Eating healthy is something we know we should do, but all too often we convince ourselves that our schedule, military lifestyle, or budget makes healthy eating unattainable. But what if making healthier food choices could decrease health care costs and support our military? Dr. Keith Kantor, Marine Corps veteran and President, owner, and CEO of Green Box Foods, knows that healthy habits can do just that. And where he suggests to start with these healthy habits might just surprise you.
We caught up with Dr. Kantor, author of “The Green Box League of Nutritious Justice,” a family-friendly guide to nutritious eating habits, to find out how to save our military and cut our health care costs with fruit and vegetable super hero comics and his quick-reference guides to healthy eating for families.
Military Spouse: Can you tell us about your military experience, and was there anything you witnessed or experienced while serving that lead you to your current civilian career in health and food?
Dr. Kantor: I joined the Marines in 1976. There’s such an emphasis on physical fitness that it just becomes part of your life. My wife used to complain when I made her run with me, but then it became a part of her life, and later a part of our children’s lives.
In my civilian career, I started off with a food company. Over time, going back to school and using my military benefits, getting a doctorate, my company morphed into an all-natural company that also provides food solutions. According to the Center for Disease Control, 75% of chronic disease is food related. I knew we could fix this.
MS: What led you to work in the food industry and help people-especially children-make healthy choices?
DK: The root of the problem is that people aren’t taught to prevent disease; professionals aren’t rewarded to prevent, they are rewarded to treat. In all cases, chronic disease can be, at the very least, mitigated by nutrition. And, health and nutrition are not taught in school, so it must be taught at home. The only way to turn our health care crisis around is to start with the children, and they in turn bring it to the families. We must teach kids that an apple is better for them than a cupcake. They need to know why it’s healthier. And we’ve tried to do that in a fun and interesting way in the book. With this book, they see it, hear it, spell it, then do it.
MS: So where did the inspiration for your latest book-geared toward families-come from?
DK: Well, it’s pretty simple. If we don’t fix our health problem in this country, it becomes a huge financial problem. And if we aren’t careful, it’ll be a security problem for our military if our children follow the path that they’re currently on. Unhealthy people can’t protect us; they can’t perform at the standards the military expects. So we’ll have fewer recruits to choose from and with less than optimal physical stamina.
MS: So what do you believe to be the biggest inhibitor to making healthy food choices, and how do you suggest removing that inhibitor?
DK: Food choices are made based on two things: advertising and one’s wallet. Companies that produce processed food spend more money on advertising than foods that are produced naturally because those companies don’t have the resources. Additionally, foods that are processed tend to be cheaper because they are mass-produced, so people on a budget tend to choose those. And kids are targets of the ads-they see the foods marketed and ask for them.
We try to teach kids in the book that, for example, orange-infused water is better than a (more expensive) juice box…and it makes you strong like a super hero!
MS: What do you think is the best way for families to become independent of their unhealthy food habits?
DK: We have several suggestions throughout the book, but the number one is to make lunch every day for your child. It will save you money. And, kids don’t make the right choices at school-they will always choose pizza over a salad. When kids help make their own lunch, they take ownership of it. Stay away from anything processed, keep to the basics as much as possible, and half of their plate should be vegetables. Use books like mine with healthy recipes that taste good-this will make our children healthier. If we don’t change this, our children will live fewer years than we will.
MS: Why is it important for military families, especially spouses, to implement healthy eating habits for the entire family? How might an unhealthy diet impact our current and future service members?
DK: Obviously, a healthy diet and living a healthy lifestyle is extremely important for our armed forces because these jobs can be physically and mentally strenuous. For our future military, we are raising our kids to have strong thumbs, but not strong bodies. Our country needs those strong bodies and minds on the forefront to keep us safe. Healthy food choices are vital to our national security.
MS: What, in your opinion, is the single most important step in changing eating habits for the better?
DK: The easiest step is to drink water. One-half of your body weight in ounces-so if you’re 120 pounds, drink 60 ounces of water a day. Just that would make a huge difference, and it’s very inexpensive. No need for plastic bottles, just get a filter. Or drink tap water!
Next, eliminate sugary drinks, especially for children. Replace it with water. Just that alone would eliminate a large part of our obesity problem-some kids are drinking up to 1,000 calories a day just in sugary drinks!
Then, make half your plate fruits and vegetables (and with the book, now they all have names!).
Finally, no salt in the house. This one is hard, but Americans eat too much salt. If our kids aren’t raised with additional table salt, they won’t know it, and they won’t get used to it. Foods have enough salt in them naturally. Keep it off the table and out of the house.
MS: We noticed that this book is dedicated to “America’s real heroes: the men and women of our armed forces, our veterans, and our first responders”.
DK: …and I didn’t even know you were going to interview me, so that was just a coincidence! But it’s true; our military is what makes us the greatest country in the world.
Dr. Kantor shared with us some of his favorite recipes that are sure to be a hit with your crew-big and little alike! For more information, tips and kid-friendly comics on healthy food, be sure to check out Dr. Kantor’s latest book, “The Green Box League of Nutritious Justice.”
Breakfast: Very Berry Smoothie
Makes two 16-ounce services
2 cups fresh or frozen berries, washed
2 cups full-fat Greek yogurt (plain)
2 cups unsweetened almond, coconut, or rice milk
3-5 ice cubes (optional)
1) Add berries, yogurt, milk, and ice to blender
2) Blend on high until thoroughly mixed; serve cold
Dinner: Chicken Margarita Flatbread Pizza
Makes 4 servings
1 teaspoon of organic butter or olive oil
2 cups boneless, skinless chicken breast: cooked, diced into ¼-inch cubes, and cooled
1 cup diced tomatoes, seeded (organic, if possible)
½ cup diced green bell pepper (organic, if possible)
½ diced inion (organic, if possible)
1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, torn
¼ teaspoon sale
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese (organic, if possible)
4 plain flatbreads (gluten-free)
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2) Heat a large skillet to medium high, and lightly coat with organic butter or olive oil
3) Cook onion and green pepper until soft; turn off heat; add tomatoes and salt, and mix
4) Place flatbreads on a sprayed baking sheet; arrange chicken among breads; divide tomato mix on breads; divide mozzarella and parmesan cheese on top; bake 10 to 12 minutes or until cheese is browned
5) Garnish with fresh basil; serve with side salad