to get to where I am now. So for those who are interested in heading down the straight and narrow with me as a parent, with this post I am debuting the first post of my “Healthy Parents” series.

We live in a consumer culture where it is acceptable (yet not ironic) for junk foods to come labeled in packaging telling us they are donating a portion of the proceeds to cancer research. Granted, I’m not against the occasional sandwich cookie or chocolate candy, nor am I against finding a cure for cancer or other diseases.

But am I the only one who thinks there’s something obviously illegitimate about an organization doing an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast benefiting research for Diabetes? (I actually saw that on Jay Leno’s “Headlines” one time.)

I am willing to go so far as to say that we are all fighting cancer in some way. For some of us, our parents or grandparents have been diagnosed by this serious disease and are actively fighting it.

For the rest of us who are younger, the risk may be further down the road. I want to help lead the fight through a lifestyle of prevention, alongside outspoken role models like Dr. Oz and celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver.

Why don’t brands of fresh produce (fruits and veggies) feel obligated to give a portion of the proceeds to help the fight against cancer? Interestingly, those are the foods that actually fight cancer in our bodies.

I feel in our culture, it’s taboo to address the issue that collectively we are gung ho about donating money for and raising awareness of, but don’t spend nearly the same effort to prevent those diseases as individuals by our own lifestyles.

But instead of complaining about that paradox, I’m simply going to write about ways we can focus some energy on having healthy families.

Ultimately, it’s about balance; that’s the message I’m trying to convey. It reminds me of what James, the half-brother of Jesus, said about religion: “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”

No one deserves to get cancer or any disease. But we all deserve to know how to prevent our lives from being further affected by it.

We should fight, we should hope, we should pray. We should also use our awareness of cancer (and other diseases) for being deliberate about what we feed our families; whether or not the proceeds of our groceries go to cancer research.

Passing the Mic:

Does our culture suffer a double standard of not focusing enough on healthy eating and living an active lifestyle, while over-emphasizing on researching for a cure?

The Shell Diet: Fresh- Forget about Processed Foods and Replace Sugar with Whole Fruits

Cut out all processed foods.


1) The worst thing about processed foods is that they are typically loaded with “bad sugars” and “bad fats”, not to mention too much sodium. This means all fast food, fried food, candy, snack cakes, sodas, coffee bought at a coffee shop, even yogurt (loaded with sugar!) just to name a few examples.  “Good sugars” are whole fruits and “good fats” are nuts- they’re good and necessary as part of the Shell Diet.

How do you know if a food is processed?  Any kind of food you wouldn’t have been able to find 200 years ago, if it contains more than 7 ingredients, and/or if it comes sealed in a box or bag sent from a factory, there is a good chance it is processed.  And that means you shouldn’t eat it because it has too much fatsugar, and or sodium.  Those three things are some of the rarest elements found in food, yet in today’s culture, a lot of our food choices are based on those things, and those are the things making us unhealthy.  Jesus didn’t eat Hot Pockets.  Abraham Lincoln didn’t eat Twinkies.  So neither will I.

2) So if you’re not eating junk food, or even “healthy” processed snacks (made with soy or tofu), what can you eat? Eat anything that is a plant, as a snack. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and even whole grain cereal as long as no sugar has been added (admittedly, there aren’t a whole lot of cereals that fit that description, so unless I am having plain oatmeal with fruit, I buy plain shredded wheat and add honey, which is natural and healthy to eat).

3) Drinking your calories is just as bad, if not worse, than eating them. Soda is what I call “diabetes juice”.  Sugary coffee and sweat tea are “liquid cigarettes”.  And 100% fruit juice?  Still processed.  I call it “vitamin infused Kool Aid”.  We’re supposed to be eating fruit on a daily basis, not drinking it.  Because unless we’re eating the fiber with the fruit, we’re cheating ourselves and just drinking the vitamins and sugar from the fruit, wasting its fiber.

I don’t buy into the advertising ploy of V-8 and other “healthy juices” advertising that if you buy drinking their product, you’re getting the proper number of servings of fruits and veggies.  You may be getting the vitamins, but you’re getting too much sugar, and not enough fiber.  Sure, it’s better than soda, or not eating any fruits or veggies at all, but you’re still cheating yourself out of a healthy thing.

