Friday, September 21, 2012

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back!

That's how our food journey has been since kindergarten was on the horizon this year.  I think my son sensed that this change was going to be stressful and he hunkered down.  He stopped eating the healthy options he had opened up to prior.  Then once school started he went a whole week without eating his lunch. The situation wasn't much better at home either.  It was a struggle to get anything nutritious into his body.  To make matters worse, the school was offering him snacks with gluten instead of giving him the snack that was sent from home.  Sure enough, an asthma attack ensued.

The communication has been getting better with each week that passes.  Still, the stress has been doing a number on his immune system.  The candy that gets sent home for his good behavior hasn't helped either.  Granted, it is getting sent home for us to deal with.  We just have to figure out a plan so that my son doesn't feel cheated.  Though I did notice that less candy was sent home this week, so maybe the kids are getting more comfortable in class.  That wouldn't be a terrible thing in my eyes.  :-)

I honestly can't say I blame my son for reacting to this huge change in this way.  It took me quite a bit of reflection (after I calmed down) to see that as an adult this is something I struggle with as well.  When I'm stressed I tend to make poor food choices.  I also am less likely to take my vitamins.  When I talked to a group of moms about it the consensus was that it's human nature.  All I know is that I freaked out when my son had the recent asthma attack.  It felt like we were going back to square one.

Which is my reason for writing today.  It seems we are now in a phase where we are going back more than forward.  The stress and junk foods are definitely at the root...I'm sure of it.  We were on a path with a good balance, and now I feel like we have to figure it out all over again.  On the positive side, the teacher is now on board with his eating restrictions.  He brings his own lunch, so all that entails is that she make sure he doesn't get the general snack that is handed out.

As a result of us getting knocked off our path, I'm realizing that I'm going to have to relinquish some control.  I know what works, and know what keeps the asthma attacks at bay.  Yet I can't force Logan to make the right choices while at school and really can't expect perfection from the teacher either.  Even we slip up sometimes at home!  Except that at home I'm in a better position to gauge when he can have something and when he can't.  It's harder to expect a teacher who's tending to 20 students to do the same.  I guess time will tell what's in my son's best interest.  If this doesn't work then there are other options in the school realm that we can explore.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Too Much Gluten

A few nights ago, my husband and I were watching a nature show where Florida alligators were dying at alarming rates.  When looked into further, it was discovered that they were eating too much of a particular fish;  gizzard shad.  This particular fish contained enzymes that when consumed in high amounts killed the mineral thiamine in the alligator's gut.  This only happened when the fish was consumed by the alligators in large amounts.  The alligators started thriving again once thiamine was added back to the Eco-system.  You can read the details of the entire story here.

There was a scientific study conducted that looked at this occurrence and determined that the thiamine deficiency in alligators can be induced by a diet of gizzard shad. After watching and reading the details of this story, it dawned on me how simple the gluten issue really is.  We simply eat too much of it.   

Looking at the food pyramid, one would think that grains should be consumed in high amounts.  This leads most of us to believe that products like pasta and bread are good for our body.  The flaw with that way of thinking is that store bought versions of pasta and bread are highly processed, including the whole wheat versions.  In addition, wheat is in just about every snack and convenience item which many have come to rely on given our fast paced lives.  I believe our shift in eating patterns is partly why gluten has been linked to a host of health issues, such as diseases and ailments that involve the digestive, immune, and neurological systems.  Wheat has also been recognized as a appetite stimulant by some doctors.  Which may explain why so many people in our country struggle with their weight.

The wheat we consume today is different from what our ancestors consumed.  The grain has been scientifically engineered over the past 50 years in reaction to fears involving food supply. The Wall Street Journal shared a break through concerning celiac disease where researchers found that people today really do react differently to the grain than in the past.  So it's not an issue of simply being more aware of the disease.  This was done by conducting tests comparing old blood samples to recent ones.  The results showed that the rate of celiac disease has increased four-fold in the last 50 years, to at least 1 in 133 Americans.  This has led some researchers to believe that the problem may lie in the changes we have done to gluten. 

Although I think that even with our modern changes, the reactions would not be nearly as bad if people consumed less wheat.  Ideally a balanced diet with more whole, nutrient dense foods.  From what I have learned, eating too much gluten can be irritating to the gut, which in turn affects how the digestive system absorbs nutrients.  When this happens, any number of the ailments from above can happen.  It all depends on the person too, and what's going on in their body;  particularly their gut health and the balance of gut flora (bacteria).

