By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
The corporate vice president was quite progressive when it came to everything, whether it was in the workplace or for her diet. Yet even though she had a mini refrigerator in her office specifically for the fruitarian diet she was following, she couldn't help but chuckle every time she walked by my office and saw me sipping my steaming cup of tea (a mixture of green/ginger/chamomile/rooibos/apple-cinnamon). Her laughter wasn't because of all the teabag strings hanging out of my mug representing the delicious antioxidant-filled personal concoction, it was because of the glass straw from which I was drinking.
I wasn't yet doing this for the environment, as it was well before it was part of the national discussion. That is unlike all the current news of states, cities, and businesses, like the announcement from Starbucks, banning or considering banning plastic straws in order to help avoid danger to marine life in our oceans. My own statement then was more regarding my personal environment.
As one of the first investigative preventive health columnists and book authors, the initial syndicated article I wrote was about how the enamel of the teeth can be eroded by acidic foods and beverages. At that time, dentists were seeing it especially in patients who drank an excessive amount of diet soda, since consumers might be more tempted to drink extreme amounts of that and they note that one of the best ways to avoid acids from beverages hitting the teeth was by using straws. They also pointed out that the practice helped keep teeth whiter looking.
I have used straws for all these years for that reason and didn't want to give up the positive procedure when I drink hot beverages like tea. However, at times there was also news about not exposing plastic like that used in straws to extreme heat. Therefore, I looked on the internet and found a world of glass straws for heated beverages and ordered three, one for me at home, one for my husband, who at the time drink a lot of tea with honey and lemon (another acidic item) in it and one for me at work that the VP and others used to good-naturedly chide me about.
Now, of course, the reason for alternative straws, like glass, metal, and paper, to become more well-known is much more urgent. The environmentalist group 1 Million Women, among others, note that places like the state of California are bringing up banning plastic straws because, since they are plastic, they are often just used once. Unlike paper, plastics take longer to break down. Eight million tons of plastics enter the oceans every year and plastic straws are often among the top-ten items picked up on beach cleanups. An avid scuba diver reported to 1 Million Women that in a 20-minute period she picked up 319 plastic straws at the beach; 24 hours later she went back and found 294 more in the same spot.
If like me, you want to protect both the environment and the enamel of your teeth, you too might join environmental groups in picking up all types of plastics from seashores as well as expanding your straw knowledge to include all types, like paper and reusable metal and glass ones.
Following are my cold and hot favorites to drink with whatever straws you choose. All ingredients are to taste:
- HOMEMADE LEMONADE-PLUS
Squeeze fresh lemon, lime, and tangerine or mandarin juices. In a blender container strong enough to chop ice, combine one part of the mixed citrus juice with two parts water and one part coconut or almond milk, sliced strawberries, peeled cucumber pieces, stevia, and ice cubes. Blend until smoothie is of desired consistency.
- TEA THAT'S JUST PEACHY
Brew peach tea. While tea bags are steeping, in a small saucepan, combine store-bought or homemade peach nectar and peach preserves and cook over low-medium heat, carefully stirring occasionally, until it warms and reduces. Add steeped tea and carefully stir before serving.
Ideas like this also prove food preparation can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun - and fast. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for creating homemade specialties and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!
Another benefit: You effortlessly become better in the kitchen, since these are virtually can't-go-wrong combinations. They can't help but draw "wows" from family members and guests.
Lisa Messinger at Creators Syndicate is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes (Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet (Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.