Alice’s mom had been working out with exercise tapes and walking a lot more since the new year started. Every day she stepped on the scale in the bathroom and frowned. “What’s wrong?” Alice asked one day.
“It’s not working. I’m working out six days a week and nothing’s changed,” mom said.
“It’s because of the vegetable ghosts,” Alice said.
“What do you mean?” Mom asked.
“In class we learned that unhealthy food doesn’t have all the right nutrients,” Alice said.
“That’s right,” Mom said. “There are a lot more vitamins and enzymes and antioxidants and such in vegetables.”
“I know what vitamins are,” Alice said. “What’s that other stuff?”
“I couldn’t tell you exactly. Maybe we should look it up later. Tell me more about vegetable ghosts,” Mom said. “Did you learn about them in school?”
“Of course not,” Alice said. “Teachers don’t know about ghosts.”
“Of course not,” Mom said. “I don’t think I know about ghosts either.”
Alice sighed. “That’s because you don’t pay attention. Vegetables like to help people. After they die, they leave vitamins and stuff behind to make people healthy.”
“I guess that’s true,” Mom said.
“Here, let me draw you a picture,” Alice said. She went up the stairs to her room, and then dashed back down, skipping every other step. She sat down at the kitchen table and drew two tall triangle carrots and then a cupcake shape.
“Now I need to color it,” she said. She colored one carrot orange and then she colored the cupcake.
“You forgot that carrot,” Mom said.
“That’s the ghost carrot,” Alice said.
“Of course,” Mom said.
Alice drew an arrow from the ghost carrot to the cupcake. “Vegetable ghosts hold onto unhealthy food and try to add nutrients,” Alice said. “If you eat the unhealthy food, they sit in your body holding a place for the vitamins that you were supposed to eat.”
“So if I eat a cupcake, I eat a carrot ghost too?” Mom asked, pointing to the drawing. “And the ghost doesn’t go away?”
“Unless you eat healthy food,” Alice said. “That’s why junk food makes people gain weight. It’s all the vegetable ghosts.”
“I thought ghosts don’t weigh anything,” Mom said.
“Vegetable ghosts do, if you eat them,” Alice said. “I don’t think you can eat any other ghosts.”
“So, how do you get rid of the vegetable ghosts?” Mom asked. She picked up the picture and her finger traced the arrow from the carrot to the cupcake.
“The vegetable ghosts are just there saving a place for the vitamins,” Alice said. “I’ll draw a picture.” She drew two more carrots and colored on in. She drew an arrow from the colored carrot to the blank one.
Alice pointed to the colored carrot. “If you eat healthy food, you get the vitamins you need and the vegetable ghosts go away because you don’t need them any more. Then they go find more unhealthy food to hold onto.”
“I suppose that makes sense,” Mom said. “But how do you know which vitamins you need?”
“If you eat lots of healthy food, eventually you’ll figure it out,” Alice said.
Mom stood up. “I think that sounds like a great plan. I’ll put your pictures on the fridge to remind me. Would you like a carrot?”
“Of course I would,” Alice said.