Acknowledgement: This far into reading about the “Shell Diet”, you have every reason to feel discouraged at how demanding of a lifestyle change it is.  But this is the price you pay to be healthy now, and to prevent Diabetes, cancer, and all that other bad stuff.  And there’s no way around it.  Even if you’re thin, it doesn’t mean you’re necessary healthy.

4) So what does Nick Shell drink, the creator of the Shell Diet, drink? Because obviously there isn’t much left to choose from. Mainly water– no less than two liters (ideally 3 liters) per day.  A little bit of milk with cereal or coffee (but no processed creamer or sugar).  Certain select fruit juices like carrot juice or Bolthouse Farms’ Green Goodness- they are the only exceptions to my “no fruit juice rule” because they both contain a power house of nutrients that are difficult to get a hold of and are more of a puree than a juice.

And lastly, one alcoholic beverage per day. Yes, it may sound like I’m going against everything I’ve established so far, but it’s a key factor of the Shell Diet being successful.  Almost every day, I either have a classy beer (like Leinenhugel’s, Fat Tire, Blue Moon, Shock Top, etc., but never Bud Light or anything people use to get drunk on during sports events or that underage teens with fake I.D.’s are drawn to) or a glass of wine (my favorite brand is actually Macaroni Grille).

If you have any religious reservations about this, read this, and if that doesn’t help (or you’re a recovering alcoholic or think you might become one), I have to admit you are at a disadvantage regarding the Shell Diet, but I don’t want to be responsible for you feeling like you are sinning against God (or lead you back into a lifestyle of abuse if you have a history of alcoholism).  If the Southern-small-town-Baptist restriction applies to you, I of all people completely understand where you’re coming from: I never had any alcohol until after high school and college.  It wasn’t until age 24 (right after moving to Nashville; the official crossroads of the Bible Belt and honky tonks) that I was able to process how I truly felt about Jesus Juice (wine) and Baptist Brew (beer).  Ironically, when I abandoned my “drinking is wrong” theology, for me, it was one of the most spiritually maturing times in my life.

Why do I strongly endorse daily consumption of one alcoholic drink per day?  Aside from the abundant health benefits mentioned here, it is a filling and healthy rival (again, in small amounts, not abundance) to sugar.  Plus, at the end of the day, with dinner, it is relaxing.   And that is a good thing.  It’s important to relax, because stress causes cancer.

*But wait, there’s more…Go back to the main page of the The Shell Diet by clicking right here.

The Importance of a Setting in Real Life, Not Just in Fiction

 This could be Heaven or this could be hell.What makes old graveyards creepy, besides our sneaking suspension that the bearded ghost of a Confederate Army General will appear through the foggy mist and try to tell us a haunting story of he ended up with a hook for an arm?  (Pirates don’t have exclusive right to those things, you know…)  Take away the graves and all the preconceived ideas that human curiosity has handed down to us over the centuries, and chances are, the land itself is still not a beautiful piece of land to begin with.

I assume that the land used for graveyards and cemeteries often was the land that wasn’t aesthetically pleasing as the acres used for building homes, schools, and businesses.  Safe to say it wasn’t feng shui. 

Instead it was the leftover, out of the way, dreary land that someone was just trying to get rid of.  So they sold it for less than they would have liked to an investor who saw its best potential and destiny was for it to become a graveyard.

We choose destinations for a reason.  Why do coffee shops serve as such a great pre-date and unofficial first date venue?  Because there are plenty of other people around in a coffee shop whose collected friendly conversations make for the perfect background murmur, so that while the two single people are surrounded by people, it’s intimate enough of a setting where they can, in a sense, feel alone- without the awkwardness of actually being alone when they don’t yet know each other that well. 

If nothing else, the coffee itself serves as a convenient social crutch, as mentioned in Campfires.  A coffee shop is a setting of safety, comfortableness, and relaxation, as well a symbolic “garden of growth”.  I know this first hand:

Before I asked out my now-wife to the sure-to-get-a-second-date John Mayer concert, I primed our new friendship with several Sunday night meets at the local Starbucks.  It was the coffee shop that watered and fertilized our friendship into dating, then a little over a year later into marriage, and two years after that (present day), a baby.  A human life is scheduled to make its first out-of-the-womb appearance this November.  And it all started, in theory, by me choosing the right setting- which in this case was a coffee shop.