To find a healthy balance, one has to really be aware of all the sources gluten is found.  If you are interested in watching how much gluten you eat, simply start by checking the ingredients of the products you buy.  Products with wheat as a main ingredient are ones to be mindful of.  Beyond that, you might be surprised to learn that gluten is contained in other items you would least expect like salad dressings, sauces, condiments, and lunch meats.  While I don't believe it is necessary to cut everything out, I believe being aware of how much we eat will help to put this issue into perspective better. 

Other items that can be problematic are sugar, corn, and soy.   All are typically ingredients and fillers for convenience items, snacks, and sweetened drinks.  When consumed in excess, the body has a hard time processing it all.  When the body is pushed to the max of what it has evolved to handle, it stops working like it should.  Which in turn, makes it more difficult for it to heal and filter out toxins.  This, I believe, is when disease starts to set in.

Now I'm not a doctor, so please do not go making drastic decisions concerning your health as a result of what I'm sharing.  I'm simply a concerned wife and mother who was prompted to take matters into my own hands after getting no where with traditional medicine. 

Do you have first hand experience with health issues that have been minimized or brushed off all together?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Raw Coconut Milk

In the past, I've purchased coconut milk to add to my son's almond banana smoothies.  While this option is more convenient, the better quality versions are expensive and not as nutritious as when consumed raw.  I've since learned that coconut milk is very easy to make at home.  All that's required is a coconut, a blender, and time. 

Coconuts have gotten a bad rap in the past given their fat content.  They've since been making a come back now that people are learning more about the health benefits associated with the fats they contain.  Coconuts are rich in medium-chain triglycerides.  MCT's are really easy to digest making coconut milk a great replacement for dairy.  Coconuts also contain lauric acid which is also found in breastmilk

There are a number of ways to make coconut milk.  I use a regular coconut to make mine, but it can also be made using shredded coconut.  If using the type that is dry then follow the instructions outlined in this video:

If you are wanting a more raw version then go with freshly shredded coconut or frozen coconut (found in specialty supermarkets).  This video outlines how to make milk with the raw ingredients:

Getting the contents from the coconut can be tricky.  If going that route then first drain the coconut.  Do this by poking holes with a clean screw driver on the existing soft spots of the coconut.  Place over a glass, and shake every now and then to make sure all of the milk is making its way out.  

Then find a clean, durable plastic bag.  I prefer to use Target bags :-)  Put the coconut in it, and find a concrete surface to throw it against.  I keep throwing it against the ground until the coconut is broken into small pieces.  The meat is easier to shred this way.  Then shred the meat (while still attached to the husk) with a grater and you are ready to proceed with the instructions given in the first video!

A batch I made

Have you ever made raw coconut milk before?

Homemade Granola Bars

I got the idea to make my own granola from Pinterest. You can check out my food board to see the original recipes.

I had to try a couple different variations to find a version my son liked.  He turned his nose up at the ones with pumpkin seeds and dried fruit.  Still, I didn't give up.  The winning ingredient was semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Once I agreed to add those he was game to try a batch.  Which I'm totally fine with given the other ingredients I was able to add to it.

Here's the recipe that keeps him begging for more...

1/2 cup of peanut butter
1/4 cup of raw honey
1/4 cup of coconut oil
1 cup of rolled oats
1 measuring cup full of the following:  sliced almonds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, shredded coconut, chopped walnuts, chopped pecans, & ground flax (not pictured)
1/4 cup (or so) of semi-sweet chocolate chips

The ingredients

1. Line a shallow pan with parchment paper or spray with a non-stick oil.
2. Warm the peanut butter, honey, and coconut in a saucepan over the stove.  Stir mixture until it blends together nicely.
3. Remove from heat and add in the rolled oats and then the nut/seed mixture.
4.  Allow to cool a bit, then add the chocolate chips
5. Pour the mixture into prepared pan and spread out evenly.
6. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
7. Cut as you wish and serve! 

The final product

Of course, this recipe can totally be adapted to your family's needs.  Have fun figuring out what works best!  Enjoy :-)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Raw Chia Seed Pudding

Once upon a time I had no clue what chia seeds were.  A friend had posted a picture along with a pudding recipe a while back that peeked my curiosity.  Then when at my first birth as a doula, my client's husband and sister were preparing some chia seeds in water.  When he saw that I was interested he offered to make me some too.  They were good, but I knew they would taste better as pudding.  

I admit that I didn't think my son would be up for trying the pudding.  Still, I decided to offer it since he likes honey, almond milk and vanilla.  The chia seeds were the only new thing.  Left alone, the seeds are like any other seed.  Add them to liquid though and they take on a new form.  Kind of similar to the texture of tapioca.  This was the part I wasn't so sure of.  This would be my son's first time trying anything of this nature. 

Pudding ingredients: 
4 tablespoon raw chia seed
1 cup milk of your choice (I use almond milk)
1-2 tablespoon raw honey
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix ingredients together. Let it sit in fridge for at least 2 hours.

