You have probably heard of the Chinese zodiac and the 12 animals that represent each year: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. Maybe you already know which animal claims your birth year, and you’re ahead of the game if you know that we’ll be celebrating the Year of the Pig in 2019. But do you know how these specific animals earned such a high honor? According to legend, when the celestial Jade Emperor created a way to measure time, he invited the animals in his kingdom to earn a spot on the zodiac by winning a race. Cat and Rat, who were best friends back then, were both eager to participate. Wanting to be well-rested, Cat took a nap before the race. But when the time for the race came, Rat, who was determined to win, sneaked away without waking his friend. Rat’s cunning didn’t stop there. When the race reached a raging river, Rat secretly climbed on the back of Ox, who was in the lead. When they reached the other side, Rat jumped off, crossing the finish line before Ox and claiming the first year of the zodiac for his own. The other animals finished the race in the order they appear in the zodiac, each taking a place influenced by their unique traits. Now, you might be wondering how Dragon came in fifth place. Unlike their monstrous brothers in Western mythology, Chinese dragons are wise, helpful creatures. During the race, Dragon saw a village suffering from a terrible drought, so he stopped to help make rain so the farmers’ crops could grow. Even with the delay, he still finished well before most of the other animals. And what about poor Cat? When he woke up to discover he’d missed the race and would be left out of the zodiac, he was enraged. He declared vengeance on Rat, and to this day, cats still hold their grudge against rats. Was there really a celestial race that named each year in the Chinese calendar? Probably not. After all, cats hadn’t been introduced in China when the zodiac calendar was first put into use! But it’s an exciting story and one that’s always fun to tell on the Chinese New Year. New Year’s Menagerie Legend of the Chinese Zodiac
Get Your Kids to Eat Healthier Than Ever
Do your kids get enough nutrients in their diet? If they’re like most kids, the answer is probably no. You want your children to eat more vegetables and less processed junk, but they certainly don’t make it easy. Even getting the average kid to chow down on a serving of broccoli can be a huge chore. In fact, food manufacturers have built an entire industry that takes advantage of our kids’ penchant for sugary cereal and fast food. However, a diet of highly processed foods can lead to a host of problems. Not only do these poor dietary habits carry over into adulthood, but a poor diet can hinder brain development and may even cause behavioral issues. A study in the American Journal of Public Health found links between poor diet and the development of depression in kids and teens. But how can you encourage your kids to eat healthier? Often, it comes down to presentation. A mound of plain old veggies is not appetizing — not to a 10-year- old and not to a 40-year-old. Instead of presenting vegetables as a boring side dish, think of them as an ingredient. Take lasagna, for instance. This tasty, familiar dish is easy to modify. Instead of using lasagna noodles, use zucchini. Simply slice the zucchini into thin, noodle- like strips, then layer them as you would typical noodles. The same can be done with other pasta dishes, such as spaghetti. Zucchini noodles — or “zoodles” — are delicious in marinara sauce and decadent in Alfredo. If push comes to shove, you can easily hide vegetables in foods your children already know and love. Did you know you can make brownies with avocado and black beans? Slipping in a few healthier ingredients here and there can deliver those nutrients in a pinch, especially during a chaotic school week. But, if you’re hoping to foster long-lasting healthy habits, the best thing you can do is offer your child a choice. Say something like “You can have the cauliflower, or you can have the broccoli. It’s up to you!” Let your child have that control. Psychologists and social scientists, including the famed Dr. Maria Montessori, argue that when kids feel in charge of a decision, they are more likely to embrace one of the options — even if it’s a vegetable. Ultimately, as a parent, you are in charge of your child’s diet. Help them explore new foods and foster a positive culinary environment. Your kids will develop a taste for healthy eating in no time!
Your Hometown Vet
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