What if instead of asking her to coffee when we first met as strangers, I would have asked her to dinner?  It could have been awkward.  Eating with a stranger she just met the week before.  I could have ended up in a category of guys she had dated but it never really went anywhere- and I wasn’t willing to make that gamble. 

I knew that if I built the relationship on true friendship first, it would be much more natural and relaxing to eventually eat a meal together at a restaurant.  But not before coffee at a Starbucks.

We can choose where either good or bad memories will take place.  Where does a guy propose to his fiancé?  Where do parents announce to their children that they are getting a divorce?  Because those places will never be the same again after that.

Where were you when you found out the cancer is in remission? Where were you when you heard about the two planes crashing into the Twin Towers?  Those places will always be associated with the big news, good or bad.

It’s why the phrase “may I speak with you for in a minute in my office, please?” is so epic.

Whether we choose the place, or it chooses us, the setting is everything; lasting an entire lifetime as it attaches itself to a memory of hope or a memory of damnation.

healthnutshell: Ketchup Vs. Mustard

What’s so fancy about ketchup, anyway?  I have faith in mustard seeds.

My dad always said, “You are who your friends are or you soon will be.”  That is indeed the case with both ketchup and mustard.  Though they are as much as a pair as salt and pepper, they tend to attract different “friends”.  Bottom line: Ketchup is a bad influence, but mustard is a role model.

On occasion, I have no problem enjoying some good fries that I know actually came from whole potatoes from a reputable restaurant (meaning they don’t have a drive-thru there).  Same thing with a good juicy burger that is hand-pattied.  And when that happens, that means ketchup is involved.  Other than that, I don’t eat ketchup.

Because ketchup, in most cases, is paired with unhealthy foods that are either processed or fried.  For me, it’s sort of disgusting to think about what ketchup really is: tomato concentrate, vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, salt, “spice”, and onion powder.

Tomato concentrate is processed tomatoes.  Vinegar is okay.  High fructose corn syrup and corn syrup are both forms of processed sugar.  The rest of the ingredients are fine.

Ketchup is candy.  For a serving the size of one tablespoon, there are four grams of sugar.  But honestly, when I eat ketchup, I typically have a bit more than that.  For a typical serving of fries at a decent restaurant, it’s pretty easy to consume four tablespoons of ketchup with the fries alone.  That’s 12 grams of sugar, (one tablespoon of sugar) the equivalent to smoking one cigarette.

So my general rule of thumb is, I stay away from foods that are enhanced by ketchup.  Not only is ketchup really just candy sauce, but it attracts the wrong kinds of friends.  I don’t even keep ketchup in my fridge.

Mustard on the other hand is much more legit: Vinegar, water, mustard seeds, salt, turmeric, and paprika. None of those ingredients are processed.  In fact, there are actually health benefits of turmeric and paprika.

Tumeric– linked to possible benefits in arthritis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s, aids in digestion, is an anti-flammatory agent as well as an antibacterial agent

Paprika– rich in vitamin C (more than lemon juice) and high in antioxidants

Of course that doesn’t mean that I recommend eating a bottle of mustard a day in order to prevent diseases.  But compared side by side to ketchup, it’s pretty obvious that mustard is actually healthy to eat, whereas I can’t truly consider ketchup to be nutritious.

Mustard easily goes well with healthy foods.  People don’t put ketchup on a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread.  That would be gross.  But mustard would be great.

Foods that go well with mustard- good.

Foods that go well with ketchup (or both ketchup and mustard)- watch out.

Choose this day whom you will follow, ketchup or mustard.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on ketchup, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one


healthnutshell: What Exactly is Food, These Days?

We all play with some kind of fire.  And we all know that the less we do it, the less likely are we to get burned.

I mean, I shouldn’t have to ask what constitutes as food, but it has kind of gotten to that point.  Can we really count soda and fast food and processed snacks as food?  It tastes good and is for the most part digested by our bodies, but what if it does more harm to our bodies than good?  Is that food?

