Teaching the joy of healthy eating

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Rhode Island author Joy Feldman made a visit to Waterman Elementary School this month, reading her new book, "Is Your Hair Made of Donuts?" to the students at each grade level throughout the day. The visit was combined with a Healthy Snack Day, with parent volunteers bringing in a variety of healthy snacks for the students to try throughout the day.

"My book is a book about knowing what you're eating. My whole life changed when I thought about what I was eating," Feldman said.

Her first book, a book about healthy eating for adults, is called "Joyful Cooking in the Pursuit of Good Health," and is more than a cookbook, according to Feldman. She prefers to consider it a resource to help people understand what foods are the best for them, combined with great recipes.

Before reading to the students, Feldman told them a bit about her background, how she ended up coming to write a cookbook and then a children's book about healthy eating.

"Twenty years ago, I was battling an auto-immune issue. My joints hurt so badly I couldn't even walk to my son's crib or change his diapers. I couldn't care for my baby," she said. "I went to the doctors and they diagnosed me with an auto-immune disease and they medicated me, but I was not really getting any better, despite being on all that medication.

Feldman and her family moved to Arizona and she visited a doctor there, an MD who practiced nutrition.

"He examined my diet, he took samples of my hair and sent them off to be tested, and after changing my diet, taking nutrition supplements, I began to feel better within six to eight weeks. Within 12 weeks I had normal blood work. It took a whole year for me to begin to feel like myself again," she said.

Another move brought Feldman and her family back to Rhode Island and she was staying home to raise her children, which then included a daughter as well as the son she had previously been unable to care for.

"I decided to be a nutritional consultant," she said.

Feldman began going to her local copy store to make copies of resources and recipes for her clients.

"I was making all these copies, but what they really wanted was for me to write a book," she said.

So she did.

"Joyful Cooking" came first, followed by "Is Your Hair Made of Donuts?" a book geared toward teaching children healthy eating habits at a young age.

"One day I was taking my son through the airport to go to college. It was 7 in the morning and I looked around me and I saw children in the airport eating donuts and candy, probably for their breakfast. I thought to myself, 'Now that isn't good, at 7 in the morning; they should really be eating healthy foods,'" she said.

That day, while on her flight, Feldman made notes for her future children's book, writing them all on napkins while on the plane.

"I encourage you to carry a notebook with you everywhere; you never know when you're going to get an idea," she said.

Feldman said her inspiration for the title of her children's book, "Is Your Hair Made of Donuts?" was taken from all of the testing that she had done in Arizona, when the doctor cut off samples of her hair to see what was wrong.

"You really are what you eat," she said.

Feldman believes families need to reclaim their kitchens nowadays, doing more cooking at home, with more of an emphasis on health and nutrition for the entire family.

"People need to get back in there and cook. They need to get their children in there and cook with them," she said.

"Is Your Hair Made of Donuts?" includes kid-friendly recipes at the end. It also comes with a free downloadable teachers guide on its website, www.isyourhairmadeofdonuts.com.

Feldman's next endeavor is to write a cookbook "for kids, by kids." She's launching a national campaign, using the two main characters from her children's book, Matt and Maddie, to help her gather recipes for the book.

"Recipes don't have to be gourmet; they don't have to be expensive to be healthy," she said. "Just get all the sugar and chemicals out of your diet. Sugar has the same detrimental effects on the body as smoking. When did this become the cultural norm to eat so much junk food?

For more information about Feldman's books or to book an author visit for a school, visit her website at www.joyfeldman.com.

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