Near the end I took the pudding out to mix it again.  My son immediately became curious.  So I took a bit from the batch and encouraged him to try it.  First he tried a taste with his finger, and decided that it was good then went for tiny bites from there.  After the spoonful was gone he kept bugging me for more.  :-)

 The finished product:

My son enjoying the pudding:

He ate about half of what is in the picture, which is a huge step in the right direction.  I'm hoping that he'll be open to having more in the future.   

Have you ever tried chia seeds?  What ways do you prepare them?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How I Added Raw Fruits and Veggies to the Mix

Late last year I was at my wits end trying to think of ways to add more raw fruits and veggies to my son's diet.  While his eating had improved, he was still missing out on the healing nutrients and enzymes that a variety of raw veggies and fruits contain.  This was especially important to me since my son became prone to asthma and bronchitis earlier last year.

Around the same time, I was seriously debating cutting juice from his diet.  Setting a clear boundary as far as how much was okay was a struggle, and I suspected it was contributing to him not having an interest in the real stuff.  One night while sharing my conflicted thoughts with some friends it dawned on me that juicing would solve both issues. 

We didn't get a juicer as quickly as I would have liked.  A good one is not cheap, and from my research it's important to get a quality one.  The size of the chute, ease of cleaning and level of noise were common barriers to use mentioned by many reviewers.  Also, I learned that low quality juicers reach temperatures that can destroy nutrients, similar to what happens during cooking.  We wanted to set ourselves up for success so we decided to hold off until we could get the right one for our needs. 

Good thing we did, because we ended up being gifted one for Christmas.  My husband's mother even got us the one we had our hearts set on; a Breville BJE510XL.  When Christmas came it was love at first sight.  Our juicing journey was finally beginning. 


At first the kids weren't interested.  The texture is different than processed juice which I suppose is why they turned their nose up to it at first.  By the second week of water and almond milk my son began requesting that we make him apple juice from the juicer.  Once he was accustomed to that, he asked me to put an orange down the chute.  Then one day he had me add a lemon. 

Taking notice of this pattern, I decided that I would wait for the perfect opportunity to sneak other fruits and veggies in.  I didn't want to destroy his trust, so I decided that I would go with produce of a similar color and start with small amounts.  First I added in fruits like pineapple and strawberries.  Then I got brave and added a carrot.  The progress I was making was wonderful, but I doubted that I would ever be able to add greens in.  Then one day the door opened.  Logan started asking that green apples be added to his juice.  I took this as the green light and added a kale leaf to his juice.  He drank it down without hesitation!  I had found a way in.  Sweet victory!  

Now I use green apples as the base, and add in small amounts of whatever greens I have.  Spinach, swiss chard, kale and collards all work well.  The lemon that he insists on actually works to cut the taste of the greens.  The apple and orange sweeten it up making it an enjoyment to his senses.  I just pay attention not to add too many greens as he is particularly sensitive to the texture.  My husband made a blend last night that got pushed aside because the texture was too thick.  So it's been a bit of trial and error for us.   

Do you juice?  What blends are your favorite? 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Almond Butter Banana Smoothie

I've come to learn that often it's the small steps that have the best results in our home.  My son has a much easier time trying something for the first time if it is only slightly different from what he is already used to.   

One such example is the almond butter smoothie I now make for my kids.  It started out as a basic recipe that I learned about through "What's Eating Your Child".  My son can't tolerate milk, and making this each day gave me the peace of mind that he was getting some nutrients. 

The idea to add in other ingredients came after I tried an almond butter smoothie from Whole Foods.  It dawned on me that a number of the ingredients on the order board are a staple in our home.  I even thought of some other items that I keep on hand that would go great in it. 

The basic way I make his protein shake is with:

2 cups of almond milk*
1 scoop of Metagenics Ultracare for Kids 
Contents of a probiotic capsule.  
*Coconut, rice or soy milk can also be used.

To make the smoothie, I put the above ingredients in the blender and add 2 tablespoon of almond butter (peanut butter is fine), two bananas (this blog recommends frozen), ice and a touch of maple syrup.  Blend until smooth.   
Other things I will add if I have on hand:
Sliced almonds
Flax seeds/meal
Chia seeds

*For thinner consistency use less seeds/nuts.  For thicker, use more.

Once done, I top with cinnamon.  Sliced almonds too, if desired.

My kids love this drink.  They ask for it often.  That's the great things about kids.  They encourage healthy routines even when we don't feel like it or forget.  :-)   Which is a good thing since this smoothie has the potential to provide a number of healthy fats and nutrients. 

Here's a shot of them enjoying the finished product. 

Do your kids like smoothies?   What kind do you make?