Please believe me that I had the trickiest kid ever – a slow eater that had suffered from massive colic (in hindsight I would now take that baby to a nutritionist straight away), that merged into super slow eating and anything too chunky or stringy would come straight up all over the dinner plate. He would have loved me to separate out foods, but to me that always felt like a recipe for disaster, leading to a slow process where tastes could become so simple that as he got older it would get harder. I preferred to plow on with a wider range of vegies (i.e. nutrition) in his meals. Of course a meat and three veggies meal would always be on the menu.
I’ve changed a lot since the early days, to bring concentration, and sleeping, and all the little things that make life better when bringing up a kid – I had to. Back then we did the sugar yoghurt, basic cereals, that haven’t been healthily produced, pasta and probably a little too much crackers. Change always happens little by little, there will always be someone better at all this and worse than you at all this. However, today we can’t afford to put our head in the sand – our kids gastric, mental, and physical health is related to what we stock in our pantry/kitchen. So many kids get one thing, then another and another. Frequent regimes of antibiotics contribute to make them sicker. We have to face the fact that while our current population is living older than populations before, we are getting sicker younger, and sickness is frequently miserable and life sapping.
This article is a super quick rundown of what works in my family. Because I don’t want the new normal: allergies, low immune system, can’t sleep, can’t concentrate, listlessness, frequent doctor visits and serial antibiotics prescriptions, runny poo/constipation, pale face, tired eyes.
Don’t blame yourself: Our food has changed, greater choice can be great, but it means your kids don’t necessarily eat things in season that are critical to health – wasn’t the case twenty years ago. Please understand, scientific understanding tells us that between 5-15% of illness is related to GENES! Genes don’t change quickly. What does change quickly are the influencers on our genes – our epigenetics (epigenetic means ‘above the gene’) and our epigenetics are influenced by all the chemical additives – environmental factors – that surround us. The greatest exposures for our families come through the mouth.
Cancer rates are still increasing, not plateauing (we are getting better at fixing many forms of cancer though), chronic disease increasing – until you have had any of this in your house, it is very easy to believe that it won’t happen to you or your loved ones. The data proves that in all likelihood, it will. And of course, most illness is accompanied by other illness – frequently depression or anxiety, perhaps skin conditions. Know that your body systems are not separate silo’s, everything relates to each other – take charge (even when your kids curse you with the venom of a hundred vampires) – because you are the parent. That’s why true healing can take a long time – but, happily, when people change diets (particularly if helped by a nutritionist) they frequently are freaked out by all the amazing things that can happen in only 6 weeks.
Let’s get onto food ideas.
Most important three things:
1. Cut out processed food
2. Double vegetables
3. Protein for breakfast
Sorry to tell you this, but vegetable oils can easily have 6 different applications of pesticides on them; cereals such as wheat, oats and barley can have 3 different pesticides on them today. Frequently oilseeds (and sometimes cereals) dried down for harvest with Roundup (not when we were growing up). Sugar is also dried down with Roundup. Getting soy, corn, sugar, wheat out of your diet improves health chances dramatically. Roundup is implicated in destroying the microbiome balance, neurological disorders, damaging organs at parts per trillion, probably causing cancer etc etc. We do not want this stuff on our food.
USE: naturally sourced (eg. Himalayan) salt. (Home cooking never uses as much salt as convenience/ junk food.)
BUY: herbs & spices cheaply from Asian/Indian stores. Bulk food from Gilmours.
AVOID: Anything processed with soy, canola, corn (likely GMO plus extra Roundup on it); sugar (dried down for harvest with Roundup). All these things organic at low levels are mostly’fine’.
Moving to a nutritious, lasting, brain feeding, protein heavy breakfast
Replace: wheatbix (or similar square wheat breakfast thing in your country) with gluten free wheatbix asap.
Move to: Homemade muesli – plain oats with 1/3 nuts and seeds; 1/3 dried fruit and a bit of dark chocolate thrown in to tempt. Half chopped piece fruit on top. Ultimate best for gut: Soak in plain yoghurt overnight. PUT ON a good youtube clip and make muesli – chop nuts to get more in. Brazil nuts all kids hate by themselves but in muesli – just give it nice texture. Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sultanas, apricots, prunes, coconut and dark CHOCOLATE!
Egg or baked beans for breaky: if kids hate texture of eggs – mix it like an omelette and serve loaded with tomato sauce – after a while reduce tomato sauce and see if they want their eggs cooked differently. Start with crap sugar supermarket baked beans and move to organic better tasting.
LUNCHBOXES: BAKE sugarfree once a week – or get KIDS to! Most baking – can take ½ sugar out & it still works! Cheaper than a biscuit at school.
Replace: soft drink/sugared drinks with cordial – move to chemical free cordial. Best time to have it – straight after school for hydration – later on move to water.
Wheat: once a day or less. Organic better wheat can be sprayed with lots of fungicides – not just gluten damages gut.(I have a breadmaker, it is half price and 3 minutes out of my day) So perhaps – sandwiches for lunch or pasta for dinner but only one lot of wheat per day. If your kid is frequently unwell for lots of little gastric or immune related conditions, possibly take all wheat and dairy out and SEE A NUTRITIONIST!!!!
WEEKENDS: Make soup, homemade baked beans (or organic tinned with a couple of big handfuls of parsley, spike with extra olive oil), pasta, massive salads (grow them big as they grow).