I went to the place I get most of my research, a place I see as the most practical and relevant.  Wikipedia defines food as any substance, composed of carbohydrates, water, fats and/or proteins, that is either eaten or drunk by any animal, including humans, for nutrition or pleasure”.

Dang it.  And dag gum.  I was really hoping the words “or pleasure” were not part of that definition.  I wanted to make a good point about how America is not actually eating food anymore because food is for nutrition only, not pleasure alone.  But the word “or” messes that up for me.  That definition means the sole purpose of eating for food can be for just pleasure, not attached with nutrtion.

So based on that definition of food, all I can do is say this:

But if eating for nutrition seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day why you eat, whether for the nutrition that your forefathers ate which prevented cancer and disease, or for the pleasure-giving gods of the Americans, in whose land you are living, who let you become sick and cause you to have a lower quality of life and cause you to depend on a national health care plan that upsets many people.  But as for me and my household, we will eat for nutrition.

When we use our outward appearance as the only indicator of our health, we’re doing ourselves a disservice.  The thought:  “I can eat a decent amount of fried foods and have just one soda a day and be alright, because I don’t really gain any weight.”  Dangerous thought.  Not for now, but for later.

I’m less concerned about how much I weigh and how I look, and instead completely concerned that I won’t have a bad heart or Diabetes by the time I’m 50.  That’s only about 20 years from now.

It’s all a matter of putting this into perspective.  Until we truly understand what we are doing, why change?

For example, take my original theory that eating one tablespoon worth of sugar (12 grams) in food is equal to smoking one cigarette.  I refuse to even drink 8 ounces of orange juice because it’s equal to about two tablespoons of sugar (22 grams).

Read  “healthnutshell: A Tablespoon of Sugar or a Cigarette?” http://wp.me/pxqBU-sf

In my mind, drinking a small glass of orange juice is equal to smoking two cigarettes.  Despite the fact orange juice is loaded with vitamins and cigarettes are not, the concentrated sugar, over time, can do more harm than good.  Besides that, the fruit should be eaten whole because the flesh of the fruit needs to be consumed several times a day by the human body anyway.  Eaten, not drunk.

What makes this concept even more real to me is this:  I have smoked a few cigars in my lifetime.  Not a lot.  Literally just a few.  And just for the record, I like them.  No denying that.

But it’s hard to truly enjoy something I outright know gives cancer to people, over time.  Will I smoke another cigar in my lifetime?  Yes.  Will I start regularly smoking them or cigarettes?  No.

I translate this to food I eat:  Will I eat a big fat juicy cheeseburger from Chili’s again in my life?  Yes.  Will I start regularly going through the Wendy’s drive-thru?  No.

Will I sometimes take my wife out on a Friday night to get us each a “Like It” ice cream from Cold Stone Creamery?  Absolutely yes!  Will I start buying ice cream and keeping it in the freezer at our house every week?  No.

This parallel between tobacco and bad eating habits has been so helpful to me.  Because there’s an obvious stigma with tobacco, but people tend to laugh off bad dieting as just another failed New Year’s resolution.

By taking the matter into my own hands by smoking a few cigars, it helped me register the “badness” of the sugary and fatty and processed foods I’ve eaten most of my life.  Both can kill a person eventually, when consumed enough.  Now I equate a cigar with a banana split (up to 8 tablespoons of sugar).

So I ask myself:  How often can I smoke a cigar, being that I do enjoy it?

Depends.  How often can I eat out at restaurants (which if nothing else, will load up the food will sodium which will cause heart disease) as compared to cooking at home?  How often can I go a whole day without eating any fresh vegetables or fruit in the name of inconvenience? How often can I go back for seconds?  How often can I get dessert?

Over some mysterious amount of time, that accumulative next cigar or next bottle of soda will cause a serious a problem health.  But if it’s done very sparingly, it’ll probably be okay.  It’s a gamble.  For anyone who eats sugary, fattening, and/or processed foods or uses tobacco of any kind.

So the question is, no matter which consumable pleasure we choose, how often are we willing to gamble our heath?

Read the indirect sequel: healthnutshell: That’s Not Food  http://wp.me/pxqBU-DY