"What's that you're eating?" a group of children was asked during a preschool snack break last week. "Ants on a log," several of them replied cheerily, as little plates of the delicacy were being consumed at Tutor Time Child Care in Agoura Hills.
This was not an encounter with some weird child-rearing practice of a back-to-the land cult, but a thoughtful, medically supervised demonstration of healthy, low-fat treats for kids.
"Ants on a log" turns out to be a concoction of peanut butter carefully tucked into the hollow of a big stick of celery and decorated with raisins. The snack seemed to be a success with the kids.
The doctor presiding over the demonstration was Ronald Citron, a professional chef and physician. The event was held to promote the idea that kids should be introduced to low-fat, low-sugar eating habits at an early age.
It also called attention to a health and fitness fair this weekend at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza where the Citrons will promote a book the doctor and his wife Kathye have written, "Dr. Citron's Evolutionary Diet and Cookbook."
During his career as a practicing oncologist in Los Angeles, Citron observed that nutritional failures are a major cause of cancer, he said, "the result of what we do to ourselves by smoking and [eating] fatty, sugary diets. Also, heart disease related to diet is showing up in 18-year-olds and younger children."
This strong assertion echos findings published last year by the American Cancer Society Committee on Diet, Nutrition and Cancer Prevention. It attributed 500,000 deaths annually--one-third of cancer fatalities--to dietary factors. It goes on to say, "Risks can be reduced by an overall dietary pattern that includes a high proportion of plant foods [fruits, vegetables, grains and beans] and limited amounts of meat, dairy and other high-fat foods."
The report also stressed: "The introduction of healthful diet and exercise practices at any time from childhood to old age can promote health and reduce cancer risk." Citron's succinct version of this is, "Have an extra vegetable for dinner [and] share your healthful habits with your children."
The Citrons use the term "evolutionary" in their book's title because, they assert, the digestive tracts of our early ancestors evolved on a diet quite different from what we eat today. It didn't contain the large amounts of fatty, sugary foods. Among the other health-related features at the health fair this weekend will be a Conejo Valley Family Care Center booth offering information on health-care checkups and immunizations for kids.
The center, located at 223 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., serves families "regardless of their ability to pay," according to Dr. Chris Landon, chief of pediatrics at Ventura County Medical Center.
There are 10 other such family-care centers in the county. "Even if your child shows no sign of illness, make regular appointments to have your child examined," Landon says.
"Health & Fitness, Wealth & Wisdom Exposition," at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, Saturday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission $12 per adult, children under 12 free with a paying adult. Tickets at Ticketmaster or Plaza box office, 449-ARTS.
Conejo Valley Family Care Center--Information about shots and checkups at the center's booth in the Parenting Arena at the "Health & Fitness" exposition, or call 371-8355. For additional Family Care Centers in the county, call 652-6155.
Also--Ronald and Kathye Citron will sign their book at 7:30 p.m. and Dr. Charles Attwood will sign "Dr. Attwood's Low-Fat Prescription for Kids" at 8:30 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, 160 S. Westlake Blvd., Westlake. Attwood will be at the Ventura Barnes & Noble, 4360 E. Main St., at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.