AFTER SCHOOL: If they are staring at the TV they will just… eat stuff! – chopped carrot, capsicum (never worked for me but you can try), almonds and other nuts, dried fruit, hommous and raw thinly sliced sweet potato to dip into it. (Yes!) Limit cheese to not too much so they are more likely to eat carrots. Baking would be gluten free (any recipe works, just add an extra egg, and you can halve the sugar usually without too much stress. I do buy organic sugar as Roundup herbicide is a common herbicide sprayed on sugarcane as a pre-harvest treatment.
The one time my kids would have sugar would be a weak cordial straight after school – so they would down it. Most kids are dehydrated but with so many distractions they stay distracted and don’t rehydrate. Today however, I go for smoothies, hot chocolate made from dark chocolate, chilli and a bit of honey, and ever now and then a cordial. I have a couple of afternoons a year making my own cordial while listening to podcasts, cheap and chemical free.
Hot chocolate? Buy dark chocolate – Heat up with a dessertspoon of honey an a pinch of chilli – reduce honey by half after kids have accepted it.
By the way, my recipe for basic rehydration is a 1/3 of a teaspoon of Himalayan salt in water (add a dash of cordial to get your kids switching from rubbish sports drinks to this version). Frequently kids with headaches are dehydrated. Recent studies show most kids are.
TOUGH KID LOVE: kids separating out food means they really reduce vegie content – this gets them sicker (ie. nutrient deficient) earlier – the trick is – chopping things really finely and small to start with – and slowly building up textures over time. But making sure lots good oil (olive or butter or coconut oil).
If you think your toddler is hard to get eating – wait until you try to change habits of a fourteen year old. I have to admit, I got my kids to mainly have a small serve of eg. greens/orange/purple vegies till they were 8. After 8 I came down on them a bit harder. We also stopped dessert except on weekends. But they can always have fruit if still hungry.
LISTEN: to fantastic and interesting stuff while you cook – make cooking part of your life not a little bit of something you whip up quickly. Biggest co-relation with chronic disease/mental health – is familial habits – NOT genes. You are a creative – this is inside you.
Replace: take non-organic chicken out of diet – replace with organic tofu – too many problems with chicken (it’s in the medical literature) – antibiotics, killing kids guts, cancer association etc. (Free range is fed same crap as non-free range so healthwise no better).
Replace: crap vegie oil (canola, soy as it’s sprayed with Roundup & heaps chems) with good oil (olive or butter or coconut oil). Rice bran oil is sort of OK…
Mash: Get out of the only potato habit – kumara or carrot & parsnip. Lots butter or olive oil and himalayan salt (nutmeg too for a bit of extra love)
STOP: Using pre-made supermarket sauces & flavourings. Keep ginger, chilli in your freezer. Use lots of garlic – ½ a bulb.
USE: stalks broccoli in soups/casserole, all of celery especially leaves.
COOK IN BULK EVERY TIME: minimum 3 meals – dinner + left overs + freezer
1. FRIED RICE/STIRFRIES: Brown rice. Move to brown rice by putting white and brown together – then just go all brown – hugely nutritious in comparison to white rice (gut slime). Make rice/noodles less than a 1/3 of the complete meal. Low carbs – high nutrition. Stack it with heaps of vegies, nuts, tamari sauce & fresh ginger.
1 cup brown rice – cooked earlier. 1 onion – chopped very finely, 6 garlic cloves (can buy minced garlic from Indian store); cup of meat (tinned tuna, fresh fish, bacon or organic tofu), tablespoon ginger (increase with tolerance), 2-3 carrots, diced, ½ PURPLE cabbage, cup frozen peas.
Saute onions, garlic, ginger, carrots – then add other stuff.
2. KUMARA LASAGNE: Replace pasta with thin kumara slices quickly grilled. Make MINCE DISHES stretch by adding dried beans (of course after soaking them while you sleep & then boiling).
Only buy Kiwi meat that hasn’t been in a CAFO Ie. Australian mince .. .
Melt a whole bunch of chopped parsley & whole bunch silver beet into lasagne or casserole dishes.
Cheese sauce – really thick but please grate your cheese – preservatives on grated cheese are BAD.
3. THAI CURRY – Boil vegies in coconut milk (carrot, broccoli, kumara, cabbage); add dash fish sauce, ½ teaspoon sugar – serve with rice. IF that is acceptable then, next time:
1 onion, 3 garlic bulbs. Saute add coriander, cumin, – add stuff above – if that good – buy supermarket green curry paste – only start with a teaspoon. KIDS LOVE COCONUT MILK FOOD.
4. LENTIL SAUSAGE LOVE (add to this dish 4 sausages or ham hock):
Heaps olive oil, 2 onions, 8 cloves garlic, 2 cups lentils, big bunch parsley, big bunch silverbeet; big bunch celery (both chopped real fine), 4 carrots, 400g tin tomato paste, heaps oregano, himalayan salt, pepper – can choose to pre saute onion and garlic or just boil in water.
Source: bulk food – bulk organic food
Buy: good quality kitchen equipment
Stretch: meat dishes out with beans/lentils – makes them more affordable. Also build up slowly beans and lentils in your diet – vital to a broad and healthy gut microflora – just realise that when you have a big bean dish and do bottom burps – it is simply because you haven’t built up your gut microflora, little by little.
Be kind to yourselves, and if you don’t want your kids eating it, don’t buy it! Frequently kids can be seduced by real food instead. You